A Rare Blood Disorder Could Wipe Out This Ancient Tribe
In a tiny jungle village in West Bengal, India, the Totos of Totopara hold tight to their traditional way of life. But can they survive without compromising their ideals?
Photos by Abhijit Alka Anil
“Whose curse has befallen this village?” Lasey Toto shouts at the dark clouds. Intermittent flashes of lightning emerge, as if an angry reply to his emotional outburst is being offered from the heavens. “Why am I alive to see so many deaths in front of my eyes? What bad have I done to carry my son’s hoku [coffin] to the grave on my frail shoulders?” The 92-year-old is barely able to bear the trauma of the death of his eldest son, Krishna, who was 53.
Lasey is not alone in his grief. He is part of the Toto community, a tribe with a population between 1,500 and 1,600 people, who live in a small village called Totopara. Located in Eastern India, near the Bhutan border, Totopara is enclosed by the mountains set along the Torsa River delta. The surrounding dense jungle keeps the village isolated from the turbulence of the outside world; the screaming of peacocks and the coo-oohs of Asian koel birds offer a panacea to the stress and worries of everyday life in Toto…
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