Picnicking is far from a simple affair in eastern India. For a region that’s burdened with the blistering heat of the summer sun nearly year-round, the joy of meeting outside with food, friends and family is relegated to the brief months of tolerable weather between December and February: picnicking is primarily a winter pastime.
In PIK-NIK, Arko Datto (1986, India) shows picnickers arriving by the bus-load to hunt for the perfect spot by innumerable rivers, from the Ganges downstream to the Rupnarayan, Icchamati and other tidal rivers close to the Sunderbans. Overloaded with vats of chicken and sacks of vegetables, together with an arsenal of pots and pans for cooking, the picnickers create a moveable feast, complete with loudspeakers. Dancing and drinking the day away, the picnic is a raucous affair.
However, when the party ends, Datto explains, the effects of the social phenomenon remain: “As the sun sets, the buses pull out, leaving stray dogs and cows to feast on carcasses, peels and leftovers amidst broken bottles and styrofoam plates. Fragile delicate environments are left behind damaged, irreversibly altered by indiscriminate pollution and plastic garbage littering.”