An agent of change

Assam-based Mitali G Dutta, Founder of Food Sutra by Mitali, has become an agent of change by empowering the tribal women of the state to be an intrinsic part of its culinary tourism.

Hazel Jain

Mitali G Dutta is an entrepreneur based in Guwahati who empowers women both in rural and urban areas of the state through extensive workshops and training in order to be independent and earn a livelihood through cooking. She was selected by the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India, for Women’s Day Recognition on March 8, 2021, along with other women entrepreneurs from different parts of India. She has earlier worked for travel brands like SOTC.

Providing livelihood in the remotest areas of Assam through a sustainable business where no other industry exists is no easy task. She also helps in getting the families of ex-poachers into the mainstream so that they can earn a respectable living. Dutta’s focus is also on promoting authentic dishes of the various communities in Assam as it is without any fusion. “Assam is a diverse and colourful state with various tribes and communities with their ethnic food and local recipes. My aim is to revive and preserve the tradition and food culture of our ancestors and promote them in such a way so that it becomes a profitable business. So these tribal women are helping tourists experience the magic of local cuisines,” she explains.

A two-way street

The bond she shares with her culture and region reflects in her culinary sessions. Her training sessions are not only confined to her studio but extend to the rural areas. She believes that people in the rural areas can also be economically empowered through their culinary skills. So to give shape to her belief and to provide an alternative source of livelihood to the rural communities, she curated ‘FSM Food Trails’ which are culinary tours with training and dining concepts. In these tours, the rural women share different traditional recipes of local cuisines with tourists and later serve the same to them.

This idea of empowering locals of rural areas through a sustainable model had been considerably appraised by celebrity chefs, renowned food bloggers and travel writers from India and abroad. ‘Manas Spring Festival’ is one such noteworthy culinary event. This event not only contributed to the tourism sector but also economically aided the livelihood of the local tribes. Sharing her views on why community-based tourism has become important today, especially for a destination like India, Dutta says, “With the increasing adverse impact of mass tourism, it is important for destinations such as India to bring more focus on sustainability and community-based tourism.”

The trade can do their bit

Urging tour operators to also be a part of this, she says, “They can actually play an important role. They are the key players who can design their itineraries more ethically and responsibly. Marketing strategies adopted by them should be aligned with the needs of the destination. Ultimately, responsible awareness will lead to meaningful experiences,” she says.

 

 

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