My Story- Milan Rai
Every month Premier hosts it’s My Story session where individuals experienced in various fields are invited to share their story of success with the students. Premier has had a wide range of guests from Anil Shah to Anuradha Koirala.
This months prestigious guest was the man behind the white butterfly- Mr. Milan Rai.
Milan Rai installed his first set of white butterflies on the remains of a tree in Naxal around November of 2012; disheartened that the once grand tree that stood was cut down for construction purposes. Today, his white butterflies have travelled across more than 40 different countries around the world. In Scotland, it has become a tradition to write down the names of the deceased ones on the butterflies and put it on a tree. The white butterfly has become a positive movement spreading love and happiness around the world.
We recently interviewed the self taught contemporary artist. Below is the conversation we had with him.
What inspired you to begin the white butterfly project?
Art began to be very limited. It seemed to be accessible to only those who could afford it. I started dreaming of being a great artist and making art accessible to everyone. I tried for six-seven years and it was quite a challenge. I tried many techniques and not all of them worked.But, I never changed my goal. Then one day a butterfly landed in my studio and I was astounded by its beauty in pure simplicity. This is how the white butterfly was born.
What Impact do you hope this project will have on people?
There isn’t a specific impact I want the project to have on anyone. When I started the project I had no particular plan or goal set. It is beyond me to be able to control the change in people and their perspective. During my journey of making art accessible, I interacted with many individuals. One thing that I found common was simplicity. Art is such a complex dimension. But simplicity in art gave everyone their own perspective. Thus, I started the project purely from my heart. I found great power in simplicity.I want everyone to feel positive and take whatever message of positivity that they acquire from the butterflies. It is a form of art that I want everyone to see and experience.
3.Why did you take such a minimalist approach while beginning the white butterfly project?
Like i mentioned before, I wanted the butterflies to deliver a widespread message of positivity and happiness and free to be personalized by anyone for personal messages oft heir own. There is power in simplicity and I wanted my butterflies to be open to everyone to develop their own perspective through my butterflies. I would like people to be able to add their own personalized touches to it.
4. What was your expectation when you started this project
I started many plans for six- seven years and visited many colleges but no one gave me time claiming that it would be a disturbance to their lessons. I visited numerous organizations too but my efforts seemed to go in vain. I wanted to spread my ideas and make a change. I used to cry everywhere. I would find tears dripping down my cheeks in busses and vans in front of everyone.I used to cry not just because of mere sadness from my failures, but for my dreams that now seemed to be so hopeless. I was trying to change everyone. But when it didn’t work I realized that I had to change myself. So I removed all the expectations I had. I lost all expectations and worked purely from my heart. My journey started to become unpredictable. For instance, once I met a man who recognized me and so asked me for my passport. I provided him with details from a picture on my phone. He booked a five-star hotel for me in Singapore and told me I was going to Singapore. So these unplanned events keep happening to me and I do not expect any of these.
5. What was your motive behind keeping the butterflies around the Earthquake rehabilitation camps?
During the time of the Earthquake, many people had faced devastating loss. They had been mourning the loved ones and their lives had just taken a ruthless turn. I wanted my butterflies to symbolize hope at a time of such sorrow when everything seemed to be so dark and dismal. People were physically hurt but there was also internal damage. I also gave toys and my butterflies to kids hopeful that I could help them become stronger and overcome this distasteful event in their life.
6. In a country like our where opportunities are very limited, how do you think youths like us can make a change to develop our country?
Opportunities are limited if you limit yourself. I didn’t have much opportunities for myself too; but one must create them for themselves. One must not simply wait for opportunity to knock at their door. Opportunities are what you design for yourself. I personally didn’t have such a great platform for myself when I first began.Despite that,I still began my journey. You must be dedicated and determined to achieve the goal that you have set for yourself.