We are glad to present our growing cohort of storytellers spread across rural India who continue to keep the platform thriving through their colourful stories.
Gular Dogi, Uttarakhand
Aradhna is a Grade 12 student from the village of Gular Dogi, who lives by the motto “Jo bhi kaam karo, lagan se karo”. She finds becoming a part of the change extremely uplifting and hopes to continue being a source of inspiration and change for her community. A first-generation learner, Aradhna one day dreams of becoming a journalist. Currently, Aradhna is a student-intern at the Pathshala Learning Centre and is playing an active role leading classrooms, and mobilizing her community to ensure that one day all children can receive high-quality learning and have access to greater opportunities.
Arjun belongs to the Mothakkara village in Kerala’s Wayanad district. A graduate in History, he is passionate about learning about different countries and cultures. Arjun joined Kabani after realizing the importance of community tourism in his village. He accompanies guests from all around the world for programs organized by Kabani, such as acedemic tours and village walks. His storytelling skills and patience in answering all questions are highly appreciated by travellers. He also likes reading, gardening, farming, driving, and repairing gadgets.
Balu Nivrutti Bhangre
Khadki Budruk, Maharshtra
Balu grew up in Khadaki Budruk village in rural Maharashtra, where he now works as a senior assistant the Watershed Organisation Trust. He has worked with the People’s Biodiversity Register in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, to raise awareness about the local biodiversity among the residents of these states. He has a keen interest in environment conservation, as well as in visiting and learning about biodiversity hotspots. He also enjoys spending time with younger generations and sharing his knowledge.
Beena Nitwal is from the Bhotiya community that traditionally inhabits the high altitude villages of Kumaon. She now lives in Sarmoli and has been running her home stay with Himalayan Ark since 2004. As a member of Maati Women’s Collective, she coordinates the production and sale of traditional woolen products from across the Gori valley. Working with wool, colours and dyes accessed from the natural world around her, she has established a deeper connect with nature. She now uses the digital medium to document the same through photos and film, to be able to pass on this rich heritage on to her daughters and the world at large.
Bhagwan Singh Rana
Salano, Himachal Pradesh
Bhagwan Singh Rana was born in a farming family in Salano village in Himachal Pradesh. He completed his schooling from Jibhi and Banjar. While in college in Kullu, he joined the National Cadet Corps and was later selected for flying. He got a scholarship, sixty hours flying experience and second position in the All India National Corps Skeet Shooting Competition. He was also awarded the best cadet in an all India flying competition. In 1977, after graduation, he got selected by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. He trained at different places across the country and was posted in Ladakh and then in Srinagar. He quit the Indian Army after serving for 8 years and started Doli Guesthouse in Jibhi – the first one in the entire valley! He has an in-depth understanding of traditional crops and local culture.
Bhaskar Narayan Dalvi
Grassroutes Journeys is a national award winning social enterprise that aims to develop sustainable livelihoods in rural India through community-centered tourism enterprises – owned, managed and run by local communities. It is working across 17 financially sustainable village tourism centers in 4 states – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Its rural tourism model has created over 15,000 days of employment annually, impacted about 700 households with alternate source of livelihoods, and helped in reverse migration and conservation of biodiversity.
B John Khangnyu
John is a teacher and social activist in Nagaland. He is working hard to preserve the Konyak Naga culture, and for the development of his tribe. His social media post regarding the unavailability of electricity became responsible for the solar electrification of his village by GHE! He volunteers as a coordinator for GHE to bring about more positive development to the remote villages of Nagaland.
Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
Chhering Norbu is a dynamic individual with a vast array of experience in various fields ranging from tourism to mountaineering, solar energy, hydrogeology, medicinal plants and the list can carry on! He belongs to a family of Amchis (traditional medicinal practitioners) and is now one of the few remaining practicing Amchis in Spiti. He is also the life-force of Spiti Ecosphere managing day to day operations seamlessly.
Bihar, Himachal Pradesh
Divya belongs to the Bihar village in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. She is 21 years old and is studying in the final year of B.A. Divya’s parents work in the nearby fields. Divya is the eldest among their five daughters. She aspires to become a History teacher. She loves to write stories for her college magazine and would also love to learn Kullu’s traditional clothes weaving.
Divya was born in Mukhwa and and brought up Matli village in Uttarakhand. Excited by the natural world, she is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology at Annamalai University. She works at a medical clinic in Matli in the Uttarkashi district. In her free time, one can find her reading, writing, or adventuring in the hills around.
Sumda Chenmo, Ladakh
Gurmet Angmo is from the Markha region of Ladakh. She is a Solar Engineer, entrepreneur and mother. Her dream is to work for the upliftment of the Himalayan community. She has electrified more than 50 villages in Ladakh and Meghalaya with Global Himalayan Expedition. She is an inspiration among the local women of Ladakh. Her work has been recognized on many government and non-government platforms. She is a strong advocate of women empowerment and likes to lead from the front. She lives with her husband and two small daughters. She wants them to acquire the necessary skills through education to serve the rural community.
Kamla Pandey is 48 years old and has been running a charming homestay in Sarmoli village. Though she does not consider herself a storyteller, she has been listening to the narration of stories in her family since childhood. Today, she surprises herself with the number of stories she has to share that reveal the hidden secrets and knowledge of mountain village life.
Bihar, Himachal Pradesh
Kanika is a 19-year-old student from the Bihar village in the Banjar Tehsil of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh. A daughter of a farmer couple, Kanika has 3 sisters and a brother. She is studying Arts at Banjar college with Hindi as the main subject. She loves to read stories about culture. A nature lover, Kanika also enjoys going for treks every once in a while. Kanika loves to teach children and she aspires to be a school teacher.
K M Poovu
K M Poovu was born and brought up on the banks of Vembanad Lake- the longest lake in India. He is well-connected with his community and their main source of livelihood is fishing and collecting clamshells on the lake. He is the Secretary in the the Lake Protection Forum, a body that uses use traditional ecological knowledge to govern and manage fishery resources. Poovu has also authored a book that explains how to protect fish reserves against overfishing.
Mahadu Chindhu Kondar
Mahadu has completed his BA / D.ED and teaches at the Sangli District Council School. He is a master trainer and senior guide cum facilitator in Purushwadi village. He has been working on a local climate change adaptation watershed project for the past 5 years. He has a keen interest in reading, writing and documenting the old way of life in Purushwadi.
Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh
Muzaffar ansari, most commonly known by the name Kalle Bhai in Chanderi town of Madhya Pradesh, is a guide, weaver, historian and a collector of old books, stone age tools and fossils. His collections have been part of the museum in the town and three books have been published so far under his name. He is deeply passionate about sharing and preserving the rich history of Chanderi through guided tours, conducting field visits with PHD research scholars and engaging with local children in the forests. He has been helping Digikargha to connect with the artisans of Chanderi who were digitally empowered to enhance their weaving tradition.
Nawang Phuntsog is passionate about nurturing and promoting the rich cultural heritage of Ladakh. He has a vision for creating a self-sustainable future for Ladakh in the pashmina handicrafts industry. A father to three naughty boys, playing with them takes up most of his free time. Whenever he gets a leisure window for himself, he mostly likes to engage in drawing and gardening. Sometimes, weaving too.
Bihar, Himachal Pradesh
Neha is 22 years old, grew up in Bihar village and recently completed her BA in Hindi. She likes to stay close to nature. She wanted to join the police force or continue her post graduation in Hindi, but the coronavirus upset her plans. Now she is keeping busy with household work.
Padam Singh and Premlata Devi
Bihar, Himachal Pradesh
Padam Singh is about 80 years old. He was a farmer and daily wage earner in his early life. He was fond of traveling and learning new work, including stone work, wood work and purchasing / selling of apples. These days, he spends a lot of time in the apple orchards, chasing away monkeys who love apples!
Premlata Devi grew up in the Bihar village of Tirthan Valley, and is approximately 70 years old. She is a lifelong farmer. She spends much of her time taking care of her family, and has dealt with many difficult situations in her stride.
Paras Ram Bharti
Ropajani, Himachal Pradesh
Paras Ram Bharti grew up in Ropajani village and was associated with the Himachal Pradesh Police Department for 18 years, as constable, head constable and investigation officer. He is also a trained Commando and Motor Cycle Rider from Himachal Police. In 2016, he began working as a tour guide in the Great Himalayan National Park and hosts travellers at a small homestay called Tirthan Riverview Homestay in Ropajani near Gushaini. Since 2018, he has also been working as a media freelancer in Tirthan Valley. He grows chemical-free vegetables in his kitchen garden and enjoys writing, trekking, fishing, natural farming and social service.
Pratap Singh Chauhan
Pekhri, Himachal Pradesh
Pratap Singh Chauhan grew up in Pekhri village in Himachal Pradesh and spent most of his life there. Despite being a good student, he had to give up his studies in secondary school due to family responsibilities. His dream of becoming an engineer or an army officer remained unfulfilled. Finally, he turned to apple farming to earn his livelihood. He is now 56 years old.
Pushpa was born to a shepherd’s family that once travelled with their herd across almost all the high altitude alpine meadows across Uttarakhand. A quiet woman with a warm smile, Pushpa comes into her own when working as a high altitude and culture guide. She is happiest when she is out in nature and will sometimes confide that had she been a man, she would have wandered the high mountains with her father. She lives in Sarmoli with her family and runs a Home Stay with Himalayan Ark.
Radhamani K. P.
Radhamani hails from Mothakkara village in Kerala and is a frontier campaigner for sustainable community development programs in her village. Her keen interest in interacting with people has earned her the role of an avid storyteller in community-based tourism programs. She has profound knowledge of native medicinal plants and flora and is a biodiversity conservationist in her village. Radhamani also wears the cape of a “travelling librarian”, making books accessible for women and children in her village. She commutes across the village, working with cooperative banking societies to develop financial plans for families in her village. Radhamani is a familiar face in the government as the President of the Panchayat-led women society group – Kudumbashree. She heads the organic farming group ‘Pournima’ which promotes organic farming in her village, and is also involved with multiple industries such as the soap making unit and Ayurveda medicinal unit, incubating entrepreneurship skills at Mothakkara.
Rekha Rautela was one of the first to run her Home Stay with Himalayan Ark in 2004. Down to earth with a keen wit and intellect, Rekha has been an active member of the women’s collective Maati and emerged as a strong voice in the valley. Born into a farming family and helping with the agricultural chores, it is only after having raised her 4 kids that she herself turned to farming. She has now moved out from the village to give urban life a go.
Kulthi, Himachal Pradesh
Sanju Negi, 36, is a resident of Kulthi Village, Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Although a farmer, he enjoys trekking and other adventure sports. At a young age, he worked in the hotel industry in Manali. He then did a course at the Mountaineering Institute of Manali and became a trekking guide in the Great Himalayan National Park. He is currently a board member of the GHNP Community-based Ecotourism Cooperative.
Saniya hails from Balyakhana village in Uttrakhand, a grade 11 student who aspires to be independent in her life. She loves stories as it’s inspiring and a great medium to spread message or a lesson. Presently she is a student- intern at Pathshala learning centre and loves how she is contributing in making high quality learning available for her region. She is a high spirited girl, who has abundant will of learning things. Saniya at such a young age understands that time and situations keeps changing and to keep up with such changes, she thinks it’s important to keep trying and learning new things. She swears her life by saying “jo bhi ho, koshish karte raho kyunki koshish karne walo ki haar nahi hoti”- keep trying, as failure is a step towards success. Saniya is planning to pursue Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and set an example for all other children in her village. Saniya is planning to pursue Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and set an example for all other children in her village.
Savita belongs to Lonthru village in the Uttarkashi region of Uttarakhand. She is a passionate mountaineer and a guest instructor at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi. She is one of the four daughters of Shri Radhesham Kanswal, a farmer, and Shrimati Kamleshwari Devi, a homemaker. Savita is the first woman from Uttarakhand and second woman from India to have summited Mount Lhotse, the fourth highest peak in the world. She dreams to summit Mount Everest and the 14 highest peaks in the world.
Shakeer hails from Leh. He is a middle school dropout but one of the sharpest technical brains. He is an innovator and scientist at heart. In addition to a being a hands-on engineer, he can fix vehicles, build furniture and do plumbing. He is the happiest when given a technical problem on and off the field. He loves to design new machines, and discuss science and physics in his free time. He is very active and respected in his village social circle, and affectionately called “Rancho” (from the movie Three Idiots) by his friends!
Markha Valley, Ladakh
Sonam is a councilor, mountaineer, wildlife enthusiast and social activist in the Markha region in Ladakh. He is passionate about serving the community. He has played a crucial role in the mobilization of the community across Ladakh for various projects. An advocate of responsible tourism, he promotes village homestays and has been instrumental in preserving and promoting wildlife-based tourism. He has worked hard for the capacity and infrastructure development of his region for village tourism. He also volunteers with Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE).
Bihar, Himachal Pradesh
Soniya is a 21-year-old student of geography from Bihar village in Himachal Pradesh. She loves to play volleyball, dance and sing. She is a trained beautician and dreams of becoming a professional make-up artist someday.
Stanzin Dolkar is a resident of Maan village, where she is part of the astronomy team. She completed her primary education till 5th grade in Maan, then moved to a nearby hostel till 10th grade. Since there are not many options for higher education in nearby areas, she is currently pursuing her 11th grade from IGNOU. She has a family of 10. Dolkar loves to sing and dance on local Ladakhi music. She is also a known knitting expert in her village!
Syed Hassan is a social activist and education crusader of Taisuru block, Kargil. As a chairman of Evergreen Welfare Society, Syed has been pioneering in providing education access to underprivileged children of Taisuru region. His unique cooperative model of education has worked well for the betterment of young kids. He has been an associate of Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) for his region and provides input on digital education program that can be implemented by GHE across various schools in Kargil.
Choejor grew up in Zanskar’s Purne village and dropped out of high school due to family responsibilities. He is an avid learner of renewable energy and related technology. He is a regular trekker, and loves to study and discover petroglyphs of the region. He likes to spend time farming and with family while not at work. He dreams of setting up his business in Zanskar.
Trilok Singh Rana
Like all able bodied young men, Trilok Singh Rana grew up dreaming of joining the Army. Then in 2008, he went on his first high altitude trek as a crew member of a Himalayan Ark trek and was mesmerized by the snow scape on Barjigang pass at 15000 feet. And never looked back. From hunting birds with the village boys till he was 14, he is now a respected bird guide of Uttarakhand. He sees himself grow old, exploring and photographing these grand mountains and the wildlife they nurture.
Sumda Chenmo, Ladakh
Tsering Dorjey was born in the remote village of Sumda Chenmo in the Markha region of Ladakh, accessible only by a 5 hour trek. Dorjey did his primary schooling in his village and moved to Leh for further education. Due to lack of opportunities and educational support, he dropped out of school in eighth grade. Since 2001, Dorjey has been working as a tourist guide and cook for various trekking expeditions. In 2014, he joined hands with Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) to electrify remote villages in Ladakh. With his support and local know-how, GHE has been able to identify and electrify 101 remote villages in Ladakh till date. Dorjey now owns a Solar Service Centre in Leh to provide maintenance and support to the solar electrified villages, and simultaneously assists GHE with identification of more villages for future social interventions. He volunteers for various social issues like cleanliness, energy poverty, education and livelihood. His engagement with the community is commendable. There is no single village in Ladakh where people do not recognize him. Children across Ladakh fondly call him Acho (elder brother). He is also a wildlife enthusiast and can tell you the names of all the birds, plants and mammals found in Ladakh in a jiffy!
Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) is a social enterprise dedicated to development of remote Himalayan communities through sustainable tourism and technology. They focus on providing basic energy access through installation of solar microgrids, creating digital education access through setup of computation labs and generating livelihood opportunities through community tourism. GHE till date has electrified 115 villages in Ladakh and Meghalaya and setup over 50 homestays in the villages.
Witerson M. Sangma
Witerson M. Sangma is a social worker, teacher and Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) project manager for village development projects in Meghalaya. His father was a farmer and he was the second of five children and grew up in poverty. He believes that God has a plan for each one of us, and it was his plan that a child with no money for books would grow up to become a headmaster in a college. And that a person who had no electricity in his own village has now helped to electrify 20 villages in the state.