Voices of Rural India: a new platform for storytellers from Indian villages

How a new digital initiative is giving rural communities that depend on tourism for their revenue a house to share their tales

Every yr on January 15, Kamla Pandey makes garlands of ghughuti (deep fried dough made with wheat flour, jaggery, milk and ghee) to feed crows in her village, as generations of her ancestors have carried out earlier than. The 48-year-old proprietor of a homestay in Sarmoli, Uttarakhand, recounts the story advised by her mom: when the inheritor to the Chandra dynasty was kidnapped, the crows of Kumaon helped the king discover his son. “In celebration of [their son’s] return, the royal couple threw a lavish banquet… But as evening fell and it got too late, the birds could not attend the feast. So they were especially invited the next day,” says Pandey.

This is one of the primary posts on Voices of Rural India (VoRI), a platform the place individuals from rural communities that largely relied on tourism for their revenue can share their tales. Launched on August 15, the not-for-profit initiative works with established community-based tourism organisations — like Global Himalayan Expedition, Himalayan Ecotourism, Himalayan Ark, Grassroutes Journeys and Spiti Ecosphere, amongst others — to determine storytellers. Locals are inspired to submit narratives in audio/visible/textual content format, that are edited, fact-checked, revealed and promoted by a workforce of volunteers at VoRI. The web site carries each the edited English model and the unique within the native language.

The Voices of Rural India course of  

Tales of stars and spirits

The storytellers are sometimes guides, homestay hosts, individuals concerned in tourism, and youth and ladies from the group, says journey blogger and writer Shivya Nath, who co-founded VoRI with Malika Virdi, the sarpanch of Sarmoli Jainti Van Panchayat, and social entrepreneur Osama Manzar. The trio (who has labored collectively on different tasks prior to now) joined forces with the frequent imaginative and prescient of empowering rural communities to entry digital alternatives. “Encouraged by the response of grassroots organisations and by the support extended by Manzar and his Digital Empowerment Foundation, the project got underway by end of May,” says Nath.

The contributors vary from an amchi (conventional medication practitioner) from Spiti who talks concerning the unsolved thriller of a 550-year-old monk discovered mummified within the mountain village of Giu in 1975, to a scholar from Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh who shares particulars about a native competition through which males put on garments of grass and yell abuses to impress dangerous spirits. An eleventh grader from Maan village, Stanzin Dolkar, talks about her curiosity in astronomy, whereas a postman from Ladakh shares his fascination for petroglyphs courting again to the Bronze Age that he has discovered whereas strolling on the job. A storyteller earns ₹1,000 for every story accepted for publication.

(Left to right) Co-founders Shivya Nath, Osama Manzar and Malika Virdi

(Left to proper) Co-founders Shivya Nath, Osama Manzar and Malika Virdi  

A new future for tourism

More than simply being a repository of native knowledge, tradition and traditions, the undertaking goals to supply an alternate stream of revenue for those that, for a few years, have trusted tourism. (April to June, which in pre-Covid instances would have been peak vacationer season in Ladakh, glided by in lockdown.) To tide over dangerous instances, guides and homestay hosts have taken up labour work over the summer season. Others have turned to agriculture, however it has been tough since not everybody owns land, explains Nath.

In Sarmoli, Virdi says, “While tourism brought in much-needed money, traditional livelihoods like farming and woolwork were kept intact, as were the upkeep and use of the forest commons. With a decision to defer taking in tourists even after lockdown, the communities have gone back to their core strengths and are investing this time in learning new skills to negotiate a better future in tourism.”

Some of the storytellers on Voices of Rural India

Some of the storytellers on Voices of Rural India  

Currently, VoRI is trying for volunteers with modifying and social media experience, in addition to individuals to assist develop enjoyable and interesting coaching materials that may be shared through WhatsApp or in a socially-distanced means. “We’re looking forward to a post-Covid world where we can physically travel to visit the communities we’re virtually working with, conduct digital storytelling workshops, identify local talent and hopefully bridge some of the gaping urban-rural digital divide,” says Nath. Meanwhile, we will learn extra tales from the likes of Kamla Pandey and hope that we will go to Sarmoli quickly to partake of some piping sizzling ghughuti to beat the biting chilly of the hills.

Details: voicesofruralindia.org and @voicesofruralindia on Instagram

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