At 28, I was one of the eldest in my class of fellows. But self discovery had no age, I felt as energetic and rearing to go as the rest. And deep inside I knew this one year will lead me to my true calling which will help me blend my creative energies with something meaningful for India … Cliché, but it cant be truer than it is today for me to believe that the dots connect backward somehow. Let me share with you what happened during my fellowship work and where it has consciously led me to in life.
Ashwini Krishna did her schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Vasco (Goa) and completed graduation in engineering in 2006 from Goa College of Engineering. Post that, 5 years went by, working in the corporate. The desire to explore other aspects of professional life as well as her own self brought her to the India Fellow program. The rest of the story is quite different from what it should have been traditionally.
As a part of the fellowship her work was based on adolescent skills development program at interiors of UP and Odisha. She would spend a normal day doing:-
- Identification and development of skill development module & trainings
- Increasing the enrolment of adolescents for village level programs conducted by respective NGOs – CYSD at Odisha & PEPUS at Uttar Pradesh
- Doing participatory rural appraisal, a process of rapid assessment of field based research and understanding the developmental challenges of communities
- Understanding Panchayati Raj Institutions like the Gram Panchayat and other village institutiotns, various schemes under Govt for the under privileged and marginalized community
A visit to a certain village in Maharashtra, changed something deep within. Ashwini found smiles and laughter amongst the poorest of people, learnt that there are more ways to look at anything and everything and that there is no limit to what one can learn. The underlining thread throughout her fellowship year was to observe the communities and its cultural aspects – the way their homes are built, their food, language, art forms, handicraft, local farming patterns, celebrations and rituals etc. And this can never be possible unless you live with them; as if you were always one of them. No amount of exposure visits and research trips can prepare you the way staying and working alongside the native does. It intrigued her beyond limits to see the simplicity and hence the beauty and science in the sustainable ways in which they lead their lives in harmony with nature. She learnt that these are precious and need to be preserved.
Further realization stuck when i returned to my home – I saw my house, my people, my surroundings differently. Showers became shorter and every action more thoughtful. I grew more sensitive to my native land (rural Goa), its culture, people, day-to-day lives and challenges.
In 2014, it was with this background that she started working on her social enterprise called – Nativefolks. The idea is to empower local families and communities by providing social & economic benefits with the help of tourism and related activities. At the same time empower the guests to not only opt for relaxing but meaningful travel experiences at countryside locations which spread awareness about cultural exchange and respect for hosts culture and environment.
I envision Nativefolks to grow into a setup that will bring people to our rural areas and make them see the beauty the way I did. The homestays are a start. As the guests increase, the intent is to divulge into activities that will help promote the rural art, culture and way of life. The enterprise is my whole and sole now. I spend all my waking hours to enhance it and sometimes in my sleep too J. And somewhere in the backdrop, all those days in the field work at Odisha and Uttar Pradesh come back to me to teach in the subtlest of ways – to persevere and remain true to my vision.
As you read this, Ashwini, at 32, is running a 3-year old social enterprise, which is expanding from Goa to Odisha communities and attracting more guests every season.