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‘Bihar Suno Nahi, Dekho’: Two Women On A Journey To Change The Racist Stereotype Of Bihar

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“When you google Rajasthan, gorgeous pictures of castles or desert sunsets flood your screen. Links from travel websites pop up, most of which successfully mesmerise you with stories about ancient kings and lost kingdoms, sumptuous Thaalis and genial people. But, if you google Bihar, articles will pop up with headlines blaring ‘crime’, ‘scam’, ‘corruption’, ‘unsafe’ etc. Disturbing pictures and equally unsettling news rule the charts. As true-blue Biharis, we were shocked to the core when we came across an article on an international travel site, referring to Bihar as a ‘chaotic place, very unsafe for women and children’. Our hearts wanted to tell the world how flawed that notion was and how amazing Bihar actually is,” shares Yashi Malviya, one of the co-founders of Bihar Bytes – the first tourism start-up in the grossly misconstrued Indian state.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

Yashi Malviya and her friend Sukriti Roy Yadav, two young journalists started Bihar Bytes in 2018 to take the unknown, the unseen and the unheard of Bihar to the world and dispel the stigma and racism around the quaint eastern state and her people. They are forerunners among women entrepreneurs in Bihar and they wish more youngsters to join their cause.

The misconception about Bihar

In a culturally diverse land like India, stereotypes about provinces and communities do exist. However, the stereotypes about Bihar is more negative than positive. “People in other states will interact with me with due respect and treat me normally. But, the moment they get to know I am from Bihar, they subtly start judging. They consider Bihar as a corrupt state, with peaking crime rates and lawlessness. It really pains us,” Yashi shares.

“Nobody would ever consider visiting Bihar on a trip, except for religious devotees who throng to Varanasi or Gaya,” she reveals the reality.

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Travelling through 32 districts of Bihar

The state, unfortunately, fares quite low on the parameters of education, employment or industries – poverty being a primary reason. The youngsters either opt for government jobs or move out to build their career elsewhere. Entrepreneurship, for most, is still a far-fetched dream.

Yashi and Sukriti were almost on the verge of moving out of their home state in pursuit of better career prospects. But, their one Google search took their lives on an entirely different trajectory. “More than starting an offbeat travel website, we wanted to portray a different face of Bihar to the outsiders. With this in mind, we travelled through 32 districts of Bihar. Little did we know that a whole new world would open before us,” Yashi expresses.

The undiscovered destinations not on Google Maps

The duo visited off the grid places and unearthed heritage sites and panoramic locations which nobody was aware of. Many of these places did not exist on Google Maps until Yashi and Sukriti uploaded photos from there and marked it on the map. “Hardly anybody ever knew about the beautiful Kashish Waterfall in the Kaimur Hills of Bihar. Hidden from the maps, the place has a mysterious aura of its own. We have done an amazing drone shoot of the entire region and explorers from all over the world are pouring in their inquiries ever since,” she narrates. She adds that there are as many as fifty such waterfalls in the state which people are unaware of.

The two co-founders photographed and documented every little detail of their entire journey through unexplored fortresses, deserted townships, mythological locations and aboriginal settlements.

 

An ‘abandoned’ fort as magnificent Chittorgarh

“You know, there is the Rohtasgarh fort near the Son River valley, which we found to be as beautiful as the famous Chittorgarh fort of Rajasthan. Local folklore says that the Rohtasgarh fort was built by Rohitāśva, son of the legendary king Harishchandra. For the past few decades, rumours of the fort being inhabited by Naxalites has made it completely inaccessible to tourists and even local residents. Moreover, a popular media house did a blunder by randomly portraying the fort as ‘haunted’ – just to gain TRP. So, nobody ever comes here now,” Yashi informs.

When Yashi and Sukriti reached the fort after a tiring 4-km trek, they were graciously welcomed by a group of elated locals who were relaxing there. Though unmaintained, the two of them were left spellbound by the sheer magnificence of the fort. They had a similar experience at Raj Darbhanga palace as well.

“The ruins of Madhubani’s Rajnagar Palace resemble that of the Greek city Athens. There is an ancient temple in Dumraon Tehsil near Buxar, which was built identical to Greek Parthenon. Almost nobody knows about the Valmikinagar Tiger Reserve near Nepal border or about Sitamari, the mythical birthplace of Sita,” Yashi enlists a few of the many wonders of Bihar they discovered.

#BiharSunnoNahiDekho

At present, Bihar Bytes work as a travel blog which uses social media to invite travellers from across the globe. The response has been overwhelming till date, as the founders assert. They coined the hashtag #BiharSunnoNahiDekho which has gone viral. “Once a lady strongly expressed her disappointment about Bihar after knowing where we are from. When we asked her to tell us the reason, she said that she had just heard it. That’s when we decided to bust the myths through this hashtag,” explains Yashi.

When they streamed a Facebook Live video from Rohtasgarh Fort, within an hour the number of viewers crossed 55,000. Bihar Bytes has not had to look back ever since. Aside from individual tourists, many private enterprises are taking interest to come, explore and popularise Bihar. Non-residential Biharis are showering praises on Bihar Bytes. However, the founders admit that limited assistance from the government has not been of much help.

Their journey, especially as two women entrepreneurs or women solo travellers, has not been bereft of roadblocks. Being women, they also faced a lot of undue questions. But, Yashi and Sukriti strongly believe that Bihar has a lot of untapped tourism potential. It will open a huge opportunity for employment for the rural population. Bihar Bytes is striving towards achieving this.

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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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Supporting Education Of COVID Hit Students

19,200 Raised
Out of 20,00,000

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Supporting Acid Attack Survivors During COVID

26,651 Raised
Out of 20,00,000

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Providing Clothes To Tribal Children

1,11,860 Raised
Out of 9,00,000

Share

Back To School : Supporting Rural Education

28,631 Raised
Out of 15,00,000

Share

Rahat COVID: Relief Work by Goonj

1,04,887 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

No To Hunger : Free Meals To Underprivileged

5,87,014 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

Provide Ambulance : Help Them Reach Hospital On Time

3,82,370 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

Support Pranitha To Donate Oxygen And Ration Kits

8,35,618 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

Share

Project Annapoorna : Become A Hunger Warrior

7,582 Raised
Out of 1,50,000

Share

The Stray Project : A Thought Of Humanity

41,094 Raised
Out of 2,50,000

Share

Ended

Stand By Ladakh

40,962 Raised
Out of 1,00,000

Share

Closed

Support our Frontline COVID Warriors

25,615 Raised
Out of 5,00,000

Share

KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

97,02,146 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

Share

Campaign Closed
Brought machinery

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,544 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

9 Happy Fridges Installed
Ordered a minivan and sent for modification

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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Quote
It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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