‘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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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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