All of us carry many stories within us – those passed down to us, those that happen to us, or to people that we know and these are the stories that need to be told and shared.
The Good Story Project came to us, as an idea, a desire, in the month of July 2020. We realised that we wanted to create a platform for stories big and small. Stories of ordinary people and everyday life. A safe space where interviews, personal narratives and features could be conducted with balance and empathy. In order to set the ball rolling, we started brainstorming for story ideas; not just themes that were relevant to us in the midst of the pandemic but also those that were pertinent before and will be so, much after the pandemic ends. We aim to share and open up this space with fellow writers who believe in telling stories in the spirit that we do.
On April 23, 2016, Kiranjit Kaur’s father Gurnam Singh, 48, a farmer living in Katra Kalan village in Mansa district in Punjab hanged himself by a tree as he was unable to pay the debt of Rs 8 lakh. Kaur was just 23. After struggling emotionally and financially for two years, she formed the Kisan Mazdoor Peedat Parivar Committee to help the families of farmers and farm labourers cope with suicide, grim reality in Punjab and the rest of the country. Today, 6,000 people are a part of the outfit. The members include families of farmers and farm labourers in Punjab who could not cope with the pressure and chose to take the extreme step. The committee members not just provide moral and emotional support to widows and mothers; they also fight for the government compensation that the victim families are supposed to get and ensure that children from such families do not drop out of schools and colleges. As September is observed as suicide prevention awareness month, reading and sharing such stories is the need of the hour
In May this year, I put forth a question in a food group on Facebook. The group, which has over 155,900 members worldwide, a majority of them Indians, is a space for people to connect over ‘food talk’ but it is not just about food or recipes. As the pinned post about the group’s guidelines informs, this is a place to connect, mingle and share. Very often, you would find that the discussions on the group range from a number of things – from seeking suggestions and ideas on baby names, to sharing decor and festive tips, and sometimes, women would post in a lighter vein – how their spouses had failed to follow the simplest of instructions when it came to buying groceries or cooking rice in the rice cooker. In my post, I asked if the men did any cooking – participating, and playing an active part in the kitchen. I wanted to hear from men and women both. I asked, because I was curious.
Between 2015 and 2019, 62 elephants were killed by trains in India and more than 1,700 people and more than 300 elephants died in encounters with each other. The human-elephant conflict is real, and, in most cases, humans are to be blamed for it. In the name of development and wanting more coal mines, factories, railway lines and wider highways, we have entered the homes of elephants and we blame them for coming out and destroying paddy fields and harming humans. In one of the chapters of her recently published book Wild and Wilful, Neha Sinha, conservation biologist and author, has documented many heart-breaking stories of elephants and their calves falling into mine pits, getting crushed under trains or sustaining burn injuries because of fireballs thrown at them. On this World Elephant Day, The Good Story Project interviews Sinha to understand how deep-rooted the human-elephant conflict is and the challenges of wildlife conservation
As per the United Nations, there are over 476 million indigenous peoples living in 90 countries across the world, accounting for 6.2% of the global population. They are the holders of a vast diversity of unique cultures, traditions, languages, and knowledge systems. On this International Day of Indigenous Peoples, Dr Deepak Acharya, an Ethnobotanist, a PhD in Plant Sciences and a herbal enthusiast, who has been working with Adivasis for many years, takes us to the jungles of Dang in Gujarat, Patalkot in Madhya Pradesh, and Bastar in Chhattisgarh to introduce us to some of the ‘superfoods’ that the Adivasis living in these regions consume; some of which can and should make a way into our kitchens! A first-person account
says Rishabh Lalani, who revisits the numerous acts of generosity and kindness he received when his entire family, including his younger brother, mother, and father tested positive for Covid-19. For Lalwani, who works as an independent consultant to the not-for-profit sector, the pandemic was an opportunity to reflect on why people are inspired to offer unconditional support and help in a time of great distress. This story, is a part of our series on Covid-19 and compassion. This particular series invited people to share any experiences of goodness and kindness that they had come across as the pandemic raged in India, especially those that they had encountered first-hand.
“Handwritten notes expressing concern, personal follow-ups asking for individual food preferences were some of the other kindnesses shown”
says Ayanti Guha, as she recounts how her gated community in Hyderabad rose up to the challenges of Covid-19, with a group of over 60 women coming together to provide home-made, healthy and delicious meals to those affected by the virus.
Social inclusion and equality are two powerful words, but when it comes to employing persons with disabilities (PwDs), people with special needs, and members from the LGBTQ community, the numbers are not very impressive. In many parts of the world, June is dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ community and their struggles against discrimination and social ostracization. June 18 is also celebrated as Autistic Pride Day. On this day, The Good Story Project takes you to a cafe in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. Here’s what is interesting. Presently, the staff members include 15 people with hearing loss, four transgenders, one person with Down Syndrome, one dwarf person, and two trafficking survivors. Priyank Patel, founder, and managing partner of Nukkad Tea Café, talks about the challenges and the need to make these “special” people a part of the mainstream
“Positive”. I was not surprised. I had started showing symptoms. So, one evening, while returning from work, I bought basics like an oximeter, a few specific medicines and isolated myself. The initial few days were tough, but the recovery phase was tougher. I experienced “collective grief”. The images and heart-breaking stories flashing on my TV screen and mobile feed were having a devastating effect on me. However, the comforting presence of Covid warriors who took to social media to help people desperately looking for hospitals, beds, oxygen, plasma, ventilators, medicines, or Remdisivir injections was extremely reassuring. Though I was in isolation in a city I had moved into just two years back, and did not have a solid support system in place, I was confident that if I needed help, it would arrive through social media
As India battles the deadly second wave of Covid-19, almost everyone who tests positive is struggling to find lifesaving medicines, oxygen cylinders and hospital beds – and this holds especially true for those who require immediate medical intervention. Families are trying to hold on to their health and wellbeing. But some of us have also encountered help and kindness in the midst of all the mayhem. From individuals and organisations. It is this kindness which has helped many of us stay afloat. We want to hear these stories.
says Laksmi Ajay, who writes about experiencing it in its purest form in the past few weeks. Ajay, a communications professional based in Bangalore, and her husband fell sick with Covid-19 as the second wave encompassed India in its deadly grip. As they battled its manifold symptoms – help, and one that really made a difference came from strangers.
For more than a year, our lives have revolved around Covid. A pandemic fatigue had set in. But just when people were hoping to move on, the situation exploded in our faces. The second Covid wave has hit India hard. The country is reporting on average three lakh fresh Covid infections daily and rumours of lockdown are making people anxious and restless. Yet again, migrant workers and daily wage earners are crowding local train and bus stations to return home because bitter memories of the 2020 lockdown are still fresh in their minds. We bring to you five heart-breaking stories of those who had faced harrowing experiences during the lockdown last year. They shudder to think what is in store for them and others this year
“Before I became an adoptive parent myself, I theoretically knew that each child deserves a family who passionately loves and protects them”
Says Smriti Gupta, who is a child rights campaigner, and a partnerships and marketing professional. She is working to drive awareness and find lasting solutions for India’s most vulnerable children. In this interview with The Good Story Project, she talks about running a Facebook group that supports Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs), how a family can prepare themselves prior to bringing home a child, as well as her campaign on Safe Surrender. Gupta also addresses several pertinent issues regarding adoption in India, including the lack of maternity leave for parents who bring home an older child.
Recalls Eisha Sarkar, a communications professional, and in this piece, she reflects on her journey as a parent and describes incidents, books and literature that helped her chart her own journey through motherhood.
“When I think of our daughter and how both of them missed getting to know each other, I feel a lump in my throat”
Says Vadodara-based artist and sculptor Zaida Jacob whose daughter was only a year and half when Jacob lost her husband in 2002. In this piece, she shares what grief feels like – tracing her memories to the time when she had just lost her spouse and 19 years later. She also shares her thoughts on how one can help a person who is grieving as well as how loss shapes a person…
says Pooja Ganju Adlakha, who, in November 2020 started writing this story which was meant to be about coping with the grief of losing her father, Major Virendra Ganju, in 2016 to Motor Neuron Disease. However, by the time the story could come out, she unexpectedly lost her mother to Covid. In this first-person account, she writes about how, with both her parents gone, she is experiencing a different kind of an empty nest syndrome
says Sunil Kumar, a social worker and an artist based in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, who lost his wife Sarla Siriwas, 33, just a day before the March 22, 2020 Junta Curfew – a day-long lockdown that was announced ahead of the complete lockdown last year to stop the spread of coronavirus. While the whole country was anxious, Kumar was fighting a different battle at a hospital in Muzaffarpur caring for his wife, a social worker and a puppeteer, who had spent most of her life travelling across and living in some of the Adivasi-dominated and Naxal-infested regions. This inspirational story is about how he dealt with the grief of losing her
“Suddenly, while talking to someone over the phone, my grandfather started referring to my father as ‘body’”
says Eshwari Shukla, a journalist, while remembering the day her father passed away in an accident when she was only 13. In this first-person account, she talks about how, initially, it was strange for her to see her mother in a white saree. Her empty forehead would remind her of the sudden vacuum in their lives, but gradually the mother-daughter duo became each other’s silent strength while coping with their common grief
“Losing my mother to cancer and my father on the day of my wedding were the biggest setbacks of my life”
says Gurudas Pai, whose life suddenly changed in the span of four years. He had no option but to face these adverse situations, but, according to him, those intense episodes of darkness were also the best teachers. What keeps him going? It’s a poem by Walter Wintle. Read his first-person account
says Darshana Shukul, a corporate communication professional, who lost her mother soon after her baby brother was born. She was just five. She still remembers seeing her mother lying on the hospital bed, pale and lifeless, and the strange deafening silence between the two. In this first-person account, she talks about how, while growing up, she wrote stories, sought solace in God’s grace, and absentmindedly befriended books, weapons that helped her battle the painful emotions of losing her mother
Says Lakshmi Kaul, who lost her only daughter, aged nine, to a freak allergic incident in 2017.
“I wrote a series on Facebook titled ‘From Diagnosis to Death’. Penning my thoughts helped me a great deal to process my grief”
says Nitin Naik, a Mumbai-based sports journalist, who lost his wife to pancreatic cancer in September 2015. In this first-person account, he talks about how his wife’s illness and death triggered episodes of intense darkness and depression and his coping mechanisms that include spending most weekends rearranging her wardrobe, which helps him reconnect with her
Spotting tiger pug marks, gazing at Himalayan peaks and savouring ‘Neembu Saan’, a Kumauni delicacy … Winter diaries from Almora
Eating only home-grown organic vegetables, looking after cows and consuming unadulterated milk, breathing in the fresh air, connecting with your roots, spotting tiger pug marks in your courtyard, and spending most of your day playing with dogs and pups and shooing monkeys away while working from home and fulfilling your professional commitments … if this sounds like an exciting life, writer, director, and filmmaker Kanchan Pant is actually living it
says Anjali Fahnline,14 as she looks back and writes about her adoption journey. Fahnline and her two sisters were adopted in 2017, and she is our youngest ever contributor, bringing in the much needed perspective as an adoptee, and what it means to be adopted.
“I always thought no one can ever understand me because my situation and my life experiences have been extraordinarily different. Not all in a good, extraordinarily different way though. But after reading Jerry Pinto’s interview here, I think he will definitely understand me. His words moved me to a place of quiet acceptance of allContinue reading “What did The Good Story Project stories teach us?”
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