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Illustration by Aruvi Dave

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.

Latest Posts

Educating kids for Re 1/day … that’s indeed a good ‘Shuruaat’

As per UNICEF, the pandemic and lockdowns have led to the closure of more than 15 lakh schools in India and impacted more than 25 crore children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools. However, for a developing country like ours, the pandemic was just an added blow as more than 60 lakh boys and girls were out of school even before the pandemic. Efforts are being made by individuals and organisations to bridge this gap, especially post covid. Recently, Abhishek Shukla, the founder of Shuruaat — Ek Jyoti Shiksha ki, opened a school for underprivileged children in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, named Shuruaat Play School. The children studying here are given quality education for just Re 1/day. Why Re 1? Because that’s how much one tends to give to children who beg at traffic signals. The tagline of the campaign is quite apt – ek rupaiye bhiksha, ya ek rupaiye me shiksha … how would you rather spend your Re 1? By giving it as alms to a child or towards his/her daily school fees?

A jukebox that will make you nostalgic

When nature forced us to be locked up inside our homes during the pandemic-induced lockdowns, many of us sought solace in music, which helped us heal emotionally. As our lives switched to digital, it led to many connecting in the online world to discuss and share music, and form online music clubs, small and big. So, when two Mumbai-based friends — Kalpana Swamy, a communications professional, who is trained in Hindustani classical music and Kunal Desai, an IT and telecom professional, who is a trained Western classical musician – got an opportunity to create a musical venture, they grabbed it. After two months of intensive research came into being Nostalgiaana Jukebox. Their endeavour is to unearth the forgotten melodies from the 1980s and beyond that evoke the feeling of nostalgia. The USP of their venture is guided listening. In this interview, Swamy and Desai, co-founders of Nostalgiaana Jukebox, tell The Good Story Project’s Swati Subhedar how, through their musical venture, they are striving to spread the goodness of music.     

Reaching Mount Everest base camp … one step at a time

On May 3, the day the world was celebrating Eid, at 11 AM, the mighty Himalayan mountains reverberated with the sound of the Indian national anthem. A team of nine, that included a double amputee, a visually impaired judo player, a blade runner, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, among others, reached the Mount Everest base camp, situated at the height of 5,364 meters. One of them was single-leg amputee and dancer and national wheelchair basketball player Chanchal Soni, 14, who hails from Nari, a small village in Chhattisgarh. She scaled the summit with the help of ordinary crutches and became the youngest single-leg amputee climber in the world. It was her first mission, and she says it certainly won’t be her last. However, all her future missions depend on something crucial … funding. Soni feels her story did not get the kind of attention it deserved, and more coverage might help her secure funds for her future missions. Being a platform that promotes equality and inclusion, we decided to tell her story.

The story of the tree-hugging Adivasis of Hasdeo Arand

The Glasgow Climate Change Conference, held in October-November 2021, listed coal and deforestation as two of the most serious causes of climate change. A few months later, in March-April this year, the Chhattisgarh government gave its final assent to mining in two coal blocks in the Hasdeo Arand region in the state. The move would result in the death of more than 4.5 lakh trees and the displacement of thousands of Adivasis. It will also have an adverse impact on the rich biodiversity. These days, illiterate Adivasis, who can’t even spell coal mining, deforestation, displacement, or climate change, have been staging a silent protest against the outlandish decision taken by learned policymakers, bureaucrats, and politicians. We spoke to various stakeholders in the state to understand why this mining drama has been unfolding for more than a decade now and the significance of the present protests.

“There is so much to learn by simply observing a tree”

says 12-year-old Daanya Purohit, as she responds to The Good Story Project’s call for ‘tree stories’. Purohit, who is a nature enthusiast, wants us all to take more notice of the trees around us, and to nurture them in public and private spaces so that we can enjoy greener and vibrant neighbourhoods as well as forested areas.

“My parents were Jamaican, wooed to this country by a similar coastline and weather”

In this evocative piece, Asha Krishna, lets her beloved frangipani tree tell its story – a story spanning several years, and decades. Of how it came to a suburban Bombay building, and how it grew along with its residents, only to face the challenges of ‘redevelopment.’ But why was it called the immortal tree, and would it survive the builder’s axe? Read along to find out its fate…

“We too, as generations before us have done in literature, compared the strange shape of the flower to a parrot’s beak, a tiger’s claw, a new moon”

Says Nina Bhatt, in this beautiful retelling of a spring afternoon spent in the canopy of the Flame of the Forest tree – the celebrated spring maker, also known by a myriad other names, from palaash to dhak among many others.

Not just in Vadodara, but also at the other extreme of the country, in West Bengal, the palaash has been a pet of other university towns such as Shantiniketan. Gathering its flowers for Holi celebrations came to be a very important tradition in that institution, in keeping with its ideals of reviving Indian art and aesthetics, of re-looking at the use of natural dyes.

Noticing the trees around you this spring?

Whether you are in Himachal or Karnataka or Gujarat – or for that matter, any part of India, you cannot help but notice how the arrival of spring has made the trees bloom and blossom. It’s true that we all seem to take more notice of the trees around us in spring. Those vibrant hues of orange, yellows, purples and pinks have us spellbound.

And while we revel in the beauty of trees in spring, we are rather grateful for the very presence of trees around us in summer. And that is why, we want to hear from you. Read on…

Here’s to strong and inspiring women

Being a platform that’s run by two women, it’s our honour and privilege to celebrate women on this International Women’s Day. It’s been sixteen months since we published our first story on The Good Story Project. Of the 68 stories published so far, some are about women who inspire, and some are written by wonderful women writers. All the women-centric stories – including interviews and first-person accounts — that we published on our platform have moved us, touched us, and inspired us. On this special day, we thought about revisiting these stories and sharing them with you. After all, it’s not just about one day. With such powerful women around, every day is a women’s day.

“What was the fault of these children and teachers? How do our schools survive post-pandemic?”

Gaurav Girija Shukla lives in a small town named Arang, 40 kms from Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur. Nearly 20 years back, his parents opened a school in Arang. Over the years, the school has been providing affordable and quality education to underprivileged children living in nearby villages. The parents of these children belong to lower-middle income groups, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, or are farmers and daily wagers. The founders even managed to open two additional branches in far-flung villages. And then came the prolonged pandemic. As of today, the small branches have shut, and the main branch is at the mercy of the personal savings of the founders. Hearts of hearts, they know it’s time to pack up. Shuklas are not alone. There are a little over four lakh low-cost private schools in the country. Due to the ongoing pandemic, tens of thousands of these budget schools have either shut or are on the verge of shutting. For schools in villages or small towns, the demise was slow and painful. In this first-person account, Shukla uses his school as a case study to give us a larger perspective.

Rest in peace, “Collarwali” supermom

On January 16, the nation woke up to heartwarming images of the last rites of a tigress being conducted by forest officials and locals in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench Tiger Reserve. Soon, social media handles were flooded with tributes and condolence messages from politicians, bureaucrats, wildlife lovers, and even those who had never met the tigress. The tigress in question was the much-loved showstopper of Pench, who was fondly known Collarwali as she was the first feline to be radio-collared at Pench in 2008. But the collar was just an accessory. What made her special was that in her lifetime she gave birth to 29 cubs — unheard in India and possibly the world – earning her the nickname of supermom. The entire family played an important role in getting Madhya Pradesh the tag of tiger state. After her demise at 16 due to old age, Pench will never be the same again, say those whose daily lives revolved around the Collarwali supermom. 

Yet another rough year ends  

When we rang in 2021 a year back, we were hopeful of making a fresh start and erasing the memories of the nightmare that 2020 was. A couple of months later, in April-May 2021, the devastating second wave of covid hit us like a Tsunami. We have entered a brand-new year, however, along with it, a new variant of the virus has clawed into our lives. The first known outbreak of the pandemic started in Wuhan, China, in November 2019. It’s 2022 now. That’s how long the pandemic has lasted. The presence of the virus in our lives for more than two years has led to us hitting the pause button on many of our life plans. Wish there was an option to rewind, reset and wipe out these anxiety-ridden months from our lives that robbed so many of us of milestone moments and changed the course of life for many. While the prolonged pandemic has impacted us all, in this story we bring to you some voices who in their own words have narrated the impact, takeaways, and learnings from the pandemic.

The ghost villages of Uttarakhand

People move their place of habitation because of social, political, or economic reasons. Often, natural disasters lead to sudden displacement of people. However, over the past few decades, large-scale human migration has been happening because of climate change. In India, a rise in extreme weather events like droughts, floods, heatwaves, and hailstorms is fuelling climate migration and it’s the poor who are forced to abandon their homes, land, and livelihoods. The Global Climate Risk Index 2021 puts India among the top 10 countries most affected by climate change. Today, on International Migrants Day, we kick-start a three-part series that will look at various aspects of climate change migration in the country. In the first part, we take you to Uttarakhand, home to several ghost villages, to understand why people, especially farmers, here have been migrating.

Pandemic roadblock: The uphill task of reviving mountain tourism

International Mountain Day is celebrated on December 11 to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development, and to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain people and the environment around the world. In India, mountain tourism thrives in the Himalayan region. However, the pandemic has created a crisis of livelihoods for mountain communities. Aptly, the theme of this year’s Mountain Day is sustainable mountain tourism. The Good Story Project ‘visits’ the northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and the Union Territory of Ladakh that border the mighty Himalayas to understand how the pandemic has affected communities living here and how difficult revival of mountain tourism is going to be.

Seven continents, seven summits and Mission Inclusion 

These days, Chhattisgarh-based Chitrasen Sahu, 28, is extremely busy. As I write this story, he is finishing travel formalities and trying to secure the last leg of funding for his upcoming expedition to Mount Acconcagua. At 6,962 meters, it is the highest mountain in the Americas. Previously, in 2019, he had scaled Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, in 2020 Mount Kosciuszko, mainland Australia’s tallest mountain, and in 2021 Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia. He is the first double amputee from India to achieve this and his aim is to scale seven summits present in seven continents. “Half human robo” Sahu, also a blade runner, a national-level wheelchair basketball player and swimmer, a motivational speaker and an inclusion and disability rights activist, is on “Mission Inclusion,” and this is his incredible story.

“The character of Jamlo came from an Aadhar picture and a picture of her on the road”

Says Samina Mishra, a filmmaker, children’s book author and teacher. She teaches film at the International Baccalaureate level, aiming to use the arts as a means of self-expression. Mishra is a Mass Communications graduate of Jamia Milia Islamia, and her interests lie in covering aspects regarding childhood, growing up and identity. Her movie Happiness Class on Delhi schools’ happiness curriculum is doing the rounds of film festivals to great critical acclaim. Her goal has been to give primacy to kids’ voices in all that she does. She also has to her credit, many books including Nida Finds A Way, and The House on Gulmohar Avenue, a publicly available documentary film.

In this interview, Sangitha Krishnamurthi holds a conversation with Mishra, after having read Jamlo Walks – the hard-hitting picture book based on a true story of a 12-year-old girl who walked all the way from Telangana to Bastar in Chhattisgarh. Carrying her little bag of chillies, Jamlo covered a distance of 155 miles during the lockdown.

After all, it’s kindness that binds us …

World Kindness Day is celebrated on November 13 every year to promote the importance of being kind to each other, to oneself, and the world. In the last two years, as the pandemic drama unfolded, we witnessed death, starvation, mass migrant movements, job losses, and a spike in mental health illnesses. However, there was something that kept our flickering hopes and spirits alive. It was acts of kindness that touched our hearts. The pandemic scarred us at multiple levels, and the tentacles spread by a tiny virus affected every single person in some way or the other, yet the many stories of kindness encouraged us to sail through and motivated many to help those in need. The Good Story Project has documented some of these stories.

Sometimes, all we need is someone who would listen with empathy …

On our first anniversary, we would like to thank each one of you who shared their deeply personal experiences with us … stories that shaped our series on loss and grief. Some of the pieces moved us to tears. It was an emotionally draining series to plan and execute, but those powerful stories have had a lasting impact on us. This series has made us kinder, gentler, and emotionally stronger. So, thank you.

Include us … that’s all people with spinal cord injuries are asking for

Unlike some of the countries in the West, in India, because of attitudinal barriers, persons with disabilities continue to grapple with the challenges of access, acceptance and inclusion. Published in October-November 2020, our series, ‘Unbound’, was an attempt to bring to you incredible journeys of people with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). Each story is an inspiration. Each story is still relevant … will continue to be.

Pandemic, lockdowns, and hunger

World Food Day is observed on October 16 with an aim to eradicate hunger across the world. While, by God’s grace, we always had enough food on our plates, even during the pandemic, and most of us were in a position to help others with meals and ration during the lockdowns, there are many families who have not eaten enough since the beginning of the pandemic. Most of these families rely on daily wages or unsteady incomes and the lockdowns dealt a major blow to them. While men were out of work, it was the women who had to bear the brunt as they had to manage with less ration or the parents had to cut down on their intake, so that their children could eat enough. I spoke to five such families.

Doing our bit to spread mental health awareness …

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. The overall objective of this day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. In November 2020, The Good Story Project started a special series on mental health. The ongoing series is a pool of resources. On World Mental Health Day, we are pleased to share with you a small mental health resource kit. We are not experts in this area. Share it with your family and friends if you find it useful and if it resonates with you.

Kiranjit’s father, a farmer, died by suicide. What she has done after that is incredible

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.  

Indian men, cooking and kitchen chores – Covid-19 and beyond

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.

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2 thoughts on “Home”

  1. Fantastic pieces of stories! Topical, relevant and liberating pieces of stories that need to be told, shared and heard. Well done to the good story project team.

    Like

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