Making a change at Grassroutes
Purushwadi, a small village in Maharashtra, has now been published in Lonely Planet India but the dream of making it happen started a long time back. Inir and I met in a crowded McDonald’s in Mumbai to talk about rural tourism and what Grassroutes is all about. Sitting in one of the symbols of the capitalist western world, the venue might not have been that appropriate to discuss about rural India but it was economical enough to serve our purpose as we spoke about economy, skills and tourism in rural India
Inir, the founder of Grassroutes explained how his idea encourages rural tourism and connects the urban and rural sides of our country- the so-called ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’. While for the most of urban population; the weekends are mostly spent in the malls: shopping, watching movies or eating out. Grassroutes provides a unique experience of exploring the rural life with a slice of comfort. The tours are well planned for guests with a mix of nature trails, local cuisine and village activities of one’s choice. And much to my surprise, all the management work is being carried out by the villagers without any intervention from the core team. Villagers have been empowered and trained to carry out all the operational work at the site , thus also enabling them to earn an additional income. There are many families in Purushwadi, which are involved now with Grassroutes, and they host the guests on a rotational basis, this gives everyone a chance to earn some amount of additional income. Grassroutes is now working in 11 villages and is providing 6,000 – 8,000 days of employment annually per village. It is remarkable how Grasssroutes is changing lives through sustainable tourism.
Meeting with Inir was the just the kind of introduction I needed about the good intentions at Grassroutes and then, it was time for me to experience it on my own. On a Saturday morning, we started for Purushwadi, crossing the Mumbai chaos and embracing the fresh air of Kasara Ghats. The only stop we took was for a quick breakfast at a place recommended by Grassroutes and before we could realize, we had reached Purushwadi in time for lunch with stretches of beautiful spiral roads behind us. While ‘Balu’ welcomed us at the camp site, it was hard to believe that the world around us had changed so much in a matter of a few hours!. Purified water, dense trees for shade, cemented camps to sleep and clean toilets; there isn’t anything more I could ask for. Balu took us to our host, a Koli lady who fed us in her own house. An authentic local vegetarian lunch after the drive was all I needed to start my rural experience.
Balu explained about the areas nearby and took us for a walk to the river and later for a hike to see the sunset. While we sat tired, sweating after the hike, we saw the magical sight of the sun setting over the Western ghats. Purushwadi is blessed with beautiful landscape and I can imagine how surreal it would be, to spot the fireflies in the monsoon season. While nature has blessed Purushwadi , I was really pleased to see how the villagers have maintained an optimum level of cleanliness. That’s the kind of change Inir and I were talking about in our meeting. It’s not only about finances which improve but also the overall mindset of the villagers; be it towards cleanliness, education or women empowerment. The visitors from Mumbai and nearby cities also seem to be making a difference in the villager’s lives, as they get an exposure to the lives of urban populace. I realized while we learnt from villagers about their rural activities we were also leaving an impression on them intentionally or unintentionally.
Overall, I realized Grassroutes is an organization, which follows standards; whether it’s the training program for the villagers, or the rules about no tips to villagers; the execution of the whole program was a testimony to the vision of the company. Would I like to travel with Grassroutes again? Definitely, yes! It was a great experience for me as a traveler, as we often crave to get access to rural life. And I would highly recommend this trip to those of you who crave for a weekend, which is peaceful, simple yet charming.
Click here to see the Grassroutes website, to know more about their venture and villages you may visit
Did you have a similar rural experience somewhere else in India? I would like to know and visit..