The Road to Maharashtra

By Alice Stout

Early morning commuter traffic in Nashik, Maharastra

Early morning commuter traffic in Nashik, Maharastra

HCR is back in India! It’s been six months since Jon visited, and he’s excited to see the progress that Seva Social Welfare Foundation has made. HCR is about journeying with partners as they build capacity, equipping local people to make a meaningful social impact within their communities. Just as HCR is journeying with Seva (meaning ‘service’), I am journeying with Jon. 

I’m Alice, a freelance journalist. Jon kindly invited me to document this trip. I’m primarily here to take photos and videos, but I’d love to share my experiences with you as I walk alongside HCR and Seva to the Adivasi villages of Maharashtra.

I’ve never been to India before. I have experienced snippets of the culture when visiting the homes of my Indian friends. But it is such a vast country of over a billion people. There are 22 official languages spoken here; cities are filled with the descendants of countless tribes. It’s a country of reliance – it has endured foreign invaders, colonialism, and numerous natural disasters. But today, India has the fastest growing economy in the world. Towns are melting pots of multiculturalism, as I discovered when we arrived in Nashik, three hours north-east of Mumbai.

Holy man sells talismans under the shade of an umbrella, while people bathe in the River Ganges

Holy man sells talismans under the shade of an umbrella, while people bathe in the River Ganges

Welcome to Nashik

Old and new clash together in Nashik. The rise of Western secularism and technology is somehow moulded to fit in with the ancient, predominantly Hindu city. Modern medicine and black magic dolls are used together; gaudy fashion shop signs depict scantily clad women, yet inside you can find the most beautiful saris and kurtas (tunics); cows and tuk-tuks dominate the streets.

The city is home to Seva’s headquarters, headed by Shilpe Shinde, Chief Executive of the Foundation. It is an ideal location as it is a gateway city for many Adivasi tribes with a close, cosmopolitan link to Surgana – the main town situated within the Adivasi territory. The transport links and resources available in Nashik mean the team is readily equipped for work in the remote villages.

Adivasi family outside their mud and straw house in a typical village in Maharashtra

Adivasi family outside their mud and straw house in a typical village in Maharashtra

Visionary partners

HCR and Seva began working together in January 2018. Seva’s vision is to see positive educational, health, and social development in the Adivasi villages of Maharashtra. The social class system does not even consider the Adivasi; they are the often overlooked indigenous tribes who are living in some of the most remote areas of India with many villages receiving little help from the government. Their illnesses are due mainly to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as harmful superstitious practices.

It’s for that reason that HCR and Seva set up the Adivasi Voices project, where audio content on “speaker boxes” support field activities such as health and sports camps. The speaker-MP3 players, provided to every family, are filled with local-dialect dramas, music and audio programmes that educate, inform, and entertain. The project is an innovative way to help communities that are isolated from mainstream Indian society with no means to access basic needs.

Six months on

After an initial base-line survey, the Adivasi Voices Project began in September 2018. Now six months on, Jon is excited to learn how successful the project has been, identify areas to be improved, and encourage the dedicated Seva team in their endeavours.

We will be journeying from Nashik to Surgana tomorrow, spending six days there and visiting two villages that have been Seva’s focus for the past six months.

Thanks for reading and joining us on this journey. Stick around for updates!