Chamba Shodhyatra: Creative children in a constrained economy


Recently, I shared the encounters we had with creative children of Rapar, Bachaun And Anjar in Kutch. I also met after that Shodhyatra with Kantikaka who started to paint and sketch at the age of 90 years and has made beautiful portraits. Will write about his redefining the way youthfulness can be achieved at an advanced age later.

Let me share stories from a very idea-full week with IIMA students of Shodhyatra course in Churah Valley of Chamba. This is said to be one of the 35 most backward blocks in the country. We moved from the near-drought condition in Rapar to superabundance of water but not always available in drinkable quality at the doorstep of people. Not-on-msp. An ethical tourism company Dinu helped us organise the Yatra.

The region has been treated as a Kala-pani of Himachal but do children care. Their brilliance was overwhelming. If only education ministers start paying visits to a government school in marginal regions, the margins will be mainstreamed.

When several feet snow falls and roofs may get damaged, a little kid Bhupendra, of class 6, conceived of a drone-like structure with three buttons, one to suck snow, another to melt it and a third to drain that fr drinking. It could hopp from roof to roof removing snow. It might be useful in Gurej valley in northern parts of Jammu and Kashmir and other similar regions too where much more snow falls.

Savitri has to walk a long distance in the mountains and she felt the heat in her shoes. She wanted cooling shoes.

Anu, of class 11, in Bunderi village lost of her time in assisting her mother in cutting grass fr cattle fodder, filling it in a basket or tying with a twine and then transporting it to home. She wanted the grass-cutting machine to be designed which will not only cut the grass but also bale it; making it easier to transport and save time.

Manjeet Soni wanted a communication system in helmet such that the family of the driver comes to know of his not wearing a helmet. Several students suggested a mechanism which will not let vehicles start if the driver doesn’t wear a helmet or is drunk. Part of this idea has already been awarded under Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Ignite award by nif and honey bee network.

In the mountain, traffic jams due to a landslide are not unknown. The problem becomes compounded when due to such jam the rescue and relief vehicle can’t reach the site to remove the blockage. A girl, Bhag Dei, suggested a mechanism in vehicles that will relay the information about jam to vehicles behind, and thus, drivers will avoid going forward and blocking the rescue or remedial operations. Another student suggested fitting a small stone remover in the vehicles to make the way. Another related idea was to attach a snow remover/melting system in the vehicles. Actually, the heat of exhaust could be steered to drill holes in the snow to facilitate its removal.

There are a dozen more ideas being shared with nif by the teachers and students volunteers of the Honey Bee Network. They have cross-pollinated these ideas across schools on the Shodhyatra route.

The young leaders of today may learn from children the art of empathy, engagement with unsolved problems and effort to suggest simple solutions rather than learning to live with problems unsolved indefinitely.

Pedagogy that does not imbue ‘samvedana’ among students may not result in Srijansheelta/ creativity and innovativeness. But, will planners listen, learn and leverage this simple lesson of Hbn and Shodhyatra course?


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place