Back to the basics

And the fourth day of our field trip began. Our stay at Corbett ended and we proceeded towards the scenically located hilly village by the name of Naini, uphill of Ranikhet. The chilly weather of Naini provided a much needed respite from the hot and humid climate of Corbett. Our journey to Naini was accompanied by a heavy shower and a view of many a picturesque contour farmlands which are typical of mountainous regions.

We finally arrived at Ranikhet at around 1pm in the afternoon and were assigned our respective families in whose houses we were supposed to lodge in groups of two for the duration of our stay. The house that Srishti and I stayed at was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Adhikari. Mrs Janaki Devi Adhikari told us that she lived there with her three children while her husband worked as a tourist guide in Nainital.  This seemed to be the case in most families where the men left their homes to earn a better living in the cities, while the women stayed back in the village with the children and the elderly. We were then introduced to her children: Kanika, the eldest who studies in the fourth grade, Gunjan, the second in line is currently enrolled in UKG and Priyanshu, the youngest is just a toddler.

They happily chatted away, answering all our questions with the utmost enthusiasm and in turn, bombarding us with a multitude of questions of their own. They then proceeded to show us their farmland which was adjacent to their verandah. It was a narrow patch of land where they grew green chilies and potato, just enough to sustain their family. We then had a hearty meal of moong dal and rice and took off for G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development. There we met with Mr. S K Nandi and Mr. R K Joshi. They went on to sensitize us about the role and contribution of the institute towards the Himalayan ecology. The institute is actively involved in ensuring that development occurs in synchronized with the environment as well as an effective participation from the local community. They then told us about the major research areas that they were involved in, some of them being watershed management, biodiversity conservation and climate change.

This was followed by an interactive session wherein they answered the various questions posed by us. At the end of the session, Mr. Joshi took us to the weather tower located within the campus and elaborated on it. We then went back to Naini and had dinner with our respective families. While going back, we got acquainted with the rich biodiversity of the region as provided by a variegated species of insects. However, the highlight of the evening was finding a scorpion perched peacefully on the floor which was removed in one swift movement by Mrs . Adhikari. All in all, it was a fruitful day where we got to learn a lot, not just from the staff at the institute but also from the village folk at Naini, the things that are not included in textbooks.

-Oshin Paranjape

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