Far, far away: Memories of Mukteshwar

At 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, while most students were lying in their cozy beds, dreaming or even having nightmares, Faadumo Adam, Aliciah Serbastian, and I (all from Class of 2021), the only students on the trip, along with Mr. Mark, Mrs. Mark, and Gracy, our three chaperones, were shivering in the cold waiting for the taxis to come and pick us up. 

We drove the entire day and finally reached Mukteshwar, a small town in Uttarakhand. Here, Mr. and Mrs. Singh hosted us in their beautiful cottage. 

During the days we spent in the town, we visited two NGOs, toured local schools, went sightseeing and boating, drove to nearby towns, and explored the area.

Not only did we accomplish the aim of learning from renowned NGOs and bringing back these ideas to incorporate within our own community engagement projects, but we also learned to spend quality time with people we knew nothing about. From talking about all of our experiences at Woodstock to playing carrom every night, we came back with memories of sitting around the bonfire and bonding with each other, not as students and staff members, but as friends. 

On the first full day of the trip, we visited the headquarter of Kumaon Grameen Udyog where we were told about the projects the organization works on and how it helps improve the livelihood of locals.

On the same day, we also went to one of the stores of the organization where crafts made by the local women were on sale.

On day 2, unfortunately, due to severe diarrhea I called in sick but others visited a farm in a nearby village and were briefed about farming techniques and the products the farmers produce.

Fresh jams are produced by local farmers and are sold at a pretty reasonable price. Faadumo ended up buying quite a few to gift them to all her friends.

Day 3 turned out to be a relaxing day. We went boating at Naukuchiatal and ended up creeping strangers out by waving at them while they clicked pictures from the river bank.

And to add on to all of this fun Aliciah and I decided to go horse riding which sadly lasted no more than five minutes.

But we definitely did not miss out on some salty lemon soda which turned out to be a bit too bitter for some of us.

Day 4: At 6 am in the morning we were walking through a forest reserve. Our walk was concluded with a feast of cold parathas and hot tea which I later found out everyone had slyly fed to a dog while I struggled to digest it.

But the picturesque views made up for it.
Later in the day, we visited Central Himalayan Rural Action Group, or CHIRAG, which supports over 70 government schools in three different districts and has its own watershed project to support the locals who face water scarcity issues.

CHIRAG told us about their watershed project.

On Day 5, we toured a local school near our hosts’ house and found out that some of the students there were being sponsored by individuals and families who live abroad. 

And like every day, on our last full day in the town, I stressed about what to eat for lunch because I was the only vegetarian on the trip. I ended up ordering shahi paneer with naan.

But before concluding the trip, we visited the famous but crowded hill station, a town called Nainital.

And got a chance to click a picture outside a boarding school that did not allow visitors to bring gadgets on campus.

Mr. and Mrs. Singh, our hosts who made our stay super comfortable and took care of me while I was unwell. They drove all the way from Delhi to host us at their cottage in Mukteshwar. 

It would be an exaggeration to say that this trip has taught me so much that I feel like a new person but it definitely helped me grow and look at life through other people’s perspectives. And undoubtedly, I have built relationships that are going to last me a lifetime.

Photos by Aliciah Serbastian, Faadumo Adam, and Archita Aggarwal

Archita Aggarwal is the News Editor for The Woodstocker

Edited by Janvi Poddar

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