Independent Research and Policy Advocacy

From the hills of Uttarakhand

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I am writing from Thatyur village in Theri district, Jaunour block – about 3.5 hours north of Dehradun in Uttarakhand, India.

I met Akhilesh Badhani today, an entrepreneur in a beautiful riverside village in a valley surrounded by hills. He started the hardware and provisions shop 4-5 years ago and caters to around 25 to 30 villages in the surrounding hills having a total population of around 10,000. He is a client of Sahastradhara KGFS, has availed a Micro Enterprise Loan of Rs. 1.5 lakh from them and is one of their most disciplined borrowers. He has almost repaid his first loan and wants to now apply for a larger one.

Thatyur village
View of the Thatyur village

At some stage Akhilesh decided to pursue his studies at Benaras Hindu University and so his younger brother runs the shop for him now. Akhilesh did a one-year course in Sanskrit from an institute in Rishikesh. Then did his Masters in Indian philosophy from BHU and is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Bhagwat at BHU (there are two streams of Indian philosophy –  Bhagwat and Vedanta). He aspires to be a professor of Indian philosophy post completion of his research.  Said he wants to work on dispelling the superstition associated around Indian scriptures.

Here is what he explained to us from a scripture: Imagine a devotee who makes an offering of ghee, kheer and all festive delicacies to the Lord in a temple. And standing right next to him is a poor starving man who hasn’t eaten for days. Does the offering of ghee made to the Lord make any sense? Such offering is akin to bhasma (ashes) left behind by a fire – worthless. Feed the hungry man instead and it will be worth its weight in gold.

Akhikesh concluded by saying “Nar seva hi Narayan seva hai” which inadequately translates into “Service to man is service to God”.

To-be-Dr Akhilesh
To be Dr. Akhilesh

I was fortunate to meet Akhilesh because he was visiting his village for a week during University vacations. He returns back to the city in pursuit of his research on the 23rd.

Everytime I visit the field I am struck by how many fascinating stories exist out there. A few we have the opportunity to touch – we provide them with a financial product and they provide us with the inspiration to go on and touch many others.

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