"Lover of the outdoors, the mountains, and love the challenge that comes with it. Not an avid trekker or a fitness fanatic with any intention to become a master of the trade of outdoor adventure" - that is me. My first experience with the Himalayas went back in 2010 when I did my first trek in Kuari Pass. Like anyone who first experiences the grandness of the mountains and the silence of the valleys, I was blown away. I felt a strange connection to the HImalayas ( this might sound cliche of anyone who has done treks) but I never thought of this more deeply.
Over the decade I did several treks - with friends and alone. Some easy, some difiicult in different regions of India. All I was focused was on my own experience - my own takeaways and what it contributed to me. My stories, my pictures and my heart warming experiences.
Post covid, in March 2022, I planned a trek to Goechalla. The trek is ranked moderate to tough with close to 8 days of long walks and uphill climbs. We encoutered bad weather and tough days. But through the trip we were in excellent care of our trip guide and his crew. What stood out for me were some uncomfortable realities - our crew was working hard to make our trips comfortable. They would carry hot lunches, and an entire kitchen setup for us to enjoy our evenings when we would arrive at the campsite. They would work to setup our tents and get us hot water in the night. They would slow down their pace to ensure no member of the group was alone or left behind. They ensured they carried enough grocery to serve us nutritious meals at camp. If I were to summarise - there was a crew that made my trip experience awesome. However this was the first trip in the mountains that I did not enjoy the experience. As I walked with my guide and the crew, there were conversations around their own aspirations, what they would have loved to pursue had they been given better opportunities or had better access to education. Now with the lost past, what each one of them aspired was a better outcome for their children. Though the world of adventure sounds adventurous from ouside, one realises that doing it everyday makes it not so adventurous. The people in the mountains aspire at times for a different life, to explore opportunities that would create more parity for them in the world, and where they dont depend on their physical stength to sustain their livelihood. Seems obvious to us but not so obvious when one is in the mountains, where every day seems beautiful with sunshine soaked valleys, and fresh air. There is a romanticism that is unreal, and that becomes mundane when you are the giver of the experience.
As I walked with few of the crew, I did what I could do instantly. Offer them financial support for the education of the children. Interestingly the entire crew came from one village near Darjeeling - and as we talked more, I realised the village had 30 homes. How does one now just help one family? An act of kindness could potentially create disparity in a close knit community. As I thought of this more and talked more to the crew team, I realised what they needed is more than just money. They needed someone to help the children dream big, unlock their potential and help them navigate the competitive world outside. Else education could leave them aware but uanble to cope. There had to be a model where we adapt the entire village, create opportunities for all and create parity among all children. And this is the thought, mission and intent behind Pragati. Progress, one child at a time, one family at a time and one village at a time.
For me, this is my way to give back to a region that I feel has given me the best moments of my life, bought me the best friendships and revealed to me an inner urge that wants to contribute to this community. I feel fortunate to have a large founder and investor community as part of my job at LetsVenture that I could leverage for a cause I so passionately resonate with. The long term idea is to create a playbook where we could replicate this model. across villages But for now, the focus is just on this one village. Just to make a small impact. And give back the love we receive from the people in the mountains who work tirelessly to show us the love in the outdoors and bring a smile to every face.
We will learn, we will iterate but we promise to correct and do what will truly matter to the child in the village who has very little access to make their dreams come true. Thats the story behind Pragati.
With much love.