Having stumbled into Development Sector by chance, I realized with my assignment in Pragya that my future lay in wandering in the Himalayan region, something I have been doing relentlessly for the last one decade.
Development Sector is a specialized niche. With focus on development of venerable communities in remote and unprivileged locations across India, the Not For Profit organizations have been contributing to development of our country.
I always had the instinct of travelling and exploring new locations and also be a part of change that we all perceive to be in our society. Prgaya gave me this opportunity when I got to be a part of this change and contribute to conservation of the endangered flora of remote Himalayan region.
Having stumbled in the development sector by chance, my first brush with reality came when I crossed Rohtang Pass for the first time. The barren territory of Lahaul and Spiti struck me in the face and I reached Keylong the district headquarter of Lahaul and Spiti, which was going to be my home for the next four months.
Vikas Jha, the Program Officer of Pragya at Keylong was ever welcoming as was Kalsang another key team member who was there for a culture program management. My task was cut out and I was to be a part of a team that was going to map the herbal flora of the region for a European Commission funded program.
Vision of Pragya
Pragya is a development organization that focuses on development of venerable communities across the Himalayan belt in India and Nepal. 2003 was still a nascent period for this organization and it was working on multiple issues including conservation of Medicinal Plants in Himalayan Region.
The task for us was clearly cut out and we were to map the herbal flora of the region by trekking at extremely high altitudes and identify and bring along the data on the exact locations of Medicinal Plants that are specific to this fragile region.
Initial Days at Keylong
I still vividly remember, the first evening at Keylong which was also my first brush with the cultural heritage of this tough terrain in Himachal Pradesh. Vikas took us along to a marriage ceremony in the evening and as much as I remember today, it was a unique experience, I have never had in any of the marriage ceremonies, I have attended.
While others were busy feasting on the local delicacies, I found this an apt opportunity to try the Chang, the locally brewed beer prepared from Rice. The taste was so refreshing that I still relish it, each time I visit the region now.
The other morning we all were rearing to begin our assignments when Vikas suddenly surprised us with the idea of trekking to Shashur Gompa which is the highest Gompa (Buddhist temple) in the region.
It was a refreshing climb and it took four hours to reach the Gompa. The aroma of freshly burning Juniper leaves took us all by surprise and it was then I got to know that these were burnt to ward off evil spirits.
The mesmerizing heights of Shashur Gompa motivated us all to perform our professional duties to utmost commitment.
Much was to follow yet as sun set for the day and my first day of professional work ended on high hopes.