In 2014, noted film historian and critic, Aruna Vasudev, inaugurated the 2nd DOK Leipzig Lake Festival, held in Naukuchiatal, District Nainital.
This was her first visit to this cosmic space…and she fell in love with it…
Back in Delhi, she began planning a tribute to the films done by Pramod and Neelima Mathur. During that process, she viewed several films and one comment in a particular film moved her to the core. It was a film on people living with HIV in Manipur. A young protagonist says: We have no entertainment, Bollywood is banned, there are no sports clubs, nothing…naturally, the youth are drawn to drugs in their free time…
Aruna thought about things we had chatted over back in Uttarakhand. Her mind went abuzz. She called to say: Pramod and Neelima, you both are going to run a community cultural centre for the local youth where you live… the youth need that kind of space…I will raise the funds for you…
Well, she did…and before we knew it, ‘UtsahToli’ was launched at Naukuchiatal, District Nainital, Uttarakhand, on March 26, 2015.
It is all thanks to some wonderful people across India and abroad, who have reposed their faith in Aruna and given donations – enough for what one would call a ‘start-up’.
Please see separate section for the first Donors List.
The funds have been used for hiring a room and getting some basics in place. Like carrom boards, chess boards, badminton-volleyball-football with accessories, painting gear, skipping ropes, camera. Before we set out for the purchases, we received a call from a local elected leader, who had participated in our first village-level meeting. She said there was a lot of local interest in learning harmonium, dholak and dance, so can we do something about that? So, harmonium and dholak was added to the list.
Before proceeding, our first natural step was to consult Mahendera Verma, owner of The Lake Resort. More than an hotelier, he is an environmentalist at heart and always has the interest of the community foremost in his mind. He gave us much sage advice, especially that we should begin by engaging with village leaders and elders. We heard him carefully and have kept whatever he said in mind as we moved ahead. His quiet support gives us much courage.
The said meeting with village elders and leaders was held in the local school at Dangad, thanks to the Principal. There was overall agreement that this is a great idea and children and youth would be very happy. Many offered tips, which we have kept in mind as we go along.
Subsequently, we had the inauguration with much fun and excitement.
Then we had the first core meeting with members of the centre. By the end, we had 60 registrations in hand. In the meeting, group leaders were identified for different days of the week – Wednesday is the off-day. Specific persons were made in-charge of certain sports and music equipment. The timings for school days and holidays was decided in consensus with all. Nirmala Palariya, on whose premises the centre is based, kept giving matronly advice and suggestions. For now, she is managing the continuous flow of kids everyday. We are very grateful for her total engagement.
In between, we had a special request to get some gym equipment. So, yes, now there is weight-lifting equipment and a chest expander as well!
The youngsters are now waiting for everything to fall in place, which is happening slowly. The badminton court will be set up at the local school. A not-much-known but highly talented local Sufi singer and his team of four will be giving music, dance and painting classes on Sundays. A young man, good at sports, has offered to help with the games. We are also looking to set up kabaddi teams for girls and boys.
All members of the centre will soon have ID cards with their photographs on it.
We are waiting for people to join us in this simple but exciting process.
Come and share your creative and artistic skills with the children and youth of Naukuchiatal.
There is anticipation…aspiration…
Dreams waiting to be fulfilled…
All children and youngsters who have joined from the villages of Thapaliya Mehragaon, Silotipant, Chunauti, Naul and Pandeygaon, will be thrilled to have you in their midst.
For any further communication, please see details on the contact page.