Doing What You Love — Tulsi’s Story
A 2013 research paper has found that the lack of role models is an important factor that discourages women from taking on leadership roles in tourism communities, among others. Uttarakhand, with large tourism industry and other local ventures, needs more female role models. Both young men and women from the region are doing remarkable jobs of setting up local ventures and exploring local opportunities. We have tried to document many such inspiring role model stories of young men and women from the region. Today’s story is Tulsi’s.
Hailing from Mukteshwar, Tulsi is a teacher, a farmer, a freelance trekking instructor, a painter, and leads trekking projects in both India and Nepal. But her journey in achieving all this did not come easy. Tulsi went to a government school where the focus was only on the syllabus. The students were not taught about skills. Neither did they get the opportunities to do public speaking or indulge in extracurricular activities. It is found that engaging in extracurricular activities boosts students’ confidence and self-esteem (Brown, M.D., 2000). These activities expose them to new things and help them learn beyond the prescribed syllabus. It is even more difficult for young girls to gain skills with the added burden of household chores and the constant pressure of getting married early.
With a schooling background without much exposure, Tulsi paved her own path from a very young age. After finishing her class 10th exams, Tulsi, only 16, started working with Chirag, a rural development organization based in Kumaun. Chirag works in sectors including youth, health, and skill development. Tulsi started off as a tuition teacher under the scholarship programme — Room to Read. This programme is done at Chirag and aims at making education accessible to poor and underprivileged children. Tulsi’s journey in the social sector started off as a teacher for poor children.
Tulsi was aware of how schools only focused on marks, but she knew she wanted something different. After finishing 10th, she started getting interested in adventure activities, ranging from climbing to trekking. There were challenges. A lack of awareness held back many other young people from trying out something new. But what worked in Tulsi’s favour was that she knew people who were involved in adventure activities. It was through her cousins that she got to know about a programme run by the Uttarakhand Government called the Adventure Foundation Course. This was an 11-day programme where youth from anywhere in the state could apply.
Although Tulsi knew people who could expose her to this programme, joining the course itself was a challenge. She knew that no parents, particularly rural parents, would want their young child to join a dangerous programme like this. Many parents in rural Uttarakhand aspire for their children to secure a government job. But Tulsi understood that the government sector cannot accommodate everyone and one has to pave their own way.
Tulsi decided to take the risk and told her parents that the course was a very simple one. A small white lie and Tulsi was able to join the programme in Nainital. Tulsi was the youngest participant of the course and the programme remains a highlight of her career. She gained confidence as she got the opportunity to communicate with 60 people from various regions of the state. Not only did she learn about adventure activities, but Tulsi also saw personal growth at a very young age.
By the time she was in class 11, Tulsi started freelancing. Without any formal training, she would accompany tourists in climbing hills, trekking, bird watching, yoga, warmup, and other activities. These adventures helped her learn from people travelling from cities like Delhi and Mumbai. This was the exposure she needed. After finishing her 12th exams, Tulsi took up trekking more formally. It did not pay much, but the focus for her was always learning rather than earning. “My first long trek was to Darma Valley which lasted for 30 days,” Tulsi says, “I accompanied some American students and I was the only Indian girl there. It was a great opportunity to learn.”
Tulsi also started working with the Kumauni radio and local NGOs. She conducted workshops and training sessions, hosted local events which preferred Kumaun hosts, and worked with women. “These were different activities”, she says, “but the one thing common in all of them is that I got to teach and learn.” Tulsi went on to do her B.Ed and MA in English for the love of teaching. During her college days, she worked with interns and Ph.D. students from abroad, hiking with them and translating interviews for their projects. Tulsi mentions this as a good career option for young boys and girls from the region as there are many NGOs actively working in the Kumaon region, looking for translators in their projects.
Tulsi then worked in a school for 3 years. Tulsi has taught both rural and urban students and admits that there is a very huge gap in both demographics. “We are very different”, she says, while talking about the rural children, “and that was a huge learning for me.”
The turning point of Tulsi’s life came when she was given an opportunity to trek in Nepal. She was asked to become a teaching assistant and a trekking leader, the two things she dearly loves. Spending 45 days in Nepal as the only Indian in the programme, Tulsi realised that she did not want to travel or work anywhere else. She decided to stay in her village, teach rural students there, take up farming, and do the trekking programme in Nepal and India once every year.
Tulsi is now starting a new homestay for tourists. Apart from teaching and farming, Tulsi also does freelance work, paints mandala paintings, and gets the comfort of home in her village. If we ever need to learn how to love our work, Tulsi’s story is a great reminder. After years of struggle and hard work, “freedom” is what she considers as her biggest reward — the freedom to do what she loves and believes in.
- Brown, M. D. (2000). Science or soccer? How important are extracurricular activities?https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr237.shtml
- Gretzel, U. and Bowser, G. (2013). Real stories about real women: communicating role models for female tourism students. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.891.4678&rep=rep1&type=pdf