Experiencing the Festival of a Million Fireflies only 4 hours away from Mumbai!
Over the years, silently but with great impact the national award winning community based rural tourism enterprise – Grassroutes has been working towards creating a million livelihood opportunities in rural India. With an average increase in 25% family income, the organisation is assuring over 8,000 days of employment per village. This not only helps reduce migration but also nurtures the existing local arts, crafts and cultures by promoting conservation. Their effort to conserve the biodiversity through eco-tourism practices is commendable thus, connecting urban and rural communities by meaningful interaction. By creating sustainable community centred experiential platforms to understand rural living, they hope to trigger a more conscientious society.
Grassroutes is now active and making a difference in 16 villages across 4 states in India, assuring better sustenance and happier families! They organise various experiences such as forest walks, short treks, farming, offbeat getaways and curated trips as for what the season allows.
I had the privilege of experiencing the blissful life of Purushwadi, a tribal village inhabited by the ‘Hindu Mahadeo Koli’ tribe. It is situated only 220km from Mumbai, connected by local public transport as well as flawless national highways.
I arrived post noon just in time for lunch. The weather was scorching hot and the skies were clear as ever. It’s impossible to ignore the unadulterated oxygen that your lungs are feasting on. The unpolluted, fresh air is truly the best gift this place will give you; and this was only just my first impression!
The accommodation was in comfortable valley facing tents that made the entire experience even more adventurous! After settling down, we walked towards the village where we were going to be served fresh, hot, local food made by one of the families in the community. On our walk, we picked delicious karvandas (conkerberry) right off the trees for a little appetiser! Ranjana, our assigned cook for the trip, prepared some tasty, homemade & 100% organic food, which was absolutely delightful! Heading to our camp for a little afternoon siesta post lunch, Santosh and Madhav our local guides plucked out juicy jammuns (Indian black plum) for a little dessert! Ah, the farm life!
Towards the evening, the weather started to become cloudy and quite cold. So, we decided to trek up a mountain in the vicinity as a recreational activity. As we climbed higher, our guides told us stories about the village, facts about sustainable living and how they manage such simple and euphoric lives, to the point that the village demolished a mobile network tower to avoid signal and stay disconnected! WOW!
I was curious to know from the locals themselves; if they welcomed Grassroutes with open arm, and almost in defence Madhav said, “They have done A LOT for us, we are grateful”, to which I took a long sigh of relief. Often organisations takeover rural areas in order to popularise it, without knowing how much damage they cause to the communities by inviting city-influenced culture. Fortunately, this case is an exception.
After Ranjana’s home-prepared dinner meal, we headed out in the torrential rain, in search of the mystical glitter-like fireflies. As we neared a patch of mushy fields, in the dark branches of the canopies were a hundred fireflies fluttering away. They were like dancers, I thought. Beautiful dancers. I watched their lights flicker on and off, as they appeared and disappeared in the dark of night. Their dance formed a forever moving painting: with each passing flash of the firefly, cool undertones of beauty and serenity would so seamlessly blend with bold highlights of spontaneity and mysticism.
We slept to the sound of the copious rain and woke up to the same the next day. After our last meal with Ranjana, some worthwhile interaction with the locals, and a short visit to the nearby river, we began our drive back to city life. Crossing lush green valleys, cloud covered mountaintops, and water filled roadways; the only thing I could think of was how I grateful and lucky I was to experience that serenity.
On my experience with Grassroutes it wasn’t just the beauty of seeing these communities aspire to live a simple, sustainable life that moved me. It was the passion with which the local guides and people spoke of preserving this incredible gift for generations to come, and the way they spoke of eco-tourism as their hope for a better and brighter economic future.
Pro Tip: If you are looking to go for the ‘Festival of a Million Fireflies’, plan your trip sometime in the beginning of June, just before the monsoon breaks in because that is the best time to experience quite literally “a million” fireflies.
You can book your eco-tours with Grassroutes on their website www.grassroutes.co.in and follow them on their social media channels. (@grassroutes)