Conservationist, assistant Vice President to a furniture company, motorcyclist and a mother of two- meet Jamnia’s Preetika Baisa as she unveils her newest integrative pursuits in the world of environmental activism. After her decade-long affiliation with tribal development in rural Madhya Pradesh, Preetika Baisa aligned her efforts to place the numerous components of her development work under a unifying label, namely, Kunj Stories.
Derived from her ancestral dwelling of Kunjrod (Jamnia), Kunj Stories umbrellas not only Preetika Baisas multifarious initiatives, but also her beliefs and ideologies. Kunj Stories revolves around the fundamental idea of eco-friendly living, and is a curation label for nature camps & trails, art shows, camps and Preetika Baisa’s own introduction to vernacular architecture in various forms. Rajputana Collective is honoured to break a long hiatus with this inspiring feature about a talented environmentalist and her homecoming to a big initiative.
THE BIRTH OF KUNJ
Long before she raked up the idea of Kunj Stories, Preetika Baisa had involved herself with the workings of numerous environmental conservation projects, as well as initiatives towards tribal welfare, art and culture. After years of working with her local NGO’s, she realised her individual potential to combine all her works into one big initiative, which she decided to name Kunj. “At Kunj, you have nature, tribe, art, culture, adventure, tradition, history and tradition all in one place. Being a local myself, I took that experience and put it all into Kunj. Kunj living and experiences completely relies on vernacular architecture. Kunj accommodations have been incepted by using local, natural and reclaimed resources. Consumption of any alternate resources has been consciously minimised”, says Preetika Baisa in an introductory passage.
ALIGNING WITH FELLOW LOCAL COMMUNITIES
In every experience that she has curated via Kunj so far, she strives to provide the guest with a novel experience each time. In that, individuals are brought closer to nature and the source of tribal ecospheres in their myriad arts, crafts and sustainable ways of living. A core facet in this regard remains indigenous farming, wherein a majority of the kitchen’s raw material is sourced from her family’s farms that throb with collective and cooperative farming practices. In consuming a safe and healthy meal, Preetika Baisa helps draw one’s attention to the viability and importance of fair trade and eco-friendly agriculture.
She, along with her brother Raja Shalivan Singh ji Vats of Jamnia are consistently working towards integrating sustainable farming techniques with their local populace back at home. They have also devised the renting out of farmlets, which are sub plots of arable land within a larger plot in order to educate urban dwellers on conscious farming and fair trade. Preetika Baisa’s grassroot pursuits are not limited to farming alone. In fact, it only begins here. Thus far, she has empanelled 25 local artists with Kunj wherein they are given a platform to showcase their work.
As idealistic as a journey like this sounds, no part of it comes without its own set of challenges. “The biggest challenge for me was to help people understand what it is that I was doing. Many were unable to understand the concept of sustainability that I was rooting for. Since it is a time-consuming project that requires sensitive planning and execution, I had to juggle between birthing the idea of Kunj and execute it in thorough collaboration. All in all, I am extremely happy to have tackled these challenges and to have successfully launched Kunj”, Preetika Baisa says.
MOTORCYCLE TOURISM IN MALWA
With consolidated tourism movements yet to fully pervade her ancestral region of Malwa, Preetika Baisa didn’t shy away from beckoning seekers of alternative routes to her homeland. In her own words, “I was introduced to an international biking tour company called Ride of My Life. I spoke to them about Malwa and Mandu being fascinating riding spot. As an initial curation at Mandu under the banner of Kunj, we formulated the Mandapika Rides during the Mandu festival. It was the most talked about activity amongst the visitors and delegates. After this, we curated festival rides to the famous Bhagoria fetival. Kunj is constantly striving to work towards introducing the region’s heritage and culture to the world, and this was an innovative way to amalgamate the two”.
At present, Preetika Baisa is officially affiliated to Ride of My Life for their exclusively curated rides in Madhya Pradesh annd Rajasthan. Moveover, she has been an active member of their curation and rides to Ladakh and the North East.
“Biking for me is a mode to venture into unexplored spaces where I am exposed to new spaces, people, culture, cuisines, heritage and landscapes. Motorcycle travelling isn’t about the speed. I feel an adrenaline surge at the beginning and then feel myself merging with silence and stillness that carries me into a difference sphere altogether. That experience of taking off my helmet and breathing in the surroundings is nearly euphoric, a feeling that is difficult to explain”, she elaborates.
When asked about her experience as a lady motorcyclist, she denies motorbiking as being gender specific. On the other hand, she recalls receiving gestures of goodwill, happiness, care and amusement from her fellow bikers and natives when she’s removed her helmet. In fact, Preetika Baisa recalls one particular experience during her biking journey across Ladakh that left her truly transfixed in mysticism.
She says, “One inner experience I can surely speak about is while I crossed the Shyok village in Ladakh. I was told this story that the entire village got washed out due to a cloud burst. As we took a pitstop, I looked around. I was staring down at the sparkling, ever changing colours of the Shyok river on one side, and these magnanimous mountains on the other .I stood in trance, feeling belittled and tiny in front of mighty mother nature. From that moment, I was reminded of how minuscule we all are in front of this Universe. This sense of nonexistence felt truly humbling and I felt my spirit in trance. I forfot who I am, what I am and with whom I am.”
Summing up her collective experiences, travels and environmental pursuits, Preetika Baisa concludes with a brief discussion on eco feminism. Despite lauding the concept for its intriguing nature and the opportunities that it provides to women towards environmental contributions, she relates Kunj more closely to environmental friendliness. “I personally believe that when it comes to our environment, everybody should contribute and remain involved. Therefore Kunj doesn’t limit its boundaries to a particular segment of the society but is open for anyone and everyone," she concludes.
Disclaimer: All content and images represented in this feature are the sole intellectual property of Preetika Singh. Rajputana Collective has no rights reserved over them.