This Young Journalist Is Telling Rural India's Stories Via His Sketches - Homegrown

This Young Journalist Is Telling Rural India's Stories Via His Sketches

Clutching onto a black diary in his hand, daunting a set of plain black and white set of western formals adorned with a DSLR around his neck and a bag on his shoulder that he never seems to let go off, Sanket Jain is ready for another trip into the hinterland. His tiny eyes easily give away that he hasn’t slept much, the previous night, but the big smile on his face is enough to convey just how excited he is to find out another untold story, another unheard voice from the interiors of the country that hardly gets reported in the mainstream media. His long slender fingers show traces of charcoal on the sides. “I was up sketching last night,” he says quickly taking out this phone and showing me a picture of what he had drawn. In the picture, I see really rough hands of a man making pots on a pottery wheel, detailed beautifully using pencil and charcoal. He then shows me the original picture. “This is 70 year old artist named Vishnu Kumbhar from Kapashi village in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. He has been a potter for 55 years. He works for 16 hours a day, starting at 4 a.m. That’s more than 250,000 hours of pottery over half a century. Today, Kapashi is known for its potters, sculptors, and Kolhapuri chappal artists. The art forms are dying slowly as the number of artists has reduced now. Vishnu has kept the art form alive with his passion and now he trains his daughter in law as well. It’s because of artists like Vishnu that rural India is one of the best places to find inspiration. Imagine the amount of talent present in rural India. But who talks about it? Hardly anyone. I want to talk about it and tell such stories through my sketches.” he says.

Vishnu Kumbhar, now 70, has been a potter for 55 years.
Vishnu Kumbhar, now 70, has been a potter for 55 years.

Staying true to his words, this is what 20 year old Sanket Jain has been doing for the last 4 months now. A journalist by qualification,a volunteer with PARI (People’s archive of Rural India started by eminent journalist P. Sainath), founder of Bastion Ka Paigam, a portal to document rural India and also the co-founder and Chief of Rural operations at Insight Walk, a non profit organisation working with children of rural India, he has now started a project wherein he is travelling to 300 villages of India to capture 300 stories of poverty, education, inequality, rural art forms and culture through photos and translating the captured frame into 300 sketches.

Passionate about listening and understanding everyday lives of everyday people, his journey began after he realized the importance of covering rural India, courtesy his idol, P. Sainath’s speeches. He started off by visiting villages of Maharashtra to understand what was happening in the countryside and started documenting his experiences in a blog which is now a full fledged portal that goes by the name of Bastiyon ka Paigam that means message (voice) from the community. “Every community in the countryside has a story to tell and through Bastiyon Ka Paigam we are on a mission to document unheard stories and unheard voices.” he says.

Working as a maid for 24 years now, Shobha Thakur dreams of educating her children because that is the only way for her ‘to battle poverty’
Working as a maid for 24 years now, Shobha Thakur dreams of educating her children because that is the only way for her ‘to battle poverty’

Almost 70 percent of the population of the country stays in rural India and their voices are often neglected by the mainstream media. “How is this democracy when we fail to listen to their voices?” asks Sanket. “The only stories you will find is about disasters and crisis. “Rural India is also often only looked only with the lens of poverty, inequality and lack of development.They always fail to understand the rural landscape, and so the coverage is restricted to a mere series of events rather than the entire process.” he says.

Rural India is a place full of stories of courage and conviction. There are various art forms, tales of people and communities who practice some of the most unconventional and unheard occupations, a tremendous amount of undocumented folklore which exists till date, but is now on the verge of extinction. The upcoming generation might not even able to witness some of these. “The coverage needs to be made better and more visible because failing to look at the rural landscape means sending out a strong message that their voice is not important. Imagine about the unheard communities and people out there whose access from cities is almost cut off? Isn’t it worth listening to their voices? We have and might lose out on a lot of culture if we fail to listen to them” he exclaims.

Sanket Jain
Sanket Jain

Sanket spends a lot of time with rural communities to understand the concepts of poverty, inequality and how people in countryside live their life. So, all his stories come from people. A passionate journalist and a talented artist, he talks about combining his passion to do something meaningful. “I have always loved sketching, but never found the context of sketching and integrating it with Journalism or story telling till this project started. I’ve always believed that stories can be told though sketches and it is one of the oldest techniques which has been losing its relevance especially when it comes to telling stories from unexplored areas of the countryside.” For Sanket, sketching is not just an art but a form of expression which he wants to use to give his stories a human touch. He wants people to interpret and immerse in the lives of villagers with their own understanding and give them a diverse and holistic view of crisis, inequality and abject poverty. After the completion for his project he wants to compile all the 300 sketches and publish them in a book to create an impact in 3 ways.

1. Creating a living journal: Documenting lives of everyday people which can be used by researchers and students: For the people who want to understand rural India,its diversity and complexity.

2. Tool for inspiration: In the last few months of his travel journey, Sanket has seen overlapping problems across villages and communities, but few villages are implementing edge cutting local solutions to tackle the problems while others are waiting for external support for change. He wants the book to also be published in regional languages so that people can get inspired and take the ownership of their own villages. Learning from different villages will ensure the beginning of a collective movement to change and transformation.

3. Acknowledging the hard work of villagers and rural Innovation: Amplifying voices and creating a platform for their talent will be the first step towards acknowledging their work and spreading positive stories to a wider audience.

An unnoticed heritage site in Ajra (Kolhapur district)
An unnoticed heritage site in Ajra (Kolhapur district)

So far, Sanket has visited more than 40 villages and documented many interesting stories on Bastiyon Ka Paigam. He feels clicking a picture which captures the story can be difficult at times. So far, he has completed 7 sketches from 7 different villages and has started a crowdfunding campaign to fund his trips. So far, he has not been able to raise much funds but that has never been an obstacle for him for he continues to travel to villages and bring back stories that inspire.

You can find stories from rural India on his website and Instagram account.

You can check out the link of his crowdfunding campaign here.

To get in touch with Sanket, write to him at [email protected]

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