TALE TO INSPIRE #4
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
The above quote certainly grabs our attention as we can contemplate that travelling is not just for the sake of travelling. Travelling is a journey, contemplation, moving meditation and quest for self- realization. In this series of Tales to inspire, I have come with the story of a man who loves travelling and has finally found his purpose of life.
Mr Ujjwal Chettri (Ujjwal Da), a cool confident and out of the box thinker is the founder of Reyso. He was born on 11th February 1977 under the careful parenting of Mr Suryadas Chettri and Menuka Rai (Chettri). He did his schooling from Mt. Hermon School, Darjeeling. He was admitted to Sri Aurobindo College in Delhi to study Political Science. He went to college for 2 days and felt that he was not interested in gaining a formal education. So, he left college and started travelling. He did many courses but didn’t complete one. Therefore, he came back to Darjeeling and decided to do training in Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI). He completed the course because he felt a sense of satisfaction and practical application in whatever he was doing.
Mr Ujjwal then travelled to Kathmandu and took his job as a Trek leader although he didn’t have much knowledge about trekking at that point in time. In the meantime, he completed his graduation from St. Joseph College as an external candidate. In his second stay in Kathmandu, he found it extremely difficult to work as the whole country was affected by the Maoist Movement. He could get the first-hand experience of how tourism is affected by national and international relations.
He came back to Darjeeling, worked with many NGO’s, did Social Activities and Youth-oriented programme and learnt Graphic Designing. He did The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) training based on community development. In this training, he represented DLR Prerna where he received practical knowledge and effecting training from Rinzin Lepcha and Nakul Chettri. Here, he learnt the scientific approach of tourism, he understood how tourism can be an alternate means to protect the environment and also got the idea of community-based tourism.
With his first-hand experience, Mr Ujjwal started giving lectures on Practical Tourism to the students of Salesian College for few months. He went to Delhi, travelled extensively, and studied the culture, traditions of the different parts of India. He then worked for Intrepid, a travel company based in Australia. Here, he could learn International work ethics and also got the experience of how International Company functioned. He then did marketing of tourism for Cox and Kings and Explore, a UK based company for 2 years in the North- East Zone focusing on Darjeeling and Sikkim.
He came back to Darjeeling in 2012 with his national and international experience of travelling and the knowledge of culture, lifestyle, handicrafts and many more. He started working with different organizations and started pondering on what he could do in his own native place. His “Aama” mother had started the cooperative with some other woman where they use to knit clothes but it didn’t work out for the lack of infrastructure facilities and other necessities at that point of time. He wanted to something related to crafts and discussed the idea with his cousin brother Ajay Chettri.
He founded Reyso which means a strand of wool with the tagline weaving life together. He focused on the knitting culture in the Hills and determined to preserve and pass on the culture of Knitting to the coming generations. Many women have started working in Reyso. He also started Reyso Urban Homestay with the support of his parents and wife. He says that Homestay is not just for the commercial end but more than that… It is also an opportunity where we can talk about our culture, customs, food habits and also get a first-hand opportunity to know about their way of living. He was invited by Outlook Traveller to present a case study of Reyso Urban Homestay in the Outlook Responsible Tourism Workshop 2018. Within a short span, Reyso Urban Homestay was shortlisted as the top five Homestays in the Indian Responsible Tourism Award 2019.
With the prime objective to promote art, culture, literature, music and creativity; Mr Ujjwal has started Home Studio in his Reyso Urban Homestay and is still working with his due temperament to promote the tourism of Hills in a different way.
Mr Ujjwal, says that the youth should explore Nature and must follow their natural instinct. He is a man who is living a life of his dream and also making a positive change in society. I want to conclude this article with the famous line of Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”