Wild Valley & Living Waters

This week's newsletter will take you through Living Waters, wild mushrooms and other inspiring stories

Urvashi Dev Rawal
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gucchi morel mushroom

Gucchi - one of the world's most expensive mushrooms, which grows in the wild in Kashmir

Dear Reader,

The common perception is that productive years of life end with retirement at 60. But Srinagar’s Anisa Bilal had no intention of sitting idle after working as a school teacher for 32 years.

So, at 65, the former teacher became an entrepreneur and set up Wild Valley Foods to promote and sell Kashmir’s indigenous products, writes my colleague Wasim.

Anisa used her retirement funds and savings to start on a small scale with five products – almonds, walnut, honey, saffron and some pulses and began selling through her Instagram page with zero followers.

In less than two years, her follower base has grown to 7,500 and most of her orders come from Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook page. But it’s not been an easy journey. Anisa travelled across Kashmir to source organic products.

She travelled to Pampore in Pulwama for finding the best saffron, to Kargil for procuring the best quality cumin seeds, to Ladakh for apricots and beyond Kamalkote in Baramulla to get Gucchi - the world's costliest mushroom found in Kashmir.

Apart from introducing the little-known indigenous foods of Kashmir to the world through her startup, she has also helped provide jobs to the locals and pays higher-than-market rates to the farmers she works with. Inspiring indeed!

The other interesting story, on India’s first and only digital museum on the theme of water, has been written by my colleague Aruna. She spoke to Dr Sara Ahmed, who faced scepticism from friends and colleagues when she floated the idea of a digital water museum. But the project was close to her heart and she launched the Living Waters Museum in 2017.

The main objective of Living Waters Museum is to make the youth aware of their water heritage and work towards a sustainable and equitable water future.

The museum housed at the Centre for Water Research at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, where Sara is an adjunct faculty, has a repository of over 100 stories related to water.

The stories explore the rivers of India, community and livelihoods, water and the arts, design and architecture, traditions, rituals and practices, and ecology and nature. 

We have another story from Kashmir this week. In the mid-90s, Adhik Kadam was on a college trip to Jammu and Kashmir. While driving near an army camp in Srinagar, there was a bomb blast. A body part fell on Adhik’s car.

That incident shook him and motivated him to work for the betterment of the people. Adhik started his non-profit Borderless World Foundation in 2002 and has set up five hostels for girls who have lost their fathers in the ongoing conflict, writes my colleague Bilal.

The hostels are free and take care of the education, clothes, food and personality development of the girls so they can become confident young women and earn their livelihood. BWF also runs ambulances and organises health camps in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the money section, Karan guides you to the five best small-cap equity mutual funds. With the BSE Small-Cap index beginning to outperform the large-cap indices after a period of underperformance, it might be a good time for mutual fund investors to increase their exposure to small-cap funds. Check it out.

This Sunday, travel to Ladakh’s peaceful Hemis monastery with us. Situated at a height of 12,000 feet on the banks of the Indus River in Leh, the Hemis Monastery is a treasure trove of ancient Buddhist statues, books and artefacts.

It was initially built in the 11th century and re-established in 1672 by Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. If you plan a trip, it is best to go in June when the Hemis Festival is held in honour of Padmasambhava, an Indian Buddhist Tantrik. During the festival, dances are performed by the monks to celebrate the victory of good over evil. 

Happy Reading!




Kashmir’s retired teacher turns food entrepreneur at 65; empowers farmers


India’s only digital water museum inspires youth to work towards water equity


Adhik Kadam: The man providing education and carefree childhood to orphaned girls in Jammu and Kashmir