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TN youth travels and shares untold stories from across India
There is a tiny village called Marottichal in Kerala where almost every villager plays the game of chess. A resident of this village introduced this addictive game to his villagers to help them battle their addiction to alcohol.
In a few years, alcohol consumption took a stepback and chess took center-stage. This is one of the stories Sai Sethu found through research. Like this, he likes to unearth and share rare and unique stories from across the country. The youngster found a way to tell those unheard stories — he initiated a project called On the Ground a year ago. Sai travels across different Indian states, interacts with people and tells stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. He shares 99-second videos on Instagram and Facebook.
“After finishing my Mechanical Engineering, I did a journalism course and was working with the media. I wanted to do something that has a real impact and can make a difference. I wanted to highlight interesting stories that matter. Also, I was inspired by Nuseir Yassin, an Israeli video blogger who created 1,000 daily 1-minute videos on Facebook under the page Nas Daily. Every state in India is breathtaking and has its character, so I thought why not try something like that here,” he says.
Sai has travelled across seven states and one union territory — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Meghalaya, Maharashtra and New Delhi. “I started with TN. Before exploring any state, I research a lot about the state — through the vernacular media and Internet, I gather as much as information and interesting stories as possible. As I travel, I get to learn if somebody is doing interesting in neighbouring villages or if a place is worth featuring. Before moving from one state to another, I keep a bank of stories — I call people in advance and ask if I can meet them in person. Some people don’t show interest initially. But when I share what I am doing, they are happy to welcome me. I travel through public transport to reduce costs,” he opens up.
The youngster has travelled to many remotest villages in the country and has done 103 videos in the last one year. “Some villages are progressive and futuristic but these places will be tough to reach. Travelling from the city to these villages was one of the challenges I faced in this journey. Another challenge is the Internet. I upload videos every Tuesday and Friday. While travelling, I also need to do research. Internet access was a tough thing.”
Sai considers this journey as a huge learning experience. “I learned a lot about the people of our country. What I’ve been doing during the lockdown period is that I am finding stories related to COVID innovations. I have done 6-7 videos on COVID warriors. Once things are back to normal, I will be ready to travel again,” Sai sums up.