River Betwa played host to Veditum India Foundation’s first Moving Upstream fellowship program that we co-host with the Out of Eden Walk. 4 pairs of fellows walked different stretches of the Betwa between January and December 2019, creating a grassroots documentation of the river and the riparian community in their own styles and forms.
Of this, the first pair was that of Radhika Singh & Shail Joshi. Classmates at MIT’s Urban Planning course, they had applied together for the fellowship program. Our hope that the combined perspective of Radhika’s journalism background and Shail’s perspective from a training in architecture would bring forth a unique perspective, was more than matched.
Radhika and Shail started their walk from the confluence of rivers Betwa and Yamuna at Hamirpur, walking upstream along the Betwa for 10 days. From this phase of field documentation to now, a lot many things have happened – including a book, a thesis influenced by the walk, online talks, webinars, exhibitions, and more.
Today we are excited to share the documentary style book that was produced from this walk, and recently published by the title – Along the Betwa
Along the Betwa is a narrative documentary that transports readers to Bundelkhand, a vast and ancient region in northern India. The book follows the authors as they walk along the Betwa, a river that cuts through Bundelkhand, to engage with the region’s rural landscape and its people. By weaving together stories and images, Along the Betwa invites readers to travel with the authors as they walk from one village to the next.
Bundelkhand has been struggling with recurring droughts, economic decline and political marginalization for the past few decades. Climate change has exacerbated these issues. While on the riverwalk, the authors document a wide range of perspectives on environmental issues, livelihoods, religion, and inequality. They speak with women, men, and children about their hopes for the future. By traversing the region on foot, the authors were able to slow down and experience their surroundings in a truly unconventional way.
The book, which uses photographs, maps, and anecdotes to situate the reader on different spots along the Betwa, is an account of daily encounters and observations. Nuanced and never pedantic, the authors reflect openly about their experiences and positionality, while allowing readers to come to their own conclusions about Bundelkhand.
Funded by Veditum India Foundation and National Geographic’s Out of Eden Walk, Along the Betwa is aimed towards people interested in engaging with the issues of the Global South in a novel way. It presents an honest and insightful look into the situation in Bundelkhand, with the hope that it will help inform conversations on development in India. By pulling on written and visual forms in equal measure, the book helps readers connect with the day-to-day lives of people in marginalized regions.
Click here to see the book listing on ORO editions’ website
To continue the conversation from the walk and focus on issues from the region of Bundelkhand, the authors have set up an Instagram account which will continue to highlight contemporary news and challenges from Bundelkhand. Make sure to follow them to engage further.
We’re also looking for folks who can review the book – practitioners in the water or environment space, journalists, feature writers, book reviewers. Interested folks in India please write to email@example.com, but do note that we only have limited physical review copies.
If you’d like to get yourself a copy, the book is finally available to buy on Amazon India. Because of its relatively higher pricing – as most photo books are priced – we will make the stories available through our website at a later date to make them accessible to all.
About the authors:
Radhika Singh previously worked as a correspondent for the Indian Express in Mumbai and as a project manager at the research-advocacy organization INHAF in Ahmedabad. She is currently based in Nairobi, where she works on issues related to agriculture. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shail Joshi is a design architect by training and a published photographer. He has worked across the Global South on issues pertaining to marginalized communities. He currently works as an associate at a non-profit based in New York City. You can write to him at email@example.com
At Veditum, we continue to roll out new programs (including fellowships) and are delighted to see the work from our fellowship programs take on so many different forms – articles, photo stories, books, zines, soundscapes, and more.
Outputs like this book gives us the confidence and inspiration to continue our work – creating more opportunities while focussing on the right issues and geographies. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, collaborate or partner with Veditum, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
To support our work, visit: www.veditum.org/donate