He left his job to go on a selfless mission aiming to capture the developments made by an NGO in a Uttarakhand-based school. On the occasion of World Photography Day, here’s the story of Tushaar Panchal for you.
Tushaar Panchal decided to see a hundred sunsets that year, and on December 31, by the end of 2018, he was glancing at the 100th sunset at the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra. This Mumbai folk promised this to himself when after leaving his job, he decided to voluntarily work with a Canada-based NGO in Uttarakhand for the development of child education.
It dates back to 2016 when Tushaar, an Engineering dropout, encountered an outburst of touring after working for a company as sales engineer. Since his job allowed him to travel, he developed an interest in exploring and started visiting places like Rishikesh, Auli, Mahakumbh, Ujjain, etc. “While being in Ladakh, I broke my glasses which also hurt my right eye, arms and legs. But I wanted to see the sunrise and set off for it even while being injured,” he says. That might also mark the beginning of his interest in watching the most beautiful phases of the sun.
Two years passed by, and he was working with a Digital Marketing company when he was offered to accompany ‘The Walking School Bus’, a Canada-based NGO in April to Uttarakhand as a photographer. The NGO was on a mission to contribute to the education system of India, and was going to Suyalgarh on a project. “As risky as it could be, I found my calling and left my job for this initiative”, Tushaar says, adding how the trip changed his life.
The team reached a school in Suyalgarh, which was built by an elderly man from the village. As Tushaar says, Brijmohan Ji used to travel 30 km to shops, where he could find parents and convince them to send their kids to the school. “He had converted an agricultural land to a school knowing the importance of education, and I was so overwhelmed to know about his initiative” , he says.
The Himalayan Public School just had 5 classrooms, 1 library cum Drawing class along with 1 computer room with only one operational computer. A common washroom for students in the school used either rainwater or home tanks. And, the same water was available as drinking water. The school lacked a proper blackboard as a black-painted scratched wall was being used for the purpose.
Apart from Tushaar, many volunteers from other countries had also participated in the project who were translators and artists and helped students with speech therapies, artworks, etc. As a result, students’ artworks also got published in several publications, which earned them money and got utilised for the development of the school.
Meanwhile, the team was also dedicated to provide better infrastructure to the students and set up water filtration systems and solar panels after working with the local carpenters of the place. Not only this, but the team gifted books, helped in spreading dental awareness, and made the students watch animation for the first time. Tushaar was also a contributor to this and was capturing all these moments and activities. “We used to work for the school during the day and visit various unexplored places, waterfalls and sunsets in the evening,” he recounts.
Before returning from Suyalgarh, Tushaar managed to click a picture of the founder of the school. And, from then onwards, his life never remained the same. This picture got featured on the social media page of the Apple company! Tushaar’s happiness knew no boundaries, and he decided to see 100 sunsets that year.
A traveller and a photographer now, Tushaar loves to understand the culture and people of local places in India. He remembers how a Kashmiri family had cooked chicken just for him and how he had taken the family to Sonmarg, a place near Kashmir since they had not visited the place due to financial difficulties. “They enjoyed the outing and the Hindi songs I played on that trip. The elderly lady in the family even shed tears as I had to return! Do I even need other motivations to keep going?” Tushaar asks as he ends his story.