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The Jana waterfalls story

The Incredible Story of The Jana Waterfalls: From Zero to 150,000 Tourists Annually

If you’d ask me why I love travelling,I would say it’s because I am crazy about the stories. Travelling allows us to be exposed to stories all the time. Eventually, when we look back at the colorful mosaic of our journeys, the story is what holds all the pieces together.  It is the glue.

A story is a medium of communication and engagement with the local culture. It makes you listen. It reminds you that what you see are real people with real voices. In other words,they’re not just objects on the other side of our camera lens.

Sometimes it seems that recalling stories (or listening to them) is a little bit like browsing a huge photo album. You just scan them, page after page, mechanically.

But there’s the BANG factor…

There’s always an Image lying in the massive pile thatclicks those buttons and forces us to stop. It’s almost irresistible.It gets straight to the heart.

Hearing stories is just the same. Sometimes, very rarelythough, you get to hear a story thatclicks those buttons.

But that is exactly the kind of story I heard when I was at Jana waterfalls in the KuluValley in Himachal Pradesh.

So, here’s the story of a successful entrepreneurship in the dense forest of the Himalayas.

A Poor Himachali Farmer Who Had Cracked the System (Big Time)

When I first came to see what all the fuss about Jana waterfalls was about, I was awfully disappointed. I just couldn’t figure out why this place attracts so many people when there are much more impressive waterfalls in the Himalayas…

I was wandering around a few Dhabas (local restaurants) near the waterfall trying to understand, looking allover to find out what else was there. When I realized that there’s nothing more, I finally sat down to have a lunch in the Dhabaright next to the waterfall pool.

Man, the food was damn good!

That was a relief. I didn’t come all the way just for nothing.

I got a lead. The first piece of the incredible story of the Jana waterfall puzzle wasrevealed in my mouse.  It was a local festival made of forest herbs that had been picked up in the woods and put on my plate.

When I was having a chat a few days later with Mani Ram, the guy who owns the Dabha,I asked him how he was able to prompt this place to become such a successful tourist attraction.He mentioned the food tweak.

Other people mentioned Mani Ram’s persistence as the main reason for the success of the Jana waterfalls as a tourist attraction.

A start up in the dense forest of the Himalayas – The story of Jana waterfalls

A start up in the dense forest of the Himalayas – The story of Jana waterfalls

So here’s how a Himachali Farmer Succeeded Where the Sharpest Folks in the Industry Sometimes can’t…

Twelve years ago, Mani Ram was a farmer. Like many other Kullu farmers, he had a little apple orchard and small pasture fields for his cows.

But then he decided to change the course of his life.

He managed to pull off what the sharpest folks in the tourism industry are all craving to do, and that is to create a new tourist attraction. It took him 12 years to bring approximately 120,000 annually to Jana waterfalls. He anticipates that next year the number will rise to 150,000 tourists.

You can imagine that Mani Ram never graduated from Harvard Business School, he never worked a single day in a travel agency company to learn some tricks,and he had not even a single rupee in his pocket for an initial investment.

If he would have come to the bank to get a loan for opening a restaurant in a place where bears and leopards are the only potential customers, I assume that he would have been kicked out the door.

He didn’t even have the time to work full time on his ‘Jana waterfalls’ because he was so occupied in his daily war to survive. All the people in his village thought Mani Ram was crazy to pursue his vision.

What Was in Jana Waterfalls Before You Started the Whole Journey?

“Twelve years ago,Jana waterfalls was just a spot where local farmers from Jana (the nearby village) came with their herds to rest. It was all jungle.”

Jungle is a general term used all over India to describe uncultivated land. In this case, it’s a dense pine forest whichis very typical to the lower parts of the Himalayas.

“It was also a place for people to stop the on the old road from Naggar, the ancient capital of the Kullu district, to the famous Bijli Mahadev temple,” he continued.

Okay… how, then, does a farmer who is working so hard to make his living decide to open a ‘start-up’ in a place where there is simply nothing there?

“See,” he said “from time to time I used to see some foreign tourists trekking on this route going to visit Bijli Mahadev temple, which is 24 km away and above Kullu City. Although I wasn’t able to speak with them because I don’t speak English, it was obvious that some tourists do come here.”

“One day a group of five Western people had stopped by the waterfall pool. They had been trekking from Bijli Mahadev. We had a bit of a talk. Suddenly one of them told me: ‘You know, Mani Bhai( brother,) if there was a small Dhaba for the passers and goers it could have been real nice’.”

I didn’t take it seriously at the moment he mentioned it. The genius of his suggestion struck me later on.

It wasn’t an easy decision. We had absolutely no time to commit to such a project. You know, we were very poor. We were ‘Ketibadi’.

Ketibadi means literally “farmers” in Hindi. But it means much more. About 80 percent of the population resides in rural areas, and they rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Household food insecurity and poor nutrition are basic problems in these areas where about half of the children under five years of age are malnourished.

Most of the rural households have little or no access to primary health care, education, safe drinking water and sanitation.

“Working in the fields leaves you almost no room for new initiatives that are not directly concerned with survival,” he continued.

At the beginning, I opened just a small hut and my wife made food for those who came in. She’s a great cook!

The incredible food in Jana waterfalls

The magic of the Jana waterfalls. Absolutely delicious!

What did your friends in the village think about the fact you were opening a Dabha?

He smiled.”They thought I had gone crazy!”

“But I kind of connected the dots.”

The dots? I asked

“That my wife is a great cook; that there some people coming here and we can rest everyday in the same spot- near the Jana waterfalls – thus we can earn some extra rupees while we’re there.”

Were you thinking at that point in time that the Jana waterfalls would become such a big tourist attraction in Kullu?

“Absolutely NOT! We were focusing in one thing and one thing only- feeding the few who came with all the heart. Serving the best food we could. And still, this is what we do.”

The Power of Words-Tweak

“In the beginning, we were just serving the best food, which was natural for us since it was the only food knew how to make. It’s a traditional food, and most of its ingredients are being are grown here in this area. The herbs we’re using are being picked up from the woods above us.

But then we realized that what was obvious for us was an attraction for them. And it was all summed up in one phrase – Local food.

Once were aware of that, the number of visitors rose dramatically.

“Actually, as you have noticed, the waterfall is not the center of attention here. It is the local food that we make. But ‘Jana waterfalls’ is a far better title that will bring people to this place. Still, sitting and have lunch right next to the waterfall is great experience like it has been for many years, even before the locals had have come here.

Mani Ram may not have been to business school, but he sure can add the numbers and accurately analyze every single component in his business.

He knows exactly how many have visited the place each year. He knows the annual growth curve. He can tell you also how long they stay on average. And, he knows what should be done to get more tourists to come.

Jana waterfalls in Kullu valley

“It’s all about the road conditions,” he says. If the government would have invested money in the roads, then more private cars could have get here easily. Before the elections they keep on promising, but afterwards nothing really happened. It’s all up to us.”

Now in Jana waterfalls there are a few more Dhabas, some local fabric stalls, and taxi services to and from Jana from the nearby village of Naggar. There’s even rock-climbing attractions for those who what to challenge themselves. 

“The big change,” Mani Ram says, “had happened 4-5 years ago. The numbers jumped from 40,000 tourists a year to 100,000 the next year.

The word about our local food is widely spread now. People are integrating the Jana waterfalls to their vacation holidays in Kullu Valley and Manali way before they even come to the region.

And what is the secret for this success?

Whatever you do- do it with all your heart! (And of course, it’s important that God will help you a little bit…)

What about the future? Where do you see this place taking off to?

Here, he points his finger toward a beautiful meadow just next to the water stream.“I want to build a camping site for the trekkers. With a nice campfire in the center of it. What do you say, ha?!”he asked me.

Frankly, this guy knows ten times better than me what is the best thing to do. So the only possible answer I could have said was – “For sure!” It is looking amazing, though.

And do you know how many trekkers are coming here? That was a rhetorical question, because after 45 minutes of conversation with Mani Ram I had already figured out that there isn’t a single piece of data he doesn’t know about.

“1000 a year” he said. “But next year there’ll be more.”

So now you know the story of Jana waterfalls. You know that when you get there, you’ll get a super local Himachali dish made with love.

And you will also know that that there’s always a story out there!

Rough-and-Ready Crowded Indian Dhaba

Indian Fast Food (Part 1)

Indian Fast food Version

Indian Fast food in the mountains Photo By Jonathan Ben Zvi

Fast food in India is an old concept long before MacDonald’s had dominated the world with its huge chain. The Indian version for fast food restaurants are called dhaba. Naturally, most of the dhabas in India are not connected to any chain what so ever and it is disorganized in almost all aspects you can think off. May be this is exactly what makes it so beautiful, colorful and delicious.

Dhabas in the cities

The changes India has been going through the last few years are definitely reflected in the whole concept of the dhabas especially those located in the big cities and metropolitans of India. The somewhat chaotic character of the Indian dhaba  is gradually fading out and replaced by allegedly distinguished western style restaurants. The food is getting more and more expensive so the common people who are the core of the dhabas diners do not eat there anymore. It is no longer the original fast food Indian restaurant and the dishes that are being served are being developed to become more clever, fancy and sophisticated.

Dhabas in rural areas

It’s a whole different story when we move out of the cities into rural India. Dhabas are just all over the place; on highways, on side roads, dirt roads, inside villages, on the top of a mountain and on river banks. Dhabas are the fast food option for most Indians all over the country. It is a place for people to check if the roads are clear and traffic is running smoothly. It is a place where farmers sit together after a long day on the field talking about the weather and crops. Locals are meeting people from the outside listening to news about places that they have never heard before in some cases, but also news from the villages nearby.

The Indian Dhaba is an information junction, it is a place where stories are being told. I’m not sure if that was the initial idea of Macdonald’s. The Indian fast food concept is different in nature, people eat stories while  hot dishes are being served in front of them.

The food in the dhabas change from place to place, state to state, region to region. Each dhaba serves different dishes based on the regions cooking style and ingredients. In some places the food is so basic simply because it is located for example far up in the mountains totally disconnected due to poor road maintenance or no roads at all. There you’d probably find food which is based on the local crops and of course rice. Rice is the main traditional food in India and is found everywhere whether it grows in a certain region or not. The Indian government subsidizes rice so it can be available all over India.

Rough-and-Ready Crowded Indian Dhaba

Rough-and-Ready Indian Fast food Dhaba
Photo by Oded Keet

The magic of Indian dhaba

However, lack of resources has never been an obstacle for the dhaba owners. In some dhabas even in the most far flung destinations food can get to a masterful level. It is unbelievable what people can do when they possess tradition, deep knowledge and a long food heritage to make food out of the most basic ingredients. For many of the dhaba owners it is a family business. They continue to make recipes that have been perfected from generation to generation. I was lucky enough to have eaten in a place in Uttarkhand, a simple dish of Chaaval and Rajma (Rice with beans) that I’ll never forget. It was perfection! It was cold outside and I was sitting on the balcony waiting patiently for my ‘fast food’ order looking to the Nanda Devi (the highest mountain in India 7800m) where beautiful smoking clouds rose from its peak. It must have been the most beautiful settings befitting one of my best meals in India. To think that this unique culinary experience was made only from rice and beans….

TO BE CONTINUED…

Great Indian Dhaba to break down the road from Mumbai to Pune

Want to Try a Great Indian Dhaba on the Way to Pune?

By Sannttosh A. Ahuja 

Great Dhaba to stop by on the way to Pune by road

Kinara Dhaba

Indin Dhaba,Kinara Dhaba: The search for great Indian Food

For all of you who intend to hit the road by driving from Mumbai to Pune, here is a fantastic place for you to take stop, eat and really enjoy great Indian food. The name of the place is The Kinara Village Dhaba, and it is located on the old Mumbai Pune Highway in the heart of Lonavala approx. 2.5 hours from Mumbai.

The dhaba gives you a feeling of rural India which is so different from the urban Indian restaurants or even dhabas. However, the Kinara still maintains the contemporary art of dining .Those who do not particularly like to eat with their hands, you have nothing to worry about. This is not an hardcore Indian dhaba.  It is well organized, may be too well…  However, This dhaba will tickle your taste buds because it serves a wide range of mouth-watering dishes delivering the taste of India.

As the name suggests, the entire place has been done up in the form of a village and gives you that rustic feel the moment you step inside. An ensemble of artefacts like the bullock cart, sun wheels, huts, food stalls etc. grab your attention the minute you start making your way towards the khatiya (a bed made of jute ropes tied to a wooden panel used in many villages in rural India, we promise to dedicate a post specially for the Khatiya it is so much more than just a bed!) where you can just chill out.

Like “Time Tunnel” with Tony and Dug, the setting of Kinara Dhaba takes you back in time and gives you a taste of the rural countryside that you otherwise miss in the urban and modernized restaurants in the metro cities.

There is a wide variety of delicious Indian Tandoori & Mughlai food on offer and a few popular Chinese preparations also find its place on the menu which I felt was a little out of place considering the ethnic setting of The Kinara Village Dhaba. The Kesar Jalebi with Rabri is one of my personal favorites and definitely a must for those who have a sweet tooth. The food is tremendously tasty , I really enjoyed the Mughal Chicken!!

For those of us who like to be in ‘high spirits’ with every meal, the restaurant serves carefully selected wines which is any connoisseur’s delight. To add to the ethnicity of the Indian atmosphere, a live performance of ‘Ghazal’ (a lyrical poem in Urdu consisting of five or more couplets set to music and sung in a unique style) is rendered every evening and I found it really beautiful.

Check Out the mega Mastero of the Ghazal musical style  – Medhi Hassan so you can feel the taste of the genre

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwpAPtNzGyA

[dropcap style=’circle’]T[/dropcap]here is a Paan (beetle leaf) Parlour right at the entry gate of the village dhaba which serves unique and juicy paan that is the best that you can ask for after a contented and fulfilling meal. And for all those who forgot to buy the oh-so famous Lonavalachikki (fudge) on the highway, don’t fret…as there is a Maganlal Chikki (famous chain of fudge outlets in Lonavala town) shop right opposite the Paan Parlour.

[dropcap style=’circle’]S[/dropcap]o if you are going from Mumbai to Pune by road you really should visit this place  -it is definitely worthwhile!

For directions &  information see Kinara Dhabha’s Web site and. Also you can check up the Map Below.


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