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Woodridge native films documentary on Himalayan village

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 9:27 a.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Ryan Stock and his wife Shilpa Jhobalia plant organic lemon tree seeds at Mayoli Farm to later distribute to local farmers in India.
(Photo provided)
Woodridge native Shilpa Jhobalia holds organic Amaranth seeds in her hand after helping a local farmer collect seeds for a free local seed bank near Binsar Valley in India.

WOODRIDGE – In an effort to protect a region’s declining socio-ecological system, one Woodridge native is helping film a documentary in the Himalayas. 

Shilpa Jhobalia is one of two producers of “The Lonely Himalayas,” a documentary that will highlight the effects of urban migration and environmental change on the Binsar Valley, which is located within the Kumaon region of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, India. 

“While volunteering with [non-governmental organization] the Himalayan Ethno Botanic Garden Society in December 2013, we fell in love with the Binsar Valley,” Jhobalia said of she and her husband, Ryan Stock, who is also producing the documentary. “We witnessed firsthand the many socio-ecological changes occurring in the area and felt inspired to do something about it.” 

Jhobalia, a 2000 graduate of Downers Grove North High School, and Stock began raising money to fund the filming of the documentary through www.kickstarter.com on Feb. 4. As of Sunday, the couple raised $3,372, which has surpassed their goal of $3,000.

Contributions will be accepted on the website until this Thursday, and the couple would like to reach a higher amount. 

“Our stretch goal is to raise $5,000, which would greatly enhance our ability to reach these remote regions and bring this film to a larger audience,” Jhobalia said via email. “After March 6, we are happy to provide information to interested persons on ways to help collaborate on this project.” 

As India modernizes, urban migration is accelerating from villages such as those in the Binsar Valley because of employment opportunities, chain migration to unite with family members and a desire for better educational opportunities, according to the “The Lonely Himalayas” Kickstarter webpage. This process causes migrants to lose touch with their native culture. 

Another change occurring in the region is the climate, which caused the Himalayas to warm faster than the global average rate, according to the Kickstarter webpage. This has caused an increase in vector-borne diseases, biodiversity decline and an increase in flash flooding. 

“The Lonely Himalayas” will include expansive investigations of environmental changes occurring in Kumaon, such as biodiversity loss, topsoil degradation, forest succession, climate change, invasive species, glacial melt and water scarcity. It will also highlight urban migration, poverty, political economy, educational disparity, separation anxiety and public health concerns. 

Shachindra Bisht, who has 15 years of experience as a video editor, and Pankaj Bhakuni, who has 15 years of filming and editing  experience, will direct the documentary, according to the project’s Kickstarter webpage.

The pair returned to their homeland of the Binsar Valley to protect remote Himalayan villages and, while doing so, met with Jhobalia and her husband. 

“We had long discussions about the importance of protecting this sacred place,” Jhobalia said. “We decided the best way to bring awareness to these issues would be through each mobilizing our individual talents.” 

Friend to Jhobalia since 2005, Natalia Derevyanny said Jhobalia has dedicated her life to other people, as she cares greatly about others.

She currently has very limited access to “basic things we take for granted,” Derevyanny said. 

“She’s doing all of this because she deeply cares about people and her life is about making other people’s lives better,” Derevyanny said. “She is the most kind-hearted person I’ve ever met.” 

Jhobalia said she hopes to have the about 80 to 90 minute-long documentary completed with final edits by January 2015 and released by March 2015. She would also like to enter the film into film festivals throughout the Midwest and to collaborate with an independent film company to improve the quality and promotion of the film. 

“Our ultimate goal is to bring Binsar Valley to people who may have otherwise never have learned about such a unique area,” Jhobalia said. “Ultimately, this is an educational tool to show the effects of current urban migration, industrialization and climate change on remote villages in the Himalayas.” 


More online

For more information on “The Lonely Himalayas,” visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/802640103/the-lonely-himalayas. 

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