The Stepwell Saviour

Rohan Kale is fighting to save Maharashtra’s stepwells.
Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com finds out why.

On March 1 this year, during Mahashivratri, a joyous smile spread across Rohan Kale’s face.

He had achieved a long awaited dream.

That night, glittering diyas shone their beautiful light over traditional rangolis that decorated 160 stepwells across the state of Maharashtra.

Kale, a 38-year-old commerce graduate who works in HR, cannot stop talking about stepwells.

He fell in love with these architectural wonders when he visited Gujarat for work and decided to find out how Maharashtra’s stepwells were faring.

Much to his dismay, he discovered that 80 per cent of the stepwells in Maharashtra were “in a state of misery”.

One can, when faced with a problem, turn one’s face away or do something about it, he believes.

He would, he decided, “do something”.

And that something was “documenting the stepwells” in the state and finding ways to restore and popularise them.

“As a working HR professional, I’m a link between the management and the employees and help to take my organisation forward. Similarly, from leading this initiative to becoming a link between the government and the people to take the campaign forward in a meaningful way is what I aim to achieve.”

And people, he says, have played a very important role.

 

Stepwells are not just a source of water in arid areas, explains Rohan. They have an important historical significance.

 

November 2020.

14,000 kilometres.

1,700 stepwells.

May 10, 2022.

These are important numbers and dates in Rohan’s life.

In November 2020, he started his ‘Maharashtra Stepwells Campaign’.

By May 10, 2022, he had — with the help of his friends and people he met along the way — travelled 14,000 kilometres across the state on his bike and mapped 1,700 stepwells. Of these, he personally discovered 400 stepwells.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mention of Rohan’s work on his Mann Ki Baat radio programme has given the campaign a boost.

Those who helped him in the past, says Rohan, feel proud to see how the campaign has grown.

It also lends him a certain level of legitimacy when he approaches government agencies for help.

 

“Let’s join hands to preserve Maharashtra’s invaluable stepwells,” urges Rohan.

“If all stepwells are revived, it will be a huge source of water conservation and we can look forward to a drought-free Maharashtra.”

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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