Rafi is a prominent member of the Gujjar tribe in Himachal Pradesh. The Gujjars were originally a pastoral nomadic tribe but now most of them have settled down in Himachal Pradesh and parts of Kashmir. The Gujjar word comes from the term “Gaucharana” which means to graze cows. They resort heavily on cows and buffalos for their daily lifestyle because traditionally they were pastoralists, but now most of them have shifted to agriculture and animal husbandry, rearing cows, buffaloes and sheep.
Rafi lives with 14 family members in a 100-year-old typical Himachali mud-house. It has been in their family for 4 generations and has seen a lot of wear and tear. The structure of the house is ancient and traditional, with walls plastered with mud and cow -dung, a family kitchen where everyone eats their meals together, and spacious rooms with beautiful views. When we first met Rafi’ he had no understanding of the tourism business and did not know the goldmine that he was sitting on. His place is a beautiful walk from Chamba, where you have to cross a flowing river and pass little children playing on the sprawling grounds. NotonMap introduced Rafi to the homestay concept and we set forth redesigning and decorating the rooms. He had enough space to spare for a private cottage and a dormitory which was more than enough.
Rafi was our first homestay in Chamba and the collaboration was a huge success. We introduced Rafi to various ideas through which he could preserve and remodel his house into a homestay and he introduced us to his life, the various local cultures, cuisines and stories. NotOnMap has grown a lot since our first homestay with Rafi and we have learned essential lessons from this initiative as well. Rafi’s house is rated 9 out of 10 on Booking.com and his homestay is now a popular spot for tourists visiting Chamba. He plans to rework and rebuild parts of his stay and expand his homestay business further. He loves having guests over at his house and sharing a cup of chai and stories with them. He wants to welcome more people into his warm home and make space for more visitors to stay at the same time. He loves showing his guests around the village and introducing them to the local community and culture.
Working with Rafi has been a learning and growing experience for NotOnMap and since then we have taken leaps and bounds and now we have more than 500 properties registered with us. We are glad that we could provide Rafi with a better life and a steady income and helped him take care of his family.
Not only Rafi has prospered and progressed with NotOnMap, but his neighborhood and village have also started having cultivating progressive ideas. Local people have started taking the initiative and organizing activities like Cleaning drive with 40 children that happens in the summer holidays. Our new initiatives like NotOnMart has also helped 50 Gujjar families who were not able to establish their own homestays. They will now be engaged after the corn season to make traditional ‘Chakla’ for their alternate livelihood source along with Rafi and his family.