At 57, Neelam Verma could have settled for urban comforts. But she decided to leave her Ahmedabad home in 2008 and settled down in the jungles of Bandhvagarh.
Her drive for wanderlust also gave her a hobby—to find rare artifacts and conserve them.
The grey-haired woman has been driving through the swathes of India all by herself for six months now in search a crafts, which are on a verge of extinct.
“My aim is to collect craft of tribal and rural India and give them international value. I travel alone on my Tata Sumo and try to buy most of the craft which is on the verge of extinct,” said Neelam, while talking to Hindustan Times.
A proud owner of scores of such nearly-extinct handicrafts, Verma is now planning to open a museum at her café ‘Malaya Café and Handicraft’ at Tala, located in the heart of Bandhavgarh forest, which serves organic food to the tourist.
Every rare craft which Verma picked up from her expeditions is showcased here for the tourist.
"In Ujjain a community makes birds from charcoal. Only two members of the family are left who are still making birds and rest have left the work. Similarly, a bamboo art of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthani art of making wild animals with black mud are on the verge of extinction," she said. "I want these artifacts to be preserved for the next generation."
Verma said that state and Central government should come forward to conserve such handicraft. “The government should orgainse workshops and make sure that their next generation picks up the art," she added.