This is a picture of me sitting in a mudhouse. It is made up of mud and stays warm in the coldest of days. As a child and as a grown up each time I visited my village, cows and bulls used to be tied in such mudhouses, it’s called a ‘Chani’. In yester years when there were no heaters and air conditioners women and men alike often used to sleep in these chanis along with the animals and hay to keep themselves warm. These days home stays use them to lure tourists and to introduce the ‘Pahadi’ culture to them.
She is always loving and kind,
What can she do?
She hails from a place where even strangers are welcomed,
With arms open wide.
She is not afraid of traversing the rugged terrains,
The Himalayas that fill others with awe and fear,
They give her warmth and peace,
They are the home that provide her solace.
View from one of the small hamlets in Uttarakhand, namely, Chopta
You might find her talking to a flower,
Smelling the earth after the first rains,
Or just admiring the beauty of a colorful bird,
Shown here is a ‘chulha’, a stove made from mud and uses wood as a fuel. The people in the hills are experts in cooking on these stoves. The food tastes tasty and has a smoky touch. The dishes cooked are usually made from vegetables fresh from the farms. Also sitting near the chulha in winters is extremely delightful.
Or as she walks those treacherous roads,
Humming an old Himalayan folk tune,
One she probably heard from her grandmother,
As she sat near the chulha with her.
This is the path to my village in Uttarakhand. It’s an upward trek of 3 kms of highly uneven terrain but the fresh air and trees makeup for it. We try to visit every few years especially with the much younger generation just so that they know about their roots.
She will tell you many folktales,
Of the kings and queens that once resided in the hills,
Of the local gods and ghosts, that still tread,
Watch the twinkle in her innocent eyes as she talks of the land she so loves.
This is our temple in our village of Taleshwar in Uttarakhand. It dates back to the 4th century and it has been proved time and again by the various archaeological treasures that have been dug up around it but it lies in a dilapidated state, all thanks to the neglect of the government. All our major ‘pujas’ (rituals in which you ask for blessings from God) take place in this very temple.
She has a wild and adventurous spirit,
She will take you to places you won’t fathom,
And as she treads along,
She will hum songs in a language unheard,
But the smile she holds will put you at ease,
They aren’t tragic, they are songs of the wild,
The love for nature and people that she has learnt ever since she was a child.
One of the hills that I often tread whenever I visit my village, my father’s childhood was spent in this very terrain before he moved to the city.
As a child whenever she visited the village she often used to sit in the Khou,
With family and friends,
As the old men told stories of their youth,
While smoking their hookahs,
She would listen with awe about the hill ranges that they conquered and the long paths they traversed,
Longing to do the very same some day as she grew older.
The old man in this picture is holding a hookah, a traditionally carved and engraved tube used for smoking and the area they are all sitting in is called a khou. He is the younger brother of my grandfather whom I lost to cancer when I was in Nursery. I still remember watching my grandfather coming home from my rooftop and then standing at the gate waiting for him as he always brought me sweets or candies. He used to carry a beautiful and shiny wooden cane with him, which we gave away later as it had much better use elsewhere.
During her teenage she saw a stranger knock at her grandmother’s door,
He looked like an adventure seeker,
It was the same year in the summer of which she had been to the big city and seen people be ruthless and cruel,
She just did not want this stranger entering their home.
This is one of the houses in the village that belongs to our largely extended family. In the picture is my uncle, his wife and his daughters standing on the lower floor (they are my grandfather’s younger brother’s son and family). On the above floor is my mother, my aunt (my father’s sister) and my grandmother (my grandfather’s younger brother’s wife). I lost my grandmother when I was in 8th. She was a simple yet strong lady who became schizophrenic in the later stages of life. She used to see ‘Bhainro’ (A Hill god) during her last days. She would often tell me that he was here to take her away. I was probably the closest to her in all her grandchildren since I was the only one who spent 12 years with her.
That day she learnt why Pahadis were considered simple and kind,
Her grandmother gave him a home and food for the night,
When the stranger left the next day, her grandmother found her ‘guloband’ missing,
It was the only memory she had of her dead grandfather,
She felt sad for her grandmother and went to sit with her,
As she did she started cursing the man,
No, said her grandmother as she shushed her, this is not our way of life,
He probably needed it more than me,
Nature is what gives us and every being of nature is part of us.
The black choker in this photograph is called a ‘guloband’ and that giant gold ‘Nath’ is the original, heavy nose ring worn by married women. The earrings and naths used to be so heavy (the naths weighing nearly 15gms sometimes) that the nose and earlobes often dangled by the time women reached old age. Again an intrinsic part of our traditional jewellery, the guloband is worn by married women and till date my mother and all my aunts and grandmothers own this piece of jewellery. It is still gifted to newly wed women by their elders and most of them wear it with pride as it has its own charm and is a mark of our tradition and culture. Originally, engraved squares of gold with loops on the sides for thread to pass through were sewn on a black, red or green (mostly black) cloth but now a days it comes in various other designs.
From that day in that lone village in the hills,
Till today the Pahadan resides in a small town in the Himalayan foothills,
The same one she was born in,
Somehow she never found the opportunities in the big cities charming,
Her soul always wants to return each time she visits those cities,
Her love for her roots is undying.
She feels nature will save her against all odds,
She still opens her doors to anyone who is needy,
All you need to do is knock at her doors.
This is the latest trek I went on before lockdown. This is Chopta which is sometimes also referred to as ‘Mini Switzerland’ yet having been to Switzerland I still find this hamlet much more beautiful (no offence intended here). You trek through winding snowy roads in winters and huge grasslands in summers to reach a temple called Tungnath which is a trek of 4 km uphill and Chandrashila peak which is another 2 and a half km above Tungnath.
You will still find her talking to flowers,
Or even climbing trees,
Treading barefoot on the grass,
She makes way even for the ants.
She runs to the hills whenever she gets the chance,
Her adventurous spirit can never be quenched,
In harmony with nature, she respects even the smallest of creatures.
Untouched by the city’s humdrum, she still finds peace within the hills,
But don’t get confused by her mild and kind demeanour,
Forged by hills and nature,
She will roar if you test her too far,
This is why her friends call her an alpha with a gentle heart.
All Rights Reserved. Vanya Rajwar (VRa). Pahaadan through and through.
Numerous are her shades. She is an enigma that takes ages to unfold. You have to be patient to learn all that she withholds because once she unleashes her various hues, you will be left yearning for more and more.
I talked to the stars after a long time last night,
I used to do that when I was a child,
Venus was shining so bright,
It looked at me and I looked at it,
We flirted a little,
Through my eyes and its shine.
Last time I talked to it I was a child,
The air was cleaner,
And the sky shone brighter,
There was no polluting barrier,
Between me and the skies.
The stars and I relived memories last night,
I asked them to pray for the humans and their plight,
A bird cooed, a bat flew,
I wasn’t scared,
I knew the nature and I were in harmony,
After a long while last night.
Always isolated, I looked at Venus again last night,
My old friend, my partner in crime,
I realised I had been alone and had missed it all this time,
The skies are what we all share,
So, I prayed with the stars for all humans last night.
I even bribed Venus to abduct me last night,
It winked at me and said,
Some day soon it might.
As I sat on the terrace last night,
After a long time since forever,
I wasn’t alone with my thoughts on a night.
Note: This is not related to my book. Just a fleeting thought I penned.
It was nothing new for me,
When my father hit me,
I had been disciplined since childhood,
With sticks and brooms and slaps and kicks too,
That was my parents style of venting out their anger,
And rearing the elder kid too.
I grew apart from them with time,
They never understood why I rebelled,
As I reached my teens I started losing my cool,
So it was nothing new for me,
When my father hit me.
I reached my twenties,
I found a partner and as he went through a harsh phase,
I wanted to be there for him, listening to him into the night,
It was something my father couldn’t digest,
At the age of twenty four,
It was again nothing new for me,
When my father took a stick and hit me,
I protested and I shoved him back, my mother called me crazy,
After all hitting back is not how I have been disciplined.
More than a year later I can still see the marks upon my waist,
A reminder of that ill fated day,
What had been my fault?
Was it wrong to be there for someone you love?
But then parents can do no wrong,
They have always reared us with so much love,
So I am not allowed to question them,
Or tell others the very same, what would society think of them?
And anyways also I should have been used to it,
Why would I even cry over this common occurrence?
After all it was nothing new for me,
When my father hit me,
It is just how I have been disciplined.
I wondered why they named our house,
My parents, you know,
An embellished Marble stands at the gate,
With the name Vinayak.
With time I came to realise,
It held a deep meaning,
It’s the one of the many names,
That the Hindu Lord Ganesha holds,
If my devoted mother ever had a son,
She would have probably named him Vinayak.
Come to think of it,
This house is akin to a son,
Each brick, each Stone was engraved,
By the hard earned money,
Of their own time and efforts,
Isn’t that what parents do for their children?
It’s certainly no less than a son,
Its the result of their own lifeblood,
This house called Vinayak.
A few years Younger to me,
But it has seen all my phases,
From childhood to youth,
It has held my deepest and darkest secrets.
A great listener, my partner in crime,
My closest confidante,
It has seen me laugh, It has seen me cry,
It has supported me through in the Most Painful and solitary of times.
It protects us all from the perils outside,
People say you are two sisters,
But I say NO, we have a brother,
More humane than many outside, Over the years HE has stood and still stands tall,
For people it might be bricks and stone,
For us it’s a son, a brother, Our Protector,
And HIS name is Vinayak.