Pahadan (A girl from the Hills)

A Tribute to all Pahadans (Girls from the Hills) who have stayed true to their roots. In the image above I am wearing a traditional nose ring called a ‘Nath’ and the scarf or long dupatta is a ‘pichauda’ which is intrinsic to my region in Uttarakhand.

She resides in the Himalayan terrains,

She is deeply in love with her roots,

Belongs to Himachal and Uttarakhand,

In India she is called a Pahadan.

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 majorpujas’ (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.

Most Pahadans are just that : Alphas with gentle Hearts.
So these are few very old songs from our region sung by a young singer from our hills to cater to the new generation. The locales used are also of the Uttarakhand hills and once you see them you might want to visit too. However westernized we might seem, these are the only songs we Pahadis like humming once we enter our domain. Haha! Do click on the link and listen. Enjoy the music and if you want the translations, feel free to mail or ask me in the COMMENTS section.

All Rights Reserved. Vanya Rajwar (VRa). Pahaadan through and through.

The Soul’s Urge©|2020

Letter to Covid

A Letter to Covid from a Girl in the Himalayan Foothills

My dear Covid,

I have no regrets,

My book is in the process,

It will soon be out.

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My dear Covid,

At 25 I feel like fifty,

I have faced infidels galore,

I have savoured the adrenaline rush of life,

I have been in the depth of love,

I have also felt the mind numbing void.

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My dear Covid,

I have seen the beauty of the European Province,

The human race of which you are destroying,

I have seen the streets being raided by tourists,

Of the Economy that is now collapsing.

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My dear Covid,

I am a simple girl from the hills,

A Freelancer and an Introvert,

I already lived in Quarantine.

In India, they say the hills liberate you and bring you peace,

They say, Our gods used to reside in these hills.

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My dear Covid,

I don’t seek any worldly pleasures,

A Cabin in the hills,

A warm fire in the hearth,

A book in hand sipping a hot mug of coffee is all I dream of.

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My dear Covid,

I just hope my book will grant people some pleasure,

If it comes out during the Corona scare.

I just want to pray for the human race,

To make out of this alive and safe.

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My dear Covid,

I bribed the Cosmos everyday,

In the past one year,

I asked it to abduct me,

Take me away as this land felt alien.

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My dear Covid,

I just want you to know,

I have lived my dreams,

And if not the Cosmos but you decide to liberate me,

I will have no regrets,

I will leave with a peaceful mind.

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My dear Covid,

I want to thank you for bringing balance to nature,

Coming from the Himalayas,

I always connected more with nature than with people.

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My dear Covid,

If you decide to take me away,

I wouldn’t mind it anyway,

Because, I know I have left enough memories,

Of kindness and of Love,

For all the people dear to me to remember me by,

And I hope these will be lessons they can pass on,

To the generations that will follow them,

To be kind to nature,

So that it does not avenge itself with a ‘Corona’ again.

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Sincerely,

A Girl from the Himalayan Foothills

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All Rights Reserved. Vanya Rajwar (VRa).

The Soul’s Urge©|2020