photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
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Rampur village, Henwal valley, Tehri Garhwal


December 1993



Rampur Village is in the district of Tehri Garhwal. It is about 1.5 km away from the main road. Here I met a 50-year-old woman, Mrs. Sudesha Devi. She answered all my questions freely. We spoke in Garhwali.
Section 1
From the beginning?
Yes, from the beginning.

Approximately how many generations have lived here?
Actually, though I am not very well educated, I cannot read or write. I have heard that we have been here for a long time, and that we originally came from Rajasthan.

From Rajasthan?
Yes, from Rajasthan, and our elders and we are Rampurias (belonging to Rampur).

How many families are there in this village?
Perhaps 80 or 90 families.

How many members are there in your family?
I have a small family. There is one son. I had two daughters, now I have one. One died last year. She had two children who are with me. My son has a wife.

So your son is married?
Yes, she is with her [natal] family, she has one child.

She must be living with you, usually?
Now she does not live here. My son is not quite well; he is mentally a little unbalanced. I made him study up to the 12th class, so he went through mental tension. It was on that account that we thought that marriage would ease the strain, perhaps he will recover once he has his own family? So we got him married, but now his wife says he is mentally unsound because of that.

Did other people suggest to you that the boy should be married?
Yes, people suggested it. I did not want to get him married, but everyone said that he is the only son and perhaps a married life will relieve his tension. But his condition only became worse as his wife was not very nice. A mother can only be a mother, after all, and has a place only in a man's childhood. Once a boy attains manhood, I thought, he needs a wife; but the wife turned out to be completely illiterate. I had thought that an educated girl would not do any work, but as this one is uneducated she will work in the fields. I have enough land for one man to work on... he also works in the field, it is not as if he does nothing. But he will not talk to anyone. He remains silent, does not mix with anyone. He gives no trouble, he never picks a quarrel or goes to the wrong places. Only we know that he is not of sound mind, it is difficult for outsiders to make out. But word has gone around. But though people taunt him, he never answers back. He is a nice child, but...his health is good.
Section 2
So, the child also lives with the mother?
Yes, with her.

Do you feel that if you had got a slightly educated daughter-in-law, that she would have stayed with you?
When I see such girls-I think that those girls who were born in Germany or America... and when I see that they work better than my daughter-in law and my daughter - they work with me when I work - then I think that an educated girl, even if she becomes a teacher... and even if I have to work for her, I would have brought up her children, scrubbed her kitchen vessels, but perhaps she would have been more understanding. Educated girls should understand better - of course, many educated girls become bad. After all, the man [her son] is not suffering from any illness, he is healthy, but through God's will he has an illness of another kind. Perhaps an enlightened girl might have understood....

Did the girl's family know of this before?
Yes, I told them at once that my son... The girl's father told me that he had heard that my son was not mentally normal, and I said yes it is true. It was my greatest wish that I would bring an educated daughter-in-law into this house, but because of him I have had to agree to his marrying an illiterate girl, in the hope that they would both work at home - he would plough the land, and she would do other things, and somehow they would get along. He might not have been able to fulfil an educated girl's aspirations and needs, that is why I did this, but...

How old was your son when you got him married?
He was 22. His age was right. We did not do what many people do, getting him married at a very young age. My daughter-in-law was 20 years old.

Your daughter, whom you said had died, was she educated?

Till which class?
She had read up to the 12th Class.

You educated her till the 12th Class (school leaving stage)?
Yes, I sent her to the Kasturba (Gandhi) Trust, a social welfare organisation. She was trained there, and worked in the women's wing.
Section 3
Then how did she die?
It happened so suddenly, we hardly knew anything. She had come here, to be with me. She got a fever, I have never seen such fever that could cause her death. First my son fell ill, but he became all right quickly. Then she fell ill, and suddenly, while we were talking....

You must have taken her to a hospital?
I took her to a doctor here.

Where is the hospital here?
I took her to Khadi, to a private doctor. He gave her an injection and she died immediately after.

How long after the injection [did she die]?
Less than half an hour after, very quickly.

You took no action, then?
I did nothing then, People said... but I felt that the doctor had given her some wrong injection because she felt ill immediately after, she said she was going to the toilet. Then she drank water washed her hands thoroughly, we kept chatting, when she suddenly felt intense pain. She cried out, "Mother call the doctor, give me an injection, give me an injection". She couldn't tell what was wrong. Everyone gathered here.
About money...when I was in the [Chipko (forest-protection)] movement, there was always too little money. We don't always have money, and because I have to move around so much I can’t always have money, and because I have to travel so much I can't even do the work in my farm (home) very well. And then people come, visitors come like you, others, sometimes. I have to cook khichdi (rice and lentil dish) for everyone. People keep coming, and my husband has strongly opposed me, so have the villagers, but I have carried on nevertheless as we are part of the Chipko movement for saving the forests... for example there is Bahugunaji, our co-workers, Dhoom Singh bhai (brother), Vijay Jardhari, Kunwar Prasun - these are the people who taught us about the importance of the forests, how it affects our lives. We knew nothing before they told us, all we knew was about our grass, our fuel wood... in the old days the grass and fuel wood were available nearby, now we have to go very far away.

How far do you have to go now?
Very far. It takes the whole day. The girls leave early in the morning – daughters and daughters-in-law - and return only in the evening.

Are both grass and wood available very far away?
Yes, but sometimes the forests are quite close by. I have now made a forest here.

This forest that you have made - do you not stop people from cutting the grass, so that new trees can come up? Do you have any such practice?
Yes, we have planted many trees: I have done a lot of this work. My whole life, you may take it, has been spent with the [Chipko] movement. I don't know which year I got involved, but my daughter had grown up by then and had studied up to the B.A. The younger girl was so small [she gestures with hands]. Just think, I have been involved with this work since then. Not just Chipko, but wherever there was a protest movement, for instance against a mining project in our area or they used to kill male buffaloes or people used to exploit young girls for money, or they didn't want to educate girls. Our Mahila Mangal Dal (rural women’s council) used to work for these causes - there was a time when it was thought improper for girls to sit on a dhurrie (rug). We went from village to village to form Mahila Mangal Dals for the sisters (women). We did this after we had been released from jail. After we came home from jail, when we were in the Chipko movement, we first went into the jungles (forests) and clung to the trees where the contractors were tapping for resin. We did a lot of this kind of thing. When we went to the auction at Narendra Nagar, that was the day we went to jail.
Section 4
How long did you have to stay in the jail?
Fourteen days.

Even after that you kept on doing the Chipko work?
Absolutely, I liked it very much in jail. It is not as if those who took us to prison... at first we felt, what must jail be like? Since bad people go there it must be a bad place. We felt that policemen were very bad people. That is what we have heard. But when we went to jail because of the Chipko that was in Narendra Nagar... I can't tell you the whole story, but the day I went to jail, his father (her son’s father, i.e. her husband) came home.

Which year was this?
I do not know so much.

But how many years ago was this?
Seventeen years must have passed.

Seventeen years?
Yes, it is a story of sixteen or seventeen years ago, when in these jungles we faced the PAC’s (Provincial Armed Constabulary) batons. But we did not feel them, because they couldn’t hit us.

Did they frighten you?
Yes they tried to frighten us, but we were not afraid.

How many women were there in the village, then?
There were two villages. When the drums began to beat everyone came out. No one thought then that women shouldn't come out, since the women were going to the jungles, bringing grass. There were some women who were not allowed to go out of the houses. They used to make excuses that they needed to cut grass. At that time everyone got together, men, children, everyone. So many people that the PAC got frightened. Five women stuck to every tree.

When you joined the movement did no one from your home oppose you?
Yes, there was opposition. But when we went the first time, no one stood in our way, but when we went to jail there was a lot of opposition.
Section 5
Why was there opposition to your going to jail?
It was like this, I didn't tell you that my in-laws belonged to the Rajputs (ruler's clan). People said that “the jails were made by our kings (rulers) for bad people, and now our daughters-in-law were going into those same jails, so we are ashamed. We are very great [great in the sense of being from the upper caste - the ruler’s caste] people, and in jails we have to eat with Harijans (lower castes); the police will lay hands on our women. The women have become characterless (without morals) - they are not worthy of us.”
When we returned home from there, we were four women from the same village, the others used to be frightened and would not say anything. But from my father was a brave man. At the time that India and Pakistan were formed, or, rather, our country became free, my father used to tell us stories of his deeds during that time.

Was your father in the army?
No, but he was involved in helping Indian girls who had got stranded in Pakistan from coming over to India. He used to tell us those stories, so we were greatly encouraged from those days, and I studied for a short while in a Social Service School.

Till which class did you study?
Fourth or fifth.

That was a lot in those days?
Social service was done in this way that those sisters (girls) who became refugees in Hindustan (India) and Pakistan (ie during Partition) and learnt all the skills, tailoring, knitting, everything, spinning on the charkha (spinning wheel), so this way I too learnt a lot [her father helped these girls in the refugee camps, and so she learnt the skills too]. And once I saw Sarla Behn (Catherine Mary Heilmen, Gandhi’s disciple) also, heard her lecture. I moved about, and learnt a little, but other than that I have suffered many blows. I got married. When I could not cut grass as well as my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s wife, I wondered why I had wasted my time in school when I should have learnt this work instead. And later when I went to my husband's house, when I had the rare opportunity to sign my name, I again thought... but nowadays I think, if only I knew English....

Even at this age you hope to study and learn more?
I wish that I had studied English, then I could have talked to all the sisters who come to meet me. I want to talk freely, with no one in between... and why not? I keep wishing I could learn more. But now my eyesight has also become weak, and I have nothing left. But I keep on thinking, that whether it be our girls from Tehri, or from anywhere, I feel very happy that our girls are doing such good work; they should go ahead and not think that "we are girls, that only boys can work and achieve things, while we can’t" I feel very happy. Whether it is an American girl, who is the same age as Bina (her daughter)... and you also, though the girls from Tehri are our own people and I know them very well, I know elder brother (Sunderlalji) and your (the interviewer’s) father.
Till very recently I did not know so much, but when I joined the movement against the [Tehri] dam, then I experienced the blows of the policemen for the first time because of the dam.
Section 6
When did this happen?
During Chipko I was in jail, so I will tell you a little of this...many, many memories come back. That day we did a very brave thing, when we went from here to Narendra Nagar. Our Chipko brothers (men) who were with us, the police (their 500 PAC police)... when the local police could do nothing, then the 500 police seized them by their hands and legs, and kept them outside by the road for two or three nights. The auction was going on then. They were preparing for it. The day the auction began, we arrived; brother Kunwar Prasun and brother Ramraj came from Sabli (a village in the same valley). They don't live with us now, they are journalists. When they stood near the door, trying to force their way in, they were hanging on to it, the police pressed these people down with their knees and gave them hard blows. Then we got angry. Pratap Shekhar said “Come my sisters, my brave sisters, these people are shaming us, we are also educated people, as educated as this Commissioner is, we can also be like him (as important as him). He is shielding himself behind the Conservator [of Forests], we will go ahead and confront him. Sisters, come on my sisters.” Then they saw us they started beating the men harder. We said “Leave these people, what are you doing? You are beating our people. They are human beings like you. Move away. Let them go in. Why are you hitting them?” They said "We are doing our duty". Then, as we began to push, harder and harder, our brothers also among us, we pushed our way inside.
When the door opened, we saw that the Conservator was sitting inside. He got up, and said “Where are the 500 policemen? Are they dead? How did you people get inside?” The Conservator stood up. We were 10 sisters, and all ten of us sat down on the chairs. We grass cutting women sat down on the Conservator’s chairs! There were 500 contractors that day, and all 500 left by this route and went outside. The Conservator started to say that “we will not be able to hold the auction today, these people have taken possession of the premises. The auction will be held tomorrow.” We said “We are here for three days, and we will sit here for three days.” Then, in the night, when each time our brothers who had joined us went out, they were prevented from coming in again, so we were very few left inside, only nine women were left - a total of 15 people, one or two children, and some men. Then they thought that since there are only a few people left, there is enough room in the Tehri Jail for them. They must have made phone calls, etc.
The 500 policemen came back in the night. Then, at that moment, I felt afraid. I was afraid for my honour. I thought, I have never done anything wrong on all my life, I do not know what will happen today. Where will these men take us? We had heard that these men had drunk liquor. Our brothers called out “Everybody Chipko (stick together)”. So we all clung to each other, but we couldn't cling to the men, so we all stood together. The police started to lay their hands on us, ordered the men to step aside, saying, "We are taking away these women". One of our brothers, Dayal bhai, was picked up and taken outside. Then I and all the women began to get angry and said “Don't touch him.” We started to fight with them. I thought, now they will shame us, (take away our honour).
They picked up the men one by one and took them outside. We felt that if we were left behind, these people will do as they wish with us, lay their hands on us anything, so I shouted "Brothers, you are policemen, but you have mothers and sisters. If you have been ordered to take us to jail, then take us. If you are ordered to shoot us, then shoot us, but if you show us disrespect by putting your hands on us, then we will not leave you alive.” The policemen said "No sisters, if we were to do such things, then how would you have come inside here? Orders to put you into jail have been passed". I said “Brothers, all right". Then I said to brother Dhoom Singh Negi, "The only way we will keep our respect is that you should come with us. Some of you Chipko brothers will stand in front of us, some behind." Then we extended our hands and said “Now put the handcuffs on. We have a fancy for handcuffs, to see how they are put." But they didn't put handcuffs on us, and we voluntarily got up and went. Then when they put us into the vehicle (police van). Even then we were afraid as we didn't know where we were being taken. When the vehicle turned towards Tehri, then all fear left us. We shouted slogans. One woman, an employee of the jail, came to us and asked us to show everything we had, then she took us in. There was a very nice sister with us, an educated women. We were nine women, four from Pipleth village and four from Rampur, and one woman teacher, Janaki behn. She used to keep reading the Ramayana, (religious epic from India's ancient mythology) and we had the opportunity of taking God's name.
At home we are always working. Even in my mother's house I had to work all the time, and when I went with my husband, there too I had to work all the time. But in jail we were able to sit and rest. There was no disrespect shown to us. In jail we were given food very nicely. We did a protest there also, insisting that they should give us good food, good beds...
Section 7
Did they give you these things?
Yes, they did. They gave us sheets, etc., and gave us food without worms (clean food). We used to hold meetings once a day. We never felt bad about anything. I used to keep dancing. I used to say, that if we are released we will all work and be together. I was never afraid but some of the others were as they had young children, or their buffaloes were calving. But I was quite certain that we could not let our brothers down and we would leave only when they were released. So this is how it happened with Chipko.
When we went for the Dam (anti-Tehri Dam) movement, for a long time it was a completely different type of protest. It wasn't like the Chipko movement, so I didn't like it, because, I thought to myself, that not even once have we succeeded in breaking the police cordon. I felt it was not good. I have never [done] a protest like this. Whenever we have demonstrated, we have gone straight ahead and broken the police cordon. I felt, what kind of people are you Tehri people, always causing us so much trouble. I have, among all the women, toured each and every village, and I am willing to go anywhere, whether it is Khaspatti or Tehri, some sister or other will recognise me - whether I go to [recording unclear] or Uttarkashi, or Silyara. But everyone recognises me, because this is my work. That day when we broke the police cordon, many sisters did not even know... Urmilla didi (elder sister) said "We will keep sitting here, sister Sudesha also." "What?" I said, "We have to go ahead. Nothing will happen if we keep sitting here." Perhaps she didn't know, she had never done anything like this before, so, when we went ahead, they hit straight out with the stick.
Section 8
Before that had she said something about not going ahead?
Yes, Yes, but I insisted and went ahead. I was the first to reach there, even the brothers had not come. Then he (a policeman) hit out with the stick two or three times. Then I had to grab him by the hand and restrain him, although our Chipko philosophy is never to raise the hand. I asked the police, “Have you no mother and sisters? Why have you got orders to hit us? We are going to our area, this is our home, our forest, we will go...

Where there no women police?
Not in those days. That is why they...

Did they lathi charge you (charging with batons)?
Yes, we went ahead first, then Kunwar Prasun and Vijay Jardhari came and then they lathi charged them, then I grabbed them, so that they could not hit them. When lots of people gathered, some of them became afraid. One woman behind me said "You did not tell us that it was going to be like this." I replied, "I did not tell you or anyone, neither did anyone tell me, even the brothers did not tell me that this would happen." The day we were taken to jail, my husband had warned me that I would be imprisoned. I answered “So what? Many big (important) people have gone to jail.”

Didn't he oppose your going?
He did. Actually, he too is socially conscious, but he is a drunkard, and under the influence of liquor he opposes everything I do. Actually, he is very good, but there is too much conflict, no one can bear it. So I have become very hard. The whole village has been against me. When we came out of jail the government gave us permission to form Mahila Mangal Dals, so the village people, seeing us, turned against us. The day I returned from jail, no one did namaste (salutation) to me.

Was this when you went for the anti Tehri Dam movement?
No, not the Tehri dam, when we went for Chipko.

How many years is it since the Mahila Mangal Dals were formed?
Seventeen, eighteen years.

Are the Mahila Mangal Dals working well since then?
No, the men keep spoiling their work and then...

Have the women not given up, even then?
Yes, the women haven't given up. I am at the head of them! If on one side four of them break, four more come forward to take their place. Four women from Rampur who were with me, were harassed by their husbands and gave up, but four others joined up.

When........ have become... [unclear recording]
Absolutely, I was never alone, it never happened like that... these things keep happening.
Section 9
On what grounds are you opposing the Tehri Dam?
First of all, we believe that the [Bhagirathi] river is ours, that it should keep flowing as it has always; when our people die - my mother's house is in Tehri - we take our dead to Tehri. Now this will stop, then where will we go? At this moment the government people and foreign people will give [money] to you - but poor people.... I have seen that whatever happens all the blows fall on the poor. Rich people get away with anything, they can get employed on the dam work, they can make the dam theirs, but when the poor die, there will be no place even to float them down the river. Apart from that, this dam is dangerous. Whatever has been made has not been made well. So many years have gone by in making the dam, but nothing has come up. But the people keep asking “When the dam is already made, why are you protesting?” But I have been hearing about the anti-dam movement since the Chipko days that there is a protest movement going on at Tehri. We were busy with Chipko, so at that time we didn't go.

How many years were you involved with Chipko ?
We kept taking part off and on, but we finished our work in two years. And when we were in jail, then the protest carried on in Uttarkashi and other places where other people participated. In our area, Kunjadi forest was closed for 10 years and I said, they will never allow all of us to go to Tehri. When we went to jail it was for [trying to save] the forest. We did not even let the auction take place.

Is your village in the submergence zone?
No, none of ours comes into the submergence zone. In Tehri, Bahugunaji gives us lectures, talks to us. People say he must be having a vested interest. But my relationship with him is like this. I sit with him, sleep where he sleeps, involve myself completely in his work, to the extent that I know what he eats, or doesn't eat. People say with fear that he eats dried fruit [which is very expensive - poor people cannot afford it], but only those who stay with him know the truth. People even went to the extent of saying that you are with him everyday, are you his wife? He is a pandit (Brahmin caste) and I am Rajput (Kshatriya caste). It is like this, that what goes on inside a home, whether Bahugunaji is there or not, no one else can understand. But this I know for sure that Bahugunaji's relatives have taken compensation money, but he has not.
Bahugunaji says, “make small dams and convey water to our villages”. This is such a good thing to say. There is so much shortage of water in New Tehri town. Chamba is my parental home, there is such a great water shortage there. If we can get facilities for irrigation, and if we get good grain harvests in our hills, then we have no need to go anywhere else. These are the reasons why I oppose the Tehri Dam. Since there is water in our river, they are transporting it to Delhi. The people of Delhi are rich, they can do whatever they like. We are poor people. We have seen what happened in Pantnagar. When the water reached Pantnagar, we protested there also. The water went through the fields of the villages, their fields were finished, but the water was not given to the villages whose fields were affected. Only when we demonstrated was water given to them. It is not that we are protesting that the dam (Tehri) should not be built at all. But it should be built in such a way that we get water, first of all. What I mean is, the water should reach the people whose land it goes through. It should only be allowed to go further when everybody's stomach is full.
This is how people think. The first matter to be considered is that our children go to the plains to wash vessels for other people. So some employment should be started in the hills instead of a dam, which is uprooting us from our homes. So many of my people from Tehri have gone away. Some have gone to Dehradun, some to Rishikesh. I heard that some people were saying in a bus that the dam people are enjoying the cool air of the hills, while we have been shifted here to rot in the heat. Everyone loves their own home. What will the souls of these people say, the ones who have been uprooted? There is great sadness among those who have gone away from Tehri, our brethren. It is true that my village is not affected, but those who left were not even given good land.
Section 10
Is this the main reason why they (the displaced persons) are unhappy? That is, if they had been given good land would they be happy?
No, no. The government wants them to have good land, but even if they get better land, it is no substitute for losing a home - as a girl always yearns for her mother's home, however poor it is, even though she does not get enough to eat there. One's home is one's home. I have travelled up to Bombay, but I have not seen anywhere the kind of freedom we have in the hills, no other place has such good water, nor food, as we have in the hills.

Do you think that this is the major difference between the hills and any other place?
Absolutely, I lived for 15 days in Bombay and could not drink the water. I had to keep it in the fridge to make it cool, so by and large I drank tea to quench my thirst. And because I drank too much tea I was ill when I returned! And the mosquitoes! Whenever we had to go out at night we used to be very frightened. The Garhwali men and girls whom I met said they were very tense and afraid until everyone had returned home. "We never know whether they will return home safely". We are so free here. There was no road between the place where I was born and this village. There was no road to Tehri. People used to walk to Rishikesh. They were even happier as there were never any thefts. Now people have become educated, and now want just one thing, that they should not have to climb [hills], and they should not have to carry weights. This is the only problem here, and because of this people have created a thousand other problems. Now wherever vehicles reach .... We have had a theft here in Nagni (a small village in the valley of the Heval River) and in Chamba... in our area where we wear nose rings, big nose rings [made of gold]. Even I have worn a large amount of gold and silver... the incident in Guriali when one of girls was murdered even though she was not wearing any jewellery...

Why was she killed?
I have no idea... no one knows, but she was killed in these forests through which we have been walking even late at night.

What do you think was the reason? Was it because of people from outside coming in?
Yes, yes, the outsiders who come from here and there. People said that Purbiya [literally, from the east, but specifically referring to the labourers from Bihar who are brought to Garhwal to work on the roads, dams etc] people have done it. This has never happened here before. Even though people do fight verbally, but no one, by and large, raises their hand. I have also seen a lot in my fifty years.
Section 11
In your opinion then, roads have not brought any benefit?
No. In my opinion there has been only one benefit. People don't have to climb up and down. Important people are not able to climb, when they become fat and do no work but just keep sitting - like the Punjabis who are now sitting in Tehri and have settled here... I feel very sad when our women cannot even reach the place where Bahugunaji lives. Everyone can hear what I am saying, but I get very angry that when these people can learn to speak Garhwali, why can't they learn to walk? People don't become less [important] if they walk. I am now 50 years old, but if someone takes me to Dehradun, I will walk. There are footpaths, which are short cuts, and will get me there as quickly as a car. And I will remain healthy because of that.

Because of walking?
Yes. Walking keeps one healthy. Look at Bahugunaji. Those who are with him must be very healthy. They look very good (healthy). Raturiji (the Chipko Poet Ghanshyam 'Shailani' Raturji) says that the older Bahugunaji gets, the more loads he is able to carry! When he became a big leader, he was naturally burdened with more and naturally has to carry more loads [laughing].

You said that thefts and dacoity (banditry) have increased on account of roads. What other problems have the roads brought?
The fields have been cut up.


Was any compensation given for those?
They must have received some. But it is like this. There are some prominent people in a village, the pradhan (head of panchayat) and five panchayat (village council) members. They surely get compensation. But those people who have no one to speak-up for them, or no one who acknowledges them, they... In my natal village there are two roads, one on either side of the village. They cut the hillsides so badly that even houses were ruined. And when the stones fall (landslides) and more forests are cut... it is my feeling that the small stream in my native village which used to have a lot of water has dried up even since the roads were built.

When you say that roads do no good, you are saying it according to your viewpoint. Do all old people feel this way? And what do the younger people feel?
No, no, no. The young people? They even want the dam and what not. The problem is, these days people are not thinking about the future of their children, that there will be descendants after us, that we are someone's descendants, and we too will have people coming after us. We must leave something behind for them. They are not thinking of the future, all they want is money, it does not matter how they get it. Even the leaders feel that way. I have seen that whichever man gets money becomes deceitful. And people think all the time of money. When a road is to be built, the labourer thinks he will get money, the contractor thinks he will get the contract and will become important. That is all. No one is thinking ahead. We get fertiliser from our block. Fertiliser is so..... even I used it in the beginning. The first year I applied it, where I used to get 12 doan (local unit of measurement: 1 dhon = 32 kg.) I got 18.
Section 12
In the first year?
Yes, in the first year. I thought it was really wonderful. But in the second year the yield began to fall, and in the third year it fell even lower. In the fourth year it was exactly where it was before I started using fertiliser. The money that I spent on buying the fertiliser is a separate matter. Our land was harmed in exactly the same way that a man's body harmed when he drinks liquor. That was the effect the fertiliser had upon my land.

What was the reason for this? What was there in the fertiliser that brought about so much damage?
I do not know. At first other people also did this.... perhaps they have some doubt in their minds.... they said this is dirty stuff, it is made of bones.... it is very strong. When it was put on the crops, if a little extra was put in, the crop got burnt immediately. And following a dry spell, I never applied artificial fertiliser. There must be many people who don't but those who did apply it to their crops [after a dry period], their crops got burnt to ashes immediately.

How much cultivable land do you have. And how much do other families have?
Some families have 20 doan, but such families are few. I also have about the same. It yields 20 kattas (large jute bags) of grain.

In one year?

Does that much suffice for the whole year?
No, it does not last that long, because the mandua (finger millet) and sava (a wild grain) is too little.

Approximately how many months does it last?
Six months. But that depends on the rain.

Are most of the fields here irrigated or not?
Most are irrigated.

What is the method of irrigation here?
We always appoint one person to look after irrigation. He provides irrigation water to the whole village.

For the entire village?
Yes, one or two persons.

What is this system? What do you call it?
Kuhlvadu (person in village appointed to look after irrigation). He lays the kuhls (irrigation channels). His name is kuhlvadu. He releases the water when we go to our fields. Sometimes he has quarrels with people who accuse him of giving them less and others more, but by and large he gives everybody water fairly equally. We give him enough grain through the year, or every few months, according to the size and productivity of people's fields.
Section 13
When you do not get enough grain to last you the whole year, do you buy the rest from the market?

Do you grow vegetables?
I grow all the vegetables I need for my household.

Do you eat everything that you produce?
Yes, dal (lentils) chillies etc. everything. Everything grows in Rampur.

Do you grow fruits also?
Yes, fruit too.

Do you sell any?
Many people sell the fruit but I don't. I had planted some trees in my maternal home, so that became theirs. I had once thought that I would stay on in my maternal home, as I had no brothers. But I didn't like it there so I came away. I planted some fruit trees in our earlier house, but we came away here. We are new here. I have now planted some fruit trees here. Some guavas trees are ready for fruiting, others are not. We have been eating guavas from our trees for two years.

How much livestock do you have, both cows and buffaloes.
I have one cow. I have done everything that other people don't approve of! People prefer to keep buffaloes as they have more calves. So I have kept one cow which I have reared myself. My cow has one calf. She had a calf earlier, too. When a child is born in the village, I give them cow's urine [an observance of ayurvedic medicinal practise]. On the occasion of a daughter's marriage, they ask for my calf. If anyone dies, they come to me for my calf. People here get very annoyed when they see me. They say I have become very calculating. Women should not be calculating.

Do people really say this?
Yes. This is how they feel. The older people think that women should only cook. She should only tend the home fires. If she steps out of the house she loses her honour. So in a sense I have shown great disrespect to the people of Rampur. But now they are gradually beginning to admit that I do know something, that I have done something worthy of respect. When I began to speak and move about with confidence, and when the women (sisters) began to follow me, they say, well, she knows something, but you must not go. This is how the conservative people are in the village. Even now the women want to come with me, but their husbands will not let them. There are people who say that the country has become free, but the women are not yet free. Unless the girls begin to think of these things themselves, and feel that we are as good (equal) as the boys, there is no one who will give them that freedom. Not even their fathers. The father also feels that the daughter must listen to him, obey absolutely, and the husband will also insist that the wife will only do what he tells her to do.
Section 14
Why do people feel this way?
I don't know. Actually, this custom has been handed down through the ages. A Raja (king) used to marry seven wives, not just seven but as many as he pleased. If the Raja demanded that a poor man hand over his daughter to him, he handed her over, even if the Raja was an old man. However, this tradition existed. When a man is cunning.... try to understand this, that I do not exploit anyone, have never done so, nor have I thought of it. Nor have I ever been greedy for money or a house. For example, just because we have made a cement house now, have we become very proud, thinking that in the earlier days when we had a thatched hut we had nothing? No such thing. There was always attachment. My husband has harassed me a great deal on account of drink. I used to go barefoot in great fear to cut grass - but I have never felt such grief as I did when my daughter died. And now these children (her daughter’s) have also become my responsibility.

So, isn't the local doctor knowledgeable enough?
I don't know. The government doctor in Jajal (5 kms away) is a little knowledgeable, but he didn't come. He said he had no permission to come here. This doctor was a little unwell. At first people used to think he was very knowledgeable, but after he fell ill, from his body it seemed... I noticed that - I take very few medicines, but on two occasions I did get well, but... ever since he fell ill, something has affected him mentally, people felt that he was unbalanced. I think he has made a lot of money. He should not do this work any more.

Isn't there a government hospital here?
Yes, but it is in Jajal.

How far is it from here?
It is very far away.

Approximately how far?
2 or 3 miles or perhaps more. Yes, I think the doctor should leave his profession. I just reacted immediately, I didn't even know... at that moment my mind was not working properly. It has been a great disaster for us. Even though I am doing social work to help people, but at the time... everyone came to know what had happened... the doctor even asked me, "Sister did you say such a thing?" I said "Yes, but I have no enmity with you. You could not have killed her deliberately." But she died as if it was so, and I said as much. It was not as if said nothing. The doctor's injection could have given her a little time, even if she was to die eventually. But the medicine should have given her a little relief. But instead of helping her, she suddenly became much worse. I don't even know what illness it was. What can I say? I don't know the name of this fever. I have never had this fever before... whether it affects the stomach in some way, or it comes through drinking dirty water. I have never seen this kind of illness before. In the old days we used vaids (practitioners of indigenous medicine) in our families.

Are there no vaids nowadays?
They do not practice any more. People more often give their money to a doctor (allopathic doctor).
Section 15
They do not go to a vaid any longer?
No, not any more.

What could be the reason for this?
Because the English medicines are there for quick cures. They suppress the illness immediately. But I noticed when my younger daughter fell ill, and I gave her medicines for the fever, that almost immediately after she recovered she fell ill again with another illness. Since then her bowels had stopped moving, she was hot all the time, and she had one health problem or another all the time. So this is my experience of English medicines. It suppresses one disease, and another comes up in its place.

After this experience, did you take your younger daughter to a vaid?
Yes, we went to a vaid.

Did she get well after that?
The one who sees people is the doctor from Jajal. He examines patients very thoroughly, according to his training - they have to stay with their patients. Actually, we had taken her to Tehri also, but....

Are there any vaids in your village?
No one asks for a vaid any longer.

Are there any vaids?
Yes, in our village some women also know about [traditional] medicines.

Do they give medicines made out of herbs and roots?

Where do they bring them from?
I don't know how they make it (the medicines). People say that even English medicines are made with these (herbs and roots) and that they go from our area. I have heard that our..... (a local variety), which we eat a lot of, was made into a roti (unleavened bread) and eaten by our ancestors. I have observed that those people who don't eat too many spices remain strong. Those who drink a lot of tea, and eat a lot of chillies and spices only satisfy their tongue. When I was a young daughter-in-law, staying with my in-laws, I never used to get enough food to fill my stomach, that is, cooked food. Then I used to eat fresh fruit, from the forest and I used to be very strong.

Why did they not give you enough food to eat?
I don't know, at the time they used to think that I was only a daughter-in-law. They used to feed the whole family, and make the daughters-in-law do all the hard work but feed them less. It used to be like this with me.

Was it like this with everyone?
Yes, it was like this with everyone. I was a Major's daughter-in-law. My father-in-law was a Major in those days. But people used to eat worse than us. We used to eat fairly well. People have eaten only buttermilk. We have neighbours who have two buffaloes which have calved. They get plenty of buttermilk. I have learned all this by living in this place for so long. If you drink lots of buttermilk your stomach gets full. So in the olden days this is how people used to eat. There were wild yams in the forest. People used to dig them up for food and they used to eat timla (figs). When we used to leave home to cut grass, we were hardly thinking of the grass, not worrying about it the way girls do these days. These days girls have become very greedy. We never had any greed. We only did just enough work so that we would not have to listen to criticism, and we used to eat heartily, in the forests. Sometimes sour fruits, sometimes strawberries. It used to be strawberry season sometimes. We used to fill our bellies and only then cut grass. There used to be enough grass in those days.
Section 16
Did you find grass close by in those days?
Yes, it was quite close to this place. Now I have done a lot for the women in my village. The pradhans have done a lot of reforestation. The Yuvak Mangal Dals (village youth organisations) have also taken up this work, and I have brought in the Mahila Mangal Dals. All the women have worked on this project. The cactus (Euphorbia) has spread all over. All the women said that we could not cut it down. I said the cactus is easy to cut. But they were afraid that it gives out milk (white sap), and the drops fall all over. So I told them that the cactus is not going to see whether it is a man cutting them down or a woman! In fact the women work with a will whereas men have to be forced to work. One day a boy suddenly went [near the cactus] and the sap fell into his eye. The others were safe. So I quickly put another drop of milk into his eye and it drew out the sap. With that milk, the sap came out. We took the milk from a mother with a new-born baby. She was feeling very shy, so we put a few drops of her milk on a leaf and then we put it into the boy's eye, and his eye became all right. Then people began to say that women can't cut the cactus. So I told them that I would cut it, side by side with them. One or two of them raised their hands to stop me. Then I said that I would pay Rs5 more to every woman who cut the cactus. Then all the women began to cut the cactus for five rupees extra. Money has such power over people that...

Why did you undertake this programme?
The cactus has no use whatever after we cut it we planted trees. Cut the cactus first, then plant trees.

How big have those trees grown now?
It is like this. The hillside there is a very arid (degraded) one, so very few trees could be planted. But we put in as much effort as possible and also did guard duty (watch and ward). Someone said that women cannot do a watchman's work, so I did it! For this reforestation project we were given 200 rupees. At the same time I was at the dam site also [in protest], but I did the guard duty also. I have even snatched away the grass that the men were taking away [by stealth]. Wherever my eye falls... people could hardly believe that this fifty-year-old woman was sometimes here, sometimes there, and while they were looking somewhere else, I snatched the grass and took it home. Then we cut and sold grass worth more than Rs12 000. We cut the cactus and some small bushes were cut with it by mistake so we took the wood from the bushes home for our own use. The next year when the grass sprouted, I made the women do guard duty over it themselves. So the men of the village have got very angry with me that I manage everything by myself.
Section 17
You said you had to go long distance to get grass?

Do you have to do this everyday?
It is like this. Earlier, I used to cut lots of grass. Now I have become wiser, and I don't go anywhere. I have kept a cow, and two goats. I take them out to graze and bring back some grass with them. I also bring back firewood along with them, and sometimes I don't go anywhere for firewood. From the bushes around I take the thin twigs and branches, and use these as firewood to cook my rotis.

So you don't have to go too far?
No, absolutely not.

You find the wood nearby?
Yes, close by, in our fields. When we remove all the thorny undergrowth, we find it there. Now I don't go anywhere [to look for firewood]. I burn just a little at a time. People burn a lot at a time. People tell me, you have time to sit, and yet you manage to do all the work. This is God's Grace, that if you work sensibly, your work doesn't increase. I keep trying to make the other women understand that they must burn fuel wood sensibly. I keep telling the men, that since they keep boasting that they have lots of money, can they not get their wives gas connections? They have all travelled so much and those men, who have been in the army think no end of themselves and boast that they have a lot of money. But I keep telling them, that as long as your wives have to go so far to collect firewood, you are nothing! There should be some comfort in the lives of people who have money. I keep trying to make people understand.

Is there bio-gas here?
Some people have bio-gas here. We didn't have enough money, but I was also thinking of installing bio-gas for us. There is a shortage of money and a shortage of people [to help] since my daughter-in-law doesn't stay here.

How many people from your family live outside (elsewhere)?
Only my husband. My son is as you know....

Who organises matters for your household?
I do everything.

And when your husband returns?
When he comes, he says something in a drunken state, otherwise I do exactly as I please. Even if he objects to something I forcibly do it now since the girls are married. I heard from my daughter that our teacher had come. She (the teacher) said, in the early days brides used to be small girls, and when they sat in their doli (sedan chair which four men carry on their shoulders to take the bride to her husband's house) everyone could pick them up easily. But now they are young women, and the people who have to carry them... they are Harijans, they feel the discomfort very much. My daughters pointed out that people go all the way to Badrinath and Kedarnath carried on sedan chairs. The teacher said... I really liked her reply... that nowhere has she seen human beings being used to transport others. She said I am willing to make full payment [to those men] but I will not sit in one myself. If only everyone would think this way, that not only is this man having to transport himself, he has to carry me also. Surely I can move my body myself. It is not necessary that on the day of her wedding a girl has to sit on the doli. I got my daughter married, but I did not send her in a doli. And my daughters are so understanding that they did not create a fuss about getting silver and gold.
Section 18
Does everyone in the village come to help for a wedding?
Everyone. When a girl from the village is to be married, the whole village will collect firewood, or during times of trouble the whole village acts collectively. Everyone helps with each other fields. Even though some people have a lot of land, the village people make sure their work is done. So too if anyone is alone and had no help.

Do you have a village panchayat?

What kind of work does the panchayat do?
It carries out all the plans (schemes) and what not. It sorts out peoples’ disputes.

Does everyone attend the panchayat meetings?
Women do not attend. Some people from Rampur have even said that women have no right to attend panchayat meetings. But I have forcibly attended the meetings. There is no one who can throw me out!

Do people from all castes attend?
Yes. But though the government has said that there has to be at least one woman member, and Harijans also, but these are only observed as token gestures. Those who are cunning are the people who run the affairs of the village, and they exploit the village, all the five members of the panchayat. They exploit people so much that they can turn the whole village to their side. It happened like this, recently, at the time that my daughter died: Kunwar Prasun lives here. He has devoted all his life to social work, and he had absolutely no money. He brought a wife home - she is an educated girl. One day his wife was cutting fodder for her buffalo and she fell off the tree and broke her leg. She was treated by a doctor, but while her leg had still not healed, they had a problem fetching water.
Their village is... and they had built a house in Rampur. So they got a little money from Shivananda Ashram. They must have told them about the problems they were having, so they gave them a little money to tap water from the nearest water source. He asked the Rampur panchayat to give him water from the nearest small stream. This is a community resource, everyone takes water from here. You may consider it as belonging to the village or belonging to nature. So the people of the village opposed him, then the panchayat met, and permission was given. Then when the water was given, four or five army men from our village together, broke the pipe and brought it here, saying that this was not correct, the water belonged to the whole village and it must not be given to him. And they give it to him in writing that they had removed his pipe and taken it home. The police came. Then they declared that never before in Rampur had the police come, and he (Kunwar Prasun) has brought us dishonour, he must be removed from the village. So I went to the meeting, and I said I would put my signature, but I have to work with him on our common projects (greening, campaign against dams, etc.) You people have fought with him. You must not go (to the meeting), but don't prevent everyone from going. I said, "I have no quarrel with him, and I will go. He has not committed such a big crime. He has not killed anyone. He has not done anything wrong. I will go". At the same time my daughter had died, so I could not help him in any way. But I could not turn him away from my heart. They protested and said he would be penalised if anyone went there, but I went and three boys came with me. The whole town was in an uproar, saying that you have made us look like fools.
Section 19
Do people still not go to his house?
No, no, people do go now.

Does every one go there now?
Yes, we held a meeting after I went there.

How far is your water source from here?
It is all right.

Is it close by?
We have many springs here. Two tanks were made during a government programme. There was so much water there that people used to wash their clothes and other things there. As soon as the tank was built, the water disappeared. The tank remained empty! It has been made only for people to look at. They made another one below it, and that too is empty. Very little water now comes out from there. So how will they make this dam? Even our small tanks are now empty. The way people build as if the government has given huge sums of money. And what kinds of tanks are built where the water will not stay, but completely disappears? Now we use another spring.

Does the village have a temple?
Yes, we have one.

Does it belong to your village alone or to other villages as well?
It is only for our village.

Can everyone go to this temple?
Yes, but Harijans cannot go.

Apart from them everyone else goes?

Is there anything special about your deity?

Do any special castes or tribes live in this village?
The majority are Rautelas. There are also Mians and Dadwals.

What are these groups?
Mians are a caste. They are also from Garhwal. Mussalmans (Muslims) are also called Mian. But these Mians are from my community (related to us). They belong to the ruling clan.
Section 20
What is the status of Harijans in your village?
It is alright. We have heard that the Harijans status is very bad in the east, but in Garhwal it is not like that. People are not so oppressive. There is a little discrimination to the extent that people don't let them in their houses and don't let them touch the water.

Is everything else equal?
Yes, the relationship is equal (they are equal).

Have you noticed any changes in the women?
Yes, I have noticed some difference. In the old days, comparatively, women used to bathe and wash less. Now they are a little better.

Do the women, or illiterate women, think that they should have been educated?
Yes, they do think so. But they don't think too much in the sense that if the girls who are studying get jobs, it is all right. Otherwise they say what was the use of their studying? They don't have the slightest understanding that an educated person is an educated person even if the person stays at home. But people feel that even after studying if you have to cut grass of what use was it (education)?

Do you think that there is a difference in thinking between you and today's educated young people?
There are some children who are very understanding. They respect the old ways. It is not as if all of them are the same. Education does not make them completely different. In my opinion, an understanding girl will remain so, even if she becomes educated. I have seen many girls. For instance if one becomes a teacher, she considers herself superior because she is educated. I think that even if an educated girl has to work (in the fields), there is nothing wrong with it. Educated people have more knowledge about regular eating habits. In the old days if people ate at the right time, well and good. Otherwise they did not care. If a mother is educated she can teach her children something. Children do not go to school here before they are five years old, so the earliest school for them is the mother.

Till what level is the school here?
Till the fifth class.

After that?
Jajal, (A village 5kms away from Rampur)

How many kms away is Jajal?
Quite far. At least two or three kms.

Apart from that is there any other school to which people send their children?
Yes, yes - my husband went to school in Fakot.

Do those who have gone away from the village return for religious festivals?
Yes, some of them do come back. The youngsters get an opportunity to dance and beat the drums for as many days [of the puja]. Ashtami [the eight days that precede Dussehra, an important religious festival all over India] is for eight days, and people like to come for that.
Section 21
What are the customs and traditions prevalent here?
Ashtami is observed. Some years ago we did not used to observe it, only Dussehra was observed.

Which is the main religious festival in your village.
Only Diwali, what else? [Diwali follows 14 days after Dussehra, and is generally held to observe Rama's victory over Ravana, a legend from the Hindu epic the Ramayana.]

Do the village boys and girls want to enter service or do they want to be farmers?
No one wants to do farming. I have been to Delhi. Our boys from Rampur live in houses that look like lavatories. They undergo so much hardship in their work and the landlord says all sorts of things to them. I visited someone's house and I found she was using a government (public) latrine, and her own house was like a hovel. So this is how they live in the towns. But we poor people are free, we have our own houses in our village and breath free air. At least we have our own toilet facilities. We can go anywhere! When I went to use the public lavatory, I felt sick and couldn't use it. I wept when I saw their houses.

So what do you think is the reason they do not want to come back here?
I don't know. They probably have fanciful ideas that when people return to the village from the city they wear better clothes and their families feel that they are doing some good work. That's what I understand.

You mean when they return home they wear good clothes?
Yes, when they return they wear good clothes. Over there they don't, I have seen that. How can they wear good clothes when they only wash dirty vessels the whole day. I have seen in the house of a military man, there are two servants who wash vessels in the cold for an hour or two at a time. They remain bent over for that time, they have to wash so many vessels. Perhaps people here think highly of them because they are in service.

How many people from here are in government service outside?
There are plenty of people from almost every household (in government service). My son could not go because of his condition, but I have five brothers of whom only one stayed back at home. My father-in-law was a Major (in the Indian Army), my elder brother-in-law was a Captain, and two brothers-in-law are Naik Subedars (JCOS). My husband is a Havildar (an NCO), so all of them are in the army.

Do some people get work in the village also?
Yes, village people do their own work for some months, and get paid work for some months.

Do you have blacksmiths, tailors, leather workers in this village?
No, we have none in our village. Our blacksmith lives in Kudi village, the shoemakers are in Chamba. I have seen only one here.
Section 22
Are there old weavers in the village?
No. They too are not here.

Do you have to buy these things from outside?
Yes. Earlier people use to eat the grain ground in a kuhlu (water mill). We used to eat grain pounded at home. Now our girls, especially when foreign visitors come also feel like... Just as I feel when English visitors come, that I too should have known how to speak English... When sisters (village women) ask me why I made a house like this (with cement) I tell them that I did it because it was a fancy [idea] I had. Now I can see that this house only looks nice and white from the outside to visitors. Otherwise I have lived here only for one or two years, and my feet have begun to crack very badly. They never did that where I lived before. My feet get really cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. But people feel envious when they see other's things.

Do you get labour from here or are they from Nepal?
People bring Nepalis here. It has become like this that Nepalis work much harder, so people think that they can exploit them. If a person belongs somewhere else and so no one here knows him he can be exploited; men from the local villages cannot be exploited. They will only work if they can spare the time, and only do as much as is possible. But I have got all my work done through local village people. I got everything completed without any money. In any case I didn't have so much money...

Do the village people help at the time of building a house?
Yes, they give a lot of help and support.

What are the activities involved in the cropping season?
To plant the wheat we plough the fields two or three times. Then we sow the seed and put manure.

Where do you get the seed and manure from?
Both the seed and manure are ours. We make everyone understand that they must sow their own seed (local seed). We maintain this [practice] exactly as we used to earlier. We have collected at least 200 to 300 species of rice. Those seeds, which had disappeared from our area, have been re- discovered and brought back from Ranai and other places.

Who helped you to this work?
Vijay bhai and Vandana behn (sister) [the references are to Vijay Jardhari and Vandana Shiva] have been encouraging us to do this work. Most of the collection is with Vijay [Jardhari], and I do the same in my house. Earlier I thought that I could always procure the seed from other sources, but later I realised that other people often use government manure (chemical fertiliser), so there must be some difference between their seeds and mine. So I now store my seeds myself.

Do you really believe these things?
Section 23
Have you ever felt that the climate is changing, or do you think it has remained the same?
The climate has changed a great deal. I have seen times when people used to call the months of Savan (July/August), the season of darkness (fifth month of the Hindu year and the rainy season). Sometimes we could not see the sun throughout.

There was so much rain?
There used to be so much rain during these months, whereas now we are planting wheat during this time. Where is the rain now? This is absolutely....... just as men are changing (becoming degraded), the seasons are also changing.

What could be the reason behind this?
How do I know? I am not a great scientist!

But what does your experience tell you?
I think that our jungles are affecting the situation.

Because the forests are being cut?
Yes, I have noticed that whenever there is rain, it is drawn to the place where there are forests. We have forests on the other side, and the rains come there first. So the trees must possess some powerful divine nature that they can pull the water towards them.

Do you get medicinal herbs and roots in your forests?

Are they traded outside as well?
Yes, there is some trade. If we do trade it is with government agents only. Our people only want to do service outside, even if they are only washing dishes, but their own work... We have trees full of amla (sour green fruit) in our jungles, but only now are our people beginning to learn a little... I keep explaining to them that the amla is such a fruit that we get so much value from it, so now people are beginning to make a little pickle. Otherwise they are....

Do you also protect the forest that have been planted?
Yes, twenty-four hours of the day I am saying that no one should cut green branches, not at all. Those shrubs that are harmful which ruin the forests, like the lantana, which propagates itself and does not allow any other species to grow [should be cut] so I keep telling people not to cut green trees. It is only when we stop cutting green wood that.... When we accuse the forest department of wrong doing, then they tell us that our own people are also doing the same. Each woman has a sickle in her hand and they clear-cut the forests. I have even fasted on this issue.

What do you do when the forest catch fire?
The whole village turns out to put out the fire. But now fewer people come.

What could be the reason for this?
Now compassion is no longer the people's religion.
Section 24
Don't they get grass and wood from the forests, too?
Yes, they do.

Despite which they do not come [to put out the fires]?
Very few come. Earlier people regarded their forests with a great deal of compassion (religious) that “our” forests are burning. Now they do come, but most of our men are living away, and the women are busy with their household work in their villages. Earlier, few men used to do service even if they were hungry and thirsty in their houses, so we had many more people around.

As you were saying, children must be educated.

Then do you think that after they get educated they should go out of the village for work, or should they stay at home and look after their fields?
I think that they must be educated and somehow stay at home as well. However they work, they must do it from home. We have so much work here. But they will not do it, and never have. I definitely do not want young people to go away.

Apart from your marriage was there any major event in your life?
Yes, I got married. My wedding was performed in great style by my father.

At what age did you get married?
I was fifteen years old.

Do people wear the same kind of jewellery now as they did at that time?
Now they don't wear it.

Why not?
Out of fear, nowadays they make it and wear it only for a day. I wore a lot of jewellery, to the extent that it used to hurt, but people used to forbid me to remove it as they said it was a sign of good fortune (for the husband).

Was this tradition observed by all?

Why has this tradition disappeared?
Ever since I became aware I have begun to believe that the jewellery that is made for us is like the decoration made for the cows and buffaloes. In one sense it is meant for the same purpose, to make us bend (bow down). There is pain here and there, and then we are constantly worried that it will get lost. If nothing else, it was a kind of bondage for us, [in the sense] that this is how our husbands made all this for us with love, so that they became ours, and they must not go here and there... I don't think that jewellery... in earlier times jewellery was regarded as a woman's estate. Her hold was only over her jewellery. Despite that some husbands were not straight and used to take away the jewellery.

As you say, if everyone wants to go out and they all leave, what will happen to our culture?
There will always be someone or other who stays here. In any case people have already ruined our old culture. About going to work, certainly some people should go and work in a suitable way outside. Then it is a good thing. Those people must come here, we must go there, that is good. It is certainly not good that we should only remain sitting in our houses and see nothing at all. But despite all my work, without doing anything, I have travelled around the world. There are many ways one can travel. When I have neither seen Germany or Japan, nor have I read about them in books, but when I have only met people (from these countries) and heard what they have to say, even though I do not know English, and Hindi speaking people have had to translate for me, I have heard all about their customs and practices. People from many countries have been here, and I ask them what kind of culture they have. A German girl came here once, and I asked her, "You have come from such a distant place, you must have had some problems along the way". She replied that she had not experienced any troubles along the way except in Rishikesh! At that moment I felt so sad that it was in our Garhwal that she had been troubled (harassed). When I see drunkards I think that all this climbing up and down is much less of a problem than the trouble caused by drunk people.
Section 25
Has the Mahila Mangal Dal done nothing [about this]?
A lot. We have put a lot of pressure, also through persuasion and love.

Has it had any effect?
Yes, at the time that we start our demonstration it makes a difference, people get scared. But afterwards they again start [drinking].

Where do they get the liquor from?
Some people brew liquor in their own houses.

Do they do this in your village?
No, they do not make it in my village. In my village they certainly drink a lot, but they don't brew the liquor there. They are kings in this sense at least that they don't brew their own liquor!

Have you ever launched an attack on those places where liquor is being brewed?
Plenty of times.. Such attacks that...

Did you hand them over the police?
No, we imposed our own penalties (fines) on them.

Have they stopped brewing liquor?
Some people did stop. We held meetings, we humiliated them in front of everyone, but we never handed them over to the police even for a day. We made them understand, people even took out guns for me...

Why didn't you hand them over to the police?
I do not like it that we file a case against them with the police, and these people pay money (bribes) and have themselves released. Rather than make our poor people part with their money to the police, it is better that we make them understand. If they don't then they will land up with the police themselves one day. But I do not like to write to the police.
Section 26
What do you think of the new generation?
Let them think. Why should I think anything?

You must have some message to give?
I think that these people should study even if they are girls, they must also work there is no reason why they should not work, but they should not become arrogant that they are working, they must consider themselves the same as everyone else. Your appearance does not change when you study; you only acquire wisdom. There are some people who only know how to read books, and cannot do anything else. I have seen many educated girls and married women, but that they have brought any diversion (hopes) to the village I have not seen. For instance, that they have sat in the panchayat and explained to us that by becoming educated our understanding has increased. Many educated women work too. I had thought that I would get my two girls married and I would transfer my love for them to my daughter-in-law. But my daughter-in-law turned out to be like this, and who am I to give my love to?

Will you let your daughter continue to study after her BA?
As much as she can. Even if she hasn't the capacity. My daughter has the freedom.

Will you then want her to work?

What is the most important event in your life from your birth till now, which you remember even now?
Good or bad?

Either kind. The memory of which has remained in your heart?
Most of all is the unfortunate event of my daughter’s death. God has made my son so different, but I never made any difference between my son and my daughters. I taught my children with a great deal of love, My children have never strayed from me, even if they have studied only up to the BA.
The tape concluded here and the interviewer did not take any notes of the dialogue that followed.