photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 22)








Vauna and Ghamsali, Nandakini valley, Chamoli


December 1996



Section 1
How many families live in this village?
Around 60 families.

How long have they been living here?
We are residents of this place. We stay here for six months and at Ghamsali for the next six. It is situated on the border of India [with China]. It takes seven days to reach there on foot but if we take a bus at five in the morning, we get there around five in the evening of the same day.

Do you still go there on foot?
Those who have cattle walk with their animals, and other members of their family come by bus.

What do you have at Ghamsali?
We have our house and fields. We cultivate potatoes, chemi (variety of bean), barley and uva (variety of barley). Uva is like wheat but we do not use it for making chapattis (thin flat bread). It is used for making coarse flour. Barley is used for making chapattis.

When do you harvest barley and uva?
We harvest them during mid-August to mid-September and in the first week of Ashwin. Potatoes are harvested in March/April.

Does your produce last a whole year?
If one has sufficient land then the produce lasts a whole year. But if one has less land, the crop is also less.

Do you have to buy grain?
Yes, those who have less land have to buy more grain.

Do you have to pay cash for buying grains or you barter something else for it?
At present we have to pay money to buy food grains. But earlier we exchanged food for food grain. We used to barter different commodities with Tibetan people. They gave us wool and salt and we being Bhotiya (ethnic group of Chamoli District) people gave them barley, uva and chemi.
Section 2
Why did you buy wool from the Tibetans? Didn't you get it from your own sheep?
No, we bought wool from the Tibetans in large quantities. We used to spin wool and make carpets, blankets, etc. We deal in the business of wool only.

You never kept goats?
We used to have goats before but not now because all the children are working these days so there is no one to look after the goats. We used to have our own wool but it was too little. So we generally bought wool from Tibetan people. Goats provided a good means for carrying goods to high altitudes.

Where are your children working?
One is in Delhi, and others must be in some different place. Everyone is in service.

How many children do you have?
Two children are studying and one is working in Delhi. He must be around 25-30 years old. Then there is a daughter who is studying and another youngest son.

What is your age?
About 53 years.

Where is your daughter these days?
She is studying in Gopeshwar. She is in her fifteenth year. She has come home these days.

Does she know how to spin and weave?
Yes, she does all the household work also. She knows spinning and weaving and she makes carpets at home.

Your family members who live in cities outside, do they continue to do this work there also? Do the literate people continue to do this work?
Yes, they do. When our daughters get married and go to the cities, they carry a spinning wheel with them and spin wool to make balls. They do not mind weaving a small mat or so in front of other people in the city, but they spin wool secretly because people laugh at them. When they come to the village, they bring the wool with them and make shawls out of it here. No one makes fun of this work here. All the women do this work.

What other work do the people do in the village?
Some people have horses and mules and use them for transporting goods.

How many families do this work?
There are two families who have mules for transporting goods. Others have sold them. We also sold our mules this year. Everyone in the village is now working, so most people have sold off their mules.
Section 3
Why has everyone sold them?
We had to sell our horses and mules because my husband had a fall. He was taking the mules when he fell from a rock and suffered an injury to his spinal chord. He has not recovered yet so we cannot do this work anymore.

What is your husband's name?
Kushal Singh.

What is his age?
55 years.

Can he do any other type of work?
Yes, he spins on the wheel. He cannot move his hand forward and backward but he can use the wheel to spin the wool.

Your son is in Delhi. Why don't you take your husband there for medical treatment?
He does not know about it. He can take him only when he comes here.

You did not inform him by letter?
No, I did not write to him, he will worry. When he comes home, then he will arrange for the treatment.

You say that all the boys are working and they have gone to different cities to work. Do you think he would like to come back to the village?
Yes, he likes returning to the village. They keep coming to the village. They come straight to Ghamsali. We have our god there and they come there to worship him. Every man loves his motherland. He comes to the village with his wife and children.

What are the names of your gods?
Faila, Panchaag, Pandav.

Who is the favoured deity of your family and your village deity?
The family deity is Faila and the village deity is Pandav. We believe a lot in both Pandav and Faila

How do you worship Faila?
Flour is made out of fafra (buckwheat). It is given the shape of small mountains and worshipped. A villager takes a goat early in the morning around 5 o'clock to the temple of Lord Faila He keeps a fast and worships the deity. Another man goes with him to play the drum. He comes back around six to nine in the evening. After that all the villagers go to the temple. The goat is sacrificed in the temple. Women do not go into the temple.

Why? What is the reason?
It is considered shameful. Women do not go in front of God.

Did you never ask your mother or mother-in-law why we cannot go, or why only women cannot go there?
This has been an age-old custom. It is considered embarrassing. We cannot go inside the temple. When they return to the village after the prayers have finished, it is the eldest woman who worships the statue of the god in the house and then prepares meat, tea and snacks for everyone.
Section 4
Today also the girls do not take part in the prayers?
They go to the temple to light candles lamps or to attend yagya (sacred fire rituals). But they do not take part in this particular event.

Where do the people stay who play the drums?
The people who beat the drums belong to our own community. We call them Das. They are settled in our own village.

What do you give them?
We give them money and food.

How do you give them money? You pay them for the whole year or as and when they beat the drums?
We pay them when they play the drums.

“Giving a part of the harvest to the drum-beaters” (Garhwali saying alluding to the importance of drum beating to the community), do you have any such custom here?
Yes, we have. He has a part in the harvest. We give them their share of food-grains from every produce. Those who are rich give accordingly. When we go to Ghamsali during summers, since our fields are there, we send them one tin of mandua (finger millet) the rich give two tins, the poor give half a tin and some other food-grains also. When we come here to Vauna we give them chemi, potatoes and uva from our second produce. They have their share of everything.

Do these people, the Das as you say, go with you to Ghamsali also?
Yes, they stay with us at both the places. They are our own people who live in our village.

How do you worship the deity of your family?
We worship the goddess all the twelve months but the deity of the family – Pandav- is worshipped during mid-August to mid-September.

Who are the Pandav?
Yudhishttir, Draupadi, Arjun, Nakul, Sahadev, they are the pandavas.

Do the pandavas dance? I have seen them dancing in other villages. Do you have it here also?
Yes, during August and September the Das people dance. They are worshipped, goats are sacrificed and rote (a thick sweet flour chapatti) is offered. This prayer takes place only once. You must go up and see it. Come to our village this year. The pandavs come and dance on (possess) some villagers.
Section 5
This worship takes place even today?
Yes, it takes place today also.

How do you do your dan-pujan (paternal worship or ancestor worship)?
We do not call our pitri – puja a dan-puja! People who belong to the Tolcha caste call it so. We call it pitri-puja in our language.

What is the name of your language?
Our language is Marcha. Their language is Tolcha.

How do you do pitri-puja (ancestor worship)?
Whenever our ancestors are annoyed they put the blame on us. To remove it we worship our ancestors at any time of the year. But during shradh-puja (September, when ancestors are worshipped) we worship our ancestors according to the specific dates.

Tell me, what other festivals do you have?
We have a festival in June-July. We call it Barry. A big piece of sem (variety of grass, grows over water; used for burns) is brought and a large statue is made out of it which is known as Barry. There is a lot of fanfare and drum beating. The people of the panchayat (village council) bring the wood and get the statue made. It is then kept in a large ground decorated with flowers. Boys, girls and all men and women gather there and sing dakudi chachudi songs, and dance (women dance on one side and men on the opposite site). The zamindars (land owners) call it dakudi. We call it dakudi chachudi. After the dance men aim at the statue with arrows. People applaud when someone's arrow pierces the statue and start to sing and dance with gaiety. Then they all go to that person’s house, where they are served tea and snacks. Das are also given food and paid money. The children who come dancing to the house are also given money. Earlier they were given Rs 20-25, but now they get Rs 50-51 and some also give Rs 101 so that children may buy whatever they want to.

On which day is this festival celebrated?
On the day Aashad (June/July) ends and Savan (July/August) begins, this festival is celebrated.

Why do you call it Barry?
It is the enemy of Lord Bhumiyal (the God of Land). That is why on this day it is shot by an arrow and killed.

Is there a legend behind it? What is the story about Barry?
We do not know about the legend but it is said that once no one's arrow pierced the statue and so people came back home. That night the chain on the door of every house could be heard and a buffalo like creature came in to the village. The next day people again went to shoot the statue with arrows but when they could not, they threw stones and broke it down. It is necessary to kill it the same day. The year it does not happen we have some problem or other.
Section 6
Do you still believe it today?
Yes, we believe it today also. It comes wherever the people live, Lord Bhumiyal is annoyed and we are cursed. Therefore, people come home to offer their prayers. We go to Ghamsali also.

You all keep migrating up and down [Ghamsali and Chinka, Vauna]. Do you go walking?
Yes we go on foot, but this year we came by bus. Almost all the people have come by bus.

Do the women face any difficulties when going up [to Ghamsali]?
There are different problems which come our way, but we like it.

What are the problems?
We start walking early in the morning and continue till night. It takes seven days to reach there, sometimes ten days. We stop walking at 10 o'clock at night and on an average walk 13 km per day. Whenever we stop we collect fodder for the animals. Sometimes pregnant women start their labour pains on the way and when that happens the women folk inform each other and gather together to help the woman. We wait a few hours after the baby is born. Then it is put into a basket and carried further. The woman is given clothes and sometimes we stay back for a day and move on the next day. We put the basket on our back and move. Some women deliver babies while walking. They do not even come to know. The child is bathed on the way. The woman (mother) is given salt tea with ghee (clarified butter) and barley flour to eat. This is the food we carry with us. We call the salt-tea najrya.

Don't you even make the woman sit?
No, we keep walking.

How do you perform the naming ceremony of the child?
Some call the child Batu (meaning ‘the way’). Many women in the nearby village (Chinka) have delivered this way. Their children are called by the name of Batu. When we were young some women delivered their babies while getting grass and wood from the forest. There women brought their babies folded in their shirts with the bundle of grass tied on their backs. [They wear a length of cloth draped around the body over their shirts which is called a pakhi.]

How do they bring the babies folded in their skirts?
It is a special technique. Another woman gives the woman her skirt and wraps the pakhi completely around herself.

In what other ways do you help each other?
All the villagers get together to give financial help to a poor person in the village, which may help him when he is ill, or if he has some other problem. If at any time a person does not have money, then others lend him some money, which he duly returns to them later.
Section 7
Do you also help each other while making carpets?
Yes. We call others to help out when making carpets. Two people sit on one loom. We divide the design into two parts and weave the carpets.

Do you make the designs from your own imagination, or do you copy them from some book?
Today we take designs from anything. But earlier we had to use our own imagination.

How do you colour the wool?
We dye it ourselves. These days we buy the colour from outside but earlier we used to make our own natural colours and dye the wool. We used to dye it with walnut colour.

What are the other natural dyes that you use?
Tatari (from tartar), surang (?), dholu (from rheum emodi, rhubarb), are some of our own natural colours which we used to get from the forest. Sometimes the colours bought from outside faded, but our natural colours remained as good as new. The colour red is from dholu, which is very fast. It does not fade even when washed. We also make khagshaya (?) colour. Tatari is a yellow colour. Walnut colour is also yellow but with a difference. We did not have enough money, therefore, we used to make colours from different herbs.

How are the colours made?
Red colour is made from a root called dholu. This root is boiled in the water till it releases colour. Then we put wool in the water till it absorbs all of it. Wool is also boiled in the water till it soaks up the entire colour. But with the new colours we have to put salt in some, or acid. In the old days we just had to boil our natural colours.

Do you still use natural colours?
Not any more.

Why? Are there no more roots and herbs?
Don't know why people do not use those colours anymore. There are roots and herbs, but people buy colours from the market. These new colours are bright whereas our natural colours are a little dull. That is why people have stopped using them.

Do you have a mid-wife in your village?
Yes we have. Even these days the midwife treats the women. We do not call the nurse. Either the midwife treats us or we go straight to the hospital in Gopeshwar.
Section 8
Where do the midwives get the training from?
They learn it themselves in the village itself. They do not go outside anywhere.

What was the condition of people's health before, and what is it like now?
It was better before, no one was ill, ever. Sometimes a few persons fell ill, but today there is not a single person in the village who does not have medicine. Every person has one or other medicine. People are taking drugs in the same way as we used to eat chivda (dried rice, eaten as a snack) in the village.

Why do you think it has happened?
When we used to have our own harvest, our own food grains, we were healthy. But now we have started buying grains, which are not pure. That is the reason why people have become unhealthy. We had Ayurvedic doctors in the village who treated the sick. Who was familiar with an injection? No one. There was no hospital.

Do you still have a local doctor?
Yes, you can find a local doctor in Gadora and Kaudya villages, which are across the river.

Do you know any Ayurvedic treatment?
No, I do not. I am familiar with attis and kadwi herbs. When we have a stomach-ache we say that we must use attis. Now this herb has also become extinct. We do not use home remedies now - instead we take medicines.

When some important decision is taken in the house are the women also consulted?
Yes, we are consulted.

Can you take a decision regarding the marriage of your daughter?
I cannot decide alone. Earlier it was the girl's father who searched for a suitable groom but now it has become necessary to know the girl's opinion. The mother also decides now unlike the days when fathers used to take the final decision. The mother and daughter's decision is necessary as well as the children's opinion.

When you traded with Tibet, all the men would go there. At that time, women did all the work. If you had some serious problem, how did you face it?
We all lived together. If there was any problem in the village, we all helped each other. No one was alone. Some men stayed with us but not always.

Do you make some special dishes during festivals?
Salt tea is our speciality. Earlier we used to have it as our tea. It was our custom but now we also have sweet tea. Even then we have breakfast and an evening snack with salt tea, ghee and sattu (flour made from roasted grains). Unless we have this we do not feel satisfied. We also have salt tea and rice. Though we eat enough chapattis we cook rice at both times. We buy rice and take it with us up to Ghamsali since we don't have rice there. Jhangora and kauni (varieties of millet) are our own produce.
Section 9
You carry all the goods with you to Ghamsali?
We used to carry all our things before but now we have some things which remain here and some up there. Utensils stay at Ghamsali and we have strong houses made of cedar wood with roofs covered with slate.

Which trees do you have in the forest?
We have pine, cedar and birch trees.

Do you worship the trees?
We use birch tree for worship or prayers but we do not worship the trees. We celebrate the festival of Nandashtami and worship the goddess Nanda Devi.

What is the difference between the zamindar and you?
The Gangadi are called zamindars. These are the people who live near the river. They have a lot of land and therefore they are called zamindars. We do not have enough land, so we keep moving up and down and are settled in this way of life.

What is the relationship between the people of the older generation and the new generation?
People of the new generation do not understand our views. They prefer using the modern things more often.

What is it that you liked and disliked about the old times?
Though we faced many hardships in life earlier, we were independent. We were not distressed or agitated about anything, unlike today's youth. We were happy. We were never in a hurry over anything. Today there is a lot of competition amongst people, a feeling of wanting to outdo the other. In our times we did the wool work at our own pace. We washed it, disentangled it, spun it and then wove it. We used to weave the cloth on looms tied to our back. It was the oldest method of making fabric. New methods came gradually. We made 12-13 foot carpets, helped each other, and like hawkers set out to sell the carpets.

Did the women also go to sell the carpets?
No, we never went and no one goes now. Women of the Tolcha community used to sell spices.

Do you have marital relations with Tolcha community?
We feel they are lower than our caste. God knows whether they are higher or not. May be they also have ill feelings in the same way for us. We are Marsha and they are Tolcha. Their women sold coloured threads also which are used for embroidering blankets and shawls.

You must have a panchayat here. Do you participate in it?
At first the women never participated. It was not our custom. But now they do take part in it. In fact, women are now contesting the elections and forming the panchayat.

Didn't you ever feel like taking part in the panchayat?
Yes, we did. When we went to the forest for wood we spoke to each other regarding how we would give our decision had we been in the panchayat. We used to play a game and have fun and every woman would announce her decision in the game. There is a Yuvak Mangal Dal (women’s organisation) and a Mahila Mangal Dal (rural women’s council) in the village now. When they take a decision, the women are also consulted, and our say also has weight. There are meetings to resolve various conflicts and we are able to reduce the tension.
Section 10
Did any one ever have to go to the court?
Our society considers going to the court or police station as a very bad thing. Till now no one has ever had to go to either of these. We find going there as highly inferior. Any man or women who goes there is looked down upon.

You have a Mahila Mangal Dal. What work do they do?
We are particular about cleanliness. Otherwise there is no special work as such.

You have had elections to select the village head. What was the election like?
The village head was elected unanimously. Other members had to contest the elections. A woman was also elected, perhaps, as a by-member.

Do you breed animals in the village?
Yes, we used to. But now much less so. At first we used to have many animals because everyone lived together in the house, but now there are fewer members of the family which results in problems of getting fodder from the forests. Fetching the grass takes a long time and our wool work suffers. That is why we keep fewer animals now. Those who have cattle usually leave for the forest around four or five o'clock and are back home by nine or ten o' clock.

What was your old jewellery like?
We used to have silver paunchis for wrists, ghagula (silver bangle), bulak (ring worn in the centre of the nose) for the nose and a nose ring made of silver; earrings, a silver hansuli was the necklace, and chandrahar which is a necklace of silver coins. When one walked slowly, loaded with all these jewels, with a basket full of goods on the back, sometimes also with a baby above the goods, the ornaments tinkled [Laughs]. The newly wed women could not even handle so much jewellery because if the nose ring or bulak was pulled by a child by mistake, or got caught in the clothes it was very painful, and tears used to come to our eyes. We would stop every now and then to wipe the tears. It was not possible to take them off for fear of losing them. It was safer to keep them on.

What clothes did you used to wear?
We wore a ten metre skirt and a woollen wrap on top of that. Now the girls wear a different dress. They wear a sari (length of cloth draped around the body, worn by women) or a salwar kameez (loose trousers and long tunic). We feel cold in those outfits so we still wear our traditional clothes, which are best for us. We tie a twenty-yard cloth around the waist, which helps to keep the waist straight, and the woollen shawl also does not slide downwards. There is a turban on the head. We did not wear sweaters before. We wore a small shirt like a blouse and a full sleeved woollen garment on top.
Section 11
You must have your old jewellery. Do you wear it?
I don't have them anymore. They are with different people.

How did you work bare feet in such cold weather?
We used to wear shoes made of wool and leather. A cobbler used to come to sell the shoes, and he used to make them also. These people stay near Kalimat. The shoes were very beautiful. They were decorated in a special way. Only they knew how to make such shoes. Though in the beginning one got blisters on the feet because the leather was hard. No one had socks at that time. We did not know what these were. Now the new shoes have come into use.

Do the young girls not wear the traditional dress at all?
No, they don't wear it. They prefer wearing maxi-skirts or saris. When the women perform the folk dance then the girls wear this dress because the dance looks good only in the traditional attire.

What is the name of this dance?
The name of the dance is dakudi-chachudi. The married women wear a cap embroidered with red and golden threads, which has a long strap hanging at the back, which signifies their marital status. In our traditional dress their cap is very special. On widowhood this cap is torn from the middle and then the widow wears a plain white turban.

Can widows remarry?
No, they cannot. They could not marry earlier, nor can they do so now.

Do you think that widows should not marry again? I just want to know your opinion.
I think that those who are young should marry again. Otherwise they have to spend all their lives as widows. Why should young girls have to endure a life full of hardships? What is the use? And there is no point in women who have come of age remarrying. They have their own children. They should not leave their children. Girls who have no children should marry. Society should permit her to get married.

Tell me about the marriage ceremony in your community?
Well, marriage ceremonies are almost alike in the whole of our society. It takes place over two days. In the old days in our community, all the villagers used to go with pomp and fanfare to the groom's house and stay there for two days. On the second day they proceeded to the girl's house and stayed there for three to four days. Everyone had food and enjoyed themselves. Then they took the bride to the groom's house.

Did you have pheras (ceremony in which the bride and groom walk around a sacred fire seven times)?
Yes, we did. But it took place at the groom's house. These days you take the barat (marriage procession) to the bride's home and that night they perform pheras. The next day the barat returns to the boy's house.
Section 12
You have the cow dung pats decorated with flowers. What is the significance of this?
Yesterday we celebrated the festival of Diwali (festival of light) and so we decorated the door with garlands. This year we had very few flowers, so we put cow dung and stuck flowers on it! Earlier we used to celebrate with torches at night but not anymore.

I don't know why we don't play now.

Did you ever have any social movement here?
Yes. We had a big tree plantation movement for environment. We have done it many times. We planted all the trees, which were given to us by the government. Four or five years ago there was a flood in the river which flows by the side of our village which caused a lot of damage to our land; two houses also collapsed. Now we have planted trees in that area.

We have heard that there was flood in Alaknanda river also?
Yes. It happened a long time ago. It was during summer when we were at Ghamsali. There was a market there which has become a plain now. Everything along with the bridge was drowned. My father-in-law and others also had their shops there. In that flood which came four years ago, there was a lot of lightening and with it huge boulders were dislodged. We heard the sound as they approached and we were terrified. People said that this mountain had no trees which is why lightening had struck here. So, all the men went there and dug holes and women planted trees. If you go down below you will be able to see those trees now that they have become very large. We have also put fencing there. Now we are going to plant trees in another place. That is our panchayati (belonging to the village) forest. We do not take our herds there for grazing. We have also appointed a watchman to take care of that place.

Are you educated?
No, there were no schools in our times. But now everybody sends their daughters to study. In our times neither the parents nor the daughters were interested in studying. Today the mother herself or some other family member goes to leave the children in school because the way to school is often difficult for the children; there is danger of them falling down. People cross the bridge and go up to the road, a distance of around two km, and leave the children there. From there onwards the children go on their own.

Is there any private school here?
Yes there is a place called Shishumandir for children.
Section 13
How would you like to settle down in the cities below (in the plains)?
Our people will like it and we will all settle there happily. The young people will also feel good.

Why? What do you like about cities?
If the government has to rehabilitate us we will settle there, but the entire village should be settled together in one place, not alone. Otherwise our village is better. We like our old village better and the old people would not like to settle down there.

What would you not like about that place? I did not understand.
Oh, we would get bored there. We would not be able to do our normal work there. We live on this work. Our livelihood depends on it. What would we be able to do there? There is one other advantage here, which doesn’t exist outside - relations between the rich and the poor in our villages are very good and intimate. It is not so in the cities outside. Everybody sees each other but do not even speak to each other. When I went to Mussoorie, Uttarkashi, and other big places, I felt caged.
Your own village and home are, after all, your own. Do your work and stay happy, go anywhere you want for a visit, you are free

Between Ghamsali and Vauna, which place do you like better?
I like staying at Ghamsali. It is like heaven. There is not trace of a mosquito or a fly there. There is no illness, not even rashes. Even if we don't bathe for 18 to 19 years we do not feel any revulsion because the climate there is cold and pollution free and we don't perspire. The air there is absolutely clean. Even stale food three days old does not rot. The land is clean. We don't feel like coming down here from Ghamsali.

Then why do you come here?
There is heavy snowfall in winters and the temperature falls drastically. It is an age - old custom that we come here in winters. Earlier we used to have thatched houses, and when going up to Ghamsali we kept our goods aside in one place for safety and set fire to the thatches. We have wooden houses at Ghamsali. But for the last few years this place has become our permanent home. We used to keep a watchman here to look after the goods. Sometimes we left our things at the zamindars’ village. We had good relations with them. After returning from Ghamsali we had to get all our possessions back from the forest. It used to be very difficult and most of our things would be missing. Therefore, gradually people started making their homes permanent. We paid rent to the zamindars for taking care of our goods.

How many years has it been since the village was settled?
Approximately 24 years. Our house is 24 to 25 years old. The houses came up gradually, not at once. The first house was my sister's. Most of our youth are in good jobs, so we have trouble keeping our cattle. Getting grass from the forest is a difficult job for one person and if we want to go outside, there is no one to take care of the animals. In summers we go up to Ghamsali. Taking the herd up and down alone is not easy. So we are now thinking of keeping fewer animals.
Section 14
Will your children return to the village when they retire?
Yes, they will surely. Many people have come back to the village after retirement. They love their motherland. The children say that when we can change thatches into [cement] houses, then why not return home? Though we have made houses in the cities they are not for settling down there. One special quality about our community is that anyone who went outside also helped others. He took his fellow beings with him to provide them with an education. Everyone's children went to him and studied. That is why today all of them are working in good posts. The cement houses have also been made by these boys because they felt that since such houses are made outside and are much stronger, we must also construct them here. Everyone has a cement house today. In Ghamsali we have wooden houses which stay warm. They have to return on retirement and going up and down (seasonal migration) will continue so why not make firm houses? That is how this village of cement houses was settled. When we worship Lord Bhumiyal all our children living outside come home and reach Ghamsali straight away.

How do you worship your god?
We offer him our homemade wine made of jhangora in a wooden bowl which is known as joru. We make a wick of white wool and put ghee (clarified butter) at one end. Then we put a few drops of wine on the wick and offer it to God while worshipping. We then take the wine in our palms and drink it as prasad (an offering to a deity). The person who does not drink also tastes it.

Do you have any source of water?
There is only one source of water, which is very far away. We have a waterfall nearby, though now we have water coming through pipes from a far-off place. During rains this water is muddy and we have a lot of problems. We have both electricity and water but we usually have water problems.

Do you have any other organisation here other than the Mahila Mangal Dal?
No, our village head belongs to the zamindar class. If any plan ever came, it never reached us. They feel they are superior to us and consider us a different class. They think this place belongs to them and that we are from the hills.

Coming back to the society of women I would like to ask what the relations are between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws?
In our days we could not sit in front of our mothers-in-law, or even raise our heads in their presence. We left for the forest in the morning without tea or breakfast and remained hungry till noon. Sometimes we could not have a complete meal for six or seven days. At times we used to eat quietly in some friend’s house. It was a very difficult time. We used to eat stale food also. We used to eat chapattis made of mandua flour in the forest. Whenever chappatis were made at home we used to mix salt and chilli in it and ate it as though it was some delicacy. It is actually eaten with ghee and jaggery, which was not given to us. We used to leave early in the morning to the forest for wood and came back at four or five in the evening. We used to climb this mountain and get wood from the other side. When we went towards village Jaisali to get some grass, the villagers used to chase us away telling us not to come there for grass or wood. So we used to go up to Virahi village for wood. They were bad times.
Now gas has come and all the problems are solved. Now we go to the forests of Virahi only when we want to dye our woollen garments because the colours have to be boiled in water for a long time. This work cannot be done on gas. Today we don't send our daughters-in-law to the forest. They are all well educated and they don't even know this work. All we old women go together to get the wood. We used to leave our infants at home to do this work. Don't ask us about our troubles. Those who go to get wood even today leave at three or four o'clock in the morning and come back by nine or ten o’clock. Then the wool work begins. We are very hardworking. Zamindars are not so hardworking.
Section 15
Didn't you tell your husband that you did not get enough food?
Oh, no! This was the most difficult thing to do. We did not have enough courage to say that. We did not have courage even to laugh. We used to keep working quietly. We used to get blisters on our hands while crushing paddy, and if we got late we were scolded. Who can scold anyone now? Now we are scared of the daughters-in-law! People threaten us by saying that the daughter-in-law is coming! Everybody is alert because the mother-in-law is scared of the daughter-in-law. While if the mother-in-law comes, the daughter-in-law continues to eat her food calmly! That's right.

Was anybody's mother-in-law nice?
Yes. One in a hundred used to be nice. But now the daughters-in-law do not even ask us what to prepare for food. They cook whatever they like. First the mother-in-law used to serve the food while the daughter-in-law cooked it. Now the daughter-in-law makes the food and gives it to her mother-in-law. This means that the authority of the mother-in-law has undergone a change and her position has worsened. This change has come about in the daughters-in-law of the Marcha community. No such change has occurred in the zamindar community. They still follow the old custom. Though the daughters-in-law are not in a very bad situation, it is not too good either. They still fear their in-laws.

What is the reason for the change in the position of your daughters-in-law, while those of the zamindars have not changed?
Land is still their main source of income. Those people mostly depend upon agriculture. The daughters-in-law stay in the house itself. They are not well read. Here everyone is well educated. They have gone to college, and so have changed. Both my daughters-in-law have done their MA. They are not scared. The zamindar's daughters-in-law have mostly studied up to eighth or tenth standard. We keep in touch with them as we go to buy cereals from there. That is how we know their situation.
Section 16
What is the cost of cereal there?
Rs 40 per patha (approx. 2 kgs). We get jhangora, kauni (proso millet), paddy, kulath (variety of lentil), bhatt (local soya), urad (a pulse) and tur (variety of lentil) here. This year the cereal prices have not yet been decided.

Is your land irrigated?
No. We have small gardens, which is why the zamindars think that we are gypsies. Some people have only their houses here. We spin the wool and make fabric. That is how we earn and eat.

Do you make the wooden apparatus needed for spinning and weaving woollen garments on your own?
No, we buy it. Earlier we used to make it ourselves as we got the wood. But now we purchase all types of goods.

How do you arrange for grass and wood in the winters?
Everybody collects wood in May and June. At first it snowed by the month of October but not anymore. In the village the snow melted early and it rained heavily.

In what type of household work do men help?
Only in weaving. Women do most of the spinning work. Men don't have much to do in other kinds of work. Sometimes they help in spinning.

If there is any quarrel, do you go to the panchayat?
Yes. The panchayat takes the decision in disagreements. Only men take part in it. Women do all the work but it is the men who take the final decision. It makes our hearts beat faster [in anger]. But what could we do?

What is your name?

What is your husband's name?
I told you before.

You cannot say your husband's name again?
Oh! We feel shy.

Today's girls do not say their husband's name?
No, they do not. If it is necessary to tell someone, then we have to.

If you have some work and your husband is at a distance, how do you call him?
Oh, we pretend to be calling for the child or someone else!

In your lifetime, have you seen any change in the condition of women?
Yes, women are coming up in every field. They do not do any work, which they feel is wrong. We feel happy that they have the courage to take their own decisions independently.
Section 17
Now every house has a television. Has there been any change because of it? Have you learned something from it?
TV shows us good things as well as bad. We learned the good things but children are learning even the bad things. My grandson sits glued to the TV. When I tell him that TV has spoiled him he feels bad and comes to hit me. I try to make him understand, to see the good things, not the bad ones. He speaks in Hindi. He has always stayed away from the village, so he has forgotten the native language.

Do you have the dowry system?
No, we don't observe the dowry system. Parents give of their own free will.

Is there any change in the educated young men?
No, there has not been any change. They only want a nice girl. We do not pay much attention to dowry. Once when I was in Uttarkashi, a neighbour's son asked for a scooter in dowry. It made me shiver. If this starts happening in our village, how will our daughters get married? Everybody is not so rich to give enough dowry along with a scooter. Till now a doctor or engineer boy of our village has also not demanded a scooter.

With which villages do you form marriage relationships?
We intermarry with the villages of Chinka, Kaudiya, Shemla, Vajad, etc. We do not marry near-relations from the mother's side. Sometimes we intermarry with the [paternal] grandmother's mother's home, but that is not considered good. We also form relationships with Niti-Mana (two remote villages on the Indo-Tibet border), but not with the Tolcha community because that is also considered bad. I don't know why. We do not even regard Lord Bhairav of the Tolcha caste worth worshipping.

Does today's generation prefer to follow your traditional occupations or government service?
They prefer service.

They feel that this work can be done easily. They want a good job.

Does the new generation listen to what you say?
They do, but not always. They usually do what they feel like. So the older generation has compromised and come to the conclusion that the youth should be allowed to do what they feel like. There is no point giving them suggestions.

When did you get married?
I was eleven years old. My husband is eight years senior to me. I used to go to my house for precisely one month and then came back to my in-laws. In those times everyone got married at a very early age. Twelve or thirteen years old meant a big girl. Even seven-year old girls got married. While working in the in-laws house, often the fingers got cut while cutting grass. We learnt how to work with the in-laws. Today girls are married after 25 years. It is so common that girls do not want to marry without finishing their education. A 25-year old girl is considered young. 30 years is an average age now for marriage. My sister-in-law's daughter was 19 years old and my daughter was 21 years old when she got married. She has a son now. Everyone protested and said, “Why did you get such a young girl married? You have done wrong.” Boys say that they will not marry till they get a good job and girls say that they will not marry till they complete their education. In fact they want to undergo some training after their education. They feel education is incomplete without training. It is because of these reasons that the average age of marriage has increased. No one is in a hurry to settle down.