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(INDIA 23)








Dhanras village, Tons valley, Dehra Dun


December 1996


Kammo is a farmer and explains that her 11 children also work, cultivating crops and tending to the animals. Her husband Mir (India 27) was also interviewed. A member of the Gujjar caste, Kammo used to migrate between highland and lowland areas. She has now been settled in the community of Pottad for 15 years, although they still move down towards the plains when it becomes very cold.

Although most of her responses are short, Kammo does provide some insight into a life of seasonal migration. She describes the hardships they suffered on the road explaining “We had to deal with various problems, being women. Women had a lot of trouble but they had to walk…They had to walk whether they were ill or pregnant.” Some women, she says, gave birth on the journey. She prefers today’s more settled life: “Earlier when the caravan used to move we had to walk right through the night…Now the nights are ours, we can sleep, the children are also safe. Earlier the children also used to bear hardships with us.”

During the testimony she also discusses festivals and marriage ceremonies, the role of women in the community, changing weather, education and the rising cost of living. She explains that she is unable to educate her daughters as “…it involves too much expenditure”. Like several other narrators, she feels there are many advantages to living as a joint family, not least that it spreads the workload.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  She has 11 children; all look after livestock and the land. They plant maize, chilli, urd (a pulse) and wheat. They do not always get sufficient for their own needs and sometimes have to buy seeds from outside. Have been in the village for about 15 years. “Earlier we used to go up and down (annual migration) and walked a lot. We never had a definite place where we could settle so we used to stay wherever we got enough space.” They still go down to the plains when the snow comes. Problems for women, especially when pregnant: “At such times we used to stop for a while, bathe the newborn, and halt at some nice place ahead.” Festivals and weddings. No dowry, but the woman is given buffalo.
Section 3  Traditional jewellery and clothes: “earlier there used to be a lot of jewellery, but now girls do not want to wear it”. A young widow can remarry within the family (if her husband had brothers). If very young and without children, she can remarry outside the family. Elopement: “sometimes a girl runs away and gets married. But she too is entitled to get mehar (bride price)” Neither she nor her daughters are literate.
Section 4  No money for to educate her daughters. The school also migrates seasonally. Rising cost of living. Women are consulted about household matters, but no involvement in the Panchayat. “Many women feel that they should also be a part of the panchayat. I feel too shy to sit with the men.” Brief mention of using herbs for medicinal purposes.
Section 5  Milk: “those who have milk sell it” Her family doesn’t have milk: “Our children who belong to the new generation do not want to do much work. Therefore, it is not possible to keep many buffaloes” Marriage within the Gujjar community. Household utensils - mostly made locally. The forest: “Our sons and daughters…do the forest work. We have seen people from nurseries planting trees so we feel that the forests must be denser now.” No joint families, but thinks they would be better: “You get help in your work and if you fall sick, you are not alone.” No electricity, use tree bark resin.
Section 6  Use cow dung for fertiliser. Only the old women still wear traditional dress. Water source not very close Fruit trees: “Chulu (apricot), peach, pear and almonds. We have planted three or four almond trees. We also have walnuts.” Prefers a more settled lifestyle.
Section 7  Describes her house, which is the only one with a flat roof. They can’t use oak leaves for manure as the trees are too far away. She can’t keep many sheep and goats as only her small children still live with her. The changing weather: “Earlier it used to rain at the right time the year through. There was no chance of drought. But now the time of rainfall has changed. In fact it has become uncertain.” They have good relations with zamindars (landowners)