photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 14)






head of Mahila Mangal Dal


Chatti village, Tehri Garhwal


June 1994



Village Chati is in District Tehri. It has no electricity as yet. The Mahila Mangal Dal was formed a year ago. The village has water taps and connections for water, but has no running water. When we arrived, the entire womenfolk of the village gathered to see us. This is an interview with the oldest woman among the Mahila Mangal Dal, who is also in charge of the Dal.

Section 1
How long have you been living in this village?
We are the original inhabitants of this place.

How many families live in this village?
About 80 to 90.

How many members are there in your family?
I have three children, four grandchildren, two daughters-in-law and myself.

Is it a joint family?

Have you had some formal education?

What about your children?
Yes, they are educated. They live outside the village.

Till what class/standard have they studied?
Two of them up to eighth class, and the eldest up to fifth class. All of them studied in Nakot and went away. By then I was widowed and the children went away here and there.

Do your grandchildren also go to school?
Yes, all four - two granddaughters and two grandsons. They stay in Tehri.

Do you have daughters?
No, I have two granddaughters.

Do you plan to give these granddaughters more education?
Section 2
Up to what level?
I pray to God that I should educate them up to tenth class - otherwise up to eighth is a minimum. If the boys carry on up to sixteenth there is no harm but I do not want more education for girls.

In this hill region we can't educate more, generally. If someone could it would be very nice.

If you can plan it for boys, why not for girls?
We are bringing up the daughters well, and if they get into some job they will then be proud.

How can you predict this in advance?
I pray to God to educate my elder granddaughter up to twelfth because she keeps telling me “Grandma I want to study up to twelfth.”

You are not educated. Do you have any regrets?
Yes, indeed.

Did you face any problems?
Yes, lots. At times I had nothing to eat, no clothes, no money to treat the children. Had I had some education I would have got some job. In those days my husband was alive, but uneducated like me.

Was your husband also uneducated?
Yes, we could just give some schooling to our children - just sufficient for them to earn their living somehow since they have moved out of the village.

Around which areas do your relations live?
Our relations live in big places.

How far away from here?
Up to Gaja and Ghaspatti. Both my daughters-in-law belong to Gaja.

Are they educated?
No, they are not.

Do they miss being educated?
What can be done now? They are busy cutting grass and have no time for studies. My children have gone out of the village. They are also not very well educated so how can they think of educating their wives? We are going through tough days. We can't make both ends meet - how can we think of schooling and paying the fees?

In your house who looks after family affairs?
My children and I.

How many villagers have gone away from here?
At least two children are outside the village.
Section 3
Do you feel that there is a difference in your way of thinking and your children's?
No, they are good. They consider that we are old. Knowingly I would not say a bad word to anybody or scold them. Maybe sometimes I did, but they never answered back, which is a good thing.

Do the modern people think the way people thought earlier?
No. It is not so. Children have got some education, have seen the outside world, so maybe they are ahead of us - not backward. In earlier days we used to cut grass, look after the oxen, fetch grass from the hills. There was nothing else. Now by God's grace our children have seen the world and got good clothes for us, and arrange for our meals.

What is the difference now?
It's much better now - a good thing indeed.

How do you plan the household expenditure?
Now, my sons have gone out, and the one hundred or two hundred rupees that they give me is quite sufficient for me.

How much land do you have?
I have lots of it but nobody cultivates it. I do get some labour for some time.

What is the size of the land?
It should be at least 10 bighas (one bigha = 0.676 hectares).

Can you produce enough for the whole year?
No, my child. It appears that the weather gods are unhappy with us.

Do you have cattle?

How many?
One pair of oxen, two sheep.

Do you feel any difference between your past and present life?
When my husband was alive, I stayed at home, looked after the cattle, so we had more of them. But now my children have gone and taken their wives along. I am staying with one daughter-in-law and can't look after more cattle. Now it does not rain which has resulted in lack of sufficient grass and water. There is no drinking water in spite of water connections and taps. We get water from far away which is very tiring. How can we get water for the animals?

Do you get milk from the cattle?
No. The oxen are used for ploughing the field and the buffalo is about to start giving milk.

Do you grow vegetables?
Nothing, there is no water, even to drink. How can we grow anything?
Section 4
Do you get fodder from the fields?
No, we do get some grass etc sometimes from the fields, if it rains. Otherwise we get fodder from fast disappearing forests also.

For how many months do you get it?
Up to the month of Aashad (June/July)

Do you sell the milk?
No. It is consumed by the family members.

Do the villagers help in the collective or co-operative projects?

Do you have a village panchayat (village council) forest?

Is it owned by the government?
No it is the panchayat's.

Do you have a village panchayat?

What does the panchayat do?
It tries to pacify people when there is a problem.

Does it also provide things of collective utility?

Does the entire village participate in its activities?

Do people obey the verdict of the panchayat?

Does anyone protest, ever?

Are you satisfied with the decisions of the panchayat?

Are there any temples in the village?

Whose temple is it?
It is a Shiva temple.

Can you tell me its history?
We all helped and even the government helped in building it.
Section 5
No, I want to know if there is a story about it or that is has been bought from somewhere?
No, it belongs to this place only.

Can you tell me how it came into existence?
No, this Shiva temple was here, I don't know things of the past, really. But I have heard that one Mahadeva temple was here only. A part of it is on the other side of the Ganges.

Of what castes and communities are the people of the village?
Many castes.

Such as?
We are seven to eight castes. For example, Rawats…we are Dhanolas, some are Chauhans, Badthwal Chimyada, Kurthi, and other castes.

What about Brahmins and Rajputs?
There are no Brahmins.

What about Rajputs?
There are Rajputs.

What about Harijans (low caste) etc?
There is only one Harijan in the entire village.

Can everyone enter the temple?

Even the Harijan?
He is the first to beat the drums.

Can he go inside?

Because he only plays on the drum outside.

If he can play outside why can't he go in?
He can also go inside once the prayers are over he must be going in to make his offering. Why should we be concerned?

Have you ever seen him entering the temple?
I have never seen him doing so, child. Whenever I go there he has never been seen entering the temple, poor fellow. Only the children have gone inside.

Do you feel that he should go inside?
Yes, there is no harm if he does.

Were there Harijans from the beginning?
No, there was only one family.
Section 6
What is the improvement in his life style?
He had two mothers. One has died and only one is living. He had one father. His grandfather had only one son and his father was also alone. Both his mothers had one son each. One of them lives in Narendra Nagar, he is staying alone with his two sons.

No, tell me the change in his lifestyle.
He lives very well.

What are the village traditions?
They are good traditions.

What are they?
Everybody is earning well and living very well. We are also leading a good life.

By traditions I mean how you performed the various rites etc?
We used to perform a bhandara (folk dance) earlier. Now our children have left the village so all the customs have died out.

Don't you do it?
I do not.

The men (the old ones) have all died so how and what can we do it?

Do not you tell your sons to do it?
My sons live away from the village and they come turn by turn. By the time the second comes its time for the first to leave and so on. They have not seen the old society and have no idea about rakhru (taking goats to graze) or bhandara.

What is a rakhru?
Goats were slaughtered.

What else?
People performed bhandara (a folk dance) dance, performed havan (sacred fire rituals).

There was a havan kund (sacred pit for the fire rituals) for the deity. The people earlier had lots of faith in the deity but not any longer. Today they are all earning their living outside and have become very proud of this fact. Who know if they are earning or just roaming about with people?

After a gap of how many years was it done?
After about five to six years.

What was done?
Nothing much. It only showed that people had faith. The land is the same, it rained sometimes and on other occasions there was no rain at all.
Section 7
What was the bhandara?
People worshipped trees and danced but today the boys wear pants and walk in style with hands in the pockets. How can they dance?

Why don't people dance now?
I don't know.

What happens if they do?
They feel ashamed of dancing.

Have you noticed any changes in the lives of the womenfolk?
It is better now.

For instance, when I come back and tell people what all to do, they all listen to me. Earlier they did not. Both men and women were dull, not intelligent, only working in the fields and looking after the cattle. Now I also feel like getting some job.

Do the young people follow the old rules?
No, they don't. They have not seen those things happening - how can they believe in them? My grandchildren have not seen what the grandparents did, so they can't believe in them.

But their parents must have seen something.
No even they were quite young.

What are the main occupations of the villagers?
They are all working and earning very well.

They don't fight with anyone.

How do they earn money?
Most of them are earning away from the village. Those who are here and not earning are not being given anything by anyone else. They are managing somehow.

Is your village being shifted from here?
How can they when there is no place? If we had some property or money, we could have - but we have nothing.

No, I want to know if your village is being shifted to some other place?

What is the main profession in this village?
Nothing in particular.

What do the majority of people do here?
Agriculture, nothing else.
Section 8
What is the provision for education?
Since the Mahila Mangal Dal (rural women’s council) has come into being it is going on well.

Are there any schools?
Not yet. We had gone there [to ask for them?] but nobody has time to listen to us.

Where do the children go then?
My grandchildren go to Nakote and Chemalidhar, though they are living in the bazar (market place).

Up to which level are there schools?
There are some English medium schools.

In Nakote.

How far from here?
There. It is up to seventh, tenth and eighth and fifth in Chemalidhar.

Do you find any difference in the standard of education these days compared to the earlier times?
It is better now.

Did you have schools in the village?

What did the people do then?
Nothing. They are not educated since there were no schools.

What are your main festivals?
Patpadi (Baisakhi) Sankrant (first day of every month), Khichdi Sankranti.

Can you tell me the story behind these festivals?
I don't know anything.

Do you celebrate them?

Does the entire family celebrate them?

Of the new generation, how many want to take up jobs and how many want to do farming?
They all want to go out; they are not interested in agriculture. This is because nothing grows in the absence of rains. Now we all keep praying to God so that we are able to get the basic minimum. We made such large and broad fields but nothing is growing. Our children are not at all interested. Nothing can be grown in our hill area so why waste time? Some of us the older lot, do not want to leave our motherland. We want to die here. Our children always tell us not to leave as if there is a gold mine here.
Section 9
Do the villagers take collective decisions?
All of them do.

What other job does the panchayat do?
Nothing else.

Is it working towards the betterment of the village?
No, whatever one person decides, that's done.

Is there any organisation other than the panchayat?
No other organisation has been formed.

Is there any women's organisation?
The Mahila Mangal Dal.

How old is it?
About one year.

You did not have one earlier?

How was this dal (group) formed?
The anti-social elements increased - they were going to the fields, chopping trees, drinking, so it was set up.

Who took the lead?
We had a meeting.

All of you held it?

What does your Mahila Mangal Dal do?
If someone tries to do any wrong, or indulge in excessive drinking or tries to chop trees then they are called and advised not to do so.

What else?
We meet on the 1st and 15th of every month.

You do this every month?

How many women attend?
We are about 60 to 80 families.

One woman from one family?

Who speaks?
They all speak in turn.
Section 10
What do you talk about?
I tell them not to harm anyone, not to chop trees and drink too much.

What do you do to drunkards?
When one misbehaves after getting drunk then he is draped with a garland of shoes.

Have you done it?
A number of times.

Did the drunkard ever dare to drink afterwards?
No. The brewery has been closed down in the village. There was one outside so they drank there. Even that has been closed down.

Did the women from the man's family, who was garlanded, take part?
Yes, those women complained that he did not listen to them so I should check him in this manner.

If someone steals another person's grass, what is the punishment that is given?
Rs 25.

Have you fined anyone?
Yes, when we reported the theft. One by one, I think, every family has paid the fine.

Do you get things of daily use in the village?
Yes, we do.

Do you make utensils of stone and wood?

Were they made earlier?

What is the system of agriculture?
First we baandh te hai (tie the plough), next day we take the oxen and plough the fields and then sow the seeds.

How do you sow the seeds after ploughing?
We spray or sprinkle them.

How do you treat the sick cattle?
We call the vet, but they are not easily found. We burn labla (variety of cucumber) and give it to the cattle or give boiled salt water.

Does it cure them?

How far is the doctor?
In Nakote.

Section 11
Do you have a vaid (practitioner of indigenous medicine)?

Was there ever one?

Does anyone know how to play the dhol (drum)?
One Harijan knows.

What are his children doing?
They are studying. One of them is quite small but the other is studying.

Do you make do with the village dhol or do you get bands for marriages?
We get the village dhol.

How do you look after the forest?
We do not chop wood because the forest is very small. Whenever we have to chop we all go, bring home our share, whatever it is - say, one pile.

Do you plant trees there?

What trees have you planted?
Orange, lime, dhenkan (melia azadirach, Burmese neem or Persian neem), bhimal (type of fodder tree).

How do you protect them?
We have made a sort of barrier around them.

Do you have any wildlife here?

Why are the old customs and traditions fast fading away?
I have no idea.

What do people think about your work?
I pray to God to give us some wisdom, so that we who have hardly sufficient to eat and dress may get into some job - as you are. Then my children would have been better off. Had they been taught driving they would be driving vehicles, taking people from place to place. If the daughter-in-law gets grass and earns, only then can she look after the mother-in-law? We have not taught our children anything. How can they get any job? They are just wasting their time.

Do villagers believe in ghosts and superstitions?
Yes, many of them are under the evil spell.
Section 12
Do you also believe in it?
Yes, because I have seen it.

What have you seen?
When a person is possessed by a spirit then rakhwali (chanting of a mantra with ash) is done. Then the person who drives out spirits is called and the spirit leaves the person. When the ghost goes away he demands sacrifice of either a goat or a chicken.

Can you narrate any incident that has occurred?
When it happened to this boy's wife they made a sacrifice.

What was done then?
The wife had gone mad under the evil spell. Then a sheep and chicken were sacrificed yet the ghost was not pacified. Then ashtabali (sacrifice of eight things) was made, including a bull and an ash gourd (to represent human sacrifice).

How are you sure that it was a ghost?
When he left the woman then we learnt that it was a ghost.

Who told you that it was a ghost?
They had gone to a baqi. [Wherever there is a problem or someone suffers a loss people go to a baqi].

What is a baqi?
When some divine spirit is dancing in someone (possession) then the person is taken to that deity who can tell about the problems.

How does the deity dance and say all that?
It must be the deity dancing after which jundal (prediction made after an offering of rice) was given and asked if he was under some spell.

Whatever he predicts is true?

What did he say on that occasion?
He said that sheep and goat should be sacrificed.

Had you not made a sacrifice what would happen?
She would have died.

Has it ever happened?
Yes, yes.

Who has died?
Someone died long ago because he did not obey the divine spirit.

How long did the spell of the ghost last?
For a year and a half.

Where did the ghost catch her?
From the parents' place.
Section 13
They must have been working on the hills, cutting grass. Somebody must have died and his ghost must have caught her.

How does a ghost become a man?
If a good man dies he becomes a deity but if a mentally unsound person dies he becomes a ghost and starts jumping.

How does a ghost enter a human being?
It is purely on the desire of the ghost. When it decides to ruin a good family - if someone has a good daughter-in-law, a good daughter, or if someone has a good son - this happens if their stars are not strong enough.

What does the ghost do?
The person gets weaker and weaker and talks nonsense. Now who can afford to lose a child and not spend money or search for a solution. Then they go to the baqi (someone who divines a problem and suggests a solution) who diagnoses exactly what is wrong, and whatever he advises is done and the person becomes well again.

If it is not done?
Then the family is ruined.

Have you seen a man under an evil spell?
Yes my own daughter-in-law was, once, but after the sacrifice etc, she is fine and has two children.

Can the ghost be seen?
No. If that is so he can be nicely beaten. It's in the air.

Do you have faith in this?
Yes, it is a belief in the hills.

When under the spell of the ghost, does a man fall sick?
He runs a temperature, has a headache.

This can be due to some disease, too.
No, the person talks nonsense.

Maybe somebody goes crazy?
Yes, when one does not take the necessary steps advised.

How much land do the villagers have?
Minimum four to five bighas, not less.

Is the land irrigable or not?
It is not, as there is no water even for drinking. We have been paying Rs 2 as tax to the government and now it is Rs5 for the last two months but there is not a drop of water.
Section 14
Why don't you lodge a complaint?
To whom can we complain?

Don't you have a village pradhan (head of the panchayat)?
Yes, we have one.

Tell him.
We have told him. He too has done a lot. He has spoken to the water supply department also but they have a strange mentality. I do not understand them. We went to Chamba also. Now we get it from gaderas (hill streams) and other places.

How far do you have to travel to fetch water?
We have to go to Nakote.

What are the main crops that you sow?
Paddy, sanwa (wild grain), mandua (finger millet) gahat, tur, masoor (types of lentils), matar (peas).

What season do you sow these?
Right now we have sown mandua and sanwa. In Falgun (February/March) we will sow pulses - gahat. In Aashad dal (lentils) and gahat, and in Falgun, wheat.

What is the approximate number of cattle per family?
It is between four to six per family.

Do some villagers sell milk?
It's not sufficient for the family.

But you say that every family has six?
Not all are milk giving. Only some give milk which is just enough for the family. Moreover, they do not keep only buffaloes. They have goat, sheep, etc.

What is the arrangement for irrigation?

Do you have a canal or ghul (water channel or irrigation)?
[What use is a] ghul, when we can't do anything. If the government had given us water we could have made a canal, but when there is no water, what's the use of a canal?
Section 15
Do you have any orchards here?
There is nothing here. You can see for yourself.

Do you have traditionally preserved seed or do you get it from the market?
Sometimes we have our own or else we get it from the store. This time we had demanded paddy seeds but nobody listens. I was not given any.

Have you ever sown the seeds, which the government department has given?

Has anyone else?
If someone got them, they may have sown them, but we have never done so.

What effect has it had on their fields?
What effect can there be when there is no rain? If there is rain then the effect will be good.

Is the yield better when you use the home made seeds or the seeds that you buy from the seed store?
It's better when the store seeds are used, but in vain since there is no rain. If there is no rain there is no water.

For how many years does it give good yield?
For a year or two.

After that?
Then there is no difference in yield so we use manure.

Do you use local manure or chemical fertilisers?
No, no. We use only cow dung.

Don't you use their manure?

Does nobody use it?
No one. Only cow dung is used.

Is the quantity of cow dung sufficient?

Which manure is better, locally produced or the one that you get from the store?
The fertiliser of the store needs lots of water, which is not there. The cow dung is good and can give good produce if it rains.

Was the produce better earlier compared to what it is now?
Yes, now nothing grows.

Do you have channis (simple huts for shelter during grazing season)?
Our channis are damaged. Now we are all old and can't go there.
Section 16
Why did you have channis?
Earlier we used to have lots of animals, and we used to keep lots of buffaloes tied up. That is why they were sent away to the channis during rains. If we kept them at home there was lot of slush created. Nowadays the cattle are kept at home, but no one bathes them so how can there be slush?

How do brothers distribute land here?
The brothers divide it among them equally.

Is there no difference in the shares?
No. They all get equal shares.

Does the elder brother get a larger piece?
If someone gives it willingly, otherwise it is equal.

Do people fight on land distribution matters?

At times if somebody takes away the grass and the other persons loses patience - only then, occasionally, are there small quarrels.

In such a situation do they stop talking?
No, maybe for a short while and then it is as before.

Do people get jobs in the village itself?

What type of job?
They do not get government jobs - they find work for themselves. They go and break stones, for those who use the sambol (crow bar) etc.

Do you have blacksmiths, tailors, cobblers, etc?

Where do you go for your jobs?
One Harijan stitches our clothes.

You told me that he plays the dhol.
In addition to that he does the sewing also.

Do most villagers get their clothes stitched by him?

Do people from other villages also come?

What about daranti (sickle)?
That we order from the blacksmith.
Section 17
From which village?
The one at Palam comes himself.

Is there anyone who has ponies?

Is there a doctor?

Do you give him money or food grains?
We pay him money.

Do the new born babies die?
Yes, at times.

Do the majority of them survive or die?
Some live and some die.

Is there any cause for infant mortality?
In cases when a child is sick he dies -otherwise he lives a full life.

Do you have weavers in the village?

Do you go elsewhere to get the weaving done?

Do you get masons for constructing houses or they come from other villages?
Yes we get them here.

Do they go to other villages also?

Which villages?
They go to far off villages like Nakote, Chati, Kutti, Faigul, etc.

Those villages do not have masons?
Probably not. That's why some of them go there.

How do you pay the labour?
We do not give food grains. We pay in cash.

Are the forests common or only yours?

How do you protect the forests?
We have enclosed it.
Section 18
Do you have cases of forest fire?
Yes, due to the mischief of some people.

What do you do then?
We extinguish the fire.

Who goes for that?
We all do.

How do you do it?
By chopping the branches, etc.

Is there a pasture land/grazing ground?

How far is it?
About 1.5 km or so.

Do you get sufficient wood in the village?

Do you have to go far?
Yes, at times.

How far?
About 1.5 km or so.

If you go to collect wood in the morning what time do you get back?
By evening.

How far is the grass available?
If we go to the forest then we return in the evening, but if it is available in the fields then by 12 o'clock.

How far is the forest?
Very far.

Then who cooks food?
Old people like me cook the food.

What do these people do who have no old ones?
They cook on return from the forest.

Do you find that the climate has changed?

What changes do you noticed?
The greatest change is that it is not raining at all, which you can see for yourself.

Did it rain a lot earlier?
A lot.
Section 19
What is the cause of it?
God alone knows. May be earlier the people very virtuous and now they are sinners. Who knows? Because of the forests it rained a lot. Now people are busy cutting grass and trees. So the rains have stopped. On the higher mountain regions there are deodar (cedar) trees and it rains there. There are villages ahead of us and then there are forests, so how can it rain here? We have only a few of these trees.

How do you cook food?
In pans and a pressure cooker.

Do you use firewood?
Where is the wood? We get kerosene and use stoves.

Do you have cooking gas?

Why don't you use firewood?
Where can one get wood? Even if we go higher we see only villages everywhere. There are no forests. For wood we have these trees which are still very small and if we start chopping these then there will be no forest in future. We do have some grass. The small forest that we have has been enclosed. Still people steal wood. It is not done by our villagers but outside people.

Why don't you employ chowkidars (watchmen)?
We have not.

Do you have roads?

Has it always been there or constructed recently?
It has been recently made.

How long ago?
About 12 to 14 years ago.

Has it done good or bad?

Our fields have been taken away for the road, but we got no compensation. The place where we used to have trees and grass once upon a time has been completely ruined. Some people received Rs 200, some Rs 400 that's all. Now motors are plying on the roads and the only good done is that the present villagers can travel from door to door.

Is there any other benefit?
There is no benefit when we have lost our land. Now horses come, ponies come and with them come the thieves. Whatever jewellery our women have cannot be worn anymore.
Section 20
Did you wear a lot of jewellery earlier?
Yes, we wore nath (nose ring), bulak (ring worn in the centre of the nose), chegula (for hands), khagwala (for the neck), mala (necklace). Now there is nothing.

Why don't you wear these ornaments now?
Because of the vehicles thieves and dacoits (gang of robbers) also come. They are breaking our locks. In our village Nakota itself there have been cases of house-breaking, and they must have come in vehicles. Locks don't open on their own. Till now we had not heard of any theft in our area but nowadays one hears of thefts all over.

Has a thief ever been caught?
Can a thief ever be caught?

How are you sure that the thieves come from outside? They could have been one of the villagers.
In this long life of mine I have never heard of any theft so far. How is it that they are so common now? It has to be related to the arrival of so many vehicles now.

What are the other disadvantages of roads?
We have lost our land and fields. Thieves and burglars are freely moving about on the roads. If we meet someone on the road we get suspicious of his intentions. Earlier people used to walk on the paths through our fields and out of ignorance when they asked us the way to a particular village - we willingly guided them. They also addressed us as bhuli (younger sister). Now we doubt every person and feel that he must be some terrorist from the plains, and we don't feel like talking to them.

Has such a case been reported from your village?
A number of them. My in-law's house in Nakote was recently burgled. All the jewellery and clothes were taken away. Some clothes were recovered at some distance. We were unable to catch the thief and can't blame anyone.

Is the new generation happy with the construction of the road?
Yes, it is. Because it is very convenient when they have vehicles coming up to their doorsteps, not realising that all sorts of anti-social characters are also reaching here. Earlier they could not come here easily.

Aren't the modern people upset at all this happening here?
Yes, they are, but not at the making of the road. We have sacrificed our land and fields so we are upset. This old road is about 15 to 16 years old and another one is under construction. We got nothing as compensation. So we are really sad.

You feel that it should not have been constructed?
No, it should have been. But the basis of paying and calculating the compensation part in those days, in comparison to what they are giving now, should have been given to us as well. We could have made something for our children. These days they are making houses, shops etc but we have not been able to do so.
Section 21
Do you feel the rate of inflation was there earlier also, as much as it is now?
No, it is very high now, it was not so earlier.

How do you say so?
Rice is selling at Rs 7/8 a kg. Atta (flour) at Rs 6, oil at Rs. 30. So it is very expensive now. Earlier, oil was Rs 2 per litre, half a kg of oil for Rs 1 and 50 paise for 2.5 kg of gur (unrefined sugar).

What is the cause of this?
There is no rain any more, and nothing grows. This is the main reason for inflation. It is thanks to the government ration and public distribution system that somehow things are being managed. We are not getting any yield from agriculture. Whereas earlier families used to have a rice yield of one dhon (32kgs), 4 dhons of paddy, and 10 dhons of sanwa and mandua. Nobody bought these things, which kept a check on the increase in price. Today everyone has to buy these things, which is causing inflation.

What are the other causes?
Population has increased. Our village has 60 to 80 families and each has a minimum of four children. What can be their share from the fields? Added to this there is no rain to produce anything. Therefore people are frustrated and losing interest in agriculture. The water is not sufficient even for drinking.

Do you have electricity?
No, they have put up these poles which are useless.

Did they charge you for the poles?
No, they neither charged any money nor supplied electricity.

Did they tell you when you'll be getting electricity?
They told us that by March we will be charged some money and will get electricity. March has come and gone but there is no electric supply. Even for water there are taps fitted but there is no supply of water.

Do you feel that there should be electricity?
Why do you think we got these poles fitted, and gave our land?

Do you feel it will be beneficial?
At least we will be able to see what is happening around us, or the arrival of a thief! For the older people movement will be easier otherwise one could easily fall down while walking or climbing the stairs.

Have you heard about any big dam?
No, to be honest.

Haven't you heard of the Tehri Dam?
Section 22
How can the village be made prosperous?
The government should have given us some comforts and made arrangements like Mahila Mangal Dal, tarpaulin, a panchayat ghar (place where meetings are held) etc.

What else?
Some arrangement for us to get together.

Do you have any medicinal plants?

Were they available earlier?
No. We had jeera (cumin). For all ailments the patient was given jeera and he became well. Now we have doctors and their medicines. Sick children are taken to the doctor.

Do not you give any homemade medicines to the sick?
We did earlier but not now. We used to get the roots of rasberry and karonda (medicinal herbs).

What did these cure?
The stomachaches of children were treated by giving the paste of these roots.

Why don't you use them now?
Now there are doctors.

Don't your medicines work now?
Now the people find them bitter compared to the doctor's medicines. So we don't give them.

Isn't the doctor's medicine also bitter?
It must be, but it is very convenient.

The doctor must be charging for treatment?
Yes, probably.

But your roots are free of cost?

Then why don't you use them?
People go to doctors for treatment.

Was the older treatment very slow?
No. But those old people are no longer there and the modern people do not have any knowledge about roots etc.

You must have the knowledge?
Yes, but the children refuse to be treated by me.
Section 23
When you fall sick what do you do?
So far nothing has happened to me. It will be only once - the time of my final departure from here (death)!

Have you taken part in any movement?

Like prohibition etc?

Have you been to any place agitating against something?
No, I have been to places where a drunkard misbehaved or to a brewery and advised people neither to brew nor drink alcohol.

Have you been associated with any other movement?

Have you been successful?

How do you organise a movement?
I try to tell the person not to drink. I also tell the person not to brew. Then he replies that it is a source of income and livelihood. So I reason out that he earns Rs 20 and sells the liquor. But the person who drinks it loses his senses and is found lying in a gutter. This way his family is the loser. His family has no money.

Do you go alone or there are other women also?
Others also.

Are they from this village or from other villages too?
Only from this village.

Do men also take part?

Does anyone from your family oppose this?
No. There is no opposition in any family. When 60 to 80 of us go and reason with the culprit he admits his folly and keeps quiet.

Have you visited the Mahila Mangal Dal of any other village?

Once I went to Chamba.

To see if we could get any new information.

Where did you go?
To the Block.
Section 24
To the Chamba Block? Who met you there?
Yes. We met some officer from Tehri there.

Were there other Mahila Mangal Dals also?
Yes, many of them.

From where?
I have no knowledge but the veranda was full. A lady from Rampur gave a speech.

What did she say?
She spoke well, praising the work - good work - being done in the village. She also complained that they had dug holes for planting trees but got no trees. There was no arrangement for watering the trees. She was assured that there would be arrangements made for sending trees and water. They also said they had sent tarpaulin and gas to Chamba Block.

Were you inspired by their speeches?
Yes, they spoke well.

Were you motivated to some extent?
They have been getting things. We also went so that we’d get something. They spoke well because of that.

What do you plan for future?
The future seems to be good as at one call all the village women gather together.

What are your expectations from children?
What can I say? Some of them have got jobs. Not mine. I know that somehow they are looking after their families and managing their affairs - whatever be their job and nature of work.

You mentioned that after completing their education the younger lot are leaving the village. If this carries on who will live here?
The parents, daughters, daughters-in-law will all be here.

If all get educated and go away, can their culture be like ours?

When you have a puja (prayer ritual) in the family do your daughters and daughters-in-law come home?

Tell me of some major event in your life.
I lost my husband. What other event?

At what age did you get married?
I was eleven years old.
Section 25
What is the age for getting married these days?
Nowadays they are getting married very late at 24, 25, 30 or 35 years of age. The girls too are getting married at 22-23 years.

Which is the correct way?
The present way is correct.

Now they see the outside world and have learnt a lot. Both girls and boys are getting educated and developing independent thinking, and sometimes refuse to get married. Earlier, as and when a proposal for marriage came, the girls were given away. Nowadays people are educating their children. The daughters are also being educated. The girls are becoming more aware that they should not marry early.

What is wrong with early marriages?
The girls are the sufferers. It is their ruination.

When the boy is not doing anything how can he look after the family? Now even the girls are working along with the boys. So both husband and wife are living comfortably. Both are intelligent which is good. Earlier the parents sent the girls from one corner to another, like burying somebody [ie they were treated badly/hardly noticed]. I got married at 11. What could I think of doing?

When you went to your husband's house the first time did you realise that you had come to your in-law's house?

What did you think?
I wasn't mature enough. I had no sense then. I am getting wiser with age and can see the difference. Those days we did whatever anybody told us to do.

Did you face problems while staying with your mother-in-law?
How could there not be problems? A mother-in-law is after all a mother-in-law.

What is a mother-in-law?
She never felt that her daughter-in-law was still very young and had to be looked after. She ordered me to get gobar (dung), water or grass, simply because I was a daughter-in- law.

What difference did you notice between your parents' and in- laws’ place?
At the parents' place I just ate dal and rice and enjoyed life, but at the in-laws' I ate only when I pounded [grain]. I got no breakfast, only some barley if I fetched some grass.

Didn't you grow rice earlier?
Yes, we did but even though the mother-in-law had a good stock of things, she had to eat barley. But nowadays people don't even mention barley. They want rice, whether it be the son, mother, daughter or daughter-in-law. They will eat only dal-bhat (lentils and rice), not mandua. But at one time we didn't get it.
Section 26
Didn't you say that you did not like it?
No, why should I have done that? In those days, child, we never opened our mouths.

Why not?
We were scared.

Did you get sufficient food, whatever it was?
We ate whatever amount was given. We never asked for more food. In fact, we used to say, don't give us food!

If you were hungry why did not you ask for more?
Yes, I used to feel hungry. But it was not as if she was my mother from whom I could demand more food. She was my mother-in-law. Now I am a mother-in-law, and I eat as and when and however much my daughter-in-law gives me. She eats plenty and gives me whatever she feels like. Those times and the present time are very different.

Did you have any tension or fight with your mother-in-law?
There was no question. We never raised our voice or opened our mouth, how could there be any fight?

Why did not you open your mouth?
We felt shy, afraid. Now the educated lot say straight away whatever they want to. I was totally uneducated. If we did so with the husband even he would pick up a stick [to beat us].

Was your husband educated?

Then why did he, an uneducated person, beat you?
He was a dud. If he were educated he would realise that I had left my mother to come here, and I needed food and clothes. I used to wear ghagra (long skirt) and angri (warm blouse). Now because of my son I wear dhoti (cotton sari) also, blouse, and petticoats too. Earlier I had to wear ghagra and angri.

You did not have dhotis earlier?

Then what did you wear?
Ghagra and angri, not blouses like this.

Were the clothes better earlier or now?
They are better now.
Section 27
Do you treat your daughter-in-law in the same way as your mother-in-law treated you?
No. I don't feel that she is my daughter-in-law. I treat them like my daughters. She is looking after me well so I do not interfere in their ways. But earlier if ever we opened our mouths the mother-in-law used to beat us up with broom, the husband with a stick when I did not finish pounding [grain] on time.

Were you beaten?

What did you do then?
Nothing, we used to go to fetch grass, wood or cow-dung.

Even after getting the beating?

You never refused to?
No, never.

Do your daughters-in-law treat you well?
Oh, yes.

They never refuse you anything?
No, never.

Were the mothers-in-law good earlier or they are now?

You said that at the time of the marriage you were young and scared of saying anything, but what happened when you became slightly older?
Soon after that the in-laws died. I had to take over the household responsibilities in two to four years time. Then the husband realised it was better not to say anything since I was doing all the work. Earlier, maybe on the mother-in-law's prompting or the father-in-law's, he used to ill-treat me.

Do you listen to the radio?
I do not have one.

Have you seen a TV?
No. I have seen only the horns of a buffalo, nothing else!

Do you know what is broadcast on TV?
I have never seen one, nor have I heard anything.

Never seen one, never heard one.

Some of the neighbours must have one?
Nobody has it in our area.
Section 28
Have you ever stayed away from the village for a time, or been out to visit another place?

You said that your sons are doing jobs outside. Have you not visited them ever?
No as they are all very far away.

Don't they take you out?

Have you not expressed a wish to visit them?
No. They have no proper arrangement for their own living. So there is no point my going. That's why I say that I have seen a buffalo's horn only!

You have told me that they are all working, then why can't you go there?
Some have the families there, and some families are staying back in the village. They are not so attached to me as they are with their families. They give me enough money to look after my needs. They are not that keen to take me for a holiday trip.

Don't you wish to see other places?
Even if I do, what can I do? When my sons tell me that they have no house and sufficient income to take me there, having a wish is pointless.

What difference does it make, even if their wives are staying with them?
The daughter-in-law is there for them, not to work here. So if they are there it is good. They are earning and living well. I do not unnecessarily bother them. They should be together. I pray to God to keep them together - wherever they are - enjoy themselves together. This gives me satisfaction. If we had sufficient rains I would have called them to work here. It is pointless their working here. When they come here, at least two bainthis (brass vessels) of water for the day and one for the night is needed. They can't lift a bainthi. So it is an additional problem for me. Therefore I am happy if they are where they are.

Why can't they fetch water?
They feel that they are city dwellers. They have scooters and cycles. They are not used to walking. Our roads are full of stones and they feel that the bainthi will break. I used to have four buffaloes and there used to be plenty of buttermilk in this house always. Now I have only one buffalo. The men were all very strong. Their father was very strong and well built, and these sons of his are so thin. There is no milk and ghee (clarified butter) since they can't rear cattle, so why have them? Those days it rained a lot and there was lot of grass and water. They gave lot of milk. Where is all that now? There is no ghee, milk, butter-milk, no water. Outside they are drinking water from Harijans and even goldsmiths. Everybody is using the water from lower castes and the milk sold by lower castes is distributed by the milkman and sold to the shopkeepers. The tea that they drink is made with that milk only. I feel sorry for the people who have to drink this milk.

Because the lower caste Chamars (shoemakers) and Dhunars (fishermen) take that milk and sell it.
Section 29
Don't you drink milk brought from them?

We are different from them.

We are high caste but they are Harijans.

Is it good not to use their milk?

Why, what will happen if we drink it?
No, child, I do not feel like drinking it.

If someone does?
My children have gone out and they must be using that milk. But I am talking of the old beliefs. I have lived like that and I do not feel like changing my ways.

Why is this difference there?
I can't tell you why, but I can't change.

But do you think it is a good thing?
For me it is right. But according to the present generation, no. Today the whole world is the same. In the hotels where we never even had tea, they are eating rice. In those hotels where we refused to eat, they are eating meat. For them it is all fine, but in my old age, I can't change. My mind cannot accept it.

What changes do you desire in your lifestyle?
Child, I would like to have some schools close by. There should be some electricity. The government assured us that it would be available by Chaitra (March/April), but after putting up the poles there has been no progress at all. They have taken away part of my land and then disappeared. The government should tell us what their plans are. If only we had a doctor close by, our children would be attended to. But there is no information about any plans from the government. It would help us if they would give us some idea of their plans. The water problem is so acute. The women go to Nakote, 5 to 6 kms away - and after lot of quarrelling and fighting come home late with two bainthis of water. Our girls have gone out since morning and have not yet returned. How can the cattle be looked after, how can we maintain gardens or orchards? The government should inform us when our children will have the facility of schools nearby, when the water and electricity problem will be solved. The children would have benefited, they would have been able to study more easily, and I would have felt happy about it. We should have had a hospital. My children would have benefited and worked for the government only.

Did you go so far looking for water earlier also?
No, child, we had it close by - 4 kms or so - but now the stream has dried up.
Section 30
Earlier it was 4 kms away?

And now?
Now we get it from Kutthi and Nakote - at least 10 kms away. There is no water, no trees. After the earthquake even the water has dried up. In some cases people got some money, we did not get even that.

Was your village affected by the quake?
My whole house, veranda, everything was destroyed as so many others in the village. Some houses developed cracks. In some cases the government gave assistance of Rs 5-10,000 and for some Rs 500 but not a penny came to me as assistance.

Did you inform the authorities about it?
My children went to New Tehri and submitted some documents but nobody has taken any action.

At the time of the earthquake who was your MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly?
The pradhan must have been the MLA. He only helped the people of his village. People got Rs 500 and so on. Our pradhan is from some other village, Kutthi, and did nothing for us.

You do not have a pradhan in the village?

Did the pradhan of Kutthi come here?
Yes, he did.

What did he do?
He came and saw our houses. Some outsiders had also come.

Did the outsiders come alone or with the pradhan?
They had come alone. They saw our houses but did ask us anything about the quake or the compensation or giving an application etc. We had given the application on our own.

Why had they come here?
I have no idea who sent them and why but nothing has come out of their visit.

Did you complain to the pradhan?
We did. We gave written documents, but received no intimation both from New Tehri and Tehri. I am very upset. All other villages got some help but nothing came to this village. What have we done to enrage the government? People came, saw the damage to our houses but the government hasn't helped at all. Our children spent their money in preparing the documents. They spent 150 per form and deposited them at Nakote. They received the application form and Rs150, but we got nothing in return.
Section 31
Did all the villages fill in the forms?
Yes, all of them.

Some people must have got some financial help?
Nobody got anything. Maybe an odd family got it but it is a secret, not to our knowledge, otherwise at least people would make a mention that so and so got it and nobody else did.

What changes do you want?
We want cooking gas, pressure cookers for cooking, schools, dhurris (rugs) for children to sit on. The government has failed to provide electricity so we should be given a gas lamp. We have our panchayat sessions in the dark.

What use is a pressure cooker?
In the absence of firewood we can cook the food quickly, that's all. That's the only advantage.

Do you have gober (cow dung) gas?

Has nobody got it?

What about stoves?
I do not have any. Others may have them but how can they use it when there is no kerosene oil? Water can't be used.

What is your idea of an ideal village?
Where there are schools, doctor, drinking water close by. The taps fitted here are useless. We get water once or twice a month. They charge tax, 10, 5 or 20 per month.

Where are the water taps fitted?
They are fitted high in Danda from Pantnagar. They have given connection to five to six villages, namely Upri Kothi, Neeche Kothi. Every house has a water connection and we are paying the tax for them. We kept waiting for the water to reach us. For 60 to 80 families here they have fitted only three taps. Only three were fitted in Upri Kothi also but they charged money from them and each house has been given water connection. As a result we get no water at all.

Do they charge you for supplying water?

What is the basis for the charges?
They charge 2.50 per month, Rs 5 for two months.

When do they come to collect the money?
They come every month and assure us that soon water will be supplied. But there is not a drop of water. They fool us and take the money.
Section 32
Did not you ever refuse to pay?
No. We want to have cordial relations. If we submit a written complaint that there is water in every house in Upri Kothi and not a drop here, these people can be suspended. But we the old people think that they are our own children, why harm them thus?

How long back were the taps fitted?
About 12 years back.

Then how could you be cordial for so long?
Ours is a peace-loving village. We do not want any tensions. The men and women are very cool and quiet. When we pay the money we ask for water supply and in return we are given assurances but not a drop of water comes.

Why do you pay when there is no water supply?
Then the government collects arrears. So for that fear we keep paying every month.

How was it done?
Written orders were sent asking why we have not paid, so we had to pay.

Why did not you tell them to disconnect the taps when there was no water supply?
Now we will say so. When there is no water supply what are we paying their tax for? It is an ordeal for us to fetch water from a distance of 10 kms. We have stopped cattle rearing as it requires lot of water for their bath and consumption. Where shall we fetch so much water from when we do not have enough for our families? But unfortunately there is no water connection and we are paying the tax. It is all being done by the person who is supposed to install the meter.

What is his name?
I do not know his name.

What is he?
He is the water supply line man.

Does the MLA ever visit the village?


What about the previous MLA?

When you have a Mahila Mangal Dal why don't you protest?
It has been there only for a year.