photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary










Adwani village, Henval valley, Tehri Garhwal


December 1993



Section 1
Did your people always live in their ancestral village, or have you come here from another place?
We are the original inhabitants of this place. We have not come from anywhere else. Our old people have been living here for three generations. We are passing our time living in this very village. Since I got married, there have been three generations [of descendants]. We have worked hard with the older people of our village. Now the older people have died, and the younger generation is here. Some of them work hard, some work at other occupations. That is how our lives are going on. Sometimes there are famines, sometimes we have eaten bajra (variety of millet), sometimes other things. This is how our lives have gone by. At one time there were plenty of trees. Some years ago, some people had come for the trees. The Sarvodaya (powerful movement based on persuading big landowners to give some property to the poor and landless) people also came and we started a movement to save the trees.

For how many generations have your people been in this village?
You can see from the fact that I have only so many descendants.

You mean only three generations?
Yes, I have seen three generations here. Now the fourth generation is starting. People before us may have come from another place. But from my time it has been like this.

Do you have any information about where they could have come from?
No, they didn't come from any other place. They have been here from the beginning. But I have heard from our older people that these people [of village Adwani] used to live in a place called Rano Ka Sera [Rano is derived from the word Rana which means king. Sera means irrigated land]. One of the families of this village lived in Adwani from the beginning. The people of Berni village (adjoining village) had given the land called Rano Ka Sera to the people of Adwani village.

Where is this Rano Ka Sera?
Below Adwani village, in Berni village. It had been left by some Rana family. The people of Adwani bought it from them. But even in those days they remained in this village. This village was always Adwani, from the start.

How many families are there in your village, approximately?
Why approximately? There are fully 50 families here, and how many families there are of those 50 families, how can I count? Some have four, some have six, and some seven sub-families (branches of families). Many sub-families have come into being, but of the main families there are only 50.
Section 2
Do these people all stay together or apart?
No. There is only one village, one area, but sub-families stay at a distance from each other. Wherever they find some facilities, that is where people have made their huts.

Tell me how many members are there in your family?
Yes? Till where am I to count?

Do tell me how many people there are in your family, approximately, how many boys, how many girls...?
Keep quiet. You need not count.

No, no. You tell me. I only want to know how many members are there in your family?
Mine.... I have five sons and three daughters. And then of the other one (her husband’s other wife) - they all have one father - she has three sons. And the sons also have many children.

Does the whole family stay together or have they all separated?
We have all separated. But we all love each other the same as before.

Do you all love each other as one?
Yes, we love each other as one: the daughter-in-law, brothers, the two old women. Our old man has now died. The person who used to feed 50 people, who depended upon him, has died. Now without him we are of no use. The sons live in different places. Now we two old women are left, who are of no use to anyone. Who asks us for anything, now you tell me? Only one son stays at home with us.

What do your sons do?
What do they do? What are they supposed to do? They look after their families. Some are in service, some are doing other things.

Where do they work, can you tell me?
They are busy with their work. One is an editor, one is a lawyer, one is a patwari (functionary in the Revenue Office), one is an inspector. I do not know what each one is doing. I don't know what you want to make my sons do.

I won't make them do anything!
One is a doctor, another is a clerk in Dehra Dun. There are eight sons. All eight are engaged in earning their living. They are bringing up their families. They are alright. They are eight sons of one father, and all are doing well. We have no need or want, of anything.

Are your girls educated?
My daughters are uneducated. But you cannot make out when you see them that they are illiterate. They are busy looking after their households.
Section 3
Tell me, in the olden days did they not educate their girls?
Yes. I cannot even read the alphabet. If I could read today then I would have gone straight to the Chipko Andolan (forest protection movement) people, to Bahugunaji (movement leader) - but I know nothing.

Do you think that girls should be educated?
Now, my daughters are not educated. But all my granddaughters are studying.

Your grand daughters are studying, but do you think that girls should be educated?
Well, the issue is really this, that whether a man wishes to give his daughter dowry or not, he should educate her a little. This is what I would like. They should be educated a little. We older people have remained illiterate, so all we are doing here is to clean cow dung. Now the times are not the same. I got all three of my daughters married to educated boys, and all three are now living in towns. Now all three daughters are studying. My feeling is that as far as possible everyone should be educated.

Where does your family find matches (marriage partners) nowadays?
How would I know? Wherever people want to marry, they marry.

Is there any embargo on marrying into certain kinds of families?
Nowadays people are marrying outside. Who is making marriage relationships here? Now everyone is educated, so they are forming relationships outside. Wherever our boys (sons) work, they find their daughters’ marriage partners there.

Who takes care of the family now?
Who will do it for me? I do it myself. We do our work ourselves we two old women. Our sons are now settled in other places. If they give us something, we will eat. If they don't, we will keep crying. The person who used to provide for us, our husband, he is dead. Now I cannot move from this place.

How much agricultural land do you have?
We have quite a lot of land, but it has become wasteland. Now I cannot work much by myself.

Who does the work in the fields?
Some I do myself. Some I give on half-share.

On what basis do you calculate a half-share?
A half-share means that the product is shared. Half is yours, half is mine.

What kind of fields do you have?
What kind?

I mean irrigated or non-irrigated?
Some are irrigated, the rest, non-irrigated.
Section 4
Where are your fields?
One is in Rano Ka Sera, where the people of Adwani bought land from the Ranas. In this village each person has one field in Berni village which was purchased from the Ranas. The Ranas must have gone away from there.

Do you go to Berni from here to cultivate your land?
Yes, from here.

Do you not feel it a strain to go far away?
Of course it is difficult, but we have to look after our stomachs. We take cow dung to the fields and bring back paddy. My condition is getting worse each day with the strain of climbing. But we have to fill our stomachs.

How far is Rano Ka Sera from here?
It's down below in Berni village.

Have you any idea of the distance?
How far? About 7 or 8 miles.

Where are your fields, which are un-irrigated?
Non-irrigated fields are close to us. They are within a mile or two of this place. We go there to cultivate it.

Do you get a whole year's supply of grain from your field?
No, it is not enough. We get only some of our requirements. We work very hard and we get just a little. If we get rain on our fields, we get a little grain. If there is no rain, there is no grain. What can we do?

When the grain is not sufficient, what do you people do?
We ask our sons for money. Then we buy our grain from the shops and eat.

What do you grow in your fields?
Paddy, wheat, we get a little of everything.

What is “everything”?
Paddy, wheat, finger millet, barnyard millet, fox-tail millet, different kinds of dals (lentils), proso millet, horse gram, pigeon pea. If we work really hard, it is possible to grow everything. We get at least two to four padha (Garhwali measurement: 1 padha = 2kg) of everything. When it is not sufficient, then we have to buy it. We have to eat, after all!

How much livestock do you have?
We always keep a pair of bulls and two buffaloes.

How long ago were you married?
How long ago was I married! I am about to die! I was married when I was 13 years old. From then till now - it is time for me to die.
Section 5
Approximately how old are you?
About 60 or 70 years.

60 or 70 years?
Yes. I must be 70 years old.

Do you think there is any difference between your lifestyle now and the time of your marriage?
I do not have the strength that I had once.

What is the reason for this decline?
With my increasing age I have no strength to work any more. I cannot work to fill this stomach. I have to do at least some work, however little. If I keep lying down inside, what will I eat? My husband is dead.

Where do you get grass for your livestock?
I bring it myself, from here, from the fields. I cannot go to the forests... I get grass from the trees, from the bunds (raised earth) around the field. Apart from this I am able to obtain some fodder leaves.

What you can obtain from your fields is enough for your animals?
No. I have to buy some.

At what rate do people sell fodder?
It is very expensive. One pole of straw costs Rs.200. [Straw is tied around poles for storage in these villages].

How much straw is there in each pole?
Each pole has four bundles. Those who have cut their grass and dried it sell it to us. But it is very expensive. I cannot do this work now. So I have to buy it. If I don't keep livestock, what will I eat? My sons are busy with their work. They live according to their wishes, some are busy educating their sons, some are educating their daughters. Their work is far away in the towns, they are busy with their families. Even if they give me half a kilogram of spices every month, in what way will that be sufficient for me? If every ten days someone gives me some rice, how will that be enough for me? I have no salary. I just have to look after my stomach!

Is the grass that grows around your fields enough for your needs?
Of course not. That is why we have to buy it.

How do you and others make up the rest of the requirement?
The others get it from the forests.

How far are the forests from the village?
They are here [narrator gestures], close by. I do not go to the forest because I am afraid. I can neither walk nor see.
Section 6
But earlier you used to go to the forest?
Yes, I used to go before. I used to climb very tall trees and peaks. But now I cannot go anymore.

Is the forest very far from here?
Yes, one or two miles away.

What is the condition of the forest now?
The forests are in a good state now. The trees and plants have been nurtured like our own children. The trees and plants are very plentiful. We struggled so hard for 12 years. I came out in front of everyone and hugged these trees. Then the crowd of women gathered behind me. Line upon line of women gathered behind me.

Do you think the condition of the forest is good?
Yes, it is all right.

Do you think there is a difference in the condition of the forests when you were young and now?
I can't see any difference. The forests are existing now as they were. If it rains, the grass grows. If there is no rain, there is no grass.

Do these forests belong to the government, or the panchayat (village council) or the village?
No, no. The forests belong to the government. But the people from all over come here for the grass.

Does this village have a forest of its own?
No, there is no such thing. Now that the road has come, people from the Gaja area across the hill ranges come for grass and firewood. People from Berni village below come here. But the forest belongs to the government. The official forests surround the whole area.

Please tell me, you were talking a little while ago about the road. How long ago did the road come?
About 16 or 17 years ago. For as long as my daughter-in-law has been married. About 16 or 17 years, certainly not less than 16 or 17 years. I remember it very well.

Has there been any change in the situation here since the road came?
Yes, there has been change.

What sort of change have you felt?
In this way that the availability of grass and firewood has dwindled. Now people come from far distant places. They cut grass and firewood, put it on the buses and take it away. The result is that there is a crisis for us.

I see, I see. So where do these people come from to collect grass and firewood?
People [come] from Gaja Road, Behali, Gaasari, Phalsari, Nakote, Jaikote, Biragi, Dhumakoti, etc. Now, how many villages should I name?
Section 7
Well, how do you feel about the road?
I feel good. But we have a crisis of grass and firewood as a result. That is what has happened. We like the thought that we can go here and there in automobiles. But the grass and firewood has been cleaned out. Now, in this state, why should we keep livestock when the forests have been cleaned out?

Do you think that there should be roads even to those villages, which do not have them now?
I am almost at death's door. Now if the roads extend everywhere it is all right. When there are facilities for the rest of the world, if the roads now reach those villages which have not got them, it is perfectly all right. Now my heart says that just as we have got a road, it would have been good if the road had reached Berni also. It should extend to other areas also. Only a really wicked person would think that development should only come to him. That is what I think.

But you were saying that you are suffering from a shortage of grass and firewood because of the road?
Yes, that crisis already exists. We will manage our livelihood somehow. But for us it will be a comfort, at most what will happen is that people will not keep livestock.

Then how will you manage without livestock?
There is no way, not at all. We will eat as much as we get. That's what we will do. What else can we do?

Then without animals...?
What is there to think? I am thinking that I will keep livestock for a year or two. After that, if my sons give me something, I will eat.

What will the village people do for milk without animals?
Then if there is any person who is fortunate enough to keep animals even in these conditions, we will buy milk from them.

Please tell us, how much milk do you get from the cow you have kept?
The quantity of milk depends upon the health of the cow. Some buffaloes give two kilos, some four, some even more. Some give one glass full or one cup. They are our animals. It is our milk.

Do you sell this milk or do you consume it?
No, we don't sell it. We drink plenty of milk. The remaining milk we make into ghee (clarified butter) butter and buttermilk. We don't use oil. We use only ghee for seasoning.

Is the ghee, etc enough for the whole household?
Yes, it is sufficient. If it is insufficient, we do without. We don't want to become indebted to anyone. We eat as much as we can. We sell the rest. With the money we buy oil, sell sugar and tea in exchange for the ghee.
Section 8
Do you take money for the ghee or do you barter if for salt and oil?
We take money, and then we buy the goods from the store. This has been our custom from before. It is true that things are more expensive now but the custom has remained the same.

Was there ever a time when goods were exchanged, not sold?
Yes, in the old days it used to be like that. Goods were exchanged or bartered, and bought for money also. Both ways were practised. This was the old custom.

Does your village have a panchayat?
Yes, the village has a panchayat.

What is the function of this panchayat?
The panchayat repairs and maintains roads, canals, tanks, check dams, dharamshalas (rest houses), retaining walls [for land holders], tree contracts... these are the tasks it does.

Do people in this village cooperate with the panchayat?
No, the panchayat gives out contracts. There is one contractor, everyone has to agree to his being given the contract. The panchayat pays him the money allotted by the government.

How do people perform in the village group functions such as weddings?
It is like this, the boy and girl who are to be married bear the expenses, but the people in the village do all the work. The whole village eats in the house where the marriage is to be. This is the old custom, followed these days as well.

Is it like this even now?
Yes, it is like this now. Everyone helps each other, except in making monetary contributions. No one gives their own money for these things. But all the work and labour is provided by them.

Do people cooperate in the village work?
All matters are settled by mutual agreement. So that no one can raise objection or feel hurt. The panchs (five men who lead the panchayat) decisions are the highest. It is just the same as happens in your country. They have a sitting, and everyone comes to a decision.

Are there temples in your village?
Yes, of course there are.

Which deity is worshipped in your village?
We have Saurmala, Narasimh Nagraja, Bhairav, Ghandiyal, Bhagwati; all the gods have a temple here.

Do people have their own household gods?
No, no, all the temples (deities) belong to the community. Where does anyone have individual gods? When god enters the body of one person, everyone begins to worship him. We have made small temples for our gods.
Section 9
Which is your family's Ishta Devta (chosen family God handed down through centuries)?
Our Ishta Devta is right here, [narrator gestures towards the peepul - sacred Bodhi tree] Narasimha Devta, Ghandriyal Bhairav, Bhagwati; these are the gods who have been ours for generations.

Can you tell me any old stories about these gods?
Whatever there is here… What do I tell you about old things? They are gods, after all.

Can you tell me about your prayer and worship rituals?
We do puja (prayer ritual) on Shankaranthi day (Jan 14). We offer rote prasad (sacred bread) to all the four corners of the earth. When there is a new harvest, we offer it to the gods. We offer sirni (sweet dough). What else are we to do to our gods? We don't bathe our gods...

You were talking about Bhagwati. How do you offer prayers to Bhagwati?
Bhagwati is worshipped during the season of flowers (March/April). In the good months we go to the Bhagwati temple and do puja.

Where is Bhagwati's temple?
It is right here, below, Hadsera Devi's temple, also Bhuvaneshwari and Rajeshwari's temple [These are all female deities representing shakti (energy)]

What offerings do you make to Bhagwati?
All that is available in house: sriphal (coconut), goat, a canopy of silver, and prasad (food offering to the deity) what else are we to do?
[Bachani Devi was at first not willing to continue the interview beyond this point. But she agreed to talk after we had eaten lunch]

You also offer green leaves to the deity. What is the ritualistic significance of this? What else do you do? Will you tell me more?
We call the brahmins (priests), we read from the holy books, make offerings of newly sown seedlings of barley and til (sesame seeds), we recite religious texts, put sacred kumkum (auspicious mark of red powder on forehead) on our foreheads; after nine days when we cut the barley, we either offer more cooked sweet meats or we kill a goat.

You mention that you sprout barley seedlings. Do old people have any special belief about this?
Why not? It is for the gods. That is the belief. We believe that the Goddess has sprouted the grain, that is, she has given us her blessings, in the place of worship (temple). Everyone must keep the seedlings on their heads, because the Goddess alone makes the seeds sprout. The sprouted seeds are the Goddess; we worship it. She shows her presence by sprouting the seeds.
Section 10
What do you feel when you are performing the puja?
Bhagwati's shakti is present in the place of worship at the time of puja.

Have you ever felt the direct impact of the devi's divine power in your life?
Yes, yes, she does respond to my prayers. She does give us a glimpse of her power.

Have you ever felt it yourself? [The Garhwali belief is that the female goddess displays her pleasure directly to human beings when they honour her, with faith]: Can you recount any incident?
Yes, she always bestows her grace.

Have you any specific incident where you have felt her presence yourself?
What can I say? Are there any episodes that the gods show us? Power alone is the manifestation of the gods, wherever you are. There are no episodes. We cannot demonstrate their power. We can only feel it from within.

You were talking about a Ghandiyal Devta. Is this your personal god or the village god?
He is the God of the whole region, of the whole world. Gods are for everything, not for a special thing or object.

How far is Ghandiyal from here?
It is on the opposite side. [Narrator points to the far off forests]

Do you go on pilgrimage to Ghandiyal? How do you worship him?
What ritual can we observe?

What I mean is how do you observe the yatra (pilgrimage) to the temple? Do you go alone or together?
Depends on individual wishes. If you wish to go today then you will go only today, taking a sriphal with you. If your desire is to go tomorrow you will only go tomorrow. People go only when they wish to go. There is no special moment for wanting to visit the Gods. When you will it, you will go.

Is there any tradition of the whole village going together to worship?
When I want to go, I go, I must will it to happen and meditate upon it. Today my grandson is ill, I will pray and meditate, and promise God that if my grandson gets well I will go on a yatra pilgrimage as thanksgiving. Then we present offerings in the name of God.

Do you feel that the present generation believes in going on pilgrimages?
Everyone believes in it. We have inherited this tradition from our elders. When the elders did it, we also followed them. Now that we are doing it, the younger generation is also following us.
Section 11
You say that your sons live in the towns. So how do they maintain these traditions?
They also do puja to these gods and goddesses. They fold their hands before them when they go to work. Then they go to Bhagwati's temple or Saurala's temple (a local deity) and fold their hands before them.

I see. So the young men also believe [in the same gods]?
Yes, they do, a great deal.

What are the other customs and rituals in your village? Can you tell me a little?
Why are you asking me this? It is just as it is in your towns. In the towns people have money. So they celebrate it in greater style and with lights. In our homes we cut wood. A person comes specially to cook food and rice is cooked for the whole village and everyone eats it.

Do you have any festivals in your village? Can you tell me about them?
In the month of March we make papadi (special rice dish). In the month of Kartik (October/November) we have Diwali (festival of light) which we celebrate once a year. We play bhailla bhola.

What is this bhailla bola? And how do you make it and how do you play it?
First we bring a creeper from the forest. It is an especially elastic creeper found in the forests. It never catches fire. Then we collect the bark, that portion of the chir pine tree which yields resin, which is used as a candle in villages. Then we tie the vine to the bark, and then we light the bark and keep swinging it round and round for a very long time.

Please tell me what other festivals does the village observe?
What other festivals? There is Makara Shankaranthi, Baisakhi, and Panchami.

What do you do in these festivals?
When we have the festival of Shankaranthi, in the winter month of January, we make khichdi (rice and lentils cooked together) and pakodi (ground lentils fried in butter) which is regarded as auspicious. When the month of flowers comes (March) we make papadi In the month of Chaitra (March/April) which is regarded as the beginning of the New Year, young girls pluck coloured flowers and decorate bamboo baskets with them. Before sunrise they decorate the entrance of all the houses there to welcome the New Year and bring happiness to the homes. During Diwali we play [with] bhailan (homemade fireworks), in Baisakh (April/May) we have fairs.

How many fairs do you have and when?
What should I say? I never go, but my daughters and daughter-in-law go. On the 25th of April there is a fair at Gaja, on 29th April at Chamba, and on the 5th and 6th June at Hadsera. On 27th April at Baketh and on the 12th and 13th of June at Jajal, on the 3rd and 4th of June at Khadi, and on the 8th and 9th of June at Nagni. People go to all these fairs, also the girls and daughters-in-laws if they wish.
Section 12
Do you find any difference in people's attitudes to fairs in the old days and now?
No, there is no difference. Fairs have been carrying on from generation to generation. People who have money go to the fairs. They wear new clothes. They wander about a little, meet one or two relatives and come home.

Is there any old belief behind these festivals?
No, there is nothing. Melas (fairs) are for happiness and pleasure. Whenever people get together, they hold a fair, wear new clothes, put money into their pockets and gather happily together. They get to meet many people. They return home in the evenings.

You said there was a panchayat in this village. Apart from this is there any other organisation where men and women get together to work.
Yes, of course. Everyone works together. For example you and I will do a task together, someone else will do it tomorrow.

Yes, I am sure. But just as in other villages there is a Mahila Mangal Dal (rural women’s council), is there some such institution in your village?
There are some women who have formed a group under me. I undertake all the responsibility for their work. The rest all support me.

What kind of work have you done through this Mahila Mangal Dal?
I have done something. Now what else is there to do?

Please tell me something about their work?
A lot of us women tried to do some work through the Mahila Mangal Dal. We bore a lot of hardship. All our village people came with us. We had a big struggle with the police. We experienced beating at the hands of the police.

What do you mean by that?
Because we would not let the trees be cut. That is what I have been trying to tell you. People came to cut the forest. But we flung our arms around the trees. Sunderlal from Saklana was the forest contractor. He gave Rs. 6,000 as security for the contract. The security lapsed because of our movement.

Was Saklani the contractor of the forest?
Yes. Even my husband was a forest contractor.

Your husband - a forest contractor?
Yes, my husband was a forest contractor. He cut a huge amount of timber. He cut forest after forest. He cut the forest of Gogan and all of Ghandiyal, also the forests of Utkanda and heaven knows how many other forests he has cut. He was the major contractor and I was his enemy in this struggle.
Section 13
Your name must be in the newspapers?
I acted against my husband and so saved the forest.

Can you tell me more about the Chipko Andolan, how you did all these things?
What should I say? The policemen came, so we clung to the trees, all of us women. The police could not push us aside. There were about four other women with me. But they could not do anything to us. They stood and watched us, but they never laid hands on us. There was a big crowd from the village. The whole village backed me.

How many more women were there with you?
Lots. 60 to 80 women.

Which forest did you start the struggle from?
From Adwani forest, we saved only the Adwani forest, not the others. I did not go to the other places. I remained against my husband. I saved my own forest. I didn't let anyone come within its boundaries. Then we read the Bhagavat Gita (important Hindu scripture) for seven days. The musicians also came. We had a meeting (religious gathering) here in this village.

Did you read the Bhagavat Gita for seven days?
Yes we did. Sunderlal Bahuguna came here and arranged the reading. I made all the arrangements for food and drink.

How did you do this?
I bought the food from the shops for demonstration.

Your husband was opposing you. So how did you get the money to buy the rations?
I did whatever I did. My husband was against me. Then I sold the grain in my house. I sold the labour of my own hands. Even though my husband was against me I stood firm. I didn't ask for help to make any arrangements for so many people. The musicians came. Doom Singh Negi, Pratap Shekar, Vijay Jardhari also came and I fed everyone. I never let anyone go hungry in my house either. I had plenty of grain. I had sold ghee and milk and made plenty of money. I had that with me. With the money I made arrangements for everyone against my husband's wishes. But I got nothing from all this. I ran about a lot. I remained opposed to everyone. But no one even asked about me. Now I have recorded this statement in your machine - that no one has even asked about me.

Did the Andolan people not take notice of you?
Yes. What did they see? I don't know anything about them. I thought they might help me a little. Perhaps give me a little salt and oil. But they don't even speak to me now. They come sometimes, bring their walking sticks, hold their meetings and go away. Only I who opposed my husband know what it means to go through this. These trees have been saved by me. There were two or three other women with me.
Section 14
Who were the other women, can you tell me their names?
One was Jaumadevi from this very village. She is my sister-in-law. The other is my husband's sister.

Who is she?
Moola Devi; she is also from this village. Moola, Jauma and I, with all the other village women behind us, went together.

Did people from other village also participate in this struggle?
Yes. I went to many places to attend meetings.

Yes. You went to many meetings. But when you went to save your forest did people from other villages come to help you?
Yes, lots of them came. The people came from Berni village, from Gangsar. Women from three villages came here.

For how many days did you keep up the struggle?
There was a fight at least on one day of every week. We held a saptah (religious meeting) for 14 days. Then everyone stayed here for 14 days.

Does that mean that people attended the religions meeting and kept up the action at the same time?
No. During the religions meeting there was no action, only prayers. The action took place before the prayer meeting.

I see, that means you first said prayers and then started the struggle?
No, the struggle started first then we observed the prayer meeting. We felt that our work had good results only when the contractors ran away. They cut one or two trees. After this we managed to stop them from cutting the forests. They cut only one or two trees.

Which trees did they cut?
Sal trees (shorea robusta, tree used for timber and seeds for oil).

Sal trees? What other trees are there in these forests?
There is everything here: sal, chir, dhanda, guriyal (bauhinia), semul, etc.

Really? When you decided to save the forest, how did you get the idea that even earlier you should have saved the forests?
Pratap Shekhar had been here. Sunderlal from Saklana had taken a contract, and my husband too, for cutting the Gogani and Ghandiyal slopes. Then gradually we started discussing it. Then we became aware of these issues.
Section 15
How did the thought enter your head that you should save the forests, when your husband himself was the contractor for timber. You must have had to face intense opposition from home. In this situation -
It just came into my head. So what if my husband is a contractor? I have to save the forests, my government, and my village, for me.

Do you think there is a fundamental difference in the attitude that men and women have towards forests?
Yes, people took away wood by stealth, hiding it from me. Day by day I have become old. Now I am just sitting at home, so people are stealing from the forests, what can I do? But during the last 12 years, no one has cut a tree in front of me.

Yes. But how did you come to love the forest so much?
It happened, that is all. It just came into my mind. Whatever happens comes into the mind first. I got the idea in my mind, and I got all the women together and explained it to them.

How did you explain? How did you prepare them for this?
I am illiterate. But even then I explained it to everyone. Everyone respected me in the village. People used to listen to me. Everyone listened, too.

Did you have any problems while explaining it to people?
Yes. I had problems. But who can understand other people's problems? Matters that were closest to my heart, that hurt me most, I kept to myself.

That is what I am asking. When you got so many people together and started such a big movement, which became a worldwide protest and prevented the mindless felling of trees, how did you think of doing such an enormous thing?
It just came into my mind. I gathered everyone together. I am illiterate. I just got into the mood.

How did you get the idea that you could cling to the trees and prevent the contractor from cutting them?
Just like that. I was not going to allow the contractor to cut the trees, for any price. We just clung to the trees. We didn't think of anything. But we weren't going to let them cut the trees.

Even if they cut you down along with the trees?
If they cut us down it is they who would go to jail. We had to die anyway. They would have gone to jail.

What were your intentions when you wanted to save the forests?
We protected the forests because we knew it would make our lives easier. We could get firewood, grass, we could keep livestock in peace. When the drought comes what will we do? So I gathered everyone together, explained to all of them, kept them under my control, then we saved the forests. For 12 to 14 years I have prevented these forests from being cut. Even now we are fighting this battle.
Section 16
The young women, who were with you, are they ready even today to save the forests?
Everyone has the same intention that the forests must be saved at any cost, completely. People cut it stealthily at night.

What do you bring from the forests?
Grass, firewood, sometimes when we are tired from cutting firewood we sit under the shade of the trees, we drink water from the little gullies. What is there that cannot be found in the jungles? We get everything from our forests.

You say that the forests provide water. Do you think that forests are necessary to provide water?
Where is water to come from? In this village we get water from a tap.

Is there any natural spring here in this village?
No. There is no spring near about. There are no natural springs. The water comes from a great distance in taps. Biradon (a thick oak forest) and Ghandiyal have natural spring water. It comes from there.

The water that comes from Ghandiyal through the oak forest...?
It emerges in the ravine.

Why is there so much water in this forest, have you any idea?
Yes, because of the trees, the oak forests. Because of the forest air and the tree roots.

Which trees does the water spring from?
From the oak, black bamboo, rhododendron, nettle bushes, the shade of big trees, the oak forests on all sides, because of the rhododendron trees and their roots. The water gathers from all these sources and then emerges from the ground as a stream in a valley and, like this, the small natural springs became a great source of water.

You have told me about the oak and black bamboo. Do you feel that this black bamboo is very useful for our forests?
Yes. It is good.

Because the water emerges from their roots. Their roots are spread out under the ground which control the earth below and therefore the water springs out from their roots.

You told me that you saved the government's forests and that your husband was the forest contractor. You opposed him. What effect did this have on you as an individual and your family life?
What interest do you have in this matter? My husband was angry. I had to oppose him. I had to save the jungles.
Section 17
How did you feel about your family life? You saved the government's forests. Did you feel any grief over this discord in your domestic life?
I felt very good, to save the forests.

But your private family quarrel...?
Why should I not feel sad. It was a matter of sadness. If my husband gave me sadness, I had to feel it. Would you feel good if your husband threw you out? If he didn't allow you to come in! You would have to stay outside. Even if you are a millionaire, you will stay outside. I stayed, defiantly. When we had quarrelled openly outside, I had to defy him to come inside. I insisted on it stubbornly. The other women... what were their names? Itwari Devi, Hima Devi, Sudesha Devi, everyone went to jail, But I couldn't go to jail. I thought it was good to go to jail.

Which jail did they go to?
Narendra Nagar. We suffered the Narendra Nagar jail for the sake of the forests - but not for the Adwani forests. For this forest it was I who should have experienced the jail. But by the time I reached the road the vehicles had left.

How many days did they stay in jail?
I do not know about this. Perhaps 6 or 7 days. They were in Narendra Nagar jail.

Were these women with you in the Adwani jungle when you saved these forests?
No. They were from far away villages - Chaumpa. They were from another part of the struggle, far away. For this jungle there was only myself - only me. The rest of the people were with me. There were people from two or three villages.

Can you tell me more about this Andolan? You started a very dynamic movement, because of which, when all over the world the forests are disappearing, there is shortage of grass and firewood, only this forest remains green and lush. Can you convey any message or explain the significance to us young people about this strong Andolan.
I have told you enough.

Do tell me something of your hopes and experiences...?
What more is there to tell? Everything is now final. Everything is over. Now I can't go anywhere. I have become very old. Do I alone have to keep struggling? There is no water, no food, my sons and daughter-in-law are in different places. Without food I cannot go anywhere. Now everything is final. Now you carry on. If you can do something, I will pick up my stick and follow you. I can go with you, but first I have to fill my stomach.

You tell me what to do, in these times, for the new generations to come?
I will walk with your strength, with your support, with my stick in my hand. But on my own I can't go anywhere.

Will you come on my strength, not on your own?
Yes, on your strength, your energy, not on my own.
Section 18
Yes, you will come with me. But do you have any idea what I should do in this direction?
All that I can think is that we should save the forest at any cost because this forest will make its own climate. We must save our forests. It has been 14 years since I have been saving the forests. I did everything and saved the forests, by hook or by crook. Now the roads have come. With the roads, the people from seven villages come. They cut the forests. So what can I do? I am now sitting with you. If anyone now cuts a tree and takes it away, what can I do? What can I do? I am sitting here. Now I cannot do anything. The time is not right anymore, to go anywhere. I now collect grass from the edges of my fields, feed my animals. If I don't keep animals who will give me food? My son and daughter are busy with their own work. Now who is for me? You think of yourself. Only if you have a job, you will eat. Your sons and daughters are all sitting in their offices, aren't they? How will I eat? I don't know how to read or write. As long as there was strength, I worked hard. Now you look in my direction. If you can see, as long as I have bones left in my body I will work. I'll keep saving the forests. But I have no opportunity any more. Now what am I to do? You tell me.

You have saved these very beautiful forests. But sometimes it happens that the forest catches fire. Do you know how this happens?
How? There are people passing day and night. People throw live matches or beedies (local cigarettes) on the ground. Then the forest catches fire. The pine needles catch fire from the glowing embers, and the fire spreads throughout the whole jungle. If someone lights a fire in the forest, the sparks fall on the other places and the fire spreads through the whole forest. Can anyone win a race against a fire?

So how do these fires come up?
When a cloud passes over the sun, won't it get dark? When the cloud doesn't pass the sun, it will remain light. That is the meaning.

How does one put out fires from pine needles?
The whole forest catches fire when pine needles burn. Then all the village people gather. They keep trying to put out the fire, but whole forest burns.

Has it happened before you? What did you do?
We tried to put out the fire, the whole village came together, then we saved part of the forest.

Is there any way we can save these forests from fires recurring every year?
The people do save the forests. All the villagers get together to do this. I also go out sometimes to put out the fires.

Are there government chowkidars (watchmen) in the forests?
They are all standing at their posts doing their duty.

Is their any fodder in the jungles for animals?
Yes, there is plenty of grass and leaves. Our animals go to the forests, they graze, and sometimes we get fodder leaves.
Section 19
Do those who take the animals into the forest to graze get other things from the forests too?
Now there are no more flowers or fruit in the forests. The graziers sit there smoking beedies.

Have you noticed any difference in the state of the forests between your childhood and now?
No, there is no particular difference. Seeds keep falling, new shoots keep coming up. The forests remain as green as before.

On what do you cook your food?
On what do I cook my food? In the place where they teach you such wisdom, on what do they cook their food?

We cook on gas.
You have money so you can buy gas, we buy wood.

Where you get wood from?
From the forest. The same forest which I saved for 14 years. We collect the branches that dry and fall from the trees.

So you do not cut trees?
No, we do not cut [branches or trees]. We use only the sticks that fall. Sometimes out of sheer necessity we even cut the trees. The women of the village are in dire necessity. We pick up the fallen wood, tie them in bundles on our heads and bring them home.

Do you get enough wood for a whole year?
We keep bringing wood and burning it. That is how we eke out our existence.

Please tell me, do you get medicinal plants in the forests, which in older days were used by people to treat pains and illness?
Now every house has become a hospital. So we now only go to the doctor for our illness. Yes, there were medicinal plants before.

Can you tell me something about these medicinal plants which were used once?
I don't have much knowledge. What little I knew earlier I have forgotten. Now what shall I say?

Tell me something you were talking about the forests of Ghandiyal. Tell me something more about them.
Now you tell me a thing or two. You come from there.

Tell me something.
About what? There is a root called ruhina (of mallotus phillippenensis, small fruit tree), a root called haldu, and a third called hinsar. We treat burns with them. Ruhina is used for leeches. It is used for children’s ailments, so is safed pahadi (literally white mountain), used for children's ailments. And the roots of french beans, etc are also used for children. Now there are hospitals.
Section 20
Do you think that the herbal medicines were more effective, or hospitals?
We think hospitals have more facilities. When children fall ill, we go 10 or 15 miles to Khadi or Jajal to get medicine from the doctors there.

You started such a big movement. Do you think that your children will also safeguard the forests?
My children work in distant towns. But they do realise that the forests must be protected. If people don't set fire to the forests, it will remain protected of its own.

Your generation used to do farming. But now you tell me that boys are leaving the village in search of jobs. In these circumstances what will be the fate of the village?
The village is getting wealthier. In this way now that the towns are providing opportunities for people. At home even if you break your heart nothing comes up in the villages. When we can't fill our stomachs from farming, they go to the towns to earn. Then they send money home through money orders. Then we are able to fulfil our needs with that money. That is how we exist. If there is a little rain, we get some harvest. Otherwise we have nothing.

But it is also a fact that if all the educated youths leave the village, what will happen to the culture and tradition that has come down for three or four generations?
It has been carried through for three generations. That you can see for yourself. Now what more should I tell you? You yourself tell me the answer, what will happen to this culture?

I don't know the answer. I have come to you to learn. You tell me what will happen?
When one by one everyone goes away, this village will become a wasteland.

How will you feel when it becomes a wasteland?
Very bad. A village will only feel right when everyone lives together happily, and our trees and vegetation remains green and lush, when the fields are good. This would be good. But when everyone goes away, will I like the wasteland? I wish that everyone would remain here, that our lands would be fertile, our animals too would be healthy. Then I would be happy.

How do you think we can keep [the village] this way?
If you can do it, well and good. If you can do it in my lifetime, then I'll also see this [prosperity]. If you don't do it, I will die. If the coming generation does this then God will notice it. This is what will happen, isn't it? I have struggled for 14 years. I saved my forests, I fought for the sake of the people, for the forest. So I did something of benefit. You went away at the time that I started the movement, when I protected the forests. Why didn't you come back till now? If you can do something for our village, it will be a good thing.
Section 21
You started such a big Chipko movement. Did you do anything to stop alcoholism?
I did nothing for the anti-liquor campaign. But I have been against the consumption of liquor. It is from this year that the campaign has started. It was there earlier too, but in the lower regions a year or two ago. I have not joined it. I am not lying about that. Pratap Shekhar broke away from it. He was of my party. Dhoom Singh Negi, Dayal Singh and Vijay Jardhari were all of my party. I heard that Pratap Shekhar joined the anti-liquor campaign, but the others didn't join. There was a meeting of this party at Gaja. I didn't go. The one party for which I took the responsibility on my head I gave my heart to it. But I didn't join this other anti-liquor party because of the functional politics of the two groups.

Can you tell me something about the habit of consuming alcohol?
Liquor is not a good thing. I am not in the party against liquor. But I don't approve of it, when I see how much alcohol consumption is spreading. Alcohol has ruined household after household. People talk rubbish after consuming liquor, they become quarrelsome. They even commit murder. They welcome devils. Liquor should be completely prohibited. We don't want this at all.

In the earlier generations, as you told me, people used to get married at 11 or 12 years of age. What do you think of this? What do you think is right?
What is right? I think that the earth may have three parts, but Kusum (the interviewer) must get married!

Why is it necessary?
Yes, it is necessary.

Why tell me?
What should I tell you? Isn't this woman who has grandchildren travelling around with you? [Reference to Indira Ramesh]

Tell me something about the duties of a householder? Do you think that families should continue in same way? Everyone get married?
What should I tell you? I have got my children married. If you wish you should get married, otherwise not.

Has there been any such event in your 80 years, which you have been unable to forget?
Yes, there is some little memory in my mind.

Then please tell me.
There is the death of my husband. It goes round and round in my mind. The whys and wherefores are another thing - first and foremost he was my husband. I have children, grandchildren, daughters-in-law. The whole village is full of people. I have brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. But there is no one like one's own husband. He may perhaps be a bad person, but there is no one like one's own husband. Am I not saying the truth? He may be dark or a millionaire, but there is no one like one's own husband. You think I am joking?
Section 22
No, you have said a very fine thing.
But when the situation demanded. I acted against my husband. He was my own husband. I don't know what kind of a mind I have or what happened to me. At that time I had strength in my body. So I went on ahead with all my strength. I wasn't supported by anyone else. Reading and writing doesn't get you anywhere. Even if I should write a lot of things, the writing would be of no use. Only my mind is all right. What do you get out of writing? You do service and earn. But I eat because of my mind. I make one roti (bread) out of mandua and eat it. Hunger and the demands of the stomach are great. This stomach wants to eat everything, but it won't be obedient to anyone else. It will only cease to make its demands when it dies.

You started such a big struggle. Today there are huge roads and dams coming up. Should they be made or not?
They should be made, why not? When the whole world has facilities why shouldn't they be made? We need fire, electricity, gas. If we get this comfort it would be very good. But trees and plants should be protected.

You were saying that since the road came ...
Yes, people are stealing our grass and firewood and taking them away in buses. I had protected them but now people are stealing them. What can I do? They are also going to burn them.

Do you think roads should come up in villages where there are thick forests?
Yes. Roads must be built. Everyone must have some comforts. For instance, Berni village has no road. They have a lot of problems coming and going. They have grass and firewood. Even then I think that just as we have this facility they too should have it. I do not want bad things for anyone. Everyone must be comfortable.

What do you think of the dam that is coming up at Tehri, since you have always been closely linked to the forests and the village?
What should I say about the dam? Only the big leaders can talk about the dam. If anyone can make it, it will be good.

What use will be the dam when it is built?
We will get water, people will get facilities.

But you have a close relationship with the forests. When this dam is built the forests will be submerged. The Kotli Bhel and other dams will drown the green forests of Jajal. You have struggled so hard to save the forests. How will you feel when you see them drown?
I won't like it. I'll feel very bad. Only God can do anything. It is not only the forests that will drown. Even human beings will drown. So will we. There will be great sorrow, my daughter.
Section 23
Will all the villages drown because of one dam?
Yes. In a way that is good. The beneficiaries will live in great comfort. That is good thing. But we can never forget the love we have for our land. We keep struggling to survive here, yet we get nothing. In the towns we will get greater comforts. Our sorrows will be lessened. But the spirit tells me that we must stay here, in our place, with our people. There is no place in the world like our own home. One's own home is a heaven. We will stay here in freedom, eat and drink what we want. But when the government wants to move us, we will have to go. Who can defy the government?

But when the government wanted to cut the forests you opposed them. If you are displaced tomorrow, will you defy them?
Yes and no. If the people get some facilities they will not oppose them. But if we are simply going to drown, we will feel bad - very bad.

Can you tell me about rainfall in this area?
There is a lot of difference in the pattern of rainfall. In the last few years, as we have known it, our crops used to flourish because of the rainfall. If there is no rain, nothing grows. Then we have to go to the shops.

So why is the rain becoming less?
It is God's will.

You were telling me that water springs from the oak forests. Is there is any relationship between the decline of oak forests and the decline in rainfall?
Yes. The relationship is strong. When rain comes we get plentiful harvests. Daughter, the rain is lessening because the forests are being cut. If there were plenty of trees, the rainfall would increase. Because of the rain, water springs from the roots of the trees. Wherever there is an underground stream, water springs from there. Because of the trees we get plenty of wind. We must save the forests.

Is there any difference between the intensity of rainfall now and twenty years ago?
There used to be plenty of rain in earlier days. Now it is much less and there is more drought, less grain. It is getting less and less. We have some traditions in our village, a history, songs.

Can you sing me a line or two that you sing while cutting grass?
[The narrator doesn’t wish to sing]

Can you tell me what you experienced during the earthquake that occurred two years ago in 1991?
[The elder wife of Bachani Devi’s husband responds to this question:] I'll tell you about that day. I was sleeping in the room upstairs. She [referring to Bachani Devi] was in the other room. And when the vessels began to rattle, I thought a ghost had come. I never thought about an earthquake. I thought it was a ghost. I shouted "Hey Raju, hey, Raju." My son Kishan was also here that day. He was shouting "Open the door, open the door". I had never being so frightened, my daughter, as on that day. I began to tremble with fright. I thought that ghosts and spirits had come into the house and were dancing, and that was why the vessels were clanging.
Section 24
Were people hurt?
We didn't suffer. Our house was cracked.

Grandmother, tell me what spirits and ghosts are?
Either ghosts come, or Gods come, or some spirits. That is… [unclear recording]

You just mentioned Gods. What is this?
Even Gods do good and harm. When God becomes angry with us he sends us ghosts to trouble us. When we give some offering or do a pilgrimage... he troubles us when he can't get anything. Nagraja, Devi, Narsingh can send bad spirits.

How do you know these mischievous spirits are sent by God?
The medium tells us so. Do you know that some new God is harassing (dancing) inside women in Ranichauri?

Who is this God?
I don't know. Some say it is Shiviji or Bhagwati (Devi). He says very lucky things.

What does he say about our family?
He has great spiritual powers and divine power. We are talking about him here. If his powers are genuine, he must know that we are talking about him.

How do you go to him?
We take offerings of rice, fruit or Rs. 51/4, or Rs. 11/4, we place the offerings on the plate. Then the God enters him. And then he will himself tell you why you have come here, what is your problem is, who is ill, what the matter is. If there is a trouble we will give the solution. I have great faith in him.

Is there any episode in your life that has made you believe in this?
Yes, I have great faith. There were troubles in my family. My son fell ill on this account. Did you not know that I went there? The God himself told me [about my son].

Who makes the jewellery for the villages?
There are gold-smiths and iron-smiths here. There are plenty of craftsmen from different castes who do different work.
Here the tape came to an end. No further notes were taken