I remember visiting my native place in Uttarakhand in 1998. It was my distant cousin’s wedding. Since then, I never seriously thought of going there. Gradually, the cosy lifestyle of this city dweller overpowered that thought.
Such houses are a common sight in my village
I always felt nostalgia for my village. For, it was the place where I had spent many beautiful moments of my life. But the availability of very limited basic amenities discouraged me to consider the very idea of visiting it.
A house on way to my home
It was in November 2019 when I had to rush to my village due to my mother’s sudden illness. At that time, my parents were staying there for the reconstruction of our old house.
The place brought me back to those beautiful days of my life. I could see many changes but what actually struck me was the fresh air and clean sky – a rarity in cities like Delhi.
I still cherish those childhood memories when I, with my siblings, used to roam around the entire village and have unlimited fun. Like other houses in the village, ours, too, bore a traditional look.
Few years ago, it collapsed and now has been replaced by a new house – a concrete one. Still, there are traditionally-built houses in the village but the sign of modernisation can be easily felt. Now, villagers prefer concrete houses over traditional ones as they require less time, efforts and money. Moreover, they are easy to maintain. The architecture of Uttarakhand is based on locally and easily available materials like stone, clay and wood. It represents the rich cultural heritage of the state. That’s why, I believe this trend of concrete houses should be the reason for concern seeing Uttarakhand’s distinctive heritage.
Once reaching there, I did not leave a single chance to explore things around my village. After having tea at my uncle’s house, I went on to discover the surroundings.
A usual day in the village
On my way back, I met a lady who was returning after collecting fodder for her cattle from fields. She invited me to her house. Both of us along with her husband had a fantastic conversation over tea. After some time, I took their leave and came back.
But perhaps, I was not done yet. So, I went on meeting people in my neighbourhood. The usual busy urban routine hardly allows us to think about life’s other beautiful aspects. I had this realisation while visiting these naïve people.
The generosity of the village people touched me. I found them to be simple and affable. It came to me as a big surprise that they are happy in their own world, caring little about the superfluous things. One may think of them being complacent but I will definitely call them contented people.
The simple life of a village, however, comes with many challenges. Living in a rural area with few basic facilities is really a tough deal. Water scarcity is still a huge challenge here. There are many households which have piped water supply in their houses. Others fetch water from hand pumps or water tanks (locally called diggi) which are almost 1 km from the village. Humongous task indeed!
Villagers store water in all possible ways
Migration is another huge problem here. Most of the houses in this village are either abandoned or occupied by older people. In my case, my grandfather and father left this village owing to their respective jobs in Delhi. Eventually, they permanently settled there. Therefore, my siblings and I had our upbringing in Delhi only. So, we never really had that much connection to this place except from attending few family events and spending some school holidays.
Once farming used to be a major source of livelihood in this village. But with the passage of time, people moved to big cities desiring a comfortable and prosperous life. Villagers here grow few grains, vegetables and fruits for their basic needs. But the constant threat of monkeys and langurs often result in the destruction of their crop. Today, almost all vegetables, fruits, etc. here come from other states.
Another challenge which I personally experienced here is the limited transport options. Usually, sumo jeeps are easily available in every 15-20 minutes but getting them on public holidays can be a reason for inconvenience. However, efforts towards the overall development of this village are on.
The place proved to be a perfect retreat for me from a mundane city life. Summers here are not too hot, whereas winter season is extra cold.
The mesmerising beauty of this place is something to be experienced. Seeing people living such a simple life gave me many valuable life lessons. I can say that I have imbibed little bit of their qualities towards leading a less complicated life.