Writers and photographers alike have always been drawn to the tenacity and entrepreneurial drive of the women from the hillside communities. While women’s lives have always been difficult in rural areas across the nation, they are made even more difficult in the hills due to the lack of resources and easy access to them in Uttarkhand’s bare-bones villages.
But that they chose to stay behind and till the land, these women are in fact the real custodians of our civilization and culture. While displacement continues to be an enormous problem in the majority of Uttarakhand’s villages, it is the women who have retained hold of what is still there. And the reasons for their ability to be tenacious and enterprising are their ability to
Go Slow: Writer and journalist Neelesh Misra has made slow village living really popular, and it’s intriguing to see how it can even be made aspirational to not constantly be in a rush. But it’s true that sometimes in life it’s vital to go slow, to take stock, to enjoy what you already have, and to set your priorities right.Women in the community up in the hills set the pace despite having hundreds of responsibilities, such as caring for the family, livestock, and crops.
Work hard with a smile: The women in the hillside communities work very hard. Even though they work like machines, they nonetheless have an unrivalled sense of humour. They will always pause to grin and converse with you, even when they have a great load on their heads. If you believe you’re having a hard time, go to a hamlet where the ladies work nonstop from dawn till dusk, never whining and always finding a way to get by. You seldom hear women complain about their lack of facilities, as they embrace frugality.
Take pride: You’ll never witness a village woman in Uttarakhand begging for food. With the little they can grow on their fields, they have figured out how to survive and prosper. In Uttarakhand, villagers take pride in their unique identities and cultures. Something that needs to be reignited among the Uttarakhand is in exile.
Be fearless: The women in the highlands have no fear. No man or animal terrifies them. They have their ‘daraants’ (sickles) by their sides, which serve as much as a tool to cut grass as they do as a weapon to protect. Their ability to climb the challenging terrain while carrying the bulky loads of wood, grass, or leaves for their cows and buffaloes is a testament to both their physical and mental fortitude.
Defy the odds: Take any historical event from the Chipko movement to the fight for a separate state; women pushed the movement’s outcomes even when being subjected to the most brutal and violent attacks. That may explain why it has consistently shown positive results.
Bond over Sisterhood: A woman up in the hills is always there for another woman. Women tend to one another in joy and defend one another when they are in need. A remarkable ability to offer assistance and support despite being short on resources.
The grit, the vitality, and above all, the love for the motherland are what sustain the otherwise corroding lives and livelihoods in Uttarakhand. The women in the metropolis cannot comprehend the life that the women in the hills have, deprived of comforts.
Lipika Bhushan is a writer, founder of MarketMyBook and an Uttarakhandi.