While talking of Bagori, I mentioned that it was deserted when we visited. Now this is very picturesque for the traveller, but a little inconvenient for the researcher who wants to speak with the locals on climate change.
My colleagues and I were happy therefore, when we chanced upon a woman hurrying to the village with a five liter can of water in each hand. We stopped her with the ‘I am sorry to disturb you, but my livelihood depends on it so please don’t hit me’ air common to field researchers world-wide.
She stopped good-naturedly enough though, and told us that she is too busy to stop and talk, but if we liked, we could follow her home. Can you imagine that? Inviting three bedraggled strangers into your home so that they can ask you intrusive questions?
We obeyed, picking up our pace to keep up with her. At one point I offered to help her with her cans, but she refused. We asked her then with our minds full of women’s drudgery statistics, if there was no source of water close by. “no, no” came the reply, “ there is piped water, but I needed to go to Harshil and thought why come back empty handed, so I brought water from the Ganga. ” Another thing I, lover of traveling light and shirker of chores, cannot comprehend.
We sat there in her lovely, glowing house on a rug she had woven herself with wool from her own sheep. We asked her questions about her observations about the local flora, and her animals. When talking of high-altitude herbs, she showed me some she used for cooking. It is called lado and has a pungent smell like asafoetida. Seeing the naked greed in my eyes, she immediately pressed a handful on each of us.
Later, I bought a couple of caps from her and waited as she finished the seams. While she was making those caps up, a colleague wandered off to crack a solitary walnut he had found on the road. She looked at the two of us sitting there walnut-less. Silently digging into her pockets she pulled out a couple and tossed us a walnut each.
Someday, if I am very wise and learn all that life teaches me, I hope to be as cheerful and warm and generous as her.
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