“All women are mothers because all women bring life to the world in some way.” – Holley Gerth
This quote holds true to its every word because I have seen through my naked eyes the love and compassion that these beautiful women keep shredding around me, when I am home; when I am away from home in a distant land. It’s been more than 2 months since I am living in a small village with a local pahadi family, away from home in Himachal Pradesh.
Yes, initially there were times when I missed home and my grandma the most, but slowly and gradually it was an organic bond that I and our host family developed with each other which eventually grew beyond the family but the village.
While living and spending time with them, I everyday got introduced to an unspeakable affection and love that the pahadi women have for not just their kids but the sheeps they have, the cows they feed, the little lambs who are born, the fields they plough. I somehow felt awestruck and contend to see their devotion and care for their clan. Hence, today, through this article, I’d like to take you all through a beautiful 24 hours journey of my most favourite women, Prema Devi, aka aunty, the owner of this homestay, whom I’ve been following like a shadow since last few weeks and trying to learn what she does, capture the details and sketch her day.
Note: Though I have penned down Prema aunty’s story, each and every woman here follows a very similar routine.
Prema aunty is a 50 year old wife and a mother to 3 humans, 8 sheep, 4 lambs, 3 cows. Born and brought in Tirthan valley of Himachal she got married to her husband, Chunni Lal Thakur when she was very young. After her marriage she came to the other side of the valley and since then has been decorating and living her life here. You’ll never find her sitting at one place for more than 10 minutes. She is more beautiful than what you see in this sketch, always wearing a matching dattu (the scarf on her head which is compulsory for all the married women in this part of the mountains) with her suit or pattu (a rapor like blanket traditionally woven from sheep wool).
She wakes up at 5 in the morning and the first thing she does after washing her face is to climb down the wooden staircase, walk inside her cattle house and check them out, remember how our mothers used to do? Around 6 am she picks up a kilta (a conical container made out of local grass) and walks into the fields to cut the grass and get them back home. This grass is specifically used to lay as a blanket under the sheep, to keep them warm. This grass layer is changed everyday.
After coming back home she removes the old dried grass and spreads the new one under them. By that time its 7 am and it’s time to milk the cows. She says, “hum din me teen baar dudh nikalte hei”.
Around 8 – 8:30 am she takes out her sheep and her cows and walks with them to the jungle because now for the next 4 hours, it’s their grazing time. She stays with them for those many hours, sometimes takes a nap in between; sometimes keeps herself busy knitting a sweater or a socks, while every now and then keeping a count of her herd because in this part of the jungle they usually find wild leopards. The other day she saw one herself along with her two babies.
Meanwhile on her way back home she collects wooden logs and carries with her in the kilta. This together weighs around 25-30 kilograms. These woods are later used for lunch and dinner to light the tandoor (chullah) and cook the food.
Later in the afternoon, after she is done with her lunch and other household chores, she sits on the floor and spins the wool, shredding from the sheep, into a roll of thread. The process from shredding the wool into processed thread takes about 3-4 days.
Then, that wool along with other colourful wools which they now buy from the market are put together in khaddi (the weaving loom) and from them they weave woolen blankets and shawls. It’s a therapy to watch them weave and add motifs in between. She told, it takes a minimum of 15-17 days to complete one pattu.
Around 3 in the afternoon she walks back to the field with her killani (a tool used to manually plough the fields) and meditatively ploughs square inch by square inch. Right now it’s the season for peas and they are about to flower, hence in the last few days she has reduced this activity to every alternate day.
After ploughing the fields, she spreads the manure (in the form of semi-dried cow dung) which she collects everyday around this time. She uses the cow dung to make small cow cakes which are later used as plasters inside the walls of cow and sheep shelters to keep them warm/cool.
The little new born lambs do not stay with the sheep because as she mentioned, the other sheep hurt them. Therefore, twice in a day; morning and evening she brings the mother and the kids out from their respective rooms and let the lambs feed from their mother. This is also the time when she milks the cow for the third time.
After taking care of her babies, around 7 in the evening she climbs up the wooden staircase, lights tandoor (chullah) by filling wooden logs inside it and waits for next 15-20 minutes to let the fire start. She then cooks food for her family and all of us on that. When I asked, “why don’t you use gas cylinders, it will be more convenient”, she said, “gas ke khane me koi swad bhi hota hei?”. But the truth is that it’s a real time hassle to transport a gas cylinder from the main town to this village since there is no direct road to reach here. From a distance of 5 kms, it is carried on a khacchar (donkey) to the destination.
Watching her day in and day out, actively engaging in different chores, I feel awestruck and amazed at the same time. She is only one example. I see almost all the women out here in the mountains, so hard working and compassionate about these chores.
When you ask them, don’t you get tired doing so many things in a day, they say, “isi me to humari khushi hei. Ye bachhde, bhedu, danger hi to humari zindagi hei”. They showed me a new form of motherhood, a way of nurturing and devotion with a living being who doesn’t share an umbilical cord with them. While living in the cities, I wouldn’t have, either felt or understood this type of love.
Hence, Happy Mother’s Day to you, to me, to all of us, because we are all mothers in some way today. And we are all part of the great story of Motherhood, that God has been writing from generation to generation, from Eve to eternity.
Aayushi is a co-founder of a heritage social enterprise named Khayaal. Born and brought up in old-gullies of Dilli-6 and currently residing in Ahmedabad, the Marwari in her gains prominence over the millennial Delhiite. With a background in urban planning and heritage management, and her interest in exploring the unexplored, Aayushi tries to incorporate her design skills together with her ethnographic and management education to bring about a change in the identification of heritage, its documentation, and it’s unbiased presentation in the public domain.