Roots Beckon — A young Uttarakhandi’s tale straight from the heart

Roots Beckon — A young Uttarakhandi’s tale straight from the heart

Most of the fellow villagers, like us, had moved to cities years ago for better prospects. In the past two decades, the exodus our village witnessed was alarming.

By Dhirendra Negi


or as long as I remember, I have always drawn enough joy and pride from the fact that I was born in the lap of nature. My native village, Brijwar, is located in Almora – one of the 13 districts of scenic Uttarakhand. It is placed on a foothill and is surrounded by a wonderful range of mountains. The journey from the arduous and boring landscape of cities to the breathtaking and refreshing views of my birth place is nothing short of an adventure. Once you reach within the radius of 20 kms, you can see the gigantic hills from a distance. The labyrinthine roads then lead you up to the top of mountains which then spiral downwards; and the routine continues for three hours (the approx time taken to cover a distance of 100 kms on hills). Sudden mystic appearances of fog, rain and sunlight in turn on the way leave you mesmerized. Not aware of the scientific reasoning (clash of tectonic plates that gave rise to mountains millions of years ago), I spent all my childhood kicking my bottom wondering as to how mother earth had given way to such huge protruding Alps.

Until my graduation years, I used to visit my home town frequently but ever since I started working (for eight years now), the trips to Brijwar have been very few and far between. Fortunately, last month, we got a wonderful opportunity to go all bag and baggage with the entire family to the village. The occasion that called for the entire clan to be present was a religious ritual that takes place once every 30 years. It was expected to be big and turned out to be so. Most of the fellow villagers, like us, had moved to cities years ago for better prospects. In the past two decades, the exodus our village witnessed was alarming.



Homeland Calling …..

Brijwar – once a home to over 150 inhabitants – has now been reduced to just 70-odd people. So, for this reason too, it was a heartening sight to notice the entire village back in its old glory and going full. The religious practices continued for three days. All the denizens and guests participated in full vigour.

Feasts were organized, sacrifices were made (I seriously hope no animal rights’ activist visits this blog post), rituals were carried out in due manner and pleasantries were exchanged. Now, I am not too religious a person and firmly believe it is the root cause of all the ills that are prevailing in the society today. However, I couldn’t help but notice the upside of it. Religion, as it is, and traditions help a great deal in keeping the social fabric intact. It keeps the society together and prevents from falling apart.

How else are we to justify the kith and kin and the distant acquaintances coming together here after years and in this magnitude? People join hands when it comes to performing pujas (religious practice), following centuries old rituals and traditions together. This way, it was a heartening sight.

Throughout my stay in village, my mental faculty was working at two levels. One was observing what was happening around and the other one was filtering the information and running it parallel to how things used to happen back then in older times. Since I had the luxury of time, I dwelt on these matters and wallowed in the past at length. Everything flashed before my eyes. How we would go in groups to distant places to fetch water from natural resources. What fun it was to play childish games while at it. It was nothing short of an adventure going to neighboring villages on foot to meet near and dear ones and trekking arduously to reach a temple of our family goddess which was about 10 kms from our village.

The nearest telephone booth was three kms away and the electricity was yet to reach our part of the world. Compared to the same, we have water taps in each and every house today, roads have become better and the transport system has improved. Mobile ringtones can be heard from every corner of our village and electricity is in abundance. Earlier, the farmers were largely dependent on their produce for their livelihood. Now, the educated and competent ones are vying for winning local elections, applying to schools for teaching assignments and turning tradesmen.  While all these development and forward-looking thinking is good, the rustic charm which has always been known as the hallmark of hills is found amiss these days. The villages are becoming more like the cities. People are fast turning into smugs.

There is less of kinship, mutual love and respect and more of one-upmanship. I have no idea where will it lead us to and what fate we achieve eventually. While all this seem to be deterrents, I try not to get affected by the same. After all, there is a long-standing connect with the roots that I find hard to forsake. The majestic mountains, free-flowing tributaries, eye-pleasing terraces full of rice, maize and spices; pure and divine air and favourable weather – how can one not miss them? The feeling of staying connected with one’s roots surpasses.

Earlier, my grandparents used to take care of our paternal house but my grandma moved with us after my grandpa passed away a few years back. The house is lying vacant now and there is a sudden sense of isolation that has crept into my being. The feeling of drifting away from the motherland is rampant more than ever now. We stayed at our village for about a week. When we left for plains, a part of me wanted to scream out in pain but the better sense muffled that voice. While coming back, I quietly made a made a promise to myself that I would be back soon.


Long road to my home, my heaven…

We may have come to Delhi for better prospects and leading a comfortable life but somewhere in the quest of attaining sophistication, our lives have become more complex as we have lost the simplicity in the process. Today, I might be a well-settled professional living in a metropolitan city and given to creature comforts but I still think I draw more satisfaction from rudimentary lifestyle than anything else.

The serenity it brings to life is beyond words. My heart is set in Almora and its country life. I think I, as they say, you can take a rustic out of their village but not village out of a rustic.

Dhirendra Negi, a young Uttarakhandi based in Delhi-NCR, is a budding PR professional

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1 Comment

  1. Megha September 04, at 11:31

    Very apt - this is the story of every pahadi who migrated from hills to plains!!! This really strikes the chord. Thanks for taking me back to my village


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