On twelfth of june 2016 when we started from Gwaldam guest house towards Dewal road, we did not have any fixed plan. We reached Gwaldam with a plan to trek upto Bedni  but somehow the feedback we received there discouraged us to venture on the route. We Got an impression that the terrain is too challenging for our age. So on the morning we set out to reach the last point accessible by vehicle on that route, that is Wan. We drove with a leisurely pace stopping in between to click pictures, to listen to the rhythm of silence flowing through the forest of tall, stately pines.

And then we reached Wan. At the turn of the road was this tiny shop. We parked our vehicle there and inquired whether we could get a cup of tea . It’s Jamuna dadi’s tea shoppe. Here we met Hira. Hira takes trekkers – individuals and groups on trek tours to Bedni, Roopkund and beyond. Few minutes of conversation with him and he convinced us to embark upon the trek to Bedni. Somehow or other the way he took upon himself the responsibility of making this trek possible for us made us free of all worries. Jamuna dadi too with her enchanting smile encouraged us . Ultimately it was decided that we shall spend the day in the village and then next morning start our trek.

 

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  Jamuna dadi, the shop owner

This stay at Wan was totally unplanned but perhaps such unexpected changes make traveling very fruitful and enriching. The day we spent in the tiny village was truly rewarding, Sitting there in the tea shop in salubrious surrounding of green hills we met many new people and listened to various travel tales. There was this gentleman who once upon a time worked as porter and had accompanied many foreign nationals to uncharted paths, untraveled roads on high hills, through dense forests and deep valleys. Now with tired limbs and weakened joints he roams and works within village limit only but he still looks with longing and fondness towards the high peaks and sharing the tales of his glorious, tough travels make his eyes shine with luminous joy. He remembers with fondness his past adventures and conquests but not being able to do that now had not made him bitter at all. This calm acceptance of  the inevitable  patterns and changes in way of life is very endearing….a life long lesson. The real travel is just not visiting new places but learning new lessons of life, developing a new eye to various facets of life.

 

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                             Panoramic views of Wan

Hira took us for lunch to his home. His home was in front of tea shoppe, across the road on a slightly higher plane. His mother and wife prepared the food.  Fresh hot dal, vegetables and salad from fields, chapati and rice with home made chooran was tasty and we enjoyed it a lot. During entire day we visited other houses too, had tea in different courtyards and learnt a lot about local customs, traditions, festivals, fairs, Gods and Goddesses.

 

bedni_12In conversation with Hira and Yashwant, near the river flowing through the village

 

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out of these three pictures, the first one is the stream of river, whose flow the villagers get diverted to run their indigenous flour mill. Second pic is the outer view of their flour mill ,while the third one is the inside view. such praiseworthy effort on the parts of villagers.

 

bedni_26bedni_7 - Copy - Copy Lady walking towards her field to cut the wheat and in the upper one cutting wheat in the field.

 

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bedni_16 Separating grains from plants. I admired the school, college going girls, who study in nearby bigger places but were at home during summer vacation. They participated equally in  all the agricultural activities.

 

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It was time of harvesting wheat. The women folkfields were busy cutting wheat from fields, separating the grains by beating the dried plants.

Meeting the children and interacting with them was a wonderful experience. Yashwant, Deepak, Pankaj, Yashpal, Pushkar etc were in the age group of nine to fourteen. Few of them studied in schools of some nearby bigger places and were in the village during their summer vacations. Awareness level of the children living in those remote places was amazing, from latest mobile technologies to political scenario of state and country to each and every plant, trees of their area, mythological tales, local rites, rituals each of them was very well versed in all these subjects. Very sweet, affectionate kids were they.

 

bedni_20                   enjoying tea and gossiping with women

 

bedni_21                              children in their courtyard

 

bedni_27 Pankaj holds in his hands a plant , he plucked from road side. Children told us that a very tasty curry is made from this plant. They described the entire procedure of cleaning the plant and cooking it.

 

bedni_24             Walking towards Ghanti Dhar with children

They showed us their fields in the valley, introduced us to various plants and their utilities. Narrated the tales and facts heard from their grand parents about centuries old Surai trees and  by their description made alive  the crimson clad valley in the season of Buransh blossoming. Excitedly they invited us to revisit their village at that time. Those lovely smiling faces as if reflected radiant Buransh.

While returning from Ghanti dhar we were caught unaware by a sudden spurt of lashing rain. No cover was available. we had not taken our umbrellas with us, children were not worried about themselves but were concerned that we had to start our trek early morning and we didn’t have any change of clothes with us. A little ahead on the side of road we found a bent, hollow tree under which we tried to get shelter. We tried calling the driver of our cab to come and take us but that too did not work as no BSNL coverage and connectivity is available in Wan and nearby areas and we both and our cabby Prem all three of us had BSNL numbers only. With luck we saw two people coming towards us, Kids asked them whether they had a mobile and then they called their mother to send our driver to pick up all of us. Finally huddling together inside the cab we reached the village, where jamuna dadi was ready with black hot tea to greet us. The entire episode was so fun filled. It revived our childhood spirit and enthusiasm. True, the joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, changing horizons. The simple joys are the most nurturing ones.

We spent the night in a small, low ceiling neat room with mud walls, whose door opened to green high  hill beyond the valley. The bed sheet, quilts and blankets were clean and we had a undisturbed sound sleep. Kaloo, the black, bulky dog sat on rooftop entire night as if on guard.

 

bedni_15At the door of the room we stayed for night

 

bedni_18                              The inside view of room

 

Next morning we left the place with Hira on our trek to Bedni but we did not leave Wan. We brought it with us. It became a part of us and simultaneously we left something of us there behind. We returned back to our daily city routine but the journey never ended. It keeps rewinding again and again within the deepest and quietest chambers deep down inside us.

 

bedni_22                             An overview of Wan village road

 

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All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

Details of Our guide–

Hira Singh Bisht Garhwali

Village — Wan, Dewal. Chamoli, Garhwal, Uttarakhand.

Phone number — 09756480219[ whats app available on this number], 07895165848.

 

01.01. 2016

First day of the year. We decided to spend the day in a nearby village. There is this primary school at the verge of the village. The kids there were in celebration mood. I feel children are always in that mood…….happy , bubbling, laughing , infusing others with a kind of positive energy. In their innocence every child is a source of light and love and if we permit them they can teach us to be the same. We lived that happiness, experienced same joy while spending time with the children.

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The air had a slight wintery nip. The children had collected  fallen twigs and branches on the roof top, preparing for winters. They threw down some of the twigs and fire was arranged in open. The crackling fire spread the warmth while kids around filled the surrounding with their continuous chatter and laughter. Ah, what a lovely, cozy feel it was.

 

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As it was first day of the year, head mistress and teachers of the school had planned to celebrate the birthday of the children falling on the day. The ‘cake of Halwa’ was prepared fresh there in school kitchen only. The  toppings  on the cake was of bright colored gems. Room was decorated with festoons  of used  papers and were made by students. The caps for birthday girls were made by their friends out of thrown away pizza boxes etc, complete with shining papers etc. I felt like basking in glorious sunshine.

 

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A pen-pencil holder made of used bangles, wall hanging from used match boxes and bangles, the green branches in the flower vase carved out of empty water bottles…..it was really delightful to see the creativity of the children. under the proper guidance of the teachers who are committed and involved true potential of children can be explored fully. Resources and facilities play an important role but shortcomings of these can be overcome by zeal, perseverance and honest intentions.

 

 

Swinging on the hanging roots of the big banyan tree was the loveliest fun time. The pure joy, the ringing laughter had a cathartic impact on heart. I am sure no expensive ride in any big amusement park can fill the heart with the kind of happiness we all felt under the benevolent shade  of that majestic tree.

 

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The lemon-spoon race………after a very long gap enjoyed it. Kids in city no more enjoy such fun-filled competitions.

 

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Our day at the village ended with lunch of hot fresh poori, kachauri, chapati and green chuteny. Some desi dishes of fresh milk were very tasty.

We returned to our homes refreshed, energized with a promise to ourselves to spend  more such days  but some where deep down lurks a sadness…….We are loosing our villages very fast, the concrete jungles are gulping down the shady trees, the green fields.

 

pictures by Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

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