VISITS TO MY ANCESTRAL VILLAGE
Today I am going to tell about a place my Dadaji (paternal grandfather) came from. I am going to revisit that village in my memories. Throughout my life, I have visited that village only three times. Why? As it is amidst the mountains, settled comfortably in the valley, far from any means of proper transportation other than Jeeps.
I was in third grade when I visited the village for the first time. We had never seen a village before that; town – yes, village – no. Usually, we spent our summer vacations in a small town where both our paternal and maternal grandparents lived, but sometimes due to some family functions or patriarchal ceremonies, we used to plan a visit to the village.
The first visit for me was at the age of seven, then I came back when I was a teenager and last time I visited my village in my twenties. The village could only be reached by traveling through road. So, after traveling for a couple of hours through a bus and then couple more hours through jeep, crossing innumerable hairpin bends and many mountains, we used to finally reach our destination.
The vehicle used to drop us at the side of the road from where we had to take a narrow path down the hill. Walking down the hill with our luggage was out of the question. So, my father used to go ahead asking help from his cousins. It was amazing to see them running up and down that narrow slant path when we were just trying to balance ourselves one step at a time.
Our house was situated far away from the road, more towards the inside of the valley. The house was traditionally built but it was huge. We were always excited to see those old style doors and windows. Coming to that village looked as if we had stepped back in time. There were fields all around the house in the form of steps. Next, to the house, there were cows tethered. Down below we could see a river flowing in between the valley. The village was surrounded by six mountains and there was a temple at the topmost part of every mountain. It was a beautiful sight and we were happy to be amidst it.
We used to have a very pleasant time there. Early in the morning, we used to wake-up with a chill in the air. The air smelled so fresh. Coming out of the room we used to have a breath-taking view in front of us. The small garden situated in front of the house used to shine with the first rays of sun falling on the dew drops. The fog slowly drifted through the area over the garden and fields. We could see the cows going towards the forest for grazing and following them were the farmers moving to their fields.
We used to really think twice before taking bath because the water was really chilly there. Knowing this, my uncle’s family used to be kind enough to provide warm water for our bath purpose. We used to have breakfast sitting outside in the open veranda, taking in the view of the village. Billows of smoke coming out of the chimneys from other houses and cries of domestic animals and birds used to bring the whole village slowly to life.
As the whole village was settled on the slope of a mountain, and we being in the lowest zone; it was easy to see the activities of the whole village from our house. So, after breakfast, we used to just sit around under the shade of a nearby tree and watch the villagers as they went for their daily work. Some used to go for collecting fodder for their animals, others used to go to the nearby stream for washing clothes. Ironically, these noises all around filled our hearts with such calmness that we used to doze off under the tree.
Sometimes we used to take a short trip to the various places around the village. At other times we used to visit one of the temples on the hill-top or go visiting our relatives in nearby villages. The option was always walking, as one could reach faster walking across the hilly slopes than traveling on the winding roads over the mountains. Walking across narrow paths over the fields cut into steps for terrace farming we used to enjoy the scenery in front of us. Crossing and jumping over the streams, moving on the wooden bridges, eating fruits hanging from trees we used to reach the other village in no time.
People are so friendly in those parts. Anyone passing by greeted us with smile or wave even if, we had met them for the first time. Some used to stop and make small talk with the elders accompanying us. There was such peace and calm in the air that I used to just get lost in that world. We used to come back by lunch.
Lunch was a big affair if there were many family members gathered. It was always men who used to do the cooking when the food had to be made in large quantity. That is like a sort of culture in my land. And I loved to see my father, uncles, even sometimes my grandfather and his brothers helping out in the cooking. They used to even ask their neighbors to eat along with them as the quantity of food used to be much more than the normal days. The neighbors used to bring things from their homes like vegetables or milk, and everybody used to join together and cook. It used to be quite a gathering with lots of talks and laughter all around. Such a warm atmosphere used to just melt my heart.
Our favorite pastime used to start after the lunch. During afternoons, the sun wasn’t so harsh there and so we used to go for a walk to the outskirts of a nearby forest area to collect berries. These berries could be easily found on the sides of the narrow path where we walked. Tangy sweet in taste, these berries used to grow on wild bushes. With small poly bags in our hands, we sisters along with all our cousins used to ascend the path and collect the berries on our way. At the end of our trip, we used to come to an Echo point. We liked shouting our names loudly to see whose echo came back the loudest. That was really a fun game. With the descent of the sun, we used to walk back to the house.
Night time was a mesmerizing sight. The night sky used to glitter with so many stars. I remember wondering why I had never seen so many stars anywhere else but in between the mountains. When I had asked this question aloud, my grandfather’s sister had told us that it was not only because the air was much cleaner and clearer here but also because we were in a valley. I used to love gazing at the stars trying to find some constellations till the dinner was served.
The noises that floated in the air throughout the day used to fall silent slowly till there was an eerie quietness around. Being from the city, we were not accustomed to such silence. Observing our discomfort, my youngest uncle used to terrify us more by narrating stories of tigers and wild beasts coming in the village during the night time. Being naïve we believed him and used to run to our sleeping rooms immediately. Snuggling under the warm blankets we prayed fervently for the tiger to stay in the jungle only. With our minds encased by fear, it used to be a while before we drifted off to sleep.
After spending a couple of days in such placid surroundings, it used to be time to return back. Coming back to the city, it felt as if we had time-traveled from somewhere exotic and had now crashed in the middle of chaos. It used to take us a day or two to settle into the rhythm of the city.
Those visits to my ancestral village not only soothed me but they also gave me a glimpse of a life which did involve hard work, yet it was so simple and satisfying that one could understand the true meaning of living.
This blog post is part of #A2ZChallenge. My theme for the year 2018 is Memories. This post is for letter ‘V’.