Bhatwari Village, Mandakini Valley, Rudraprayag District, Garhwal Himalayas
Surrounded by her harvest, Ganeshi Devi’s short frame sits comfortably amidst the dal laid out to dry. “The dal is my chair,” she says smiling.
Ganeshi’s favorite crop is black dal. After saying this, she immediately bursts into song. She is over 80, and has two sons and one daughter.
“Everything is mine,” she explains, motioning towards the different kinds of amaranth and fingermillet. As an organic farmer, Ganeshi doesn’t use chemicals, instead she uses ash as a natural pesticide. She grows nearly everything she needs, and for the essentials such as salt and sugar she sells her amaranth. She also exchanges seeds with those around her.
In addition to her crops, Ganeshi has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to herbs and medicinal plants. The tradition of healing runs in her family, as her father, uncle, and grandfather were also known as “wise people” and local healers. Despite this knowledge, the youth do not seem to be impressed, “The new generations says it [traditional herbal medicine] is not good.” She mentions one herb that cures scabies. Another with three needles can be used for eyes and there are others for shampoo. “Everything is here,” she says, referring to the plethora of medicinal plants. However, now is not the right time to see it all: “Come in April, I can show you lots.”
Ganeshi explains that there are three or four types of jobs but “a job is not good, farming is number one.” She explains her reason for this priority, “Everything comes from the earth. We sow one [seed] and thousands come. In the bank, we have to wait many years for it to grow.”
She also believes farming is intricately linked to hard work, “If you put mud on the roots of a small plant, then we get more. That person who will do work, he will get [the crop]. Good farmers are those who work.” Ganeshi Devi depends on hard work and luck. “Who has luck? Water, food, flowers, money? Everything is here, it depends on hard work and luck.”
In other areas, people were worrying about water. Ganeshi Devi believes that those who have done well and worked hard in their in their past lives are doing well now. She says, “The knowledge comes when we speak and the water comes when we dig.”
When asked about the weather she says, “They [the gods] will destroy and they will create again.”
Ganeshi intersperses slokas (traditional Sanskrit verses or songs) into her conversation. She seems to have a strong faith in God, which is also tied to the land, “We cannot see God, but this we can see, everything is earth, our mother.” When she goes to the temple they ask: “What will you give us?” She responds, “I will give you seeds.”