Souri Vinowapuri village, Mandakini valley,
Rudraprayag District, Garhwal Himalayas
“If one time we eat food and it is not enough, then we cook a second time,” Abbaldey says. “We make big portions. Sometimes we make 5kg of food, if all are coming [all the family and all the grandchildren] and guests also come.”
Abbaldey is the one who distributes food at meal times: “Otherwise someone may be hungry afterwards… The spoon with which we give, the old woman knows how to use.”
Abbaldey gestures towards the children around her in answer to how she defines health. She is surrounded by her five grandchildren, who for her serve as visible proof of the abundance of the land. ”Some people worship God to get such family, I did not go anywhere,” she says.
Abbaldey married at age 15, and is now 56. She has two sons and one daughter. Her two daughters-in-law assist her in her fields. Though her fields are spread-out, overall, she has more than 50 nali to farm. The family also owns a bull, a buffalo, a cow and a calf.
She grows the same things as her ancestors, and she believes the next generation will work on the land after her. For the most part, she is able to support her family. Sometimes they buy rice, if they do not have enough home-grown. When there is a surplus, she sells her crops and each year she saves seeds and uses the best for next year’s crops. She doesn’t buy seeds.
She learned farming from her parents and now teaches her family. Abbaldey shows us some seeds she has put to one side. She has harvested them now so that the monkeys do not eat them. The small seeds are for eating and the big seeds are for sowing.
She also exchanges seeds and if she has better seeds she will give them to others, and if others have better seeds they will give some to her. She has always used organic methods, and when asked she replies, “If they have compost then why should they use chemicals?”
Abbeldey explains that in her childhood, some of the diseases that currently exist were not there: “If they [people nowadays] don’t work then they get ill.” She also sees that people are buying from the outside. “Now some people take grains from the market and they become ill. At that time we grew fingermillet and we were becoming strong”.
In regards to the weather she says, “Now sometimes only the wind comes in the monsoon, no rain,” but sometimes “they get heavy rain.” This has also affected the amount of yield: “Before the yield was very big, we could jump from the second storey [of the house] onto the pulse harvest.”
Before, if the farmer expected water, it came. However, now the weather is changing.