A journey for hope, the title above may be unsuitable but it was a journey for hope, a journey which I never thought I would have done. Being a travel photographer my passion has taken me to several places and given me opportunity to meet people from diff. regions and cultures. It happens always that I come back with lot of friends and bonds. Maybe we don’t talk much but what we talked always remains in my mind with the mesmerizing moments I had with them. People will come and go but what makes them stay in your mind forever are those few things which differentiate them from others.
A village in Paudi district of the adorable Garhwals. A village which is suffering from migration of people towards cities. Many were there before but what now stays there is nothing but abandoned houses and some people in fear. Fear of wild animals, Fear to manage their existence. After a good hilly road I landed up in Paudi from where I took a local jeep to this village. Yes, I was taken away by the beauty of this village they say ‘Bondul’. Away from the noisy city streets is this place perfect for nature lovers, for people who will really prefer admiring nature over skyscrapers and crowded place. It took me some time to first make sure that I am in the same village which unfortunately people were leaving to move towards cities, maybe because of no job available but lots can be done to remove this problem.
I entered the boundaries of Bondul and I was welcomed very generously by Bimla Devi, one amongst very few residents of the village. She talked to me and told her problems, how she is surviving in this zone full of insecurities fighting against the odds daily but I couldn’t felt that in her voice as it was full of pride n fearless which left a note on my heart which says “ I salute u “. She also found it wrong of media persons pretending her as a woman with no hope. She still has this hope in her that one day it will change n that village will again get alive as it was way back. She prepared tea for us and after some more chat we bid farewell and move further, deeper into the village.
Next I met Mr. Naveen, same story repeated of how they are surviving without any help. Their children are unable to study any further as there is no school nearby where they can send them. Bharti, the bright daughter has no future acc. to Naveen as there is no school where they can send her after 8th standard. Neither they have money due to unemployment to send her somewhere for her studies. Shubham, the young lad is still in 5th standard but will be soon at a position where Bharti is right now.
We stayed at their house for the night and my sleep got disturbed by a roar at midnight. It was no normal roar but a one which would pierce your heart with fear and it was so close that I could even feel it coming nearer n nearer but luckily I was safe inside the walls but no doubt it made my nerves tremble and next morning I came to know it was a daily scene here with tigers and leopards roaming freely at any hour of the day which was a great concern for the villagers. Humans left so it was time for the animals to rule. Last time they actually did farming was back in late 90s after which residents of that village started to flee and wild animals got the charge. Now even a small area is not left where they have tried to do farming and wild boars have not entered and destroyed it. They can’t help it as they are helpless in front of these wild beasts due to no help.
It was time to meet the last residents of the village, the Juyals . It was cold but our mystery ride was not yet over. We again saw that fear in their eyes. Yes I forgot to cover an event of excitement and fear which happened with us while trekking up to Juyal’s house. We were followed by a strange noise from the bushes next to us. Being aware of so many wild animals we were afraid and it took us no time to take out our small kitchen knife, note it ‘something is better than nothing’ but we were surprised to see those small kids guiding us, Bharti and Shubham. They were so fearless that they were not even caring that it could have been a tiger or leopard. Again my heart said something for them and it was “ hey little ones I can never be that fearless as much you are “ maybe because we have never gone through such hardships which were adapted by these kids right from their birth. So we reached to Juyal’s resident after a terror striking us. Maybe it was the last impression left on us for that village. Mr. Juyal told me more about what it is to be in this village, they can’t shift anywhere else and leave the village because they have nowhere to go instead sticking to this village forever. Their kids Aakriti and Deepak are at the same stage where Deepak and Bharti are stuck. Unfortunately no one came up to help and so they are fighting alone with many fears as for them their land is their pride where they took birth, where they have memories stuck in their mind of their childhood. It is hard to say but harder for them to actually leave the place like others.
This isn’t one of my travel story, It is way more than a story about a sacred journey I made. A journey where I could feel my heart pumping, that adrenaline rush was there every moment. Not because the village was beautiful, though it was and will be one of the best places I have encountered in my traveling so far but for me it is more beautiful because of the people living there. I never felt like I am meeting them for the first time. I was feeling more like we had some connection in past. They have shortage in everything small they possess but they never complaint for anything in front of me but deep down their heart lies that fear which I came across imagining myself in that situation. I was more moved by their humble nature of welcoming guests and treat them as a god. I was never treated like this at my own home and it was unconditional as they did not demanded even a single thing in return but for me giving them a ray of hope would be the best ever return gift I could ever chose. The best feeling I would get would be then when I’ll be seeing real smiles on their faces and those kids completing their education and do something for that village which have always seen hardships. All I can say at last is it’s never too late to start something good and here we are going to start something for them as that village has a lot of potentials hidden. Scope of agriculture is vast in this village because of abundance of rich soil. Only we have to do is to shed a ray of light on the people of the village and become a helping hand to them in the process of rehabilitating this village once again to what it was long back. See you all on the way.
I would like to thank Mr. Ankit Sharma, Founder of Humanity Mirror to give me this opportunity to accompany him to this beautiful abode in the lap of Himalayas and also for the experience which I got after visiting this place.
Also we are very soon starting various events to help this village which is under the threat of being completely which we really don’t want. For any further queries you can contact us through facebook :-
Ankit Sharma - https://web.facebook.com/UttarakhandHumans1
Shailaj Maithani - https://web.facebook.com/shailajphotography
……..and any type of help for the village would be appreciated.