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  • Until the cows come home

    Posted on July 31st, 2009 Sheila Yair 1 comment

    cowsbackWe’re in Bharmour, the town of apples and marijuana. The apples are not good this year, due to lack of rain (something we will change dramatically), and the marijuana just grows abundantly, everywhere, without anybody seeming to do anything with it. I don’t see anybody ‘baked’. Bharmour is in a steep, narrow valley, surrounded by mountains. It was the capital of an untouched Hindi kingdom, until the British built the first road in the valley in the mid-nineteenth century. The Muslims, Mughals, or any of the other India conquerors ever made it to this valley. It still retains much of its old ways. Modern advancements, like water, flood the valleys and plains, but takes time reaching the high hills. When it gets to high altitudes, it is usually just a drizzle. There are cars, a couple of satellite dishes, and electricity. But most houses are built in the ancient Gaddi way, with rocks and wood, mud and sand for floors, and slabs of slate for shingles. Houses usually have two to three stories, with the first floor for animals, and the others for the family. Bharmour, like Chamba, also has ancient temples, with intricate stone carvings. The antiquity and a sign, promising a ten dollar fine for anyone caught taking pictures, deters us a bit, but as we walk in, we see it is the village center. People sitting and talking, kids playing cricket (occasionally hitting some of the temples with the ball). It is summer, and people are hoping for rain, and as we visit the temple, there is a Puja for rain taking place. Sure enough, that night, it rains. But I believe it is not the Puja, but our intention to thoroughly hike that brings the rain. The next day, we walk 3 km up, to Bharmani, a spring and temple. We walk through the agricultural village, Malkota. Sheila comments how she would like to see the inside of one of the houses. The village is much more rustic than Bharmour. At the temple, we meet Amit, a local herdsman. We talk with him, and he invites us over for dinner. He tells us he goes down to his village around five. We go see his cows, and take the long way down. We reach Bharmour at 4p.m., and we need to get back up to Bharmani at five. So we start running. Halfway, Sheila stays guard overlooking a path where we see livestock starting to head back to the village. I go up to the temple, and to my delight Amit is still there. Thank god for India time. We bring down the cows. Now cows are not goats, and they do not just follow you. They stand and wait at every weed, bush, or puddle of water they see. You constantly have to nudge them to move. I can totally see where the phrase, “until the cows come home”, comes from. As we approach the village, Sheila spots us and starts taking pictures. Many locals are surprised to see a westerner leading cows down to the village. We go to Amit’s place, and meet some of his friends, after which we have dinner with his family. It is late, and he insists that we stay, instead of trying to walk the dark and narrow path down to Bharmour. The next morning, we go back, and calm our Guesthouse owner, who was worried when we didn’t arrive the night before. I meet Amit at his brother’s shop, and I have a first hand encounter with micro-economics. Amit’s brother has a little shop that seems to sell only bangles and hair products, but he has a huge array of items tucked away in his tiny shop. In the five minutes I’m there, he sells tennis balls, underwear, a toilet brush, and sewing machine needles. All the merchandise is sold for pennies and not a single customer was turned away empty handed. It is like a Wal-Mart, crammed into two hotdog stands.

    We met a friend saw the Gaddi life up close and got a little course in economics. A lot more than just seeing inside one of the houses.


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