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People's Environmental Awareness - Khati (PEAK) Follow PEAK with the financial assistance of World Nomads on the path to delivering educational, water supplies & solar home lighting systems to Kumaon villages....

Village life and death...

INDIA | Friday, 7 January 2011 | Views [639]

There is always a long delay in getting journal entries onto this blog site. We live in the Himalayas without any electricity in a region that has traditionally been bypassed by the Indian Government. Therefore our access to the internet is limited to when we leave the valley and in the last few months due to work committments we hadn't left at all, but we were finally forced to leave due to new visa regulations.

To operate PEAK we have a one year Visa but regulations now state we have to leave every 90 days (even if only for a night). This equates to travelling considerable distances to fulfil this requirement. And this little tale (combined with a new 'solar headache') leads us to Western Nepal and to Delhi where I am writing.... but more on that later.

In Khati the cropping season has been a major success with fantastic yields of Amaranth (jowar)and in particular potatoes (alu), enabling the surplus spuds to be 'trucked out' via mule to markets beyond the valley and sold at Rs 10 per kilo. The fields were then ploughed with the aid of two cows or buffalo (depending upon if a family has buffaloes, some are left fallow and others sprinkled with Barley (joe) and Wheat(gehun) for the winter crop. Before long the verdant green created a dazzling patchwork of colour in the fields.

The hospitality of the local community continues to be overwhelming, every night we sit by a warm hearth and eat a hearty, organic, home cooked meal with families. Though I have to add that I've had my fill of potato and rotis (bread), potato and rotis, potato and rotis..... But as they say "what to do"? The answer of course: eat more potato and roti?!

Our time in Khati has been hectic. Pankaj's death became the first of many that we have been confronted with in recent times. The town has been in mourning for a large proportion of the year. In January Amar (Hyat's mum) who suffered from dementia died of pnuemonia, followed by Prem (unconfirmed but most likely from TB/cancer), then 'Canchin' the most popular teenage boy in town from Rabies, Khunti the new bride to Khati died in childbirth (also losing her baby), Pratap and Deban in a car crash that occurred outside the valley near Bageshwar on the Kanda road. The accident occurred after they had left the mandir (temple) near Bageshwar.

This is the first time Khati had been 'touched' by death in a vehicle and it was a stark reminder of the inherant dangers of often reckless drivers and mountain roads. The World Health Organisation stated in its Global Status Report on Road Safety that India has the dubious distinction of the country having the highest amount of road deaths in the world.In an upward trend road deaths have increased by nearly 40 per cent between 2003 & 2008. A combination of reckless driving, drink driving, bad roads, overcrowding on vehicles and poor vehicle maintenance create a lethal cocktail. The statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau stand at 14 deaths every hour (with three to four times that amount injured) - I will let you do the maths.

This was the first time the community had confronted so much loss of life in a single year. The deaths left a depth of sadness that I had never experienced before. When someone dies, for the first eleven days villagers sit with the grieving families. And as difficult and 'heartwrenching' as it was to witness such raw grief, we were part of this process. These were all people in whose lifes we had become inexorably entwined, families that we care deeply about. The pain papable and there was no solution to the grief all round - just time.

Bonnie & Scott


Tags: death, himalayas, indian road statistics, solar journey



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