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A dose of Basant Panchmi, elections and stray cows

INDIA | Monday, 16 July 2012 | Views [695]

Kamala & Daya sporting her new baby clothes & teddy

Kamala & Daya sporting her new baby clothes & teddy

January 28, 2012

Basant Panchmi Day. The villagers were up at 4am in preparation for the day (ok, I admit I was still fast asleep). First was a full body wash - no mean feat in a Himalayan winter -then off to the khet (field) field to collect some jo (barley), fires lit and puris/halva cooked. Pandit G then went from house to house to bless each with a mix of cow poo and clay wads that are rubbed into the top side of each door frame with stalks of barley firmly placed in the mix to symbolise a successful cropping season. Soon came the procession of 'gifts' to our household consisting of bags of puris topped with sweet halva and some barley stalks, the latter being to place in our hair to wear for the day.

Every villager is hopeful of a successful crop as the heavy monsoon laid waste to the prior potato, amaranth and rye crops. Except for households that hold ration cards, most are purchasing bulk food from the local dukkans (shops - of which there are now six small identical ones...) placing pressure on finances available for expenditure. The latest shop reflects a changing village, all concrete and painted hot pink....

Kamala went into labour two days ago but after things started to go wrong she was taken out to the Bageshwar Hospital - a major feat in itself. Today we have had news that she has given birth to a healthy baby girl. Only the second child in Khati to be born in a hospital.

The Uttarakhand Assembly elections are to be held on the 30th January and different babus from Congress, BJP and the Hati Party have been in town promising everything from roads & new mobile towers to electricity etc but the pattern is sickeningly familiar in promising the world before an election then dissipate into the ether post election! The government school is in the middle of being cleaned up in preparation of the arrival of the ballot box that is due in sometime today. Rumour had it (and in town rumours are always rife) if there was too much snow the ballot box would be dropped in by helicopter - much to the excitement of the whole village - alas the weather was clear and although the road is closed it is due to come in via mule and a police escort and now we will never know if the former was just a rumour.

After three weeks of inclement weather and plenty of snow, things turned oddly warm in the last few days and on the slopes close to the village the grasses have dried out enough for the annual grass burning to begin. This is way earlier than usual. Today the sun is shining and the Himalayan Griffons are circling over town. In recent times the odd cow has slid on ice and gone over cliff aces leaving the Griffon with ample food.

Scott was coming home one afternoon recently when he witnessed a calf go over the edge off the track near our place to hit the back of Man Singh's Hotel with a mighty 'thud'. Upon investigation he found his new 'charge' dazed, so he cleaned the tangled grass from its feet and checked for broken bones (luckily none) and there the confused (or concussed!) calf sat for half an hour or more before making its way to its feet and eventually heading home.

The last time Scott had a close 'cow encounter' was last year when the cows were grazing in Bhaga's wheat field (always a problem). As is the local custom he had casually picked up a small rock and threw it in the direction of the grazing animals only to find as darkness enveloped the village he had hit one of them in the head and it had duly collapsed onto the ground. Seeing his life flash before him for injuring or possibly killing the 'Holy Cow' he envisioned being banished from the village first thing next morning!! You can imagine his absolute relief when the aforementioned bovine go up and left the field but not after several minutes of panic on behalf of the human.....



Tags: cows, elections, india, khati, new born baby, uttarakhand



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