While this project has taken up most of my time, I have managed to get away for the odd break. Last weekend, Jiwan took me on a short village walk – these are usually done over a couple of days; a great opportunity to combine a bit of hill walking with first hand experience of local village life. I had a bit of an off day with the camera, so the outdoor pictures weren’t worth putting you in, but here are some of Sillery, itself, and the family we stayed with.
The evening sun as we approached the village – altitude about 2,000m.
Our cabin – Jiwan and I shared the room to the left.
The above photo was taken the morning after. Despite having a complete set of electricity lines which have been in place for over a year, the village has no electricity, except what comes from diesel generators. This family shares a generator with ten other households. For economy it is run for just 3 hours a day – 6.30 to 9.30pm. Hence the scene below –
A paraffin lamp for light, but most important – tea!
Our hostess, by the wood fuelled hearth, preparing dinner
The same scene without the flash.
In this high country, fuel is cut direct from the forests for both heating and cooking, and this range, built from concrete is fed from the front by hand. Burnt fingers appear to be an occupational hazard.
One of the older houses.
Although basic, dwellings are built to a very practical pattern, usually comprising one building each for the sleeping quarters, eating/living room, and kitchen. A separate outhouse, usually at least ten feet away,will house the toilet. The above is one of the older ones in the village, built entirely from wood. Later houses, like the one we stayed in and the one below in mid-construction, are built of concrete shaped to a wood frame – the concrete replaces the traditional mix of mud, cow-dung and straw.
And one of the new.
The sharp ones among you may have noticed that chimneys are not much in evidence. Some houses do have them, but the traditional cook-houses were reed thatch affairs and open at the eaves. The consequent build up of smoke at te level of the eaves is fine if you are of Nepalese height, but not, as I discovered, at dinner that night, European height.
And my closing thoughts? To Western eyes, the conditions I describe seem primitive and certainly, lives here are harder and more demanding than we are used to. There is little concept of holidays and leisure time, and children start to do work within the family from as young as five. And yet, over 80% of India’s 1.2 billion people live in rural villages like these, as do billions of others, world-wide. For all the undoubted sophistication of our lives, are not the lives of the people of Sillery closer to normal than ours? In which case, I think we have to ask what we think life is for and what development – in any context – really means.