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Toiling is thy name woman!

GOPESHWAR: Garhwali women – fair, slim, beautiful, literate and ever smiling. Isn’t that the picture that comes to mind? It is amazing how these women carry the burden of running the household single-handedly, while their men idle away their time.

A woman’s day in Garhwal starts at four in the morning. She gets water in `Kasera’ (Bronze vessel) from the water source, which can be situated at a distance of one to five kms. She has to get water twice a day-every morning and evening.

Then, she attends to the domestic animals. She cleans and feeds them. The fodder includes dry grass called `Bural’ or `Bhusa’ and also green leaves (when ever available). Milch cows and buffaloes are also given `pinda’ (made by cooking green leaves). After this the lady cleans the cow shed, throwing out cow dung.

Now comes the turn of house cleaning. Alongside she prepares breakfast, usually chapattis and subzi, for her family. She readies her kids for school and serves breakfast. She then goes marketing for daily necessities. On her return she prepares lunch, which usually consists of rice and dal. She keeps the lunch in such a manner so that kids, after coming back from the school, can eat themselves. Then she sets out for the jungle.

The women go to the jungle for grass and wood. Grass serves as fodder for the cattle and wood is used in the chulha. They have to walk long distances, over five kilometers during lean summer months. Obviously, the walk includes climbing and descending hilly terrain. It is about four to five hours later when they finally return with a gigantic load on their heads. Moreover, with depleting forest cover, the walk is increasing with every passing day. In the jungle, these women face grave dangers like man-eating leopards, slippery steep surfaces and even falling down from the trees (which they climb for green leaves). They also have to constantly face the wrath of the forest officials. One can commonly see frail women with headloads thrice their size walking on the longwinding road proceeding towards their houses.

They are also responsible for cultivating their meagre land holdings to grow wheat, soyabean, mustard etc.

In the evenings, she milks her cows and buffaloes before preparing dinner. After the family has had dinner (obviously, she is the last one to sit for dinner and gets leftovers), she washes utensils. Meanwhile as her chulha is free, she preapres `pinda’ for the animals (by boiling green leaves). During all her evening activities, she gets her children to sit near by and study. Their education is a priority.

It is over ten in the night. The lady who has been working through out the day goes to bed only recoup enough energy to toil the next day.

The men in Garhwal too go to bed after a `tiring’ All the work they do during day is to sit, play cards and carrom and discuss politics – domestic as also international. The evenings are spent in drinking and more often than not, followed by wife bashing. The only actual work they ever do is ply the plough in their small farms, labouring for hardly a few days in the entire year.

The women in Garhwal do not have a minute to spare. Women, working through the day and ight, shouldering all responsibilities, tired yet smiling and working, keep wishing tomorrow would be another day.

“IPS: Women Leaders Thrive on Reputations For Honesty”