Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Indian Village Life

Chhatra Sagar is a beautiful 'camp' near the small town of Nimaj. It consists of eleven luxury tents which sit on top of a dam overlooking a reservoir which looks like a lovely natural lake, with wild life galore. The lake was created in 1890 by a powerful noble of the desert kingdom of Marwar, making the area a beautiful green oasis in this dry land. This year, India has enjoyed a particularly good monsoon season, and so we are seeing Rajasthan at its very greenest and all bodies of water totally full.

The site was a favorite place for visiting dignitaries for whom temporary camps were set up. The great grandchildren of the nobleman who built the dam now run it as a permanent camp for tourists. Raj was a cousin whose family was from Udaipur, and he was our gracious, rather shy, host during our visit.

We took a tour through the farm and learned a lot from Raj about the crops and habits of farmers. The hotel here pays people in the village to show their various trades as we take a tour; they contribute to the village in return for the villagers allowing copious pictures (taking pictures here is sometimes chargeable) and not petitioning the visitors for money or gifts. It meant that we saw some real people doing real things, without the begging associated with India.

The fields here grow three crops a year. We saw many different crops in the irrigated fields - millet, henna, anise, sesame. In Shahpura we had seen a large lake that had filled during monsoon. Within a couple of months, that lake would have dried out, and the farmers would grow wheat in that area.

For small farmers who can't justify owning or renting a harvesting machine, millet is laid out on the road, and cars passing over it do the hard work of separating the grain from the stalks.

Fences made of stone separate the fields. Stone quarries are common and we saw many companies cutting the stone for building material and for making fences, especially as we got close to Udaipur.

The fields everywhere seem to be worked mostly by women in their colourful dresses and shawls. When Wayne remarked to Raj that he saw a lot of men sitting around relaxing but no women relaxing, Raj laughingly pointed out that the men did the hard work - supervising the women.

We saw a mix of farming methods from hand farming with wooden tools, r bullocks pulling a plow, to some small harvesting machines. Medium-sized farmers will rent these harvesters from the bigger farmers. Interestingly, many of these harvesters were Massey Ferguson, even some quite new ones. We had not realized this old Canadian company was still manufacturing.

We saw many women walking with water containers, having collected water from a lake or pond or the village pump. Electricity was much more common than running water. Some pretty modest homes boasted TVs, or even the odd dish. There were lots of motorcycles, and of course ubiquitous mobiles.

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