Often times the words ‘Poor Cellphone Reception’ might be a horror story for many, but the opposite is true for me.
While I wrote this post, I found it pretty funny that a word prompt about poor cell reception turned out to share my experience of how children in remote rural areas live with no cell reception even in 2022 and so much more
OCTOBER 2019, UTTARAKHAND
Firstly I would like to start with the thing that brings me the most joy – Photography. I still remember it was October 2019. My new friends from the fellowship travelled from Mumbai (1,889km) to meet me in a remote village in the district of Uttarakhand.
I had arrived 2 days earlier since I was in the neighbouring district of Bageshwar. I spent most of my time trekking and spending time with Balu Da’s kids Shrishti, the youngest, Rukhamni and Jyoti. By the time my friends arrived, I was pretty sore from trekking so I decided to rest.
Nevertheless, the delightful house owner Balu Da Ji being the bright chirpy fellow that he is happily took over the role and took my friends for a trek to Brahmtal.
While I stayed down sitting on the roof with his two beautiful daughters Rukhami, and Shristi. As we were peeling rajma on the roof, I snapped a picture of Rukhami just for myself because I felt so happy being in that moment. That was when I got over my photography dilemma, which of course you can read more about in my other post. link here.
SEPTEMBER 2019, UTTARAKHAND
Secondly, the mountains always have brought me peace for reasons very well known. I remember while I was in yet another remote village in Uttarakhand, I was staying with a retired army havaldar.
One night after dinner I decided to sit out, in the freezing cold to look at the sky. What was just 5 minutes felt like a lifetime then. I was in awe of galaxies and the millions of constellations and stars. I still get goosebumps writing this.
This is one of my favourite memories from being in awe of nature in poor network zones.
Reminisced with retired Army Halvadar
Thirdly I had a chance to really listen to his stories. I sat with the same house owner, a 71 y.o retired army halvaar who reminisced with me about his time in the army. From travelling to Nagaland, Arunachal to Mumbai. I sat and heard his stories about the village dynamics, politics and how in his lifetime with the Modi govt schemes ( such as building toilets and taps) actually reached him. You always know more about this from my previous post link here.
Also, read – village pregnancies
Drawbacks from No Network Connectivity
While of course, I had a gala time being in no network connectivity. I learned about the drawbacks as well. I was well prepared to remain with no internet for 21 days. I downloaded books, and worksheets for the kids to be prepared to teach them at school. I observed and listened to the locals. Here is what I learnt
Story of a girl who wanted to join the army
I remember while teaching at the school of Lamabadgh there was a volunteer named Pooja who was 18-19 at that time. She had free time so she registered herself as a volunteer to help assist in teaching at the local school. I had the good fortune of meeting her and being inspired by her presence. She wanted to join the army. During one fleeting conversation with her, she brought up her distant uncle to arrive from the nearby town to help to fill up the applications for the army.
Bageshwar, where her uncle would come from was an hour’s drive away from the village we were at. I was in awe of her dedication to filling up the forms and the difficulty one has to live in such times.
From Medical Emergencies to Natural calamities
In the case of medical emergencies or natural calamities, there was no way to inform or call for help. I heard stories of huge thunderstorms that swept off tin houses. I heard a parent talk about how they thought they lost their kid, only when later realised their baby girl, Khushisurvived as the cupboard provided her protection. All these memories made me reflect on my privileged background.
Reflecting how we all live such different lives
I never had an opportunity to ever think about having basic facilities such as a bus to take me to school to the food I ate every morning.
I would just wake up at 6- 6:15 am, brush my teeth, have my ironed uniform laid out on the bed before me, while mom prepared breakfast, my dad would find a way to put our naughty puppy Maggie on the leash as we ate breakfast.
Thereafter my brother and I would put on our school bags, while dad held open the door with maggie by his side as we headed down the staircase. My dad would accompany us to the school bus with maggie, the other children would love to pet her before entering the bus.
During my time in the mountains, I learned,
The children in the village woke up at different times depending on their class and gender. Say for instance Class XII students, mostly the girls would wake up at 4:30 am alongside their mother.
Together they would feed the cows, remove the manure, prepare breakfast, sweep the house and prepare ‘chai.’ Class VIII students, boys would wake up at 6 am and head to school while girls would be there to cater to the elderly in the house or do their homework.
The house I was staying at was just 2 minutes away. But I had students from classes 1-5 that would travel 20 minutes or more on their feet just to reach school. They would literally travel through jungles, to come.
Time spent there I will always be eternally grateful for.