Saturday, January 04, 2014

Dhanpo - Rural Tourism

P.S - A wonderful person accompanied me on this trip. She remains unnamed.

Last year in August (2013), it had been almost one and a half year since my last chutti. So I decided to take a one month off from work. It was after I had finished Kashmir Ki Kahani - my long comic.

I decided to spend one week in a village in Uttrakhand and spend rest of my time in Kashmir, visiting all the places I had written about.

First I asked a driver from Uttrakhand to find a village, he did find a place for me, but it was quite close to Dehradun, and after searching about it, I really thought it was a small town and not a village. All this searching around wasted quite a few days and I was left with two nights to spend in any village I could find.

I went about searching apne-aap and then I stumbled upon Dhanpo. The only place where Dhanpo exists in the virutal world is this blog page -, other than this Dhanpo does not find mention anywhere else. atleast it did not around the time when I went looking.

The blog was started by a british-indian family that had visited the village many times and were passionate about the village and its people.

I called Mr.Tomar husband of Meena Devi - head of the women's self help group that has bought together the families and have created a community centre and a one room facility there for people like me to come over and stay over. They charge an informal rate, they told me it would be a decent price to say 500 rupees per person per day, in which they would provide food, boarding lodging and complete access to the village and informal treks around the village.

Mr. Tomar : Mobile +91 (0)9411392877

So I got my booking done through Mr.Tomar, and also decided to organise a grassroot comics workshop there with the villagers, for which I did a three hour workshop training with Sharad Sharma, who owns and runs grassroot comics/World Comics India

Once I reached Dehradoon, I headed to Mr.Tomar's one room office/his son's PG, shared by some other boys.

From there it was a roughly 5 hour ride to Dhanpo, with me was Mr.Tomar's son, who is in school.
Mr.Tomar is very frank and friendly, which being from Delhi I am not used to. I was also a bit apprehensive because I could not find Dhanpo anywhere on google maps, no friends from Uttrakhand had heard about it, not even the local people who are from villages surrounding Mussorie and Dehradoon.

I stopped on my way to visit the Forest Research Institute - a big institute made sometime in 1903 or something, and - how the locals now know it - the place where "Student of the year" was filmed.

As soon as we reached Dhanpo, I was a little bit relaxed. and there was Gajendra bhai there, Mr.Tomar's elder son to help with bags and take us through the 3 minute walk to the village. There had been a wedding a day before I arrived, and there was a big swagatam sign just outside the village.

Gajendra bhai is on the right.

I settled into the room, which was decently comfortable with a western bathroom.

They also provide a Kitchen in case you wish to cook your own food.

View from outside

One of the members of the Self Help Group. Did her parents hate her?

Dhanpo is a really small village - some 10 families live there. Almost all of the men work outside the village, many of them are in government jobs like Mr.Tomar's two other sons who are in the CISF. There are farmlands around the village. They mostly produce corn - makki.

The houses are mostly traditional, but people are making new kind of houses there now. the beauty of the old houses are that they invert the seasons - they are warm in winters and cold in summers, however the new cement houses are on the rise. I always wanted to see how an old house looked so I dived right in...

And now, coming to Breakfast -
 I always had my breakfast at Mr.Tomar's house. Prepared by his wife, also the head of the women's SHG.

So, Meenaji, gave me loads of food, chaach, mattha, dahi, makke ki roti, sabzi, white makkhan and what not.

But why that smile, I was wondering, why feed me so much, I had all those Sindbad's seven voyages stories coming to my head when I remembered what I had promised to do the next morning - shat!

It was the sowing season. And I had promised to help out in farms as soon as I reached. 
So, I went along with the others to the farms.

Taking out the adrak from last season

In Dhanpo they do step farming, which looks cute from distances, but what it means is rotating the really heavy plough every 200 meters. Which happens roughly every 30 seconds. That means hawa nikal jana.

I would get tired after every 10 minutes, But the regular farmer bhai here was at it like it didn't mean anything. He starts ploughing at 7 in the morning and goes on till 2 pm and then comes back to the farm again at 3 pm and work on till evening.

Kids love me.
 and women have a weird sense of humor
 the butter-boy

Farming is serious business!

I was close to dead after the routine.

An uncle with his sharpener.

We had our lunch and dinners at the J.P Hotel. a small place at a 5 minute walk from the village.

During tea time, I was at one of the village houses when I found out that the village had been featured for its organic farming.

 And then it was my turn to show off, so I shared the grassroot comics journal with them. and discussed things we would need for the workshop in the evening.


Most of our participants were women, so most of the stories revolved around their routine, which frankly is quite tiresome. best way to talk about it is the comic one of the participants made. We had half the time for the workshop, give the sowing season, still women found time for the workshop.

The workshop gave me immense confidence about the storytelling abilities everyone has, and how excited everyone is when they get a chance to do something very creative. In all the tool of grassroot comics works, and for a professional cartoonist like me, it reminds me to unlearn.

Vijay bhaiya from the farm was also there!

And one of the participants was Tendulkar - the boy Sachin - who just was hanging around all the time,  energetic and silent. Just kept smiling. (in the picture- the one on the left.)

Real heroes of the workshop of was these two people who went on till late in the night finishing their mother/aunt's comic. 

This was the only comic we could manage in a two day, one hour each workshop. 

Next morning we left the village, we went to Dehradoon and I headed for Kashmir from there.
Here's the comic we managed to get finished, made by first time artists and writers.



Molly said...

I really enjoyed your blog..and yes, I have been to Dhanpo. It was wonderful, everyone is friendly and hospitable. One can fully relax and take in the beauty and peace. I think I recognised Tendulkar and of course Mr Tomarji and his wife
The comic produced is wonderful...(but I can't read Hindi!!!) You must have run an excellent workshop...the art work is impressive.

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