Reflections on farming life

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Photo Courtesy: Panma Gyatso

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Photo Courtesy: Panma Gyatso

I was born in Hango (11,500 ft) which is a remote village in the Hangrang valley of Kinnaur. I am 72 years old and have spent my life in this village as an agro-pastoral farmer. Agriculture is very important to us. When I look back, I now realise that some of my most treasured memories of my village are related to agriculture and food. One of my favourite and most vivid childhood memories is from the time chulli (apricot) season arrived. Our village did not have any chulli trees, so our elders would go to the nearby village of Leo and get chulli for us. When they arrived, all the children of the village would run to the common ground to grab as much as possible in our little hands. Women would also find time during the day to enjoy chulli with each other under the winter sun. Relishing chulli was a communal affair. The seeds were saved to make prized chulli oil (750 ml for INR 2000/ USD 27).

 

My other happiest memories are of the festivities and celebrations we had after the harvest. Until a few years back, we had an isolated winter in Hango. So we had to work really hard during the summers to ensure we had enough grains to survive the harsh winters. After gruelling work in the short summer season, the celebrations were especially sweet. Our harvest back then was of barley, potatoes, black peas and cheena/chize (local name). Cheena & barley were used to make flour for thukpa (soups) and salma (local bread). During the festivities we would make various dishes like tolopa, chulipanting (sweet apricot). Communally preparing and eating added exponentially to the taste of these dishes.

 

Barley was and continues to be used for making local alcohol like chhang and arak. No one, now, grows cheena. The seeds are also very hard to come by. It has completely vanished. Black peas & barley cultivation has also reduced and mainly taken over by the cash crops like green peas, apple, cauliflower etc. Due to increase in connectivity with the outside world, wheat and rice which were only heard of back in my days, have now become staple food. Salma, tolopa, chulipanting etc which were favorites of all age groups are now hardly prepared. 

With our generation most of the traditional dishes are also fading away. I am hoping that we can slowly shift back to our traditional crops, as they grow best in our landscape, with focus on apricots for better economic gains. This way we will be able to ensure sustainable growth from agriculture.

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Photo Courtesy: Panma Gyatso

About the Authors

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Prithvi Singh

Prithvi Singh is a farmer from Hango village. He is currently the headman of the village (numberdar). He has shared information for this article with his grandson Panma via whatsapp voice notes.

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Panma Gyatso

Panma Gyatso is a farmer in Hango who wants to contribute to society. He also plays a very active role in wildlife conservation. At the time of conflict, he has helped many families claim forest department compensation.