One Day In The Life Of A shawl Weaver, (Uttarakhand, India)

This is Darkot, a quaint Himalayan Village close to the Tibetan border. This was a village set up hundreds of years ago by wealthy traders to station themselves and their families on the salt route to tibet. It’s a place where time seems to have stood still, with it’s slate roof houses with intricately carved doors, small little stone pathways, lined by houses in which people of all ages now spin yarn and weave shawls.

This is Gita. She is a shawl weaver in Darkot. Its just one of the things she does in between taking care of the fields, tending to her cows, cooking for her family and attending to guests.

There is no running water in the houses here. So her day begins at this ‘dhara’ a perennial mountain stream, right at the top of the village which is quite a climb, where this lion’s mouth has been providing water to the people of the village for centuries. A couple of trips up and down, and she’s done.

She gets down to cooking breakfast for her husband who works in a nearby town. All meals are cooked fresh, breakfast lunch and dinner, no cooking for the day here. After the cooking she takes the cows out to graze, tends to the fields where she grows some of her own vegetables and greens, collects what is necessary for the next meal and comes back home.

She gets started with her weaving and does not stop till late in the afternoon. Her hands move continuously as she cheerfully describes how she came to be married into this family, the cold winters, how she is sometmes not able to sell what she makes.

It is hypnotizing to watch her hands on the loom, as she moves various things around, the rhythmic sound accompanies her voice telling stories from her childhood, those of her elders, and people in the village. It sometimes takes her about a month to complete weaving a shawl, and the price here is less than half of what it costs in the city, but despite this it is hard to sell as visitors are very few.

She takes a break to make ‘jia’, a salt tea, which is made tradionally in this long wooden cylinder with boiling hot water and accompanied by ‘sattu’ , a flour consisting of ground pulses and cereals. Delicious and filling.

Evenings are spent chatting with a neighbour and catching up on village gossip. As she chats she is informed that they have a guest for dinner so she sets about making an extra special meal for the visiting relative and me, not once showing any signs of tiredness, at the end of her exhausting day.

As we consume the delicious meal with the family, the visiting relative, an old man regales us with amusing stories of his trek down from the opposite mountain and all the way up to this village, with a huge and rather furious river to cross in the valley below.

After she’s done with serving everyone, she settles down to eat and then spends the rest of her time spinning yarn till late into the night.

It’s time for rest, till morning, when yet another day begins.