Uttarakhand is the home of magnificent Himalayas, the crystal clear blue skies and a range of beautiful flowers. Uttarakhand is divided into two regions – Garhwal and Kumaon. Travelling with and for Unhotel has now taken me to the beautiful Kumaon region of Uttarakhand many times.
Popular hill stations of India – Almora, Ranikhet, Nainital, Bageshwar, Mukteshwar, Binsar fall under the Kumaon region. And here await the lovely Kumaoni women, always with a smile and the grins behind which lie many tales of the life they have made for themselves in the mountains.
Often seen carrying a stack of hay or woods, walking through the zig-zag paths of the hills, the terrain and their lifestyle have given the women residing in the mountains of Kumaon a kind of strength and resilience quite hard to find elsewhere. While the men are off for work, the women single-handedly take care of the family, farm and cattle.
Glowing radiant skin, the ghagras and the kameez, the quintessential nose ring, called ‘naths’, hansuli – the black beaded necklace or chareu, bichuye (toe rings) made from silver – now you know what they look like in their element. It’s not just their costume but also their identity – something they embrace and adorn with utmost pride and delight.
Working in urban corporates, it’s a real delight to spend some time with these beautiful, hard working and genuine souls. The homestays where we stay always employ some local women. Afternoon hours are spent chatting about our families, issues which women face whether in urban or rural areas , future of our children and amidst all this there would be a sudden offer of a massage as the sun makes you warm and lazy. They feel that we work very hard in the cities and a little pampering would help us de-stress ☺
And then you meet the enterprising women working in the local cooperatives – Kilmora, Aarohi, Avni. From organic food items to woollen garments, stuffed toys, accessories –they make such beautiful, and not to mention eco friendly products, handmade with minimal wastage. I have many capes, sweaters, stuffed toys etc which I have sourced from their stores. One of the compelling reasons to visit the region is to do my local shopping- sip a cup of tea as they knit a muffler or a cap effortlessly with a smile on their face.
If you are in the Kumaon, make sure you visit one of their stores. Buy local and support these enterprises . It not only generates employment, its environmentally more sustainable as well – handmade with love and warmth. With the urban dwellers forgetting the feel of handcrafted and hand knitted, this is just the right place to revive memories of our grannies making lovely stuff for us.
Next time when you are in the hills, pause and look around .. and when you see a Kumaoni woman, a gentle Namastey and a welcoming smile will do the magic.