Journey from home deliveries to homemade
All of us have a dream that sustains us. Through good times. But especially through tough times. For a lot of us, it is the dream of living a slow life. In the mountains. By the sea. In a small village. In remote locations.
Do any of these resonate with you?
In my case, moving to the hills and living a slow life is what I wanted to do. It is not something that happened overnight. Like most city folks traveling to the hills for a holiday, we too dreamed of buying land. Farming. Eating our own homegrown produce. Having fresh fruits. Listening to bird calls every morning and evening.
Family responsibilities and old parents made it a tough choice. What if they fell ill in the middle of the night? Would we reach out in time to help? With my folks staying in Bangalore, these challenges were doubled.
Questions, choices, with no answers in sight…
Cut to 2016 - and a holiday in the hills.
A random conversation that ended with:
A - “So…just suppose…we find you a place to stay in. How soon can you shift?”
Us - “In 3 months? We’ll need that time to wind up things in the city.”
6 months later, we were here. To stay.
Our first day in the hills. With luggage still arriving. And no clue of dinner.
Before I go into a winding story, let me answer the questions that occur to most of us.
Q: Has it been exactly as we imagined?
A: So much better than what we could have imagined!
Q: So, it has been smooth sailing. And most of us can realize this dream?
A: NO. To both.
It has NOT been smooth sailing. And this is definitely not the life for everyone. I have had medical emergencies with overnight ambulance rides. Critical illness and remote locations do not make for the best partners. Ambulances break down (as mine did), one has to wait for another to arrive (which we did), before one reaches the nearest city (Haldwani). Where they are unable to treat you, so you are rushed to Delhi.
Stress, panic, worry became constant companions.
But we did return after recovery. Fighting with family. Fighting emotional blackmail. Assuaging worries of loved ones.
Because we really can’t think of another life. For me and my partner (and our dog), this is who we were in the city. And have just found the space to grow and be our best selves here in the hills.
Kimble, our dog, is completely at home in the hills
Q: What if you want to ignore all of the stuff written above and still want to shift?
A: Rent a place (like we did for 3 years). Live through the year, through different seasons. With cloudbursts that break away your access to the only motorable road (so you walk), or snow days which ensure no electricity for days on end. Learn to conserve resources and make do with only water harvested during the monsoons (which we do).
Respect animals, insects, all living critters that might terrify you. And treat them with gentleness and respect. Have boxes ready to catch frogs (and spiders) to release them in the wild. Do not use insect killers and use natural insect and pest repellants. Essentially, learning to live being at one with nature.
Live through magical monsoons and unbroken silences that envelop you in warmth and comfort.
Q: How does my life feel after 4 odd years and working with the community?
A: Amazingly wonderful. Yes, there are days that can be overwhelming. And tiring. And stressful.
But all I need to do to calm down and destress is to take a deep breath and look out. To the amazing forests that surround us, or the butterflies that hover over wild flowers and the russet sparrows that love to find little spots of water to bathe in.
When we chose to move to the hills, there were some decisions we made consciously before the move.
⁃ We have a zero-chemical household. Our utensils, shampoo, clothes and dog - all get washed with reetha (Himalayan soapnut). Chemical effluents in such a fragile eco system can have ruinous repercussions.
Himalayan soapnuts - used for laundry, dishes, dog and us
⁃ We use cloth bags. Reuse and repurpose plastic. And buy all our groceries without any packaging. This was a practice we started in Delhi and continues here.
Cabbage (1.75kg) grown in our home garden with only natural inputs
Jivamrut, natural foliar spray and fertiliser made at home. Recipe shared with the community
⁃ An organic and natural fertiliser is prepared for use in the garden as foliar spray and manure.
Home grown peaches preserved in sugar syrup
⁃ Fermentation and preservation have become keystones at our place. Excess fruits are made into jams (or wine), vegetables are dried, pickled or preserved. Joys of homemade ghee that smells heavenly are only equalled by homemade mozzarella.
Home made pizza from scratch
None of this happened overnight. Initial months were spent struggling and huffing uphill to reach our car (it used to be a steep 900 metres to the car park). And a year went by in my recovery and the loss of a loved one. The hills though always called us back.
How is it different 4 years on?
My work with Kilmora as their agri head has given me a voice in the community. Finding amazing local produce, giving more than a fair price to the small farmer, working with and giving financial freedom to women - gives me an unimagined high.
Driving to and from work, I would see Galgal (the local Hill Lemon) being kept on the trees. Not being sent to the mandi seemed odd. On asking, I discovered that they get very little price for this fragrant lemon.
And Kilmora’s Galgal Chutney was born. The base recipe is what the pahadis use. With a few tweaks to suit an urban palate.
Chaat Masala with sendha namak was another product using largely local produce - great for fasting and feasting!
The recipes keep flowing. As do my conversations with the farmers.
Yes. I am still breathless climbing uphill. And I still need to figure out a dinner that cannot be home delivered, if I am too tired. But…would I trade this in for a more comfortable life filled with the choices of home deliveries? In the city?
What do you think?
About Anamika Das
She is a permaculturist who shifted from Delhi to Uttarakhand 4 years back. She works with Kilmora and heads their agri division where they prepare delicious jams, jellies, marmalade and chutneys. And also work with farmers to procure local grains, culinary herbs and spices. Her search for local grains, cannellini beans, red rice and a long list of medicinal plants is an ongoing journey.
She is breathless climbing uphill, but will insist on doing so to meet the farmers or watch the sunset and feel the breeze. She will also lecture anyone and everyone about plastic pollution, joys of Mother Nature, and lovely fat earthworms that thrive in the rich soil in her garden.
An afternoon with the Himalayan white bulbul and russet sparrows
Monsoons in the hills
To support Kilmora's mission, please visit their shop at Punya here!