Dheri village is surrounded with mountains and people who feel that nature is their mother. It was located on the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan and the people follow both the cultures. I had a single story about Rajasthan before going there that was desert on one side and forts and culture on the other side, but after going there I found of that it’s not only rich with its oasis but it also has beautiful landscapes. To reach the village we have to travel almost 25km from Kotda block, and we had to cross the border, go to Gujarat and come back to Rajasthan, which was very interesting.
There was no public transportation to reach the village; the only way was to go on a jeep. So we sat on the top of a jeep, on a rainy day, an experience that is difficult to express. We got down at Chikla which was 3km from Dheri and we walked all the way, as there was no transportation from there. We knew only one person from that village, *Sita bai. Asking around for her, people told us that she was the ex-sarpanch of that village. After meeting her, we began looking for accommodation for ourselves. We went around and asked many people, but most of the people hesitated, as the rains had flooded the area and the situation was a bit bad. Finally, we saw a pakka house and walked to it. As soon as we asked the owner if we could stay there for 2 days, he agreed, and also said he will provide us with food.
We started to explore the village and noticed that everything in the village is staring at us as if we are some aliens. One guy from the field greeted us, quite formally and we started discussing about the village. It was from him we got to know a lot about the history and the structure of the village. One thing that surprised me was the fact that they still followed the barter system in the village. Whatever they produced, they didn’t sell it in the market. If someone wanted to buy from them, they had to go to the farmer’s house and buy the goods.
We also saw that half of the fields were eaten up. On asking the farmer what happened, he said that the animals and the insects from the jungle come at night and eat away the crop. We asked about the use of pesticides, to which he said that using pesticides and killing the animals along with ruining the soil was not part of their culture. The crop they cultivated, was half for humans and the rest was for the animals. This remark stood out for me, as it demonstrated how much they were attached to nature and the traditions they followed. The next day, I was walking around when a family called me. They wanted to know why I was there – they thought I had come for a survey and started telling me their problems. I had to tell them quickly that I was not what they were looking for.
He offered me some tea and he started talking about the crops and the electricity; and in our 50 minutes of conversation, two things struck me – one was the lack of education facilities and the other was a lack of employment opportunities. He said that they were almost 20 people who had completed their graduation and doing farming because there were no jobs for them. Farming was not what they loved.
This was unfortunate in itself, and adding to it was the fact that their unemployment led to other families not investing in education for their children. Another thing we found was the custom of early marriage. This was evident when we met a 16 year old boy in the village. In a discussion, I asked him what was he was doing. He replied saying that agriculture was his source of livelihood. To this, the head of the family added that he got married. I was shocked, before I found out that he also had a child of 2 years.
*Names changed to protect identity