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An experience called Dehene

    The day after the tiring community meet, many of the students of DLRC regrouped at the Pune railway station in the wee hours of saturday morning, for they had a train to catch, to Kalyan, in Thane district of Mumbai. From Kalyan, we took a local train, crammed with locals to Asangaon station from where we travelled for an hour in jeeps to our destination, Dehene village at about 12 o'clock.

    Dehene is a pristine village on a plateau in the shadows of various grand mountains of the Sahyadri range. The village is not very populous, only with about 200 people. We learned that the closest town is about 60 kilometers away, and that the village is not supplied water by the district. Rice is the only crop grown in the area with GM and sikander varieties grown from June to December. Otherwise, there is no particular occupation.

    The people of the village were very hospitable, and warmly welcomed us to their humble accomodations at the village. Then, we lunch ate at the villagers’ houses and were assigned teams for the course of the camp. We completed a scavenger hunt, wherein we had to do tasks, find objects and capture images around the village in our assigned teams, which helped us get to know the village really well. After the hunt, we played in the fields surrounding the campsite and enjoyed dinner at the villagers’ houses followed by some chatting around the campfire.

    The next day, we woke up early in the morning and got ready for our trek to Azobagad, saint Valmiki’s ashram and samadhi. During the course of the trek, we learned that the hill is called Azobagad because legend has it that Sita gave birth on the hill to Luv and Kush who called Valmiki “azoba”. We trekked on a trail through meadows and dense jungle, finally reaching our destination, at eleven o'clock. We ate a light breakfast of poha, or “village pasta”, as our guide called it. Then, we took some time to relax under the thick canopy of the forest along with some macaques, who never quit bothering us.

    The next thing on our itenary was to prepare a meal for the whole group on the mountain for which we dispersed to collect firewood and fetch in pails water for the food, which was strenuous work. The water was collected from underground spring water channelled into a tank. After all, water is essential for all life. About an hour later, the food was prepared. In the mere resources, the high schoolers and facilitators managed to cook a humongous batch of  rice, daal and a bhaji for everyone.

    After a hearty meal, we all helped clean the dishes. After which we picked up all the litter around the area as a way to give back to the location we used as refuge. It gave us immense satisfaction to see that we cleaned up such a sacred place. On the way back, we walked through a wide path. After reaching the village, worn out and dirty, we freshened up, ate dinner and spent time around the campfire.

    The next morning, on the twenty-fourth, we woke up leisurely and then had a quick breakfast before heading out to the villagers houses to make bhakri. We learned  that the rice bhakri making activity took the village ladies lots of time to make. Hence they sang long songs called ovis to make time pass faster. The ladies who were making the bhakris were in their eighties and even nineties, but had perfect body fitness,  good eyesight and no health problems. After this we presented our bhakris to the facilitators, who in turn critiqued them. Then, we enjoyed lunch after which we had a shelter making activity till about four o'clock. We were all looking forward to the following activity, riverside fun, at a nearby river which had diminished compared to its vigour in the monsoon but it had enough water innit for us to have a great time. Entering the river, we were really flustered by the heat but were shivering by the time we were out. So, we darted back to camp and rapidly started a fire to keep us warm. Later, we ate dinner and sat around the campfire till midnight and celebrated christmas eve with our friends.

    On the 25th, we woke up and went for a brief walk around the periphery of the village which was followed by breakfast. Then, for the next half an hour, we helped the villagers in  cleaning, transferring raw material and other work. For all their support, guidance and hospitality they provided, our shramdaan was only a drop in comparison of their ocean of assistance. Last but not the least, there was a puppet show organised by Sarita ma’am, Shruti ma’am and SHS students which was followed by giving of gifts to the village children. We were surprised to see the delight on the faces of the children as they received the gifts. As we left, we only took away fond memories of this truly remarkable village.

    One of the things I noticed about the villagers was that their lifestyle was very simple. They had little or no mobile connection or internet. Their lean figures were deceiving; one could mistake them to be malnourished, not realising that the villagers had immense physical strength due to their strenuous work in the fields.  Even their elderly were very fit and supple with no ailments.

    Also, their calendar was determined by mother nature’s events rather than fiscal or academic timings. Although they did not seem very scholarly, they knew every nook and cranny of their occupation. They were grateful for what little they had.

    We urbanised population might mistake their lifestyle as monotonous or mundane but from my observations, it seemed like much more. They have a very strong community. Lots of interactions between each other at various levels. People help each other selflessly.

    One of the specialities of Dehene was that it is mostly self sufficient for all its needs. It only grew its crop (rice)only for the seed bank and for personal consumption. They only took part time jobs for purchasing items from outside the village.

    Overall, it was a wonderful experience, both enjoyable and educational. I would like to thank Ajay sir and the Grassroutes team for curating this experience and planning this event so meticulously so that we could make the most out of it. I would also like to thank Sarita ma’am, Shruti ma’am, Smita ma’am and Apu for accompanying us. Above all, I would like to thank the villagers for their hospitality. Hope to attend  more camps like this.