Bhatoli village is a 25 minute drive from the hotel and I really wanted to go see a traditional home from the Garhwal region. JW Marriott Mussoorie organizes trips to some villages nearby because they are directly involved in their welfare and upkeep ( more details on that toward the end of this feature ) and I wanted to document that as part of this assignment with the hotel. It was a last minute plan and off we went. I documented some scenes from the drive – some India On The Road street views – till the village popped into view.
The blue house caught my eye and I spent more than a few minutes trying to get the frame right. The views are spectacular – during the Monsoons, everything is sparkling green on the mountains. I’m feeling scatter-brained just trying to write about how I felt when I was there – looking left, right, up, down, where to get the best photo from – so you can’t imagine how I was feeling when I was actually there. As it is I had a bad case of motion sickness this time around – I have no idea why – maybe my body’s just getting old. The head-spinning with the camera at Bhatoli Village didn’t ease the nausea one bit.
It’s a small village and most of the homes seemed empty – we soon learned that most of them had left for an emergency meeting at the nearby village. Luckily there were a handful of residents around and one of the ladies who didn’t usually let guests in, graciously allowed me to check out her vintage residence! I think she was as curious about me as I was about her and her home.
Corn and garlic hang on the outer walls of some of the structures. Terrace farming scenes. Lot of corn growing in fields behind the homes. Firewood in the kitchens. Wooden homes. A curious and protective dog followed us throughout the tiny village. What struck me the most was how clean the village was. There was green moss due to the rainy season but apart from that, not a scrap of anything anywhere.
The lady’s home was accessible via a hatch in the wooden floor. I climbed up the wooden steps and she giggled at my awkwardness. I smiled back and saw an opportunity to ask her for a portrait for the EyesForPeople series and she obliged. It was quite dark inside the structure, I asked her to stand next to a window and made a quick portrait. Not publishing it here – out tomorrow on the series regular schedule.
The JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort and Spa organizes local sojourns to help guests explore the village life of Garhwal. The property has adopted villages near-by like Bhatoli, Sainji and Kandi, with iconic Garhwal style houses.
The sojourn starts with travelling to the village with the local guide of the resort. A tour of the village with information on the culture and lifestyle of Garhwal. Interaction with locals is followed by an option of savoring local cuisine at the house of Pradhan of each village.
The experience also lets guests visit the step-farms of the village where primarily corn is grown in abundance. Post harvesting the corn and its flour is put to various uses – Sabzi, Roti and Raita are few of the preparations where the locally grown corn is used.
Post-harvest, each house hangs corn from its farm in the verandah of the house. The number of corn is said to denote the wealth of each family. The tradition of drying corn gives a beautiful frame to the village with yellow corn hanging outside houses in bundles. This practice has given the villages the name – ‘The Corn Villages’.
The resort has adopted the villages of Garhwal and ensures 70% of its associates are from the region. Locals are hired in various guest facing departments of the hotel – Culinary, F&B, Rooms Division and Housekeeping. Apart from providing direct employment, the resort promotes the villages to tourists through the media that it hosts to ensure guests are exposed to the rural side of Garhwal apart from the hill-stations. All meals consumed at the villages are paid for by the hotel.
As a part of the adoption, maintenance and hygiene for the villages is the hotel’s prerogative. Cleanliness drives, sanitation drives, medical camps for families are initiatives carried out by the hotel on a regular basis.