Far From the Completely Maddening Crowd

Sabbah Haji

Let me take you to a little village I call home, a village called Breswana [Look it up and be very certain that no, in fact you do NOT mean 'Botswana'.] When I say 'let me take you' I of course do not mean it literally, because that would mean I'm lugging along a huge bunch of strangers to my village, a number of whom might have criminal tendencies or are just plain weird. I digress.

So Breswana - a typical pahari hamlet of the Doda belt in Jammu and Kashmir. Altitude approx. 7,100ft above sea level. No motorable roads all the way up yet, which means we either walk the last stretch of the mountain or clamber up on horseback. [Riding on mules is also an option but this invites being pointed and laughed at. Best not to.] Once up there, certain exclamations of, 'Wow, this is great!'

Here's how it is. I come up to Breswana from the sprawling global metropolitan hub that is Jammu City [snigger] for a few days/weeks every month to check on my schools. People who have had to bear my online onslaught when I'm in the city feel a certain sense of relief and lightening of the soul during these periods because my constant barrage on Twitter and other forums sort of, well, dies. Up here in the bosom of Mother Nature [haha, seriously, I just wanted to say 'bosom'], we have intermittent electricity, running water and no wired internet. Come to think of it, we don't have wireless internet either - and mobile internet doesn't count. [Except to send in this piece, which I expect will involve a dozen attempts and much fervent praying and hoping.] Mobile phones work fine but the redeeming part is if you leave your phone in certain well-known spots of the house, you can be conveniently 'out of reach'. Yay!

Every time I come up to Breswana, events of a certain weight have taken place in the rest of the world. In recent times one chap called Osama Bin Laden happened to be at the receiving end of shady covert ops followed by a salt water finale. [Or so we are told.] Then recently, as I was hoovering up some noonchai [Kashmiri salt tea] and baakerkhaani [delish bakery item] on a romantic misty mountain evening, I found out that Suresh Kalmadi had dementia, which immediately caused splutter-choke  laughs. I also discovered one evening that Amy Winehouse had kicked the bucket, that Suresh Kalmadi actually did not have dementia, that Sreesanth did jaw-dropping good work in the Nottingham Test so much so that Star Cricket adjudged him Player of the Day [!!!], and that Hina Rabbani Khar is some sort of sartorial hottie and hates being labelled as such [I completely understand, Hina]. Basically I found out about a lot of stuff that, had I been in city-mode, would have provided me with much instant chuckles and smart-alecky fodder. Praise the heavens that this was not so.

Every visit to Breswana reminds me how silly most of the stuff I dwell on in the world outside is. We have here a village. Like every village, the people are extremely hard workers and extremely kind and generous and humbling, for the most part. Add to it mountain terrain, complete dependence on weather, poverty and a generally hard life, and one begins to see everything else as relative. Because of the schools I am in constant contact with the incredibly bright, happy, unspoilt kids here, so content with the very little they have. They are the biggest eye-openers. So it is that I feel utter horror when I see the obnoxious wastefulness and the selfishness of people inherent in some lifestyles.

On the plus side, this half of my life keeps me from spontaneously exploding what with the amount of infuriating dolts I manage to deal with otherwise. No longer do my parents hear howls of outrage from my room when I am here in Breswana. [Dear trolls, this is a shout out to you.] All those weighty events with world-changing impact? Frankly I don't give a damn, because a clean and clear rural setting does this to the mind. It filters the useless.

Listen up: villages are the real thing – at least in our part of the world. As you will recall from your middle school geography lessons, majority of our peeps are rural. [South Asia, this means you.] The villagers are IT! The ones who till the land, deal with everyday issues we have no clue about, who are actively aligned to Mother Nature's bosom [tee hee] and who love the actor Govinda [esp. his multiple wife movies that play incessantly on free-to-air channels]. [BTW I also love Govinda, almost as much as I like using parentheses].

I strongly recommend all of y'all take some time out and spend at least a month living in a proper village. Help out there somehow, with your superior education and know-how. So much to learn, so much to see. It'll centre you. It'll take you away from the unnecessary noise of your daily lives. *cue title of piece* It'll teach you about disciplining your toilet habits and the appreciation of water. It'll give you a chance to get away from all those people you feel like strangulating on sight. Or those tele-callers. Or certain news anchors who will not be named. You know what I mean.

When the month is over, we can [yes we can!] go back to being the snotty few in front of our laptops, cribbing about slow internets [although this is a serious matter also and must not be cast aside lightly!], bad service in posh restaurants, unfortunate evening dress choices of celebrities, dissing or wowing movies and music, and other equally important stuff. Mehhh.

Thank you for bearing with me. Come to my village. Or go to any village. Please.


Sabbah Haji, @imsabbah on Twitter, runs the Haji Public School in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, and writes on the side. She gave up on city life in 2008 and headed back home to her ancestral village Breswana. She is exceptionally content now [provided she has internet access].