Didi – By Rina
In one of the most beautiful villages of Parvati Valley lives Didi. As part of one of our hiking and meditation retreats our group spent a few days at Didi’s homestay acclimatising to the altitude. In the cities every apartment has a name, every corner seems to call for your attention but in this part of the world it feels less important, here timelessness feels real. Houses are often recognised by the one family member who is taking care of everything in the house. So to find her house we simply ask ‘Where is Didi’s home?’
After a 12-hour bumpy and winding bus ride from Chandigarh through the Himalayan valleys we finally arrived where the road ends. As we stepped out, a sudden thunderstorm whipped us with rain and startled us with flashes of lightening. It was as if Shiva and Parvati were welcoming us in their abode, perhaps a sign of the days to come. When we arrived up at her dark house, Didi greeted us with a warm fire, candles and the most affectionate smile. The purity of her heart reflects every time she smiles. I was worried and asked her what about the electricity and she happily said “Well it will come after a week maybe!” I was flabbergasted but Didi seemed completely at ease as though this was part of her routine life… that was my first in person impression of Didi
In the mountains the women do all the housework with few or no modern amenities. I watched Didi graciously looking after the family, tourists, and cattle. I marvelled at how she managed everything and still had the time to put a bindi, tie the scarf (Bandana) over her head, paint her nails and apply beautiful red lipstick which made her rosy cheeks shine even more. Didi for me was a perfect embodiment of a strong Himachali woman.
Before the group arrived, Vijay had visited the village to have a look at the guest house. We had asked Didi to wash all the bedding. He had noticed that there were no bathrooms on the 1st and 2nd floors of the beautiful old wooden house and no facility for boiling water. To our surprise, in two months’ time Didi had bathrooms and water heaters installed on each floor. She had bought new bedsheets, blankets, pillows and mattresses. This is a feat easily comparable to any contractor or event manager doing their jobs in the city. And still when we arrived and there was no electricity Didi kept her equipoise; she never complained. She has an unwavering steadfastness which we don’t witness often in the fatigued city minds.
Didi was tireless, a reflection of effortless effort. When it was necessary to act she acted but at the same time she remained free from the action. This attitude made Didi a symbol of women power, of acting in freedom and detachment.
The following year we were not able to stay at her guesthouse because the permission for tourist accommodating had been cancelled. I often crossed paths with Didi during my stay in the village but she didn’t complain about the situation she was facing. Life continues in the mountains where fortunate or troublesome situations are accepted in the same way village people accept the ever changing mountain weather.
This brings to mind a few lines in the Tao te Ching by D.R. Streeter which say “On the roadside an old monk, all his possessions are contained within.”
Recently, during the lockdown, Didi’s husband went missing. Everyone in the village helped her to look for him but he was not found and has not returned for several months. Worried after hearing this, I called Didi to ask her how she was, and to my surprise she was as calm as ever, not a quiver in her voice. We spoke for a while and she was hopeful that he would come back. She trusted him and prayed for his safety.
I have seen Didi face difficult situations in the past years with such unwavering calm. Didi has inspired me to trust in life itself, to trust my heart and to be at ease. She showed me how to loosen the tight grip that I used to feel would control and hold everything together. I learned that to have faith and to let be, can bring happiness to your life. To trust that things will unfold naturally if one remains acting in freedom and stillness.