Bhootia: Ayurveda hub
Bhootia village would never find itself on a map. It's a tiny dot in Udaipur's Girwa block. And to Bhagwanlal Mehta, that is ironical. He could easily be mistaken for an avid gardener. But very few people know the value of this man and his saplings.
Bhagwanlal is one of Udaipur's renowned gunis, better known as an ayurvedic medics.
"When you have allopathic medicines, the illness never goes away. With Ayurvedic medicines, we cure it right away," he says.
Ten years ago, Bhootia was just another village, forgotten and unknown. Agriculture and livestock allowed its people to earn a few hundred rupees every month and Bhagwanlal traveled hundreds of kilometres to hilly terrains to get the herbs he needed.
Then one day he had a thought: why not bring the herbs to the gunis? And there began the dream to build Bhootia's very own herbal garden. Local organisations they approached set them up by giving villagers saplings that they needed. And the rest was in the hands of Bhootia.
The women are the caretakers of this herbal garden. Today the village also has its own ayurvedic hospital - set up with contributions from every house here.
Patients come as far as from Mumbai to visit this trio of ayurvedic doctors. They come with various complaints - from common cold to diabetes. And everyone gets a specially concocted medicine.
For those who cannot offer to pay, it comes free. And this isn't just some home-grown business being run.
Inspectors from Rajasthan's Department of Ayurveda come regularly to check the samples.
"People come from cities to even our houses to meet us. They have a lot of faith in our medicines," says a Guni
Women like Limdi Bai treat patients from home. She learnt the trade from her father in law who convinced her to stop her liquor trade, and focus on curing people.
“We gunis exchange our knowledge. I trained for 12 years,” she says.
Gunis in Rajasthan are as old as the history of this state. But in the age of modern medicine, these practitioners of one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world are gradually becoming extinct.
It’s a village that could one day be the signpost for ayurvedic medicine in India. The pride here on every one's faces is unmistakable – a pride that stems from knowing that they have achieved some thing that they themselves consider remarkable.
Pride is a sense of being that can make supermen out of the most ordinary people. And being self sufficient and independent is a dream that can propel men to do the impossible. That’s what drives the residents of Vali.
Vali: Milking success
Tending to livestock had been the traditional occupation. For years, they used the milk they got to make mawa - a rajasthani sweet - and ghee, which they sold to rich landlords. Then in 1989, a group of 25 villagers dared to dream big to turn milk into money.
And Vali got its own dairy. It cost them Rs 3.70 lakh. While every family helped to pool in money, a state- of-the-art milk machine came from a very impressed Rajasthan government.
Today this dairy is completely run by the villagers. Every evening, they go and deliver milk to the dairy which in turn is sold to Saras, the largest milk supplier in the state.
Ratanlal is today rich enough to afford 15 cows, a huge change from the time when he had just two.
“Of course I am happy with the money I am earning now. I used to ride a cycle then. Today I have a motorcycle,” says Ratanlal.
Grass root activists like Bhanwar Dabai who work with villagers across Rajasthan say this is a new phenomenon that parts of Rajasthan is witnessing.
Villagers don't want to be obliged for what they have got. Instead they want partnership. Something they can be a part of - and stake claim to.
“We tell people to first identify their problems and then work towards finding a solution. They help themselves. This is what bhagidari is all about,” says activist Bhanwar Dabai.
Limdi Bai is today a member of her village gram sabha. Ratan Lal stands at the dairy and ensures the institution he helped to set up is serving its purpose.
Bhagwanlal is already planning to contest the Panchayat elections.
These little clusters of villages are not important to any one outside. But these small movements - these small steps that are getting only bigger with each day – are witness to the gigantic changes taking place in India's villages.