Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Nightout with the Dhangars

In the last weak of september this year, Sachin, Raju, Donald and Me , set out on an adventure in the Tilari Hills - a part of Western Ghats on Goa- Maharashtra border. Sachin was down from US of A on his annual vacation.
We reached the ‘top of the world’ Tilari plateau at 9 in the morning after driving 100Kms from Ponda.
We had a plan to stay at the PWD rest house in the village, but it was under repairs and besides we did not have the recommendation letter from concerned authority to use the facility. With the lowered spirits we decided to hike in the hills of Tilari till sundown and then head for Belgaum some 50Kms away and return the next morning to continue exploring.
But Raju had something else on his mind; he had noticed a small tent and a lonely figure, guarding herd of sheep on the open flat at the point where the ghat ends and Tilari plateau begins, Raju proposed that he would chat up the Dhangar (Marathi term for the shepherd) to allow us to spend the night in his tent, all of us quickly agreed and approached the dhangar, who unhesitatingly offered to be the host, provided we did not mind sharing the space with his brother in-law , three kids and of course his dogs and the lambs, cuddled up in the far corner of the tent.
Damu Majgaokar our host also offered to cook the food Dhangar style but he had only raw dal and rice so, We had to go back to Tilari village to purchase chicken (For Raju And Sachin) and some veggies (For Donald and Me). The setting sun had painted the sky deep red when we returned to our ‘base camp’.
The fire was already on and our host was busy preparing to cook the meal, now he was joined by his brother in-law and the kids.
The sun had set, and we were drowned in the thick mist, Raju eagerly opened his Kaju Feni bottle and prepared the drink for himself and the hosts, Sachin and Donald popped the beer bottles and me, I was happy just watching the spirits soar high.
The aroma from the pot on the fire was hanging around us in that thick mist. After the initial chat the dhangars got talking about their tribe and their life style.
They told us about their encounters with the Bison, leopards and Tigers. Their experience says that these wild beasts are quite harmless provided one leaves them alone.
On quizzing about the ghosts our hosts instantly denied the existence of such ‘free spirits’ as they had not encountered any such entity during their wanderings.
By now the food was ready and so were we, our host served us in whatever available containers. For Me and Donald it was dal and rice. Sachin and Raju pounced on the chicken. The dal to our surprise was cooked in sheep’s milk and tasted quite fantastic. Sachin could not stop his Ahh….s and uuu…mmms as he downed the chicken soup and gobbled chicken masala (dhangar style).
The dhangars were pleased when they heard Contended burps from Raju.
By the time we finished our dinner the kids were fast asleep.
After cleaning up we also stretched on a single blanket laid on the ground inside the tent.
Before long we were also out and gone. It rained early morning and we woke up to fresh air and beautiful landscape. Each one rushed to the near by rivulet of water to freshen up and to answer the natures call. Piping hot black tea was waiting for us at the camp when we came back.

In a short while we had to take leave of our warm hearted hosts, keeping with their tradition Damu offered us beetle leaves as a token of friendship, chewing on the beetle leaves we took off on our HIKE to the near by hill.

Raju was alredy thinking of spending another night at the spot, but Sachin had to return home and procced to Mumbai to keep the appointment with the visa authority.

On our way out we noticed a horse and colt tied to a tree near the tent (we had missed this last evening), the horse carries all the belongings when the dhangars are on the move.

We must return to the same spot , same time next year to honor the Invitation Of the Dhangar.


The Big S. said...

I enjoyed the night out with dhangars. O what simple lifestyle!!!!. Wish I had more time to spend with them. I am amazed at how gracious and kind these guys were during our stay with them.

Ajay, Did u go back and pick up the rope bags from them?


Dilip Naidu said...

Wow I really enjoyed this post on Dhangars and the time you guys spent with them. More so as I too have made friends with the Dhangars and invite them on my farm for the rich manure that their sheep produce. You may be interested have a look at my blog post 'One Straw Revolution'.http://jugnoofarms.wordpress.com/