Painting life lessons on walls of the abandoned houses in this ghost village of Uttarakhand

Hindustan Times | By, Dehradun
Jun 19, 2017 08:16 PM IST

Under Wise Wall Project, artist Deepak Ramola and his team are painting murals depicting daily life of locals at Saur village in Tehri district

Uttarakhand’s ghost villages tell a story. The crumbling houses devoid of any human presence, the abandoned farms run over by overgrown bushes, the eerie silence broken by intermittent shrieks of monkeys or other wild animals, they all tell a story.

One of the art works on the wall of an abandoned house in Saur village in Tehri.(HT Photo)
One of the art works on the wall of an abandoned house in Saur village in Tehri.(HT Photo)

The story is of utter neglect that these villages faced over the years and under successive governments; of lack of opportunities; and of the forced migration of their residents from the hills to the plains in search of a better life.

Nothing much has changed in 18 years of the state’s creation despite several promises and schemes announced by the successive governments, including the current dispensation. To stem the exodus from the hills, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat recently announced “selfie from my village” campaign urging people from Uttarakhand to visit their native village alongwith their children during the summer vacations and post photos on social media.

Now, creative artist and life skills educator Deepak Ramola along with a team of volunteers has taken up a project. They are painting life stories on the walls of abandoned houses at Tehri district’s Saur village. The more than three-centuries old hamlet is on the verge of becoming yet another ghost village --- according to Census 2011, there are 1,048 ghost villages in the hill state --- with only 12 families still living there.

He is also documenting interviews of members of the 12 families. Deepak, who runs Project FUEL (Forward the Understanding of Every Life-lesson), claims that Saur would be first village to have painted life lessons on the walls of its houses.

Life lessons on walls of abandoned houses in Saur village. (HT Photo)
Life lessons on walls of abandoned houses in Saur village. (HT Photo)

So, what are these life lessons?

“They are the lessons are from day-to-day life or from the rituals and customs followed by the villagers. For example, we painted a wall depicting how villagers pray to Goddess Surkanda when rains are delayed. Then there are some regular scenes like men listening to radio, children playing or women busy with kids,” Deepak told Hindustan Times.

He believes that the “Wise Wall Project” would help bring in tourists thereby helping the generate livelihood opportunities for the locals. The project launched on June 1, would conclude on June 30.

Similar efforts to generate tourism were undertaken in a village in Hungary. Residents of Bodvalenke village painted walls of their houses with interesting motifs and murals. The efforts paid off and Bodvalenke, now known as The Fresco Village, has become a major tourist attraction.

“I have to live in such a way that someday a total stranger will stop me in the street, look me straight in the eye, and say without any affectation, “Good job”. That’s all,” Deepak says about his project in an Instagram post

Earlier, the previous Congress government led by Harish Rawat tried introducing policies promoting agriculture, industries, and floriculture encouraging local entrepreneurs. He also facilitated adding airstrips at Gauchar, Chinyalisaud and Pithoragarh to generate local employment opportunities, but couldn’t work on the issue comprehensively.

For the BJP-led present government, migration remains a big issue. The recent budget saw some promises -- from constructing residential schools and hostels in hills to providing employment to 13,200 youngsters, and developing Kaushal Vikas Kendra for skill development. The efficacy of these, however, could be only discussed during the term end.


    Nihi Sharma is a Principal Correspondent based in Dehradun. She has been working with Hindustan Times since 2008. Her focus areas are wildlife and environment. Besides, she also covers politics, health and education.

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