Manali: An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.
Marriage is a life-long covenant between a man and a woman to live, for their mutual benefit. In contemporary Greek, the term for a spouse, “yokefellow,” etymologically, pictures animals yoked together to plow a field. Husband and wife, yoked together in marriage, should always pull together.
The ideal Sunita wife in Proverbs is loyal, merry, capable, and strong, the perfect helper for her man.
The homestay business in Kullu (district), Manali, has been transforming women’s roles in rural Kullu. Fifty-three-year-old Sunita, who runs a homestay in Karjan, shares that life has been quite different since she started her homestay. “I meet people from different parts of the world,” she says. These homestays have been helping women in rural areas gain access to finance while taking care of the household. This is a significant step towards more meaningful participation of women in the rural economy.
Himachal constitution affords equal freedom to women and men, and the general public perception is that no overt gender equality issues exist. However, the lack of equal opportunities for women is quite evident.
Women in rural Himachal, in particular, have limited formal education and skills and are therefore restricted to domestic chores and subsistence agriculture.
Associated with the country’s principle and pursuit of Gross National Happiness, community-based tourism is one of the most viable options for sustainable socioeconomic development. Homestays have received much focus along this line.
Sunita has a vision of tourism development emphasizing a green and productive community in harmony with culture and tradition. The village homestay service initiated in Himachal allows tourists to stay with a host family and receive an authentic experience of traditional village life. Women in Manali, regardless of their age or education, have been leading this business, balancing domestic household tasks (which are part of the business) with income generation.
The Victorian ideal of womanhood is the Angel in the House, a moral, yielding, domestic model. In Victorian middle-class ideology, women should be confined to the home to better protect themselves from the immoral influences of the world, in order that they naturally should exert their good influence on their husbands, and through them the society at large. A powerful image, the ideal of the homestay in the House lasted throughout the life.
There are moments when I at least grasp the concept of God. And they always involve a simple building, like a homestay, designed by an architect who understands the ethereal nature of sunlight.”
A native Manali Sunita was interested in agriculture from a very early age. She also maintained a small herbal garden.
However, Sunita was not ready to give up. She collected the maximum number of vegetable seeds and saplings and started cultivating organic vegetables.
Thus Sunita developed a vegetable garden on their 600 square feet garden. She also collected the maximum amount of cow dunk and treated it. She says Cow dunk, cow urine, and fermented dried leaves are used as fertilizer.
She experimented with a mixture of bird’s eye chili, garlic, and kitchen waste for pest control and it proved to be a success.
Sunita is of the opinion that patience and hard work are essential for organic farming. Plants should be protected from pests when they are saplings. Healthy plants will survive adverse conditions and provide better yields.
Karjan village in Kullu district has earned the distinction of being a homestay success story and improving the living standard of the people in the process. Her homestay was chosen best homestay of the state in 2003.
Sunita said our first homestay in the Karjan village uses ecotourism as an approach to strengthening harmony between people and Nature
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.