It was not easy getting to the Baliyani home in Bhanwar Kala, a remote mountain village in Himachal Pradesh. But it was worth every nerve wracking minute on the mountain roads.
Prem’s family was so gracious. I was treated like royalty. Meena and the kids didn’t speak a lot of English and they were very shy at first, but that didn’t last long. Anku is only 12, but he’s almost as tall as his dad! He’s already taking computer classes at school. Prem often consults Anku to learn how to use his new smartphone. Priya is 14, a beautiful dancer and very artistic. I’ve been invited back for her wedding. There’s no one in mind yet, they’re just planning ahead, as it’s customary in this area for girls to get married around age 18.
Typical house construction in this area is stone blocks and bricks with slate roofs. When one has the money, the house is “plastered” with a thin layer of cement, both inside and out. One day, when there is enough money, the house will be painted.
Village houses have bedrooms and kitchens but no living rooms. The Baliyani house has three bedrooms downstairs with only screen doors on them. Solid wood doors will come later, when they can afford them. It was a bit cold at night, as they have electricity but no heaters, but a thick comforter kept me warm.
Prem built his house with a huge front patio, perfect for receiving visitors, dancing and playing volleyball.
The government pipes water to the houses, but they’re not plumbed. Every home has one or more 1,000 liter reservoirs, and water is taken in buckets from the reservoirs to use as needed.
The Baliyani kitchen is upstairs. The rest of the upstairs is an open rooftop. One day when Prem has the money, he plans to build a living room up there. In the meantime, since it gets more sunshine than downstairs, it’s used for various tasks and just for hanging out.
About fifteen feet from the house is the outbuilding which houses the squat latrine and the shower stall.
Bhanwar Kala has a dependable electric supply and has power cuts only occasionally. It was no problem keeping my gadgets charged.