Story and Images by Saad Amer
This is Yangchin.
She lives in Dilpa, a village of just 69 households in the mountains of West Bengal, India. Though her family subsists on agriculture and farming, Yangchin happily chewed away at some candy. Evidently, even if you’re from a rural village in the Eastern Himalaya, candy is still the treat of choice for a little girl.
Some locals had been called to Yangchin’s home to help map the village as part of a research project by ATREE, an India-based NGO that I’m working with. The goal of the project is to understand the human-wildlife conflict that occurs when farmlands are adjacent to dense forests. In this village, porcupines and monkeys often venture in from the jungle and are the primary culprits of crop damage. Yangchin watched as maps were drawn, documenting the sites of this damage.
In addition to a series of crops, her family owned a variety of livestock. They had chickens, cows, goats, and a beehive set up by ATREE. Some meat from one of these animals was hanging above a cook stove in the back corner of the meeting room.
There was a woman with a basket against her back. Rather than carry things in their arms, people in this region of the Himalaya often bear weight on their heads by attaching straps to heavy objects. Crops, lumber, and even propane tanks are carried in this way.
But the contents of this basket were none of the prior. Rather, this basket contained Yangchin! She was in a cradle known as a “kokro.” These cradles are usually handmade by bamboo-weaving artisans. Yangchin was delighted as her grandmother rocked her back and forth.
For a while, Yangchin kicked back and forth. She soon exhausted herself and fell asleep. We finished collecting data and went back to our field station. From there, I’m planning out which of our field sites I’ll visit next. Hopefully, I’ll find a girl as fun to play with as Yangchin there as well.