SMILES FROM OFF THE ROAD IN INDIA

Sixteen minutes of smiles and laughter, guaranteed to brighten up your day. Filmed in remote villages in Uttarakhand and Kerala, India. 2007-9. Read my blog about the filming in Uttarakhand here and in Kerala here

The village of Jhuni in the Kumaon Himalayas sits below Nanda Devi, the highest peak fully inside India. Due North there is nothing but thick forest and a jumble of six- to seven-thousand meter peaks up to the Tibetan border. The village is three hours steep walk from the nearest rough road, and a further three hours drive from the nearest main town and hospital. Jhuni was until a couple of years ago bypassed by any tourist/trekking traffic, and seemingly too by any development projects.

Additional footage in ‘Treasuring the Girlchild’, the second part of the film, was filmed in the hills of Wayanad, South India. The remaining tribal people of this area have seen their way of life transformed in the past three decades as ‘mainstream’ Hindu/Indian culture and economy removes them from their roots as forest-dwellers in the interests of ‘development’ and ‘conservation’.

Despite the wonderful smiles, the girlchild in India works much harder than her brothers: fetching wood and water, caring for younger siblings. She is given less to eat, poorer education and has a far higher chance of dying young, or being aborted as a fetus. For the sake of smiling children – let’s treasure the girlchild!

Smiles, laughter, innocent trust, spontaneous welcome to strangers – these are the hallmarks of people in India living ‘off the road’, and untouched by Western ‘values’.

Some of the early screenings of the film after release

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