In December 2019, 13 men from Jumla travelled for 3 days to arrive at Astam. They came from afar with a handful of belongings, a mountain load of enthusiasm, a sense of humour and a joyful spirit. They came to build our home and yoga shala, and willingly help us with everything that needs doing on the land. Multi-tasked as they are, they have proven to be our indispensable legs and arms.
When not at hand with the tamp or shovel, they hold very competitive volleyball tournaments on the largest terrace which is also the heart of the land. This has somehow defined a permanent sports ground, shifting the other elements of the project in the masterplan. We have seen worthy skills, strength and stamina on display and envisage a possible local team in the making, even after a day’s work of physical demand on site!
Not to be missed is Tarjan’s acrobatic showmanship where he has the ability of deftly flipping somersaults in the air from one terrace to another. He does it in a blink of an eye and with such ease that one cannot help but watch with glee.
In the hope of growing avocadoes, moringa and tea, young bamboo shoots have been cleared away from the eastern part of the land. Jay, our oldest team member, takes the opportunity to weave the shoots into beautiful baskets in Jumla fashion. Each basket is infused with character and attention to detail. They are highly utilised for collecting leaves, firewood and vegetables.
Putting work aside, these young men are also very much a part of the boys’ learning journey – sharing skills, playing ball games, riding in the wheelbarrows, and monkeying around. They own a culture that comes from a distant place which carves them into tough and resilient people.
Ultimately, we learned that the art of ramming comes down to an intuitive understanding of soil types and being sensitive to the touch and feel of the earth. Four inches of earth mixture, poured in bucketfuls into formwork is then compacted manually into two inches. Loose earth, over time with the sheer strength of muscle, begins to feel dense and denser until it manifests itself into stone-like walls.
As music wafts in the background, the rhythm of 8kgs tamps sync with the heartbeats of 13 men from Jumla.
Ramming is the way,
Jamming is how they say,
They sway it with much gay,
While basking in the ray,
Clay, gravel and sand they lay
Join them if you may,
Get on with the day,
Alas, there will be much to pay!