By Pradeep Singh
What was life at a more mundane level in Badripur of yester years ? Well Cautley’s canal was a watershed in the way people ordered their day routine but before this landmark development life was in many ways tough . Water for both drinking and household needs was scarce and wells in the village were unknown till much later . Hence a good number of hours were dedicated to fetching water from far off sources of which two prominent ones were a baoli ( tank) in Nawada or further to the south the fresh-water springs at Mothorowala. Bullock carts were used to bring in water in brass vessels every morning for the better off families while others depended on the two johards ( ponds ) at Badripur and another to the east at Majri . These johards had fish in them too and being private property of the village landlord Englishmen came here on Sundays for angling and even paid a nominal charge to the owner of these ponds as a matter of propriety .
Badripur’s drinking water woes were much ameliorated when a matriarch of the village sold forty bighas of her land to raise the funds for sinking a well sometime around 1905 setting a perfect example of noblesse oblige .
Agriculture too was radically different before the canal came to Badripur. Dependent primarily on rain water only one half of the land was put under plough in one year and the other half the next year to ensure moisture and fertility for crops . A substantial area was also kept as pasture for the large number of cattle owned to supplement the family income and also to provide bullocks for ploughing and pulling carts .
The announcement of the building of the Badripur canal created a stir in the village as it was bound to impact significantly the life of the people and ease their hardships . The Kalanga Canal from Raipur was to be the feeder to provide water to the proposed Badripur canal . In their earnest eagerness the landowners made an unprecedented offer to the project . Badripur landowners along with neighbouring Nathanpur gentry offered gratis a forty feet broad strip of private land for the length of the canal and also the road alongside.
This collaborative move paid handsome dividend to one and all alike . Now there was water for the fields, household chores could be completed at convenient spots along the canal . The water being from a fresh water source it was for most of the year even used for drinking by many except when monsoon torrents made the flow furious as well as muddy . Now the Badripur fields swayed every season with fragrant basmati and Doon households routinely savoured the aromatic long grained delicacy . And once the Railways came to Doon in 1900 basmati was transported in wagons to lucrative markets across the sub continent . Further , with ready irrigation available the village land was rarely kept fallow and area under crops doubled as were the profits of thise that bent their backs behind ploughs for it would be another five decades before tractors began to be used in Badripur through the initiative of Ch Nain Singh in 1951 when a powerine driven Massey Ferguson became a proud possession of the family reducing the load on the forty odd bullocks that had been used till then. Incidentally tractor manufacture in India commenced only in 1964 .
With progressive and proactive approach to challenges in the farming in eastern Doon and resultant progress in introducing new crops and methods for raising basmati and sugar cane Badripur came to the forefront of the district and it’s residents were well regarded by the district administration. It had acquired an image of a modern village to be emulated so much so that the then Viceroy of India , Lord Linlithgow while in Doon in 1936, visited the village and stopped at Shankar Sadan the residence of Ch Shankar Lal an had tea and refreshments and took a stroll upto Nawada . Unlike today’s security protocol, the Viceroy came accompanied only by the District Magistrate . Once again in 1955 a Soviet delegation in Doon also chose to see Badripur where every member was garlanded by a centenarian lady Nandi Devi .
Now Badripur has slipped off the pedestal of fleeting fame and has largely been engulfed by the expanding suburbs of the city and the farms have morphed into wedding destinations and party lawns . For trivia let me share a best kept secret of how the village got its name . Long before canals came the arid and parched land had vast stretches of wild ber fruit bushes that characterised the place , and the lesser known name for this fruit is ” badri ” and thus this humble plant has blessed the sweat and labour of its residents with their tryst with glory .
(With inputs from Ch. Yudhveer Singh . Pics courtesy Shabnam Anand Singh )