By Farida Ahmed Haque
For the denizens of Guwahati and some other cities where one has to sizzle at the burning charcoal climate a few days’ outing at Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hill district of Meghalaya is like going to the heaven during the lifetime. It is near the Indo Banglaesh border.The professionals who have unavoidable office works have been going there for a few hours on Sundays and holidays. It is about 2 hours’ drive from the Shillong city having a distance of 90 km.
It is located towards Cherapunjee which, till recently, had the maximum rainfall in the world. However midway the hilly serpentine road branches off. But being in the same region, Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia, has rains most times of the year. Being a northeasterner we were not so much interested in the breath taking scenic beauty there. But the torrential rain was the spoilsport since we could not even walk out. We remained huddled in the thatched challet where the backpackers could put up at affordable rents. There are palm leaf covered cottages which are guest houses. One double bedded room with extremely neat and modern bathroom is available between Rs1200 & Rs 2400 per day. But then the rent is negotiable and it will depend on your mastery of haggling. There are some villagers who had separated some rooms for letting out to the tourists. The tourists get home made meals, friendly company, valuable guidance and some garrulous house owners regale the tourists with anecdotes even long after dinners.
Though we felt invigorated by the natural air conditioning we had to do something as we were on holiday. An idea clicked to all of us simultaneously. At one word we rushed out in the blinding rains. Someone blared out Bollywood hits from the car stereos and then all of us danced. Dance we did without caring for anything. Other tourists who were taken aback kept on ogling at us. Had it not been for this deus ex machina our holiday there would have been just like any other rainy day in Guwahati or Agartala.
There are ubiquitous modest, clean and homely restaurants to cater to the tourists of all hues. Various dishes are available at affordable prices. The most delicious one suited for the Indian tourists is the steamy rice, curried mountain bantam meat with thick gravy and vegetables. For the worshippers of Bacchus a wide range of country and IMFL is available there.
On October 12,2010 the villagers of Mawlynnong publicly declared that this village is smoke free. The villagers are all educated and as such this health related public policy was not surprising.
When the drizzle stopped for a few hours the roaring sound of waterfalls reach the bed rooms. There are Elephant and Seven Sisters waterfalls. One could sit near the waterfalls and enjoy the beauties. Such intercourse with Nature is something people in other parts of the country cannot get for love or money. One longs for staying here for ever.
Since it is the cleanest village in Asia it is not surprising that like Paro,Thimpu and other cities in Bhutan a tourist does not see any rubbish scattered here and there. Bamboo baskets are seen at many places. The villagers and tourists alike use them properly. This kind of civic sense is deplorably lacking elsewhere. People in other states are yet to emulate it.
Birds, colourful insects and many rodents have a considerable population here. No doubt, they feast on the left overs of the tourists. Before the rain dance I had left my hand bag containing a ripe mango on the wooden floor. After the dance I scooped it to refesh myself with the ripe mango. I screamed like a banshee bringing down the sky. A big rat was inside the bag relishing the ripe mango. It innocently looked at me, perhaps surprised by the way I had interrupted his lunch.
Though foreigners flock here the domestic tourism is flourishing and it has helped the growth of the local economy. And more and more families from Assam and others including those of Shillong are spending hours and days in this beautiful tourist spot of the region.