Ch 3-The Land of Clouds : Popu-re-lation

IMG_1971.jpgIt was in Bilaspur, Chattishgarh where I attended a baptism ceremony and a Christian  wedding for the first time, around 13 years back and I was very excited to attend another Christian wedding after a long interval in Shillong. What an perfect opportunity to have a family get-together, exploring Meghalaya, attending a wedding and mingle with beautiful people of Shillong – very friendly and humble people.  sh7 Shillong has a blend of many indigenous cultures. Shillong  majorly constitutes of the  Khasi tribe, who are culturally rich with their own unique customs, costumes and cuisines. One of their most popular customs includes offering Kwai or betel nut as a friendly gestur.  Kwai is eaten by all Khasis and is symbolic of a universal brotherhood amongst themselves. This breaks down the differences and creates a bond of brotherhood among the tribe. sh1Shillong or The Scotland of the East has a very modest history and was considered a small village even a century back. It was only after 1864 that Shillong was given the status of new civil station of Khasi and Jaintia hills by the British. You will find the colonial-era charm in certain areas of city, although it exudes modernity in many sphere. The main resident tribe – the Khasis – called themselvesKi Khun U Hynñiewtrep”, which means “The Children of The Seven Huts”. Their language, also called Khasi was initially verbal until the arrival of Christian missionaries when it was put-to-text. The Khasi population of Shillong has blended with a small number of Garos, Jaintias and of Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, and Hindi-speaking communities. Shillong is a Christian-dominated state with a substantial number of Hindus, Seng-Khasis, Muslims, etc.sh2The marriage we witnessed was a Christian ceremony. Western attire is popular among the youngsters and men but elderly women like to dress themselves traditionally in a ‘Jainsem’ or ‘Dhara’ . However, the traditional men’s-wear of Khasis is ‘Jymphong’, although I did not spot any men sporting it.IMG_1937.jpgEnglish is the official language of the state although Khasi is predominantly spoken along with English, Hindi, Bengali, Assamese and Nepali. The locals are well-versed in English and Hindi, which helped me learn their ways better. I saw several hamlet of villages around Meghalaya during my stay  and I was curious to know about their lifestyle, what they do for a living, etc. The bride’s uncle told me that they mostly cultivate crops like betel leaf, areca nut, oranges, local rice, vegetables, etc;  which are mostly traded at the border regions.sh8During my elaborated discussion with Uncle Sam I found out that most Khasis are highly educated and working in both Government and Private sector. It might interest you to know that the average literacy rate in Shillong is 86%- higher than the national average of 63.5%: male literacy is 85%, and female literacy is 92.34% as per 2011 census.sh6The Khasis sing songs praising nature and use different types of musical instruments like ‘duitaras’, drums and other traditional instruments. Weaving of cane and cloth is an ancient craft and is practiced by the natives. The best place to see their handicraft skill is Meghalaya Handicraft Center Police Bazar.sh9The extraction of iron ore to make knives, utensils and warfare weapons is another skill they have inherited. One of my friend bought a hunting-knife in just 400/- which usually costs around 3000/-. Important festivals like Christmas, Nongkrem Dance and Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem are celebrated in Shillong with great pomp and show. I came to know that more than 10 durga puja takes place in the city, some of them are quite old. I located 3 pandals and one of them was with an idol on the Panchami day itself.IMG-20161012-WA0006.jpgThe staple food of the people of Shillong is rice, taken with fish and meat. The Khasis also prepare rice-beer which is ritualistic in ceremonies and religious occasions. We were very lucky to have foods with them at their house. The first day when we reached Shillong after a tiring long journey they served us a beautiful Bengali style meal along with fish curry. It was made by Zicco’s  in-laws, which was very kind of them. Next time it was the wedding dinner and then we were invited to the bride’s house for tea followed by dinner. I am adventurous about food and these meals exploded my taste buds. I had “Jadoh” a traditional rice item, roast chicken in Brown sauce, roast pork with capsicum and carrot, “Doh Sniang Nei Long” another traditional pork item with an unknown ingredient, 2 chutneys one made up of fermented  beans which smells like shutki maach and another one using an unknown  locally produced vegetable and leaf. I also had mix-veg khichuri, mushur dal with rice, mutton curry (khasi style), pork curry and fish masala (khashi style), which were sweet water fish and came from local rivers and Bramhaputra. Most of the items were amazingly tasty and it was an unforgettable treat for me.img-20161012-wa0001At Sophie’s(bride) house, I got a chance to explore their beautiful and well maintained house. The original portion of the house where we were hosted, was 60 years old. This portion was two small flights of steps below the main road. There was a beautifully maintained garden right to the entrance and two wooden floors among the 6 floored L-shaped house of around 10000 Sq Ft. They have fireplaces at their living rooms and bed rooms. They live like a large joint family with individual families having separate rooms. The rooms were cozy and well furnished with ample furniture and decorative items. It was a cold night, but the house was cozy and warm, mostly from the warmth in their hearts.img-20161012-wa0007Christianity is the dominant religion, followed by 46.50 % of the Shillong population as per 2011 census . A large part of the population follows their original Khasi religion: Niam Khasi and Niamtre. Hinduism is also represented in significant numbers in the city, forming about 42.00 % of Shillong’s population as per 2011 census . As of 2011 census Shillong City urban/metropolitan population is 354,325 of which 176,591 are males and 177,734 are females. Males constitute 46% of the population and females 54%.img-20161012-wa0002-1The most unique and respectable thing about Khasi people is that they follow the tradition of matriarchal society. Children take the family name of the mother and the property is inherited by the youngest daughter with women being the head of the family. After marriage, the man comes to his wife’s house and stays permanently. You will find women handling almost all jobs, be it shops in market, petrol pumps, vegetable or fish vendors. In Shillong women power rules, however, it must not be wrongly thought that men are completely powerless and have no say in any affairs whatsoever. In matters of inheritance, some families do give men shares of the ancestral property, though the daughters usually gets the bigger share. The reason is that, since women are the ones to continue the family lineage, giving them larger shares is considered necessary to run the households.IMG_1936.jpgThe north eastern region of India although is culturally and traditionally very different from the rest of the country, but their ways a highly respectable, humble and gives a rich diversity to our nation. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and for the people of Shillong their beauty beheld in their hearts.

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