Thursday, 13 August 2015

Mawlyngbna - No Typo

They say that a long time ago, when animals could still speak, they had a weekly trade place, where they could meet and chat and exchange goods brought by each of them at the market. This meeting spot, Ka Iew Luri-Lura is said to have been in the land of the Khasis, in Meghalaya, more precisely close to Mawlyngbna, a small village close to the Bangladeshi border.

It’s there that I got to twice, the first time just to have a wonderful swim across the little lake, and the second time to retrace the steps of the beasts to the market and to witness the animals’ passing through, as their footprints are seen all over this fantastic place. I like this account more than the other one, which says that the imprints left on this million-year old seabed are just unusually shaped and the fossilized sea-urchins embedded in the rocks are proof to that effect.

Regardless of its origin, the place is simply astonishing, so I’d better leave the photos to do some justice to the place:

Survival Of The Most Adaptable

Meet Andy. 

He is one of the many that passed through Cherrapunjee during the last month. But his is a memorable story because it might just be one of a kind. Also, it’s a good lesson in how not to spend a month in Cherrapunjee.

At first, he was just an illustrious anonym among others, and on the third day here he went to Nongriat, the jungle village 10 kilometers away that houses the famed double-decker living root bridge. Nothing out of the ordinary just yet; on his return to By The Way guesthouse his person still did nothing to impress us and his leaving to Shillong was met with fond waves and words of safe journey.

And this is where things take a different turn: a phone call from Andy informed Heprit that he would be coming back on account of the fact that he couldn’t find his credit card any more. So, when he arrived back here again, we learned that Andy might have left his credit card somewhere around the swimming ponds in Nongriat. The next day he readily got his things and literally ran the almost 3000 steps down back to Nongriat in search for his precious credit card… which he didn’t find.

Low on cash and on morale, Andy became our new long-termer, being forced to wait for some money to be transferred to him here. Andy is half Khasi and half Sikkimese, living under the watchful eye of his aunt in Singapore, where he studies economy.

At first All-knowing Andy was conceited and overly informed about any subject known to man (well, of course, as long as he had his Google and Wikipedia around…), drawing conclusions from his 23 year-long life experience that would make even ants cringe in terror and frustration, but as soon as his money contracted to the size of a chewing gum, he became meek and compliant. The one piece of information I did get from him was that international transfers between Indians would take a very long time, as the government insists on checking each and every detail concerning the transferee. So Heprit found a guy who owned an account with zero balance so that Andy could use it for the transfer, in the hopes that it would take less time to send the money into an account than through Western Union or the like.

After four days of Humble Andy, 700 rupees were transferred to the account and Entrepreneurial Andy’s investments were a chinlone ball and two metallic chains sporting colossal Christian crosses. Heprit received one. Two more days and the following 800 rupees were spent on a ride to Shillong and back, and a haircut. The subsequent day with its striking 100 rupees was deemed a pitiable day.

Our Adopted Andy – by now we had taken upon ourselves to keep Andy alive and somewhat fed, as Heprit was providing a daily allowance and I supplied the cigarettes – was dejected and bored, bombing me with motivational cards on WhatsApp and mostly thinking about food. He had nowhere to go, except for the regular trips to the ATM machine, amounting to 5 times a day, or the tea stalls where we took him daily to keep him hydrated. Desperation and impatience grew in him like weeds in a carefully cultivated crop. And, after we extinguished all other strategies of keeping Andy busy (like having him make the beds, clean the rooms and tend to the guests, as well as other small errands), we finally sent Dutiful Andy to earn his living. Heprit’s electrician friend took the inexperienced Andy with him to work one day. As luck would have it, that day was pretty dreary, rainy and foggy and Linesman Andy had to watch how skillfully and fast the electrician would climb the 10 meter high electricity poles and fix whatever lines were damaged. Photographer Andy soon gave me a detailed photo-account of how things were going. Coming back damp and dirty, Industrial Andy brought home the astonishing sum of 100 rupees.

A week later Serendipitous Andy gave me the good news: ‘Merry Christmas! Money came!!!’, enough for his ride to Guwahati and the subsequent flight to Calcutta and, last but not least, the flight back to Singapore. Careful as he became, he gave all his money to his new custodian – Heprit – and worked out the exact sum he would have to give to Heprit. And then he proceeded to plan a picnic with all of us together and a fun day for all of us in Shillong.

Picnic day was a rainy one so we had to move the picnic inside, where Andy, with his new-found omniscient voice delighted us with visions of kebabs and barbeques, and treated us with pork and beers. The next day was our day in the big city. But by that time, Budget Andy realized that money will not suffice for all expenses. So we ended up parenting again and, certainly, paying for the whole trip. To top it all off, he finally grasped the value of his money and figured that it will not be enough for his 20-something day accommodation and all the other expenses on flight tickets.

On an early Monday morning I woke up startled from the knocks on the door. Andy was leaving the nest and wanted company. We accompanied him to the jeep stand where he booked two seats – one for himself and one for his luggage. And with promises of gifts, presents and contributions to this new adoptive family, he left waving a sad goodbye.

I will not lie: I will miss the little shmuck. But we are now entirely prepared for the new waiting period that’s ahead of Heprit: the transfer from Andy for the lodging and allowance; nevertheless, we already know it will take more than three weeks.