Saturday, 29 October 2016

Asia's Cleanest Village

No, it’s not in China or Japan. Neither it’s in the Middle East nor in Indonesia or Philippines. It is in India. Asia's Cleanest Village is "Mawlynnong", located amidst of lush green forest of East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, a state in the North East part of India. It is a tiny village, 600-odd person, 100 percent literacy, well-known for its cleanliness and natural attraction. Mawlynnong was awarded the prestigious tag of 'Cleanest Village in Asia' in 2003 by Discover India Magazine.

Meghalaya in itself is very beautiful. All the villages in Meghalaya are quite clean as compared to other parts of India. But Mawlynnong is a completely different story altogether. This is for the first time I visited such a village, so well maintained, such clean road. I was very curious how the villagers manage such cleanliness. Because of this curiosity Mawlynnong attracts so many tourists. I was simply mesmerized with the surrounding, colorful tress, hanging fruits and vegetables. I had the sweetest pineapples there that are grown abundantly in this region. 

I observed that the cleanliness is deep-rooted in their culture. I noticed many villagers with brooms in hand, the children cleaning the streets, sweeping up dead leaves and garbage. The locals are so humble and well-mannered. Whenever a visitor dropped something on the ground, they wouldn’t say anything to the visitor directly. But they would pick it up and throw it in the rubbish bins. Well, the garbage bins are also so beautiful, hand-made with bamboo, cone-shaped baskets. The traditional bamboo waste baskets are scattered all over the village, on the streets, outside each and every house.

The houses are mostly traditional thatched hut. The villagers plan to keep it that way, they simply want to keep their traditions alive. I had a talk with few of the locals. There were many tourists, both Indian and foreigners. I got to know from the villagers that cleanliness has been a practice from the time of their forefathers. Right from the beginning the kids are taught in schools about the importance of cleanliness in living a good life. As soon as the kids reach Grade 1 or Grade 2 they are given the task of keeping the area around the house clean. I was highly impressed with the system.

Another satisfying thing in Mawlynnong was the food. We enjoyed such a delightful lunch out there. The chicken curry, rice, vegetables, everything was delicious. And yes, the chutneys were so refreshing. The little eatery place was also magnificently clean. My tummy was full, but not my heart. After lunch, we just lazed there for a while. There were smoking areas. I was over cautious to flick the ash out of my hand. We had tea in a small stall. I looked at the kettle while the tea boiled. It was actually shining, so clean. I had a chat with some tourists, a group who were on a road trip all the way from Maharashtra. They liked the village so much that they stayed there for 10 days. Even though there’s a guest house at Mawlynnong, but some families also offer home-stay facilities to the visitors who want to stay long. Such decisions are not taken individually though, but the entire village collectively decide on that.

It was time to experience the Living Root Bridges. We enjoyed a wonderful trek, about 1 or 2 km to a neighboring village, Riwai. We reached the spectacular natural bridge that makes a pathway across a stream, making it easy for villagers to commute. 

Living root bridges are unique to Meghalaya. There are many such bridges all around Cherrapunji. This is an age old method used by villagers to cross the numerous streams in the area. According to Wikipedia the local Khasi people do not know when or how the tradition of living root bridges started. The earliest written record of Cherrapunji's living root bridges is by Lieutenant H Yule, who expressed astonishment about them in the 1844 Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Mawlynnong is a lovely experience, something to cherish forever.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

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