Monday, June 20, 2016

Mawlynnong, Gods Own Garden! The Cleanest Village In Asia

Our trip to the much awaited and anticipated Mawlynnong, dubbed as the Cleanest Village in Asia, was a humbling experience to say the least. The route to this village is an absolute delight with wide mountain roads opening up great scenic views, multiple waterfalls, massive pine forests and the beautiful rural homes that are few and far.

The village is home to 90 odd families who take great pride and strive their best to keep their village clean. The village has not by chance earned the title "The Cleanest Village in Asia," it has totally earned it thanks to the grit and determination of the cohesive community. The community comes together as one, collects the waste and cleans the streets with dedication. They do not expect the government to clean up the mess. The village has put up some pretty looking bamboo baskets at every corner that serve as dust bins and they encourage tourists to ensure that they help their village by avoiding dumping of plastics. In case, they see litter lying around and not in the dust bin, they do not blame the tourists nor hold anyone else responsible. They take the onus on themselves to pick up the litter and drop it in its right place- the dust bin. This small act goes on to prove that they have no ego nor do they believe in the playing the blame game. 

Even kids of this village are highly responsible and are active participants not just in cleaning efforts but also ensuring that there is no wastage of drinking water. Lesson for all of us who complain that our Nation is dirty, the bitter truth is it is 'We' who litter. The day we start treating our Nation like our homes, the strong stench and filth will disappear.

The entire village has used solar power to the maximum, all street lights and most of the homes are powered by clean natural energy. This village is a perfect role model in many ways. The absolute no sign of hospitals in the vicinity goes on to prove what a healthy lifestyle they lead. While travelling here, kindly be responsible and do not litter around. Mawlynnong and other such clean places must be the role model for Swacch Bharat Mission and a pride of India.

It is shocking that the cleanest village is part of the same country whose capital is declared 'Unfit for human living' due to high pollution levels. The biggest question here is 'Have we defined development truly and correctly?' Building more power plants to meet growing energy needs, burning exorbitant amount of fossil fuel on a daily basis, having great roadways and fancy bridges over oceans and other such superficial developments define a country's growth? We are not thinking about the long term harmful repercussions that our so called urbanization is causing.

So are we falsely convincing ourselves that we actually have progressed? The devastating carbon footprints left behind is a good wake-up call for us to rethink our strategy and try all natural alternatives to sustain our life on this planet.

The village has beautifully cemented pathways that took us into deep forests offering amazing landscapes. There are several massive watch towers made from bamboo that towers several meters high offering scintillating bird's eye view of the village. We were out on long walks but we did not feel an ounce of fatigue. We never got tired walking on these beautiful paths. Our legs never gave up and in fact we wanted to walk more. All thanks to this pollution free serene village. Nature has been very kind and blessed the village with great flora and fauna. While on the trek path, several beautiful species of butterflies fluttered around. One of the many benefits of exploring a place by foot are the many natural wonders that are hidden away from the eyes of vehicles that whistle by.

Another interesting feat in Mawlynnong, is the massive balancing rock that seems to mysteriously balance itself on a very small rock. 10 bucks is all it takes to catch a glimpse of this. It is surprising how after all these years it has still managed to balance itself.

Apart from being a very clean and friendly village in a remote part of India, Mawlynnong offers one of the best natural wonder, Rewai Living Root Bridge, which is only 2 km from the village.

The village also houses a beautiful church which was beautifully lit up in the evenings as we were lucky enough to be there during Christmas celebrations. The day would end melodiously with the kids of the village singing Christmas carols in the church and gearing up for the big day.

The place is so remote that they do not have any retail or grocery shops. Most of the villagers tend to grown basic fruits and vegetables in their backyards. The rest are purchased from a van that arrives once a week to the village stocked up with all vegetables and fruits.

During our 5 days stay in this village we looked no further than this little restaurant with no name in the parking lot, very efficiently run by women. They serve only lunch and have a very limited menu. One could choose to have veg, chicken, fish or egg with rice and vegetables accompanied by dal, salad and chutney (traditional mix of grated tomatoes chopped onions, green chillies and coriander leaves.) This goes really well with the meal. We tried everything in the menu and none disappointed us. They are very reasonably priced considering the remoteness of this village. A heavy lunch for two costs around Rs.300.

The villagers have come up with great and comfortable home stay options at an affordable price. In total there are 5 home-stay options as of December 2015 and we could see construction of a few underway.

Our charming little home stay majorly made of locally procured natural material was our home for 4 nights. Set in the edge of this secluded village, sandwiched between a church and the football field, this awesome home stay surrounded by hundreds of plants is run by a lovely family who have no degree from hospitality industry but with their charming smile and big hearts gave us a home like feel that even the most expensive and best of hotels we had stayed in could not match up to and add to this the language barrier and communication gap. This just proves professionalism is not based on the degrees you have. The spacious cottage has an attached bath and 24 running water facility. Whenever we needed hot water, they were willing to provide buckets of boiling hot water with a smile.

They were kind enough to ask for our food preferences and provide the best they could. The great advantage of staying in this home stay is we got a chance to relish authentic Khasi delicacies and aunt being such an amazing cook, we were feasting on all the days. Our personal favorite was her fish fry, black sesame dal and deep fried brinjal. Within seconds piping hot food came straight to our plates from the kitchen. The dessert served were not high calorie pastries but healthy and naturally sweet-juicy papaya and pineapples.

Delicious meals are served in their small living rooms and they are happy to serve extra portions. During our stay here, we used to take our breakfast out and sit on the football field, bask in the sun and enjoy our first meal of the day. Having such memories made us feel we were really rich not in monetary terms but for the memories that light up our lives in such remote locations. The name of the guest house is Harud Wahduid "Brookside" Mawlynnong. Contact No- 8575440446.

We had such a nice time in the village that from the initial 4 days we extended our stay by one more day. If you don't have your own vehicle the only way out of the village is to share a ride with villagers in a sumo which leaves everyday at 6 AM except on Sundays. A seat to Shillong is priced at Rs 200. Keep in mind in total only 3 sumos ply at different times during the day. The other option is to hire a private taxi but the prices are steep and the minimum charge being Rs 2200.

On our way back to Shillong, we came across a fishing competition that was happening in full swing it was surprising to see the number of contestants and the seriousness involved in this sport.

Travelling teaches you a lot of life lessons and we learnt how blessed and fortunate we were to have an array of public and private transportation at our disposal yet we complain about the traffic, faulty AC's, no vacant seats and the likes. For the villagers of Mawlynnong commuting to the State capital Shillong is a daunting and risky task. There are only 3 sumos that play for the 90 families. In a sumo with a seating capacity of 11 there were 20 of us plus our luggage. There were 4 of us sitting on the front seat plus the driver! There were ten more inside the taxi and 5 sitting on the roof, yet we did not see anybody complain or frown. In fact they were happy to make space for fellow passengers. Though the locals seem to laugh it off and adjust this could very quickly turn into a disaster. While this shows their generosity it reflects on the apathy of the state government.

So for a perfect relaxing vacation, head out to the cleanest village today and make memories.