A Slice of Life in an Assamese Village

_MG_4178_tonemappedsmall The early morning elephant safari and breakfast over, the other members of our group retired to their rooms to catch up on sleep. The Boss and I however consider sleeping during the day a waste of valuable time, particularly when travelling so we decided to explore our surroundings.

The early morning chill had eased by now and warmed by the sun we wandered out of the resort and down the dirt tracks that make up the access through the village.

A mother passes by, dressed in a traditional sari with a woolen shawl draped over her shoulders. Her young daughter walking beside her on the way to the village school, a picture of Mickey Mouse smiling back at us from her back pack filled with school books. _MG_4147 A row of Safari jeeps waiting for their next trip into the jungle, their would-be occupants still breakfasting or napping after the elephant safari.

_MG_4150 small The village is spotless, not a speck of garbage to be seen. It’s a sad fact that in India most populated areas are strewn with plastic and garbage yet here there is nothing.

As we venture further up the lane we see the villagers busy tending their gardens, collecting eggs, or just drying their luxuriant black hair in the sun. Without fail we were greeted with beautiful smiles and a cheery “good morning”. Tiny goats and cows wander freely around the lanes their diminutive size making one think that we had wandered into some lost Lilliputian world.

_MG_4164small A boy runs past chortling with glee as he pushes an inner tube in front of him with a stick. More pleasure than any PlayStation or Xbox can provide.

Spotting a sign for craft teas we wander tentatively through the gate to see what we can find. A young boy runs out of the house, all eyes and sparkling white teeth. “Good morning “he greets us, “would you like to see our looms?” Captivated by this little angel we follow him into a large hall, where a number of bamboo framed looms are set up. A lady appears, silently seating herself at one of the looms and proceeds to weave a traditional Assamese pattern. The boy explains what she is doing and then shows us another loom where cloth is being woven using a mixture of cotton and recycled materials. The result, a table runner sparkling with the colored foil in the weft, yet still soft to the touch.

_MG_4168small We are joined by the boy’s mother, an attractive, effervescent lady, and she explains that she is running a self-help group to empower the local women, teaching them skills and providing them with looms if they are unable to afford it themselves. She also has a shop selling the finished goods as well as organic teas.

By now the whole family has joined us and we chat for a while, eventually making plans to join them for a traditional Assamese breakfast the next morning.

We leave their compound still stunned by the eldest son telling us that he is studying English Literature and that his favorite writer is Christopher Marlowe! India never fails to surprise!

Exiting the gate we look back and see the entire family lined up waving and smiling.

Walking back into the resort we hear a strange sound from high in the trees. A gardener beckons me over and points to a large bird perched on top of one of the trees. It’s a Great Hornbill and as I frantically grab for my camera and remove the lens cap it launches into flight, the whoosh whoosh from it’s 1.5m wingspan like the sound of a helicopter’s rotors starting up. It’s an incredible sight and though I fail to take a decent photo, the sight and sound of this magnificent bird will remain with me forever. _MG_4195small

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A great omen for the days to come when we journey to Nagaland for the Hornbill Festival. ( KiwiGypsy, The Boss, and Tommy, traveled to Assam with India Trail)

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The North-East of India

 

Hornbill Festival

I have just spent the past two weeks in the North East of India, an area that not many Indian tourists visit let alone foreign tourists. I loved it so much that my original one week trip was extended out to two weeks.

The countryside is spectacular, the people unfailingly friendly, hospitable and kind, and the food delicious (even the more, shall we say “exotic” dishes which I will discuss in a later post.)

The main focus of the trip was the annual Hornbill Festival in Nagaland, a celebration of all the tribes, where they get together to showcase their customs, costumes and food. It is spectacular and I highly recommend anyone traveling to India in the first week of December to make sure it is on their itinerary.

I travelled with The India Trail, run by a couple of young guys passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the region. They are very professional and can organize a wide range of activities to sort all interests.

I will write in more depth soon but in the meantime here are a couple of photos from the festival.

Hornbill Festival