21 to 28 December 2012
Assam and Meghalaya
“The North East of India through the eyes of a Pathwazian”, was indeed an eye-opener for the Pathways contingent of 21 students and 2 leading teachers.The Geography and ESS students of PWS—Aravali started their venture into Assam and Meghalaya, the North Eastern States of India, on the 21st December, 2012, for their IBDPfieldwork. We arrived in the ‘Scotland of the East’, Meghalaya, after a day’s drive from the Guwahati Airport. We stayed at the North Eastern Hill University, NEHU, guesthouse, which was the perfect start to our beautiful stay in the North East of India.
This trip has opened up new frontiers in terms of learning exposures for our students in new settings and has also doubled up as a reconnaissance for looking at Assam [KazirangaandMajuli] in the long run, for fieldwork in the IG and IB subjects of Geography and Environmental Studies.The trip also intended to reconnaissance the region for generic travel itineraries to students to explore the North East of India in motley groups during their summer/winter vacation.
We are grateful for all the care, safety and convenience which were offered to us, in each of the modules of Purvanchal 2012. The visit to the Karbi-Anglong Tribal Village in Kaziranga made the students completely comfortable and safe in an alien setting where the ‘urbane’ got to interact freely with the ‘Scheduled Tribes of India’ in a pristine setting.
The walk on the Living Root Bridge in Sohra, Cherapunjee, was our encounter with a natural wonder of this world, which was incredible for us as we only understand concrete architecture, and had never dreamt of “living architecture”. The roots of a fig tree were grown across a river to form a bridge and the knowledge was handed down from generation to generation to sustain the strength and longevity of this living root bridge…truly Incredible! The exuberant Grade 11 ESS students conducted their fieldwork, meticulously testing different soil samples for varying temperatures, while the others had fun jumping from one end of the bridge to the other. For the record, we are also the first school from the NCR to have visited this natural wonder, the Living Root Bridge. The visit to the Nohkalikai Falls in Cherapunjee was also a record that we established as the first school from the NCR to make it to the erstwhile rainiest place in the world, which now has tough competition from Maw Syn Ram, only a few kilometers away. In the evening, we went to the Sacred Heart Cathedral, where we devoted some time to prayer. Most of us thoughtabout the Ancient Root Bridge and the matriarchal system prevalent in Meghalaya (a word that means “the Abode of Clouds”) as unique features of the state. We also chuckled to see ‘Duck and Pigeon curry’, a delicacy of Assam, on the menu-card!
Our Majuli module will be forever etched in our memories for the stay on the Largest River Island in the world with the Mishing Tribe. The orientation with the Tribal Chief, Amiyo Chirang, was rather effective, and we are still in touch, telephonically! Mr.Amiyo Chirang of the Mishing tribe told us the meaning of the word, MAJULI which is MA – Lakshmi and JULI – Treasurer. We discovered that the villagers live in “Chang Ghar” which is a raised house made of bamboo, literally on stilts! There are 300 villages in Majuliwith 20 houses in eachvillage. We saw the houses equipped with solar panels, the only source of electricity for them. After this interaction with the tribal’s we watched two traditional dances named ‘MishingBihu’ and ‘Garmuk’. We visited three famous and important monasteries of Majuli Island: the family monastery, ShriShriUttaraKamalabariSatra where we were lucky to see a group of monks perform the ‘Kshhatriya dance’ (traditional dance involving drums and cymbals, “Jhaptaal”) and then the largest and the oldest monastery in Assam which is 357 years old and is home to 400 monks. We hope to work on more sustainable projects with these tribal’s which will engage our students in real life settings for life-long learning. The ride on the ferry from Nematighat to Kamalabari with the local people, who travel to and fro Majuli Island on a daily basis, was a defining one in terms of our understanding of how people in remote parts of India live and work. The visit to the satras, and a peek into the lives of the monks and their arts and crafts, have only reminded us that we are rather rich in our cultural legacy, and the least that we can do is to know more about these dying artforms.
Going to Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the encounter with the majestic one- horned Rhino at close quarters, was unbelievable. Atop elephants, we moved leisurely across the Park, which is home to the Big 5: Water Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant, Swamp Deer and Bison. Meeting the CNN-IBN Real Hero, Dhanidhar Boru, was the icing on the cake, in terms of what we understood about the intricacies of conservation of Nature and the limitations of the real workers at the grass roots level.
The penultimate day of the fieldtrip took us to the Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary in Moriani, the only Gibbon conservation park in the whole of Asia. We spotted the Giant Squirrel, the second largest squirrel in Asia, Hollock Gibbon, Slow Loris and a diverse range of wild spiders.
The last day was spent interacting with the students of Maria’s Public School.It was a refreshing experience as we saw the fire and passion in our peers from this part of the world.
Words will not be enough, for all the care that was taken of all of us, while we moved freely in Assam and Meghalaya.
Thank you, Pathways [Dr Sarvesh Naidu, Mr. Arvind Chalasani &Mrs.Garima Gupta Head of Accounts], Speed bird Travels, Nellie Ahmed of Maria Public School and a special thanks to Ms.Nivedita Hazarika, Director Tourism, Government of Assam, India. Finally, we would like to thank the leading teachers, Ms.Bhagirathy Jhingran, who envisioned this trip, and Mr. Guru Charan Kumar who was a ‘live-wire’ throughout the trip.
Text: Jhanvi Tiwari, Grade 11
Editing: Bhagirathy Jhingran and Cathy Anubha Banerji
Photographs: Subhashree Rath, Grade 11, and K. Guru Charan Kumar
Graphic Design:K. Guru Charan Kumar