Mawlynnong village drew a lot of attention when it was declared the cleanest village in Asia in 2003 and then the cleanest one in India in 2005 by a travel magazine. I always wondered if that was an exaggeration or a gimmick , until I was shown pictures by a neighbour who travelled to the place last November.
Despite my apprehensions of living in a fairly remote village with limited access to medical facilities ( which is a concern since we travel with our toddler ) , with very few eating options ( dinners must mostly be pre booked and the two places that were serving food had only set meals to offer ) and long hours of no electric supply, we decided to spend three nights here in Mawlynnong.
My initial feelings , when I entered the village , were shock and disappointment. It looked nothing like I had imagined it to be . There were mini vans and cars parked at the entrance , lots of tourists haggling with Khasi women who put up make-shift stalls outside their homes to sell articles made of bamboo and other trinkets and even though it looked clean , the true essence of the place did not sink in until the next morning. This is when I realized , most people just stop by the village for a couple of hours to get a picture clicked (for an Instagram update) on one of the tree houses or buy a few souvenirs.
Our home in the village ,Ibansara’s hut , a Khasi home made of bamboo with basic amenities , was just right. This being a matrilineal society , the youngest daughter inherits property and her husband comes to live with her in her maternal home. So , for the next three days , our neighbours were Ibansara and her genial family.
As the cars trundled away , the stalls packed up and the cacophony that filled the little lanes was replaced with the sounds of crickets and frogs , Mawlynnong revealed her beauty . Under a canopy of stars , amidst the dance of fire flies and a drizzle , she lulled me to sleep.
My first morning walk in the village revealed why and how this village gets its fame . The villagers , armed with bamboo dustbins and brooms , are up and about , sweeping away a fallen leaf or flower . Cleaning the village is also part of the social work program in the local school I am told.
These dustbins are now sold as souvenirs , actual ones and also miniatures as well as key chains !
Just as a hurried visit does not let one soak in the essence of this place , one post definitely cannot do justice to the village and its people.
More on Mawlynnong to follow .