The first rays of the sun infuse the village with life ; a land where flowers bloom, bees hum , butterflies flutter; everything is buzzing with life beneath the deep blue sky. I am encompassed within a life force so strong that it completely sucks me in. Such is the magic of Nongeitnyang, a small village bordering the flood planes of Bangladesh. The village which is a two hour drive from Shillong , sits amongst the shadow of its more famous counterpart Mawlynnong, touted to be the cleanest village in Asia. A five minute walk from Mawlynnong gets us to this serene village on the border of Bangladesh.
But this image of beauty was soon to be broken as I set of on a short trek the following morning morning. The first few minutes when we crossed a few streams through the wooded forests it felt heavenly. Though I was in for a rude shock as I walked out , finding myself in the midst of broom grass cultivation. Most of the hills have been systematically cleared of, to make way for broom grass plantations. Only a thin periphery of forest remains, even that is under threat for firewood purpose. Under the blazing mid morning sun we reached our first destination, Waniryang waterfalls. It was a Jurassic Park setting, with the roaring falls circumvented by thick forests. Bird calls resounded in the natural amphitheatre while butterflies fluttered here and there. I was transposed to Alice’ wonder land; completely lost in my own world. A light trudge from my guide got me back to reality . Under the scorching sun we continued our march to Riwai . All along the way the Peacocks and Mormons kept showing of their marvellous colours , this was a paradise for butterfly lovers like me. All of a sudden I saw a Golden Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world , sit on a hibiscus flower beside me which got me all excited. Immediately I took out my camera and shot it to glory.
Riwai seemed quite dirty and shabby in comparison to its neighbours. A narrow path led us down to an almost dried up stream where some women were washing their clothes. Only a bit later I realized that there was some kind of a bridge over the stream, indeed a root bridge.
Since their discovery in the Cherapunjee region, root bridges seem to have become quite an attraction. But it sure is an innovative way to span a narrow stream. Ficus trees are planted on both the banks, as their roots grow they are entwined around bamboos to shape them up like a bridge. It is very slow process taking about hundred years but the end result is an amazingly sturdy bridge.
The next few days I explored few of the places in pursuit of the scaly winged wonders. Every morning I used to walk through the village admiring the Peacocks, Mormons and Helens which came in the plentiful to feast on the nectar. One morning a female Cruiser decided to pay me a visit in my hosts garden. This rare visitor got me scrambling to my feet to admire its beauty. A stream just two minutes from where I was staying proved to be the best spot for observing them. The common ones like the Sergeants, Sailors, Yeomans were everywhere , though there were many that were not so common like Wizard, Dusky Diadem, Popin Jay, and the Black Prince. The prized find though were the White Dragontails. It all started with chasing a butterfly which looked a bit different. Finally it lead me to the entire gang of Dragontails which were mud puddling in one corner. What a treat they were, showing off in all their glory.
Most evenings I would go to the rudimentary hut built by the villagers to accommodate tourists. The balcony overlooked Bangladesh, providing stupendous views of the flood planes below. The peaceful setting made it a great location to enjoy the warm colours of dusk. There wasn’t much to do once darkness overpowered the light of day. But it was the best time to chat with my host, Hamelin, on topics ranging from village life to world politics. Being a school teacher he was quite well read and open minded, with a great zeal to do something better for his village.
Finally the morning arrived when I bid a tearful goodbye to the village. Even before I walked out of the Garden of Eden, I knew I would keep coming back over here for it is one of those places where the heart falls in love instantly.
See the garden in all its magnificence