Halloween party ideas 2015


Tales of the life of the native tribals of Sielkan, living on the brink of civilization, in the wilderness of the Jaintia Hills, have been of great interest to us. In order to actually witness their folksy lifestyle with our own eyes and also experience them, five of us decided to go in search of them along with a native tribal guide with profound knowledge about the forest. There were many to discourage us by saying that it’s too far, the paths too difficult and dangerous. But there is a saying when one’s curiosity is at its peak, one forgets the distance, the dangers and the hardships.

We started our journey on our foot from Lumshnong which is about 120 kms from Shillong. We followed a narrow forest track that opened before us vistas of natural beauties in the form of rippling rivulets, cascading waterfalls and also dangerous rocky terrain. After a long exhausting climb through rocky terrain, we got quite accustomed to the hardships and dangers its topography had to offer and accepted them as a challenge. But we had to wage almost a losing war against the leeches, our perpetual adversary. Eventually we saw some sign of life in the form of freshly made human footprints and a bamboo gateway, much to our relief.. A distant sound of a drum with unmistakingly tribal beat could be faintly heard. A sigh of relief escaped us when we sighted a rugged hut built in a most primitive style on the hill top. At last we have reached the obscure and remote village of Sielkan, far away from the madding crowd and the hustle-bustle of the cities and towns, when we had almost given up hope.

Inhabitants of this village are of mixed population with a strength of about 60 people. Chaos and confusion caused by the age old sporadic ethnic strives in various parts of the north-eastern region, have kept many tribes always on the move like the nomads on a look out for a greener pasture. Perhaps the people of Sielkan belong to this category, who have found Sielkan as a green pasture to make their settlement.

HUTS: Their rugged huts are built in a very crude fashion two or three feets above the ground, supported by wooden stilts. Dried leaves, reeds, wood and coarse bamboo mattings are extensively used for the flooring and the roof. Skillfully weaved and arranged to form pattern which looks pleasing to the eyes, although they are crudely made. Clearly reflecting the generiosity of nature and their complete dependence on her. The simple motive behind building their huts on high stilts are –convenience in feeding their live stocks, for their keeping their huts warm and free from insects lurking on the ground. Its a dwelling completely cut out to with stand and resist all kinds of hardships nature had in store for them. And above all its simplicity and crudity perfectly suits their lifestyle. Contrary to the dream house of a modern man.

The hut has no separate compartment that means no secrets to hide. In the centre there is a hearth that keeps the hut warm and cosy. The soot from the firewood seems to have given a darkish hue to the inner part of the hut. There is a canopy like structure call the RAP, just above fire place, effectively used to store dried vegetables, meat, fish, corns and grains that can be economically used during the time of scarcity. Only a few crude utensils are there to adorn their huts.

LIFE SCHEDULE: Life begins early in this village where the cock still rules the roast. The Chief and his wife are already up performing their daily chores on the threshold of their little hut. Perhaps they are preparing a feast. Chilli or red pepper is their hot favourite. It is usually used to spice up their food.So,the chief’s daughter grinds her favourite chillies in a hand made, traditional bamboo grinder called the ‘THEIKHUONG’. For them food without chilli is like life without a smile. The women folks are busy grinding the grains in a traditional grinder called the ‘SUM’. While grinding, even two persons can take turn but one must keep the timing. They feel that two grinders are always better, as it saves them a lot of time. After grinding the grains they winnow them in order to separate the husks from the grains. The young daughter of the chief separates the cotton seeds from the cotton bales, freshly picked from the field with a traditional hand made equipment called the’ HERAWT’. It got the name Herawt by virture of the rickety sound it produces while operating it. Little children synchronises a catchy folk song with the rickety rhythm of the Herawt. This merry scene reflects complacency and division of labour in perfect harmony.

THE OLD MAN: Meanwhile the tidings of new visitors have reached the ears of the wise old man of the village. Gregarious by nature, he immediately rushes to the chief’s dwelling to share pleasantry with us as a gesture of goodwill. He entertains us with the tales of his brave deeds, a reminiscence of his younger days making him totally nostalgic.

TOILET: The call of the nature compels the old man to proceed towards a self made pit behind the hut in order to relieve himself. In built facility of a toilet or a latrine is totally absent in the conception of a dwelling. Civic sense is just out of question. As the old man proceed towards the pit, a pig strolling nearby immediately understood the call of nature, as they are accustomed to their daily chores of cleaning the mess or the excreta, in their own way. It merrily follows the old man to have his fill. The pair makes a comical sight, but the use of a unhygienic open air pit near ones’ dwelling and also allowing ones’ live stocks to indulge in ones’ excreta speaks a volume. A need for a better alternative.

THE HUNTER: The proud hunter of the village preserves the rare feathers, hides, skins and skulls of some unfortunate birds and animals, he had shot a long time ago as trophies, in order to keep the tradition of his brave ancestors alive. He proudly displays them before us. His little toddler fondles and plays with them little knowing that these trophies are his family’s pride. The fast decreasing numbers of wild life in the forest nearby makes the hunter quite apprehensive about his reputation as a hunter. At the same time, he also vaguely realizes in his own way, that if indiscriminate hunting of birds and animals continues then very soon he wouldn’t have the pleasure of showing his grand children the rare birds and animals in the nearby forest but will be reduced to just trophies. This conflicting thoughts greatly disturbs him, little knowing about the stringent terms of the wild life protection Act.

BREAST FEEDING: Here, one of a friend tries in vain to enlighten the women folks that breast feeding not only keeps the well nourished but also gives a boost to the child’s immunity system. But she feels that these informations are beyond her comprehension. She breast feeds them simply to keep them well nourished, cheerful and above all to strengthen the bond between her and her siblings. Simple reasons but quite true. As the child burps and coughs, she blows his thumb. A most traditional way to stop her child from puking.

A FEAST: The chief known for his hospitable nature invites us for a lunch. A lunch at the chief’s dwelling will surely be a sumptuous one, no doubt. For lunch the women folks have laid out the delicacies they have prepared on the banana leaves to display their culinary talents. The aroma and sight of these delicacies have already started creating havoc among the children. Mouth watering, they stare longingly at the food. For them visitors are rare and a feast with them with so many delicacies together is rarer.

The whole family of the chief sits together to have their meal in a traditional ‘Thlengpui’ or a giant size plate. The women folks serves the curry in the centre of the plate and the rice all around it. Each member has their own respective share. This tradition fosters a feeling of unity, intimacy and above all to be contented with one’s share. During social gathering friends and kinfolks also make use of this ‘Thlengpui’ to reap its social benefits. It’s a primitive tradition yet it has a significant social relevance.

A BIRTH OF A NEW MEMBER: The amazing sight of a female goat giving birth to a new life was called to our attention. The poor mother struggles hard, as the baby still confined in the flimsy membranous placenta, with blood oozing out, was pushing its way out of the womb through the genital of its mother. The newly born baby with placenta and umbilical cords still intact, struggles to catch its first breath and glimpse of the world around it. A sight which made our hairs stands on end. Indeed nature has peculiar way of bringing in new life into this world. But it becomes a source of great joy and a cause for celebration to the simple villagers. It means an addition of a new member to their village. Be it a baby goat or a baby boy makes no difference to them. A mere birth of a kid, can bring so much joy reflects the untainted simplicity of the villagers even to the point of being infantile.

HARVEST: The young farmer of the village is all ready to set out for his field. He feels that one must start the day early after all its harvest season. Carrying a huge basket like structure called the ‘Pikong’, he walks happily towards his field. Very soon he will be reaping the fruit of his hard labour.

The yellow paddy fields rippling under the sun are the price possession of these villagers, a source of their very existence. They proudly show us their possession. For them November is the harvest season much look forward by them. When they can reap the fruit of their hard labour. Harvest to these villagers is totally a social affair with no religious colouring. A time when the whole family come together and flow as one. From the youngest to the eldest understands and performs their daily duties instinctively with little or no training of any kind to the best of their ability. A ‘Tru’ is a hut like structure build in the centre of the field. Effectively used to keep a proper vigilance over the field. A part of it is use as a barn to keep not only grains but also fruits and vegetables.

We all seem to have made this useful shelter, a fine resting place where we can leisurely enjoy watching the harvesting activities as well as enjoy the fruits of hard labour which the villagers have put at our disposal. A nice juicy cucumber to start with.

The field with its diverse vegetation have somewhat decreased their dependence on the outside world. As days go by their needs are also increasing as they seem to have developed a penchant for sugar, tea, salt and clothes. This have compelled them to stay connected to the world around them. Now they are only partially self relient.

SOURCES OF WATER: Be it in a big city or in a remote village the basic needs of the people are the same only quality differs. Water being the basic need for survival, the women folks of Sielkan have to walk miles to fulfill their need as inbuilt water supply facilities like Taps, Tanks or even Wells just out of their bound. Underground sink holes in the caverns and caves, rivulets and waterfalls are the only known sources of water. They have to climb down dangerous rocky paths to reach these sink holes. A fatal exercise out of necessity. But hard life have made them sturdy and highly adaptable to the hard conditions, little knowing about the promise of comforts, they are missing outside their world.

But a rational intervention like harnessing their natural resources with the help of modern equipments like pipes, pumps and water reservoir, can bring water closer to their vicinity. Which will go a long way in easing their hardships and also in improving the quality of their life.

EDUCATION: Years back the ancestors of these people were in the clutches of animism, which called for many primitive in human practices. But their absorbtion into Christianity have partially freed them from the shackles of their dark past. Awakening in them the need to master the alphabets or the A-Aw-B-Cho. Which will open the gateway to the vast treasures of the BIBLE, translated in the local dialects. So their religious need have compelled them to turn their back against illiteracy and the dark shadows of the past with little effort.

They do not have proper formal institutions like schools to impart formal education to the children. Instead education is the responsibility of parents and the church elders, imparted informally when the need arises without being bounded by time or space.

CONCLUSION: The simple value systems of these people have taught them in a hard way to be contented with their live. They live in their own world, an isolated cocoon which is still unpolluted by materialism. But one can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that inspite of their lands being naturally endowed with resources like a beautiful topography which can boast of having a number of caves, caverns with sink holes, waterfall, rivulets and above all a very fertile land. But the people have to still experience a hard and difficult life devoid of any quality. Lack of proper roads and communications have kept them isolated, backward and deprived. Unless concrete steps are taken to their advantage, they will remain marooned in their own world buried in their dark past.

(Note: This article is from our partner NEICICDS's website which is still under construction)

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  1. I'm really touched by this story. Thanks to Esther for sharing.


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