Meghalaya – The Green Unknown: Travels in the Khasi Hills by Patrick Rogers

14 Aug

I stumbled upon this awesome book quite by chance. Off late I have been trying to read more of lesser known Indian authors or lessor known books on India and came across this book on Kindle Unlimited. Intrigued by the setting of the book and the authors love for the living root bridges, I decided to give it a try.

Pic courtesy – Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

Set in the relatively unknown (at least to me) part of Meghalaya, this book is a part memoir part travelogue of Patrick Rogers’ (“PR”) treks through the Khasi Hills in the Riwar region. Armed just with very heavy backpack (filled with too many unnecessary things), a few words of the Khasi language, rudimentary Bollywood Hindi and no maps or GPS, PR embarks on a quest (mainly treks) to look for the famous and sadly ‘dying’ living root bridges.

The living root bridges in Meghalaya have been built as part of an ancient practice where people crafted these bridges from the massive roots of Ficus elastic. These are a unique gem and as PR says “among the world’s exceedingly few examples of architecture which is simultaneously functional and alive.”

PR’s travels started as a journey to look for these bridges but enroute expanded to include so much more – fascinating stories of his encounters with the locals, the malevolent spirits that haunt the countryside, local’s love for betel nuts (Kwai), torrential rains, having a song for a name, obsession with wrestling and WWE, Christianity and animism, etc etc.. My favorite though was the pineapple curse. 🙂

I loved PR’s writing style and throughout the book felt as if I too had accompanied him on this journey through Meghalaya’s stunning natural beauty exploring the hills, dangerous gorges, valleys, distant villages, farms, hidden waterfalls, dangerous raging rivers, turquoise pools, canyons, jungles and so much more. Along with him I met some unique Khasis such as Morningglory and John Cena looking to preserve these bridges and propagate eco-tourism and went on treks and hikes through some dangerous nonexistent trails. I learnt a bit of Khasis’s unique culture, their traditions, their beliefs, their folklore, their food habits and so much more. I too felt PR’s love for the Khasis and this unexplored land and couldn’t help but develop a yearning to trace his footsteps.

This is small book and the writing is simple, humorous, entertaining, intriguing, and inspiring. A definite must read and I so hope to be able to visit the North East sometime soon.

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