Shillong, best known as ‘Scotland of the East’, capital of Meghalaya, one of the seven sister states of North East India. It’s a beauty that attracts many travellers from around the globe. Its quaint charm is not hidden even to the naked eyes and for which it attracted me even more when I heard the seven sisters (seven states) of North East calling.
Travelling is exploring, learning new culture but most importantly it gives a glimpse to the world out there and I had such similar life changing glimpse when I was travelling from Guwahati (Assam) to Shillong (Meghalayala), on National Highway 40 we took a stop to a roadside vendor selling many fruits but Pineapple got our attention.
While having a rather casual chat with the Lady who was selling pineapples, she told me she was a ‘Khasi’ woman. Khasi is a tribe of Meghayala where the status of women is a lot different from rest of the nation; they are treated with more respect, have more freedom and control over life. Having known that I was very curious about them hence I asked her about her culture and specifically status of women in their tribe. Her name was Munasha, I am going to call her Munasha the Khasi.
Munasha told me in their tribe youngest daughter inherit the property, she wasn’t youngest but the oldest and was living quite a modest life in Shillong more than decade and a half ago with her husband and two children. In their Khasi Tribe mainly women earn the livelihood of their family so she used to sell vegetables in Bara Bazaar (Main market of Shillong) and her husband used to take care of her two children, Nancy eight years old and Jason seven years old, life in Shillong was expensive so Jason used to help out her in selling vegetables. The Khasi tribe in their hill did’t much believe in boys education, they have their tribal culture, their tribal language and that’s all Jason needed to learn to live his life but Munasha was unconventional, whenever she used to see a young educated tourist boy in the market, she used to dream of seeing Jason like that someday so she asked her husband to enrol Jason in the school but not only her husband but the whole hill tribe or her area objected and she was deflated but she didn’t lose hope.
One day she enrolled Jason in school without the knowledge of her husband and tribe, but when they came to know about it, her husband thrashed him almost to death and that was the turning point when Munasha left everything in Shillong and found a residence in the village at outskirts of Shillong where the other habitant of Khasi tribes believed in the importance of education as well, for long she worked at the restaurant and educated Nancy and Jason both in the Village school which was financially challenging but the villagers’ were supportive in boy’s education as well. Gradually Munasha became a modest pineapple vendor on national Highway 40 near her village and her children helped her time to time. As the year passed things got better, today she is one of the major vendors of pineapple along with Oranges and many other fruits and her son is doing a respectable work in Delhi after completing his diploma from Gauhati University. And Nancy works with her mother as well as teaches children in their village school.
She told me the Khasi tribes all around Meghalaya were not same, some used to believe in equal education and times have changed a lot, her tribe in Shillong hill also believe in education of boys and are proud of Jason, even her husband have shifted to village and works in a local shop to support the family. Today their tribe have understood the importance of men too and both the sexes are treated with equal respect and are given equal freedom.
I saw the satisfied grin on her face and wondered how difficult it would have been to go against her people and take a stand for her children, fight for them and most importantly in the process change the perspective of her Tribe too. Only if rest of the Indians understand the value of equal respect and freedom, importance of equal education to all, how our society will prosper.
Today when I was watching Rani Mukherjee’s movie trailer of ‘Mardaani’ it reminded me of Munasha the Khasi “Mardaani’. Both fighting and taking stand for the weaker section of their society. Munasha took a stand for her boy and for the status of men in their tribe and Rani Mukherkee being the voice of women.
Munasha makes me want to sing:
“Khub ladi Mardaani wo to Khasi wali Rani hai.”
It may sound exaggerated but I believe that each woman who takes a stand without worrying about being lauded upon deserves respect and in indeed an inspiration.
See the “Mardaani” Movie trailer :
A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand .