“Quel que soit l’endroit où on se trouve dans la vie, on peut être heureux” – “No matter where we live in the world, we can be happy”, said by Mr. Sambo from Senegal after visiting Pyrda village of the East Khasi Hills.
Pyrda, as a part of Indigenous Terra Madre 2015, hosted a gala event for the delegates who visited their village on the forth day of the ITM 2015 which was reserved for field visits for all delegates to 9 host communities. The delegates were welcomed in a true Khasi manner with “Kwai,” – beetle nut, leaf and lime powder which are traditionally given to guests. They were warned about the side affects of chewing this combination but were still encouraged to partake in the tradition and eat even just a little of it. The journey began with a hike down a valley, a walk between hills and across a river. The beating of the Ksing (a traditional khasi drum) could be heard in the distance and stories of the big rocks scattered along the route were told. As the climb began, a group of people performed the harmony dance, and the phawar (chant) while playing the Nakra (a traditional drum). The delegates could see this waiting for them at the top of the hill. Perhaps, this motivated everyone to climb with a bit more gusto as to get a glimpse of what the village has to offer. Women and children were dancing with branches in their hands, throwing grains, signing songs of greetings and happiness.
The day continued with such overwhelming displays of generosity and welcome. The head of the village expressed his gratitude for the delegates’ visit and were offered them Sha Jyrme (Tea made out of a creeper gathered from the forest), yams and sweet potato; while performances kept the guests entertained. The women were clearly running the show and acted out the steps of preparing, planting and composting a field with their sons and daughters so as to pass down their knowledge to the future. The children performed a skit to a famous Khasi song about how the wind separates the chaff from the rice, and illustrated in their performances that men and women contribute equally to the work. After much clapping, the delegates separated off into four groups to learn a bit of the immense well of knowledge present in this village. The delegates were given a choice between visiting the millet fields, soh phlang cultivations, the school garden or the protected forest. The delegates were in awe with how the Khasi communities were connected with their forests and how they actively preserved them.
This was followed by lunch, a delicious mix of foods that was was accompanied by a couple singing and playing music. In closing, the whole village (about 125 people) gathered with the delegates on the hillside to take a picture that was a memorable mixing of peoples from all over the world. As the light began to fade, the outing was brought to a close with the head of the village thanking everyone who worked so hard to prepare for the special day. The women sang a farewell song and the delegates were all handed hand carved miniature representations of the tools Khasis use in the fields along with local soh phlang to eat on their way back.