Wednesday, October 24, 2012

India's Living Bridges for Readers Digest

In ‘the land of oranges’ in ‘the abode of clouds,’ a gentle people inhabiting one of the rainiest places on earth make use of living bridges fashioned from tree roots to cross surging rivers. If this sounds like something out of a fairy tale, think again, as truth is sometimes stranger than fiction in India.
Cherrapunjee, translating to ‘the land of oranges,’ is a sprawling, sparsely populated town in India’s North East state of Meghalaya (or ‘abode of clouds’) and home to over 10,000 Khasi people. The Khasi, a tribal Mon-Khmer group originating from Southeast Asia are one of the last true matrilineal and matrilocal societies where families inherit the wife’s surname and live with the female’s family. 

Inhabiting a lush green landscape of rolling hills, which the British aptly dubbed ‘the Scotland of the East,’ the Khasi of Cherrapunjee are no stranger to rain. As the rainiest place on earth, the local Khasi people saw their bamboo bridges destroyed each monsoon season. To create a permanent solution they began training the roots of rubber trees across rivers to create root bridges which took generations to complete. A very inspiring story about community coming together. As the owner of the guesthouse I stayed at put it: “These bioengineering wonders are eloquent testimonies of man living in harmony with nature.”
There are around a dozen of these bridges left, all found at the bottom of valleys involving demanding, steep and slippery return treks anywhere from 4-8 hours. (not so much when you're lugging a lunch of lighting gear!). A few more I liked from the shoot below.