N.E. India – Day 7 – Mishing in action

Revived by a good night’s sleep and a little light supper, we first awoke at about 2.00 when lights flashed outside the cabin windows. It was lightning and soon we could hear rolls of thunder. The heavens opened and rain lashed the deck above us. We decided that the best solution was sleep and sure enough by 5.00, when I woke again, the storm had passed.
I was definitely feeling better, although Christine was still rather fragile. None-the-less after a leisurely levee we both attended yoga at 8.00. This proved to be a very interesting session which took place on the quarter deck. Our very own Norland nanny took us briskly through our paces. Breathing correctly was followed by drinking correctly and then some exercises. I suspect tomorrow we will be taught how to eat and possible toilet training will be offered, but let us hope not. Any way it was very interesting and invigorating.

We managed some breakfast and then had a talk on where we are visiting tomorrow with some background on the Dashavatar and part of the story of Ram and Sita which we shall see danced tomorrow. The final part of the talk was about the Mishing village we were going to visit after the talk. ‘Mi’ means ‘human’ and ‘Yasing’ means ‘good’, so this was both a tribal name and a mission (mishing?) statement all in one! There are 0.7 million Mishings in Assam, although originally they came from Tibet via Uttar Pradesh. They are the second largest tribal group in India and are patrilineal. They follow animism as their belief system worshipping the river and certain trees etc. They call their belief Donyi polo after ‘Donyi’, the sun or mother and ‘polo’, the moon or father. They bury their dead and their language is only spoken , there is no script. They specialise in agriculture growing rice, mustard, lentils, maize, chillies, tobacco, bamboo, and the Areca nut (betel). Mustard is their cash crop. They also fish using nets.

They are also expert weavers, using hand looms positioned under their huts. They weave cotton and silk and the fabrics are beautiful. Christine just had to invest in one , made of silk but embroidered in cotton.

Their houses are on stilts, because of the floods in the monsoon season and there is even a goat house underneath raised on stilts. Inside there is an open fire on which they smoke their food.

They make a delicious rice beer called Apong. We tried the 4% – 5% variety but there are greater strengths available. All houses now have government issued solar panels primarily to enable them to charge their mobile phones, but obviously as som3 have satellite dishes, they probably are able to power TVs as well. Houses are generally thatched, but some now have metal roofs and even concrete bases.

There is a primary school, which does not look well resourced, although there were some impressive equations chalked on the walls. Pupils go to the mainland for secondary education. Even those who are well educated tend to return to the island as they have everything they want there. It certainly seemed a pretty idyllic existence! The children were delightful and, as always, were fascinated by Mark who keeps them entertained.

At the end of the trip Judy and I volunteered to dress in Assam costume, probably to amuse the locals! Still, though I says it as shouldn’t, I think we looked pretty good in it. As our boat left women rushed down to the water’s edge to do their washing. Clearly these darn tourists had been in the way. Children lined the bank and gave us a warm send off.

Back on the ship we had lunch and then Mark led a communion on the upper deck. These are always very special and this was no exception. Praising and thanking God as a group, while surrounded by his creation, is a privilege and a delight.

We then had some leisure time, so I laid out under the awning with my book. Of course the inevitable happened and the next thing we were being summoned to another talk about the trip tomorrow afternoon to Sivsagar, capital of the former Ahom kingdom. Tomorrow is shaping up to be a very busy day. Tonight however we are having an Assamese evening, so it is on with the Kirta and the dhoti for me and the sari for Christine. I wonder if there’ll be any of that rice beer?!

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