Thanks to social media and ever-encroaching tourist-hungry developers, few places remain that are truly sacred and are still capable of making you contemplate the vastness of and sheer beauty of the world we live in. North East India is home to so many such wonders that for its sake, I hope it stays aloof and pure untouched by, well, us.
1. Dambuk is a little town in Arunachal Pradesh that hosts the Orange Festival of Adventure & Music. Locked on both sides by tributaries of the Brahmaputra, these streams swell into raging rivers from April to October, rendering roads inaccessible by vehicles for 6 months a year. The only way to get there is by elephant. Yep, true story. It’s worth it to see the lush green hillocks are covered in bright orange specks, courtesy the peak orange season.
2. Trekking down to the remote villages in Cherapunji, in Meghalaya, to see the living root bridges is not for the faint of heart. Or body. Unless you are at least a half-marathon athlete, do not try to make the trek back and forth in a single day. Spend the night in one of two lodges run by local tribal families. On one such visit, at dinner, we were served rice, daal, a spinach-like vegetable made from a local leaf, and frog curry.
Now, I’ve eaten frogs several times before but each time, I’ve expected it and each time, much has been made of it. Here, it’s par for the course. And there’s beauty in how effortlessly the unexpected is presented as the norm.
3. One festival, that shall not be named, has a legendary after-party event where a drunken local tribesman drew a dao (short sword) on a Dilli DJ because he “didn’t like the beat.” It all worked out well, no one was beheaded, but it was quite a heart-stopper to see a man draw a sword to make the cut in music criticism.
4. Word to the not-so-wise: ignore tribal rules at your own peril. If people warn you to stay away from a certain house, grave, field, pay heed. No, really. The local tribes are very particular about such things and will take offence if you take their warnings lightly. Worse, they will not help you if you’re cursed by a higher spirit, and folklore has it, there are quite a few of them roaming the hills. Leave your urban rationality behind, take their word for it even if it sounds a little unreasonable, because it probably isn’t. Unless you fancy being cursed because who doesn’t want that kind of adventure in their lives?