Sun, Aug 04, 2013 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: A glimpse at life in the wettest place on Earth

AFP, MAWSYNRAM, India

In sleepy Mawsynram, many find the record-setting monsoon downright depressing.

“There’s no sun, so if you don’t have electricity it’s very dark indoors, even during the day,” says Moonstar Marbaniang, the pyjama-clad headman of Mawsynram.

Those who have second homes elsewhere flee to escape the season. Others catch up on their sleep, according to Marbaniang, whose first name suggests one of the more striking legacies of colonial rule in India’s northeast.

Historians say the past presence of British soldiers and missionaries in this region has seen many people name their children after random English words or famous historical figures, often with no knowledge of what they might mean.

State capital Shillong’s former nickname as the “Scotland of the East” also goes some way to explaining the popularity of tartan scarves and shawls, even in the most far-flung and underdeveloped villages of Meghalaya.

Somewhat fittingly for a state whose name means “the abode of the clouds” in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, it is not unusual for clouds to drift through people’s homes in Mawsynram, leaving a wet film on their furniture.

The grass-covered roofs are meant to muffle the relentless drumming of the rain, but a heavy downpour will usually dislodge the grass to deafening effect.

“We have to talk a little louder to be heard during the monsoon!” 67-year-old Marbaniang says, his mischievous eyes sparkling.

When the monsoon finally ends, there are no parties to mark its exit. The rainy season simply gives way to the repair season, Marbaniang says.

“We don’t hold any celebration or festival to mark the end of the rain. We just start drying our clothes outside,” he says, flashing a toothless grin.

Despite enduring record amounts of rain, sanguine villagers say there is no other place they would rather live.

Marbaniang, whose children all live in Shillong, says: “I’ll never leave, this is my home, I was born here, I will die here. Sure, it rains a lot, but we are used to it. We just wait it out.”

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