A life spent in the wettest place on Earth



AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Published — Wednesday 31 July 2013

Last update 12 August 2013 10:28 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Deep in India’s northeast, villagers use grass to sound-proof their huts from deafening rain, clouds are a familiar sight inside homes and a suitably rusted sign tells visitors they are in the “wettest place on Earth.”
Oddly enough, lifelong residents of Mawsynram, a small cluster of hamlets in Meghalaya state, have little idea that their scenic home holds a Guinness record for the highest average annual rainfall of 11,873 millimeters (467 inches).
“Really, this is the wettest place in the world? I didn’t know that,” Bini Kynter, a great-grandmother who estimates she must be “nearly 100-years-old,” tells AFP.
“The rain used to frighten me when I was a young girl, it used to make our lives hell. Today people have it easy,” she says, wrapping a green tartan shawl tightly around her shoulders.
Meteorologists say Mawsynram’s location, close to Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal, is the reason the tiny cluster receives so much rain.
“What happens is that whenever any moisture gathers over the Bay of Bengal, it causes precipitation over Mawsynram, leading to a heavy, long monsoon season,” Sunit Das of the Indian Meteorological Department told AFP.
While annual monsoon rains lashed the national capital last week, causing traffic chaos and flooding at the international airport, such problems are mild for Mawsynram.
Just thirty years ago, Mawsynram had no paved roads, no running water and no electricity, making its six-month long monsoon an insufferable experience for its mostly impoverished residents.
Landslides still occur regularly, blocking the only paved road connecting the hillside hamlets. Rainwater still seeps into the mud huts occupied by some villagers. And, while most homes now have electricity, outages are commonplace.
Every winter the people of Mawsynram spend months preparing for the wet season ahead, anticipating nonstop rain and no sunshine for several days at a time.
They repair their battered roofs. They cut and hoard firewood — a source of light and fuel for cooking. They buy and store foodgrains, since few will venture out to shop during the wettest months between May and July.
The women make rain covers known as “knups,” using bamboo slivers, plastic sheets and broom grass to create a rain shield that resembles a turtle shell, meant to be worn on one’s head while being large enough to keep rain off one’s knees.
The labor-intensive process of weaving a knup — each one takes at least an hour to complete — occupies the women of the village right through the rainy season, when they are cooped up indoors for months at a time.
Bamboo and broom grass — a delicate, fragrant, olive-colored grass used to make Indian brooms — are among the chief plants grown in this rocky, hilly region.
Broom grass is dipped in water, flattened using wooden blocks and finally dried on rooftops across Mawsynram. According to Prelian Pdah, a grandmother of nine, this makes the grass stronger and more likely to survive a downpour.
Pdah, 70, spends part of the winter and all of the monsoon season making bamboo baskets, brooms and knups which are bought by visiting businessmen who sell them around the state.
“I don’t like the heavy rainfall, it’s boring to stay indoors all day. It’s annoying,” she tells AFP.
Although few Mawsynram residents seemed to know or care about their record-holder status, the right to the Guinness title has been hotly disputed by a nearby town, Cherrapunji, which used to lay claim to that honor.
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,” Moonstar Marbaniang, the pyjama-clad headman of Mawsynram says.
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 explain 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 tells AFP, 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.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Employees of the Education Office in Al-Daer governorate, Jazan, where seven people were gunned down on Thursday are in a state of shock and perplexed as to what prompted the attacker — a teacher — to take such an extreme step.The teacher, id...
JEDDAH: The campaign to support Syrian refugees with all their needs is being carried out effectively, as per the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman....
RIYADH: The Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs has ordered the allocation of separate sections for female members of municipal councils.This was announced by Jedaie Al-Qahtani of the ministry. “This is in implementation of Clause 107 of the...
DAMMAM: The 9th Saudi Student Conference which is being held on Feb. 13-14 is sponsored by Umm Al-Qura University and hosted by the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. It was organized by the Scientific Society for Saudi Students in the...
RIYADH: Over the past 10 years, begging in the Kingdom has increased substantially, with the number of organized gangs of expatriate beggars increasing to 85 percent of the total number of beggars, according to Social Affairs Ministry Majed Al-Qassab...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Health said it expects its blood donation drive will received 450,000 milliliters (ml) of blood when the Janadriyah festival ends on Feb. 19.Khalid Ibrahim Zobaie, who supervises the blood donation project, said the drive is i...
JEDDAH: The Shoura Council’s decision to reduce working hours in the private sector from 48 hours to 40 hours per week would result in additional operational costs in the sector due to 30 percent higher wages for expat workers, according to Mansour b...
MADINAH: Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman recently visited a number of ongoing developmental project sites in the Holy City, as part of his efforts to ensure that they meet the set standards and deadlines.During the visit, he said that all the s...
RIYADH: The National Guard Ministry is studying the possibility of having two countries as guests of honor each year instead of one at the Janadriyah festival for culture and heritage, the Kingdom’s most prestigious annual festival.This was revealed...
DAMMAM: The Pakistan International School in Alkhobar hosted their 49th annual prize distribution ceremony to honor outstanding students in the presence of Pakistani Ambassador Manzoor Ul Haq and his wife, Nighat Manzoor.Haq appreciated the efforts o...
DAMMAM: The Weaam Association for Family Care in the Eastern Province has succeeded in addressing more than 700 cases of family disputes during the last one year.Abdulrahman Al-Khudair, Weaam’s director of public delations, said: “The association off...
JEDDAH: The Nakheel mall case has continued to grab the limelight, with a number of lawyers now offering their services to the girl who was roughed up by some Haia members in Riyadh. Some people also expressed, through social media, their support to...
RIYADH: Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh inaugurated this week a campaign tosafeguard Saudi society against bad influences.“The campaign seeks to immunize society in the Kingdom from deviant ideas as well as utter lies and heresies that could...
RIYADH: A Filipino nurse, from Lamitan Basilan in southern Philippines, has been missing since Feb. 6.According to a co-worker at the clinic where she works, the 43-year-old nurse, a mother of one, was last seen at 3 p.m. on Saturday.“She told us she...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Haj will put in place new measures for issuing Umrah visas for pilgrims from outside the country with the coordination of the Saudi embassies abroad, a local newspaper reported.The new measures will be implemented soon, given...

Stay Connected

Facebook