Family Camping, just six days after Christmas.

It was on the 31st December 2018, the day where the year will close its chapter and the next to be opened, it was a great day for us as a family that we were able to spend the last day of the year in our own Village ‘Nongnah’ (located in the District of South West Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, Northeast India). Being a big family with cousins, nieces, nephews and my own brothers and sisters together we planned, arranged and finally executed! Yes on the 31st December 2018 in the evening at around 4 o’clock, we left the village to the top of ‘U Lum Ïawpaw(A long hill range where Nongnah Village located) where the beauty lies unending to the eyes to glimpse and where the wind blows with beautiful melodious sounds of different birds quivering in a huge and tall grass. ‘U Lum Ïawpaw’ is normally covered with Brooms, these brooms are non-timber product which grows naturally in the wild, so people of Nongnah mostly depend on it as their main income of livelihood and also not only in this area but it occupies an important place in the rural economy of the State Meghalaya as a whole.

Picture 1: On top of U Lum Ïawpaw, a vast grassland.
Picture 2 : Tall grass, on top of U Lum Ïawpaw.
Picture 3 : Khraw(Bahnah) on the left and Wish(Bahhep) on the right, we can clearly see Brooms (‘Somparat‘ in Maram dialect, ‘Synsar’ in Khasi language) on both sides of the path.

Back to our journey, we definitely enjoyed the trip a lot, as we marched on forming a one long queue with Humbert at the front and me(Ambrose) being the last one making the queue, the reason we did that was for the overall safety especially because the night was approaching and because we were entering in a bit distant land where it’s quite safe if girls are in the middle of the queue and boys be the protectors.

Picture 4 : This is how we form the queue where the girls are to be always in the middle of the queue.
Picture 5 : This is how we form the queue where the girls are to be always in the middle of the queue.

While we trekked, we were also checking some water sources so that we could camp for the night, there were times where two or three among the boys were allowed to check the nearby places to see if there are some water sources. After about two hours of trekking and the sun nearly disappear we finally found a small water source that could fetch us for the night, but before doing anything we had a meeting; me, Albert (our Brother in law) and my cousin Humbert being the eldest among all took the charged, so we parted into groups with different tasks, one group including me and Humbert, our task was to fit the Tents, arrange the place for cooking and the fire, the second group were only the girls including Aroma(Rit) Reme(Deng), Vivid(Lung), Confi(Heprit) and Bada(Thei) to prepare the vegetables and meat for cooking like peeling the onions, etc. and the last and the final group including Albert, Wish(Bahhep), Visual, Prince(Bahduh), Eben, Khraw(Bahnah), Banlam (Bahbah) where Albert being the leader to lead the group for collecting firewoods. As soon as we finished fitting the tents, the sun had already gone, but the firewood group was so fast that they had already brought a bunch of woods ready for the fire to burn, the girls also have worked so hard, they had prepared everything in place for cooking, finally, they chose me to do the cooking, and Prince (Bahduh) my assistant. As I was cooking, some boys were making a very nice place for a bonfire, a fire was lighted and the music was heard from a portable Bluetooth device and I was busy cooking with Bahduh. As they surrounded the fire in the middle, Humbert as an elderly bro told some old tales where his grandma used to tell but some were scary so some girls didn’t like at all to hear scary tales in the middle of the jungle and wanted to change the topic, but it was nice though as he had a sense of humour too for making all of them laughed. Suddenly, “The food is ready to serve” I shouted for I knew that all of us were hungry, so we had our dinner, myself I found that it was the best dinner ever in the middle of nowhere with no perfect lights, no dining table, no comfortable chairs, etc. like we used to have at home but somehow I felt pity for the girls especially for they have less experienced in dining and eating in the wild. After we have finished our dinner, we started to surround the fire again and decided to wait till midnight for the New Year to come.

Picture 6 : A bonfire in the night.
Picture 7 : We are singing.

  So, we started singing some beautiful devotional songs and a lot of Christmas songs also, Eben who used to be a little bit silent especially when it comes to singing but this time he lead and taught us one group song on how to sing and join the song beautifully, “Wow!“ that night was so beautiful and best reminiscence for all of us as a family, our hearts just exploded with ecstasy and love especially it was just only 6 days after Christmas to remember how Christ was born to save us even though I knew that people celebrate Christmas once a year, what if we treat Christmas as in our everyday lives where forgiveness is every day, where giving to the poor in all seasons and where carols were sung in our hearts to cherish and to love always, and to really accept Jesus Christ in our hearts, to have His all qualities of Him in us, in our hearts by not only with just our outside modification as Christian. We did sing till midnight and felt the cold especially on our cheeks but that consoled us with our palms facing the warm fire in our midst. We also saw uncountable stars shining perfectly undisturbed by the city lights, I did wish this wouldn’t be my dream for I would be missing a lot if this was not a reality, that crazy thought came in my mind as I was admiring the wonders of the night. Before we go to sleep we had our small service of prayers where we hand over all our days ahead to the Lord in our prayers, Humbert and I gave some short speech and we slept. Our tents are not fully winter tent-designed so they could not fully resist the dew of the freezing night, but our sleeping bags were strong enough to keep us warm till the next morning.

Picture 8 : A Beautiful morning.
Picture 9 : A Beautiful morning.
Picture 10 : A group photo.

On hearing the birds chirping around my ears, suddenly I woke up seeing the beautiful sun rays peeking my face through some space inside the tent, as I stretched both of my hands to the sky, I could clearly see the beautiful surrounding around our tents, “Woah! It’s breath-taking”, I would never stop admiring this beauty that captured my heart my everything. My mates, some of them have gone for sightseeing to the beautiful near-surrounding while there were some who were still asleep; after taking my breakfast, now it’s time again to cook some food for lunch while most of them were playing game on that vast wide-spread grassland, they seem so enjoyable playing like little kids again, they played ‘Mawpoiñ’, it’s a Khasi Traditional game where the players divide themselves into two teams and one team’s task is to keep all the stones one upon another until they have kept all the stones in a pyramid formation and the opponents are to throw them with a ball, if the person is being hit then that person is out except if he/she is being hit in the head but usually the head is used as a shield by the player in defending the body.

Finally, it was our time to leave this beautiful mesmerizing place, so we left with so much love, memories, a feeling to be missed a lot, we left the grassland and trekked back to our village but while heading back to our destiny, on our way we visited the cave, ‘Ka Krem Mawtynhiang’ (Mawtynhiang Cave), it is one of the very long sandstone caves known to the world. Entering the cave was a great experience especially for my brothers and sisters, for they have longed for so long to visit the cave, truly, they have enjoyed a lot on seeing the stones inside the cave and how they are formed in their own uniqueness, some are in the form of animals’ fossils of different kinds, seeing that one can assume that its speleogenesis might have been taken place a million years ago.

Picture 11 : Before entering the Cave with torches on our heads.
Picture 12 : To the Cave.
Picture 13 : Inside the Cave.
Picture 14 : Wonderful formation inside the Cave.
Picture 15 : Inside the Cave.
Picture 16 : Gleaming beautifully.
Picture 17 : Inside the Cave.
Picture 18 : Inside the Cave.

It was evening, time to return home with our hearts filled with bliss and ecstasy, joy beyond measure for once in a lifetime we did something memorable that will last in our memories forever. The post-Christmas was beautiful and New Year is spent well in the lap of mother nature, caressed by the gentle hands of it, undisturbed by the sound of heavy music of the streets and by some crackers of the night; finally, I felt and believed that we have chosen the best decision ever.

‘Nongnah’ for in your lap I was placed on the day I was born,

Fascinated my eyes with your glorious gown

The hills, the valleys, caverns and caves,

Your unending stupendous beauty never cease;

Bestowed something marvellous my heart felt

That heal all the stressful minds of our daily lives’ toils,

So, talk me of the big wide sphere and corners,

The far away beauty,

You’d still my masterpiece, a treasure for a lifetime.

Cycling! Why I’m so involved?

Bah Pyniarlang Lyngdoh Nongbri, being the first person who ignites the cycling spirit in me, well I first saw him at Procycling, Shillong in the year 2017 at the time I took my Cycle there for repairing, the moment I saw him I could see the uniqueness in him, first his physical appearance, his long beard and a big mustache, ‘Oh Cool’ I said to myself and someone from the Shop told me that his Cycle is a Fixed-Gear Bike, well at that time I didn’t even understand well how the Fixed-Gear Bike works but so eagerly waiting to know more about his bike, at that very day in the evening while I was in a taxi from Polo to Mawlai, I saw him on the Polo raod cycling his Fixed-Gear Bike, I was in complete observation saying nothing at all but simply admired his cycling. Time passed by, I extended my cycling life from day to day and I still remember in the month of March 2018, we went for a trek from Kongthong Village to Wahkhen Village, East Khasi Hills District and in our vehicle’s journey to Kongthong some of my friends were talking about Bah Pyniar whom one of our friends in the vehicle was Bah Pyniar’s fellow alumnus at JNU University, New Delhi, it was at that time that I came to know that Bah Pyniar was from Mairang, a Village in West Khasi Hills Hills District and that he went a solo ride from Shillong to Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh covering a total distance of 1126 Kilometres over 9 days of energy sapping and legs-torturing trip with his Fixed-Gear Bike, that was unbelievable to me and to all of us of how could he rode a bicycle without gear and also a fixed-gear which means there’s no rest to your legs where you have to keep on paddling continuously whether in plain road or in uphill road or even if you run down the steep road you have to be in a continuous  paddling as long as you are on the bike and the moment you stop paddling the bike also will stop which means there’s no neutral gear here like we usually have in our gear-bicycle or in our ordinary-bicycle and more interesting part I came to know that he’s an Asst. Professor in St. Anthony’s College, Shillong in Biotechnology where he completed his PhD in Plant-Microbial Interaction from Germany. I was really amazed by his high degrees and position, I really wanted to meet him someday. Being an enthusiastic person and love for cycling I couldn’t wait to meet such an extraordinary person especially in our Khasi Community where there are few people who did some extra ordinary and super strange things like him I guessed. It was a day to remember for me because on that very day in the evening while returning from our trek and while reaching Mylliem we suddenly just saw someone with an On-road Cycle, cycling down the road and as we approached nearby we looked closely and it was Bah Pyniar! the guy we were just discussing and talked about him a lot, we shouted at him yelling at him to stop, at first he didn’t recognise us, he might thought we were shouting at someone on the road till after we have shouted several times knowing that we were yelling at him, he did stop, then after a few minutes of meeting, we all greeted him with warm wishes of his cycling spirit, out of a sudden, one of my friends introduced me to him that I am a cyclist too! I felt so small at that time in comparing myself to him, I felt like regretting of what my friend did by introducing me to him that I am a cyclist too but there’s an inner longing to learn more about cycling so I simply thought “that’s OK”.

Picture 1: Sunset somewhere

My cycling life has increases from day to day, I love cycling to the core of my heart, well everything starts with seeing the nature wide freely open while cycling, feeling the wind on my cheeks and allow my chest to be pushed by the strong wind, feeling the pull of something heavy to my legs, well that’s nothing but a muscle built I know and eventually the nature is what I admire. Like Ernest Hemingway wrote “It is by riding a Bicycle that you learn the Contours of a Country best, since you have to sweat up the Hills and coast down them”, definitely, it’s the Bicycle that took me to the most beautiful country sides, the majestic waterfalls and the greensward of our place that sometimes I feel like I could see them only in my dreams. Yes, whenever I ride my bicycle, there’s something that spark inside, it radiates something joyous, something at peace with the world, “I envy no body and no body envy me”, that’s the kind of spirit. To me I see Cycling and Nature cannot be separated like most of the Cyclists expressed the same, I simply agree because one will always tend to feel the pain when seeing somebody cutting down trees because the one that blows the wind to the chest are dying, the one that produces the majestic waterfalls to the eyes are dying, that’s the wonderful connection one has with the nature, automatically it becomes one’s instinct.  From my experiences, being a Nature Lover, one thing I cannot escape, i.e ‘God’, yes that’s the one, the God of small things, the God of big things and the God of everything because it’s Him who painted everything, It’s Him who exist in every glimpse my eyes witness, that’s the reason I felt His presence, felt His peace in the midst of this natural physical world, the Nature itself. I remember riding some long journey-solo rides especially in a bit far away from cities and towns where I could only felt the nature’s best fragrance, some crazy thoughts do comes in my mind like, “Why do we hate people different from us?”, “Is hatred, wars really exist?” that’s the kind of on-going-thoughts exist, is it because of the so-in loved with what I’m doing? Is it because the feeling just inundated with ease in me?

Again, on the 15th August, 2018, we went for a 78 Kilometres ride from Shillong to Mawlongbna Village with around 35 cyclists, that was the time I met Bah Pyniar again, being a big fan of him I was so excited for it was my first time to ride along with the one I was inspired to, yes, with some on-going thoughts recollecting his daring venturing solo-ride to Arunachal. So, in the evening while we were slowly paddling upward the steep road from Mawlongbna to Mawsynram we talked a bit when comfortable, that was the time I knew Bah Pyniar was such an eminent person with such a humble heart, rethink everything! for the qualities in him I need to learn. Being a great cyclist with a simple and humble heart, if not only me I believe he had inspired lots of people especially to those who have a positive passion for cycling. It is his humility at the foremost I penned this writing for I believe humility conquers the hearts of many.

Picture 2: A group of cyclists, Mawlongbna Village
Picture 3: First picture ever with Bah Pyniar(on the right), Mawlongbna Village

Above all, Cycling is something that create passion to people, it is something that separate a person from the crowd, something that makes him extra-ordinary in his own way, no matter what the world say, some legs will never stop paddling for paddling create positive mind, physical health & a long life to live. The moment I discovered cycling as my passion I never regret, I believe it is something, I believe it is a God’s gift to me.

Let the gentle breeze soothing my soul,

Feeling my cheeks to the wind

While my legs never stop paddling again and again;

Steer me to the far away roads where some trodden not,

Lead me to the cities’ streets where some pedestrians cross

For as long as my saddle is strong

My mind feels the unending-wind fiercely or slow;

Never afraid nor hesitate

For my God is Strong!