By Heather Cecilia Phanwar
The five households at Rngain are on a mission to save the pristine beauty of the village and their ancestral land.
The village lies off the main road to Pynursla from Shillong. The veil of fog that suddenly drops on the well-maintained black-topped road continues for miles on the way to this civil sub-division in East Khasi Hills. Just before Lyngkyrdem, the road narrows and goes down towards Rngain village. The fog continues to follow as if keeping a watch on a visitor.
Besides the breath-taking beauty and tranquility, the hamlet has one more reason to be proud of. Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong is from the village.
According to the population census of 2011, the village had a total of four families. One has been added to it.
Though there are 70 voters, many of them stay outside Rngain for work. The strength of the population living in the village is 30, including children.
Mention Kupar Khongwet, a village elder, talks about the families’ unity in protecting their haven. He says the village is owned by the Tynsong clan that does not allow outsiders to buy land there.
“We want to save the environment and so we don’t sell land to outsiders. If houses are built here, trees have to be cut down. Our forefathers told us that we should always protect the environment. That is why we want to keep the land within the clan,” says Khongwet.
In fact, the villagers had agreed on not felling trees for cultivation 20 years ago and village elders strictly implement this even today. Self-employment — like trading in stones, bamboos — and teaching are the main sources of income for the households.
Rngain also has tourism potential and the villagers have understood that. From the edge of the hill on which the village is located, one can see Wahkhen sitting amid stretches of hills. If the sky is clear, the view from the hill point is beautiful, the village elder informs, adding that eager tourists do visit the place though the number is less.
A viewpoint and a home stay are coming up at the site under the Border Area Development scheme and construction started in 2017. Construction of the viewpoint ended in February this year but the home stay will take another two years.
“It is a private land and we want to maintain it. The viewpoint is there and home-stays are coming up. We are thinking about opening up a botanical garden as well. As you can see we have protected the trees from being cut. Since it is a private land, anything that is needed to be done is discussed within the clan first. The home-stays will be privately owned and not run by the government,” says Prestone about plans for the village.
A gravelly path with trees and shrubs of various kinds on both sides leads to the viewpoint. Amid the dense setting of trees, some almost arching over the path, are bunches of broom grass in abundance. Khongwet says broom grass is not cultivated by locals but is part of the natural vegetation.
“If we cultivate broom, the soil will become dry. As long as we can find other ways of cultivation (households have gardens where they grow vegetables) we do it. But broomstick business is not suitable as it does not fetch much price,” he adds.
However, there is a broomstick factory, which was financed by the Meghalaya Cooperative Apex Bank, in the village and only two persons work there.
Earlier when there was no road connectivity, residents of Wahkhen had to travel through Rngain to go to the market, Khongwet says. But after Prestone won the election, roads have improved.
“He built the road in the village leading to the viewpoint. The best time to visit the village is winter because the sky is clear,” he says.