Trip to Arunachal

First day we arrived all the way from Delhi, the headmaster and a teacher gathered in Sunentu’s house. It was dark. I don’t remember what time it was but it wasn’t certainly later than 7. The house had a high foundation supported by some kind of posts that lift the house to a higher position. I climbed the stairs and sat in a room which connects to the living room, bed rooms, and the kitchen. At one end side of the room, there was a space where pictures and statues of buddhas were placed with a bunch of incense. Everyone sat there and talked for a while.

After a while around 8, Sunentu invited us for dinner. I asked if it’s okay to skip the dinner since I wasn’t hungry and just wanted to rest. He then suggested to try just a bit. After all, I had to try Chakma food. 3 of us, the visitors, sat at the table and were served first. Others sat on the floor near the fire. There were green leafy vegetables, pulses, small fish, chili, and rice. It was indeed very different from the indian food i have tried in Delhi. There were more fresh looking vegetables (I remember Anil the taxi driver from Himachal Pradesh said food in Delhi lacks fresh vegetables) and small fish which according to Susanta cannot be easily found in Indian meals. Madam served some fruits called cold potato, papaya, and gooseberries. Someone said cold potato is very valuable.

The night was cold. The cold air came through the open spaces between wooden floor panels. I wore a fleece sweat shirt and a fleece jacket. It was still cold.

As early as 04:30, birds, swallows, began to chirp busily. I woke up maybe around 5 or 6 and met Sunentu outside on my way back from the toilet. He showed me his betel nut and tea plots around his house. There were some tall betel nut trees which are the cash crops among Chakmas in this region. He said they can get around 30-32 rupees per kilo, and around 150 rupees for 80 ripe nut pieces. Cash is necessary to run a household and to commute to and from their school. The price of petrol was 74 rupees per litre. He said the prices of things are rising. The price of petrol has also increased. It could be difficult like this to run motorbike to school since then their salary will mostly go to buying the fuel.

We had breakfast that was similar to the dinner we had the previous night and headed to the school with motorbikes. Except one time, I was always on Sunentu’s moto so we had more chances to talk. He explained to me a lot of things including the crops, lifstyle, and i told him things about South Korea.

The next day, we took motorbike up to the river where a boat was being filled with people. It only took about 5 minutes till we reach the other side of the river. During the monsoon, I hear the boat doesn’t run. There, I met 2 teachers from another school, dressed in more black and shiny materials like leather and sports material. I said goodbye to the teachers who accompanied us across the river.

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An anthropology novice with passion for small things. A development worker in a world of imponderabilia.

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