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DID YOU KNOW This place in Northeast India ‘Whistles’ to communicate?

MEGHALAYA| August 1, 2019:

Kongthong, a remote Khasi village in Meghalaya of the Indian sub-continent is characterized by a unique age-old practice of communication through whistling. Kongthong village is located in Khatarshnong Laitkroh Tehsil of East Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya, India. It is perhaps the only place in India where people communicate among themselves through whistling and using different tunes to call each other.

Although a difficult trek, there are a myriad of secrets that are revealed along the way. Long forgotten Living Root Bridges, suspension bridges over some of the clearest water ever seen, bamboo groves that sing an eerie silence and little villages tucked away seemingly forgotten by time are a few things one witnesses on this journey.

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When a child is born in Kongthong, the mother or the aunt composes a tune — they call it sur — for the child. Sometimes other members of the family may also suggest these “caller” tunes that are roughly one minute long. But the mother has the final say in selecting the tune.

When the children grow up, they are free to make a sur for themselves if they do not like the tunes set by their mothers. “The surs have no lyrics and thus have no meaning. They sound very similar to bird calls,” says Alan West, a media and documentation consultant who has been working closely with the tribe members of Kongthong. In fact, a stranger would find it difficult to distinguish between a man-made sur and the whistling of a bird.

The practice of cooing to each other instead of using words may seem primitive. But in Kongthong, it really makes a lot of practical sense. The sound of a name may get diffused when shouted out over hills and dales. A distinctive tune, on the other hand, travels much better and reaches a person in no time at all. “In the hills, sound reverberates and travels far and wide. Out here mobile phones rarely work because of poor network connections. So it is best to call one another by the surs,” says Rani, the village advisor.

Of course, Kongthong is not the only village in the district of East Khasi Hills where tunes double as names of tribespeople. “This tradition is practised in the entire khadashnong since time immemorial,” reveals Rani. Khadashnong means a collection of 12 villages. These 12 villages have now been split into more villages and the practice is more or less prevalent in all of them.

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No one knows when or how the practice of cooing to each other instead of calling out to each other by name began in this area. But West says that maybe it has its roots in ancient times when lovers, who may have resided on neighbouring hills, cooed to communicate with each other.

An outsider may wonder if the people of Kongthong do not get confused with so many tunes or what happens if people end up with the same calling tune. But the villagers insist that no two tunes are ever the same. Says Rani, “We never repeat a tune. Even when a person dies, the tune which was used to call him is not given to anybody else. And though they may seem similar, we can always distinguish one tune from another.”

Like many tribes in Meghalaya, Kongthong — where the main source of livelihood is growing plants from which broomsticks are derived — has a matrilineal social structure. The children take the surname of the mother and the groom goes and stays in the bride’s village. Even if the older daughters go and stay with their husbands, usually on a plot of land gifted by their mother, the youngest daughter has to remain in her mother’s house to take care of her parents.

“In such a society, female infanticide is rare and women are well respected. Moreover, these people are educated and every child is literate. In fact, many people have managed to finish their graduation despite hardships and have moved out of the village in search of jobs,” says West.

Villagers say that the practice of cooing and calling to each other was declining somewhat in recent years. “A few years ago only half of these villages followed this tradition,” says Rani. “It might even have become extinct had it not been for its simple usefulness. Also, the interest of people like West and other foreign scholars has once again focused attention on the practice and revived it amongst the tribespeople.”

What remains unanswered, however, is how villagers can remember all these tunes when there are no written records of them and how they manage to compose so many different and unique melodies. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that they are so much at one with nature and its sounds. As Rani asserts, “We’ll never fall short of tunes. Our natural resources are abundant and we will be able to compose new tunes every time.”

TNT Desk with inputs from The Telegraph

Image: Internet sources

Shillong police seize 529 gms of heroine worth Rs 1 cr in city

SHILLONG | July 24, 2019:

The Anti Narcotic Task Force of Meghalaya police on Tuesday seized 529 grams of heroine worth over Rs one crore in the street market.

Informing this, East Khasi Hills Superintendent of Claudia Lyngwa said that the seizure of 529 grams of heroine was made yesterday by the ANTF team.

ALSO READ:Old currencies, 1000 notes worth Two lakhs recovered by laborers

She said that the seizure was made from a Manipuri lady in Maranryting locality who is not a dealer but a supplier.

Informing that the newly formed ANTF is focused on the supply line, Lyngwa said that if they can control the supply line they are hopeful that they can control the menace.

Stressing on the need of the society to cooperate with the police to make sure that the culprits are booked as per law, Lyngwa said that Narcotic Drugs and Pyschotropic Substance act does not only allow seizure by police but every seizure must have witnesses. She further requested for the assistance of the Rangbah shnong(s) and added that without independent witnesses, their hands are tied.

ALSO READ:Man goes missing in search of job in Haryana

Meanwhile, SDPO Sadar police station, Jagpal Singh said that apart from areas like Madanryting, Mawlai, Jhalupara and polo area, the menace is not about localities anymore as it has spread far out and putting all of them behind the bars is not the solution.

It may be mentioned that as per available records with the police, there are around 11,000 drug injectors while many use it in different forms.

Meghalaya: Re polling to be held on April 15 in polling station under Selsella after ‘human error’

Shillong | April 13, 2019

The State Election Department on Saturday confirmed that re-polling will be conducted in one polling station under Selsella Assembly constituency — 35 Konarchar after crisscrossing of machines and mismatch of the figures was detected due to ‘human-error’.

The re polling will be held on April 15 from 7 am to 4 pm.

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“The by-poll in Selsella Assembly constituency was held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls on April 11; perhaps because of the simultaneous elections being held and because of the presence of two sets of machines, one for the Lok Sabha and one for the bye-election, there was a human error that occurred,” Meghalaya Chief Electoral Officer, FR Kharkongor had informed reporters on Friday.

The same was confirmed by the CEO today through a letter to the media as seen below:

He informed that this matter was reported to the department late on Thursday evening, almost close to midnight. “It was only when the polling parties returned to the polling centre in Tura that the matter was reported to the State Election officials,” said Kharkongor.

He stated that the sector officers were able to detect a mismatch while checking and ascertaining the total number of votes in both the control units of the EVMs that were used for MP and Assembly by-polls.

“Immediately, on receipt of this information, the Returning Officer prepared a report and sent it to us on Friday morning and the same was forwarded to the ECI with the recommendation to conduct a re-polling in this particular polling station,” added Kharkongor.

Meghalaya coal mine tragedy: Additional NDRF team rushed, trapped miners’ family losing hope

Shillong, Dec 28 (IANS) The Central government on Friday rushed an additional National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team to Meghalaya to assist the state in evacuating 15 miners who are trapped inside an illegal coal mine for 16 days now.

ALSO READ | Meghalaya coal mine tragedy| Odisha team to begin rescue op in East Jaintia Hills

Coal India Limited (CIL) officials have rushed to the site in remote Ksan area in East Jaintia Hills district. A two-member team from Kirloskar Brothers’ Limited has already reached the site.

ALSO READ | Meghalaya | State ruling NPP leader arrested in attack on women rights activists

Indian Air Force (IAF) Spokesman Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said a C-130J Super Hercules has been tasked to airlift NDRF rescuers from Bhubaneswar to Guwahati on Friday.

“We have been to the mining site on Thursday and made preliminary assessment along with the NDRF team. We have discussed plans and strategies with the NDRF and State administration how to dewater from the pit,” N. Mahapatra of Kirloskar Brothers’ Limited, told IANS.

“We require a good number of powerful pumps to suck out the water and this has been informed to our senior officials,” he said.

CIL Director Technical Binay Dayal, who arrived in Shillong on Thursday and held discussions with district authorities, said that the first task is to try to get the map of the illegal coal mine.

“Our logistics and technical team are on the way to the mining site. We are hopeful that our powerful pumps reach the site soon. We have been told that several other agencies would also provide necessary assistance,” he said.

The district administration has temporarily suspended pumping of water from the coal pit since December 24. However, the NDRF rescuers team dived inside the main shaft of the coal pit but could not locate any of the miners.

“The rescue operation is still on and our divers dived yesterday (Thursday) to locate the trapped miners but could not locate any of them. There is nothing in the main shaft of the coal pit. We have used all our equipment with us including SONAR to find out if any of the miners are trapped in the main shaft,” NDRF Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh, told IANS.

Asked if the rescuers have lost hope to evacuate the trapped miners over ground, Singh said, “Rescuers never lose hope. We are all putting our best efforts to rescue them.”Meghalaya coal mine tragedy: Additional NDRF team rushed, trapped miners’ family losing hope

However, the relatives of the trapped miners are losing hope and are expecting a miracle to occur.

Congress MP’s goof up in LS: Cites miners trapped in ‘Mizoram’ instead of Meghalaya

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NEW DELHI | December 28, 2018 (PTI):

Congress’ Shillong MP Vincent H Pala made a faux pas in the Lok Sabha on Thursday when he cited Mizoram instead of Meghalaya while moving an adjournment notice on the miners trapped in East Jaintia Hills district.

Nokpante’s Garo song nominated for ‘Best Pop’ song in VIMA Music Awards 2018

TNT | MUSIC | Tura, Dec 09, 2018: 

In yet another musical achievement, a Garo song titled “Walnam Ka•sara Pring- An Ode to Life” by Nokpante has been nominated in the Best Pop song category for the VIMA Music Awards 2018.

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DID YOU KNOW This place in Northeast India ‘Whistles’ to communicate?

MEGHALAYA| August 1, 2019: Kongthong, a remote Khasi village in Meghalaya of the Indian sub-continent is characterized by a unique age-old practice of...