Backpacking North East India – Beautiful, Mesmerizing, and Fascinating
The book Backpacking North East India – A Curious Journey by Abhijeet Deshpande, explores and captures the unique charm of this part of India. The main aim is to highlight the unrealized tourism potential that these states have.
Abhijeet feels that people, even from other parts of India, need to get a better understanding of this region. To help his readers get a feel for life there, the author shares his impressions about the people and their culture.
This travelogue is a detailed account of the journey that he and his wife undertook starting from Delhi to far-off regions in northeast India.
He has shared what they experienced while traversing through the different villages, towns, and cities. There are several interesting anecdotes and legends that they heard from the local people.
In the beginning, the author tells that before this journey, he knew little about the northeast and its people.
An interesting point about the book is that the names of the places have been used as titles for the chapters. It feels as if each title is a signboard to a destination. While reading one feels as if one is traveling along with them.
They got a taste of the northeast at the very start of their journey when they received a surprise invitation from a girl to visit her home in Nagaland. And how later on that invitation resulted in a remarkable meeting.
Their first touchpoint with this magical land happened when they reached Dibrugarh in Assam.
From there on, their strong desire to explore the enigmatic land of north-east India led them through places like Tinsukia, Sadiya, Ziro, Aalo, Mechuka, Pasighat, Ahom Kingdom, Mon, Longlen, Mokokchung, Dzukou Valley, Kakching, Lunglei, Sangau, Amarpur, Jowai, Shnongpdeng, Nongriat, Kokrajhar, Majuli, Baghmara, Gangtok, and many more exciting destinations.
Throughout their travel across this area, they did have to face certain challenges like bandhs, strikes, and cautionary advice to stay indoors after sundown.
Also, they discovered that shared taxis were a major means of travel in most areas. These taxis came in handy most of the time. In many cases, they offered more convenience than the buses.
The local communities and tribes
In this book, we get to know about various local communities and tribes like Idu Mismi, Adi, Apatani, Galo, Memba, Ahom, Konyak, Chui, Longwa, Naga, Jamatia, Garo, Khasi, Jaintia, Bodo, Mising, Achik, Marak, Momin, and many others.
They got a lot of opportunities to meet the tribals up and close. The author shares various interesting stories related to these people.
The traditions and foods of different communities and tribes
Like anywhere in the world, these areas too have their unique traditions related to different aspects of life. For example, in Arunachal Pradesh, the author found out the significance of Aphung (homemade alcohol typical to the north-eastern states) and Mithun (an animal typical to the region), as part of their celebrations as well as their daily lives.
A few highlights of food included rice and spicy curries, and at certain places bakery products also were a highlight.
The author and his wife got the opportunity to visit the traditional homes of the local communities and tribes. They found some features that were common in most of the places like houses standing on stilts, separate entrances for men and women, the outlay of the kitchen, agriculture, and hunting as a way of life.
Through their interactions, they got to know the stories behind the special tattoos, the distinctive haircuts, and the unique names of the people belonging to different communities there.
The culture of sharing in northeast India
The author found that people in these remote areas lived and survived on feelings of mutual exchange and sharing. They shared and exchanged material as well as intangible gestures.
Abhijeet gives an important tip to the tourists. The visitors can better connect with the locals by learning and following their traditions while interacting with them.
The hospitality of people
There are several stories about the hospitable nature of the locals. The unexpected friendly gestures and hospitality added magic to their journey.
They experienced a warm and exceptional welcome in Mokochung, Nagaland at the home of the girl they had met at the start of their journey from Delhi.
The author shares their impressions of the authentic Manipuri lifestyle that they got to experience while home and staying with a local family. And also the wonderful hospitality that they were offered.
There were many more episodes of warm hospitality throughout their travel in those parts.
Their passion for music and sports
Hindi songs, Western music, concert culture, and a great number of music performances, all form the cultural scene of the region.
Ziro music festival in Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its live performances by north-east Indian artists as well as artists from various other countries.
The author has shared various instances that highlight a strong sporting culture in entire northeast India. Soccer, Basketball, Boxing, Martial arts, Cricket, and Archery form the largest part of this phenomenon.
The wonders of this land
The forests, the wildlife sanctuaries, the lakes, the temples, the churches, the local markets (at some places markets managed exclusively by women), and the brewing tradition in this region. Abhijeet feels that all of these can offer a unique experience to tourists.
The author has shared several interesting episodes of their visits to these and many more places.
White-sand beaches of River Siang in Pasighat
Birsa Munda waterfalls, named after the 19th-century freedom fighter.
Kaziranga National Park with its rhinos, tigers, spotted deer, and miniature turtles, they found to be well-organized from a tourism point of view.
Karbi Anglong, with its enchanting bamboo forests.
The massive and beautiful Shiv Dol temple.
They saw relics of Kohima’s connection with the 2nd World War and Japan.
The detailed description of the adventurous hikes they had through the gorgeous Dzukou Valley in Nagaland and another one up the Blue Mountain in Mizoram, is highly interesting and engaging.
They encountered many interesting experiences at several places in Manipur.
They observed certain surprising, peculiar, and positive things while traveling across Mizoram. Here is how Abhijeet describes the spectacle at Lunglei and the scene comes alive just by reading these words.
Their experience of the beauty, the mystery, and the history of Chhabimura and Gomati River in Tripura.
It is so interesting to read about many more experiences they had in Meghalaya and Sikkim.
In addition to their journey into different parts of the northeast Indian states, they visited neighboring Myanmar and Bhutan.