Winter festivals are back. This is the time when parents take advantage of school vacations and make the family’s annual trip. People travel across regions. Those hailing from cold climatic condition prefer warmer destinations and vice versa. People living in mountainous region visit plains. They go to the cities and metros to get a feel about how so many people live at the same place! The difference of lifestyle thrills them. Even the traffic jams can be exiting to some! On the other hand, the urban folks scale higher altitudes to find some silence. They like to feel the greatness of mighty nature, existence of which is realised only when there is a calamity.
Winter festivals, especially in North-east, are basically are efforts by government and private agencies to put some places of attraction on the tourism map. Shillong, one of the hot most favourite destinations in North-east, does not need any sponsored publicity. So does Sohra aka Cherrapunjee (we have to repeatedly say this because the rest of the world is yet to get familiar with ‘Sohra’). But, places like Siju cave or Balpakram national park, located in a region infamous for killings and kidnappings, will need such promotional exercise for years. Such festivals are extremely important to boost the morale of these remote places where people have a common feeling of being neglected and isolated. The small district headquarters and surrounding villages eagerly wait for these annual festivals as they can hardly see any such activity throughout the year. The festivals also helps the locals generate some income by way of putting up stalls and offering services like transportation etc.
While we see footfall of tourists from outside the state in the winter festivals held in remote regions of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo Hills, the flow of local tourists visiting each other’s region is hardly visible. Opting Balpakram or Siju for spending winter vacation is not in the wildest of a family in Shillong, unless they are Garo. Although, there is more movement of people from Garo Hills to Khasi-Jaintia Hills, because of peaceful atmosphere and location of capital Shillong, the reverse trend is not visible yet. The obvious reason is the backwardness of Garo Hills and insurgency. The two regions have a huge language divide. The Khasi-Jaintias do not speak Garo and vice versa. There is utmost need for people of the state to understand each other’s regions. It will bring greater understanding, tolerance towards each other and pave way for peace and development.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 18, 2015)