A long walk through the tea-gardens in the morning gave me some much needed exercise.
We decided to visit the Collieries today. My interest was specially piqued by a remark from PPM – about the sulphur from the collieries killing the aquatic life of the streams and rivers nearby. And about the little kids who don’t go to school because they earn a fair bit of money stealing coal from the mines.
We are shown around the mines, M’s Uncle works at the coal mines. The quarry is a deep pit, truckloads of coal are being taken out to be loaded onto cargo trains. I try to question the person showing us around about the ETP ( Effluent treatment plant) – get the expected answer, that of course, all the water is treated before it is released. We have, however, seen the streams lined with orange-yellow sulphur – it seems to me that if the water really was treated that sulphur should not have shown up.
Coal India Limited has a number of collieries in this area – coal, alongwith tea and oil, are still the only significant industries in Assam, and they are all concentrated in this area. Each of these three industries were developed by the British (a company called the Assam Railways and Trading company – the history of which makes for a fascinating read).
We decide to visit the Sema Naga village we had passed by the previous day – the headman’s wife showed us around the village. K2 and I wanted to look at the handloom products – a kind of initial survey for our idea of promoting handi-crafts from the region. We learnt two key things – 1. Most people did not sell their products, they wove for their own use 2. The finished products were very expensive, even when bought at the source. A small scarf I bought for A cost me 250 Rs ( more than people would be willing to pay for something like this in, say, a Fabindia type place). We would have to think carefully about our business model, if we decide to get into this.
From the Sema Naga village, we stopped at the Chinese war cemetery, where soldiers from WWII had been buried. A single tombstone was intact – the rest ( if they existed) had disappeared – J knows Chinese, and managed to figure out the name of the person.
We decided to go onto Miao, a town in Arunachal a few hours from Margherita – secretly, I was hoping ( a little irrationally, I confess) that we would continue onto Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary, where I would get to see some wildlife. We never reached till Namdapha, but our little trip to Miao was worth it. In the darkness of the night, with the stars lighting up the sky above us, we crossed the river valley of the Noa-Dihing river by ropeway. It was worth the experience!
The evening was spent in the Ledo Club ( a hundred year old Club – club members claim with grim and misguided pride that Idi Amin was employed at this club when he was with the British Army!). The Club house was built in the sprawling style of old British bungalows – we drank whiskey sitting by the century old fireplace, in the company of PPM, the highest ranked police officer of that area, and 3 senior Coal India officials. I wondered what we were doing there until my second whiskey ( I think it was Bagpipers, or was it 100 Pipers> or so – after which I stopped wondering.. when the pipers started playing in my head as J says.
< Photos courtey K2>