Banlam is 22 years old. He works as a guide to the mystical trek to a village called Nongriat. He lives in Tyrna village above Nongriat village. The trek is of 3,500 steps one way. His daily life involves guiding people to the mystical waterfalls and trek to Nongriat village.
Nongriat is a small village in the Umsai river valley below Cherrapunji (Sohra). This is where the famous double-decker root bridge and waterfall can be witnessed peacefully. One can enjoy nature.
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Banlam lives with his mother, father and two siblings. The best part about him is his calm behaviour and down to earth nature. He is curious about things that happen in the outside world.
How and when did you start this profession Banlam?
“I was 16 and used to go with my father to get travellers who want to trek to Nongriat. It’s a beautiful village where one can enjoy nature and see the local life of the Khasi tribals. It is one of the places which still follows their culture and traditions in their own way. For me this trek is a piece of cake. I developed the habit of going up and down. Earlier in my childhood, I had many friends from this village. I used to go down to play with them and it created stamina in me to walk in this terrain,” he said.
Banlam’s fastest record to reach Nongriat village is 20 minutes from Tyrna village. “People ask me how I do it. I always tell them, if you love the place and if you have passion, you can definitely be at your best. The best thing about this place is its culture. You can see the local Khasi traditions and belief. I always admired this place because of its serenity and people. When we had financial issues in our family, I decided to be a local guide for this place in 2012. It’s been six years since I am doing this work and it gives me a decent income,” he said.
How did tourism change your life?
“Tourism has always taught me something good for a change. I didn’t know how to speak with outsiders. It made me capable enough to talk to people in Hindi as well as English. Sometimes I get Hindi speaking crowd or sometimes English speaking. I’m comfortable with both now. The learning took little time but it helped me with my living. The best and the worst part about my job is that I get a mixed crowd,” he said.
Banlam shares his experience and they share theirs with him, that’s how he started his journey in the tourism industry. “It also helped us know what things are going on in the world. For us, we live in this small village paradise but with tourism, I can see things from a broader perspective.
That’s the best thing I love about travelling. It changes your way of seeing things. Many times people ask me why I’m doing this and why don’t I go out to study or to work. My reply to them is that I don’t want to leave my family and I will support them till the end of my life. The family nurture you from the start and later it’s my responsibility to take care of them.”
Did you observe any climatic changes here?
“Yes, the climate is changing very frequently. The major changes are on the plant and animal life here. During Summers, this place started to being really hot and uncomfortable for us to live here. Now you can imagine the plant and animal life here. Even though they have a good forest to roam, they still look for someplace where they can have sufficient water to drink and a peaceful spot for them to take rest because the place constantly becoming hotter and hotter during summertime. Only the monsoon is kind of a relief and but sometimes it also becomes a problem when it rains too much,” he ended.
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