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People Called Shillong Review – curated by Nisha Nair Gupta

This wonderfully written book is an amalgamation of 15 viewpoints/ writers who love Shillong. This book gets into “What makes the city tick?” What makes it breathe. People called Shillong, as the name suggests rightly talks about the hospitable & kind people of Shillong. This books intends to capture the varied beliefs, aspirations, routines, angst of the people of Shillong. The writers of this book offer varied types of engagement with Shillong, because of their varied sense of writing style & perspectives. But, these voices come together to form a story about the city that is coherent still.

The writers found their stories in the mundane city life. It’s about the people at the cafes, streets, people in office buildings, stories of folklore, of businesses & women that make the city tick. In the broader sense, these stories are not only about Shillong, but about India. As these stories make us sit up and think about the nuances of our own culture.

Some stories talk about folklore & the presence of a matriarchal system that is practiced in Shillong. The first story is about a beautiful girl who are up to influence & counsel people of the village & made her own beautiful family. But one day she just left. Folklore believs that her time was done at this place, whatever she had to teach was done. She is considered to be the daughter of the deity ‘Shyllong’ and the ancestress of the royal clan. This story about the Shyllong kingdom is still passed from generation to generation. The story also talks about how even though the Khasis follow the matriarchal system, they were still devoid of many rights. People thought that if a women touches a book , she will become barren. They were very scared of what will happen if women get educated. Though a lot has changed now.


Credit: Wikimedia commons

If you talk about Shillong, you have to talk about its music as well. Known as the “Rock capital of India”, Shillong has given the country many top bands like Soulmate. The second story delves into the musical aspect of the city. It talks about the lack of facilities & opportunities still faced by the people of Shillong due to the lack of infrastructure. There are also fewer opportunities here as compared to big cities like Delhi & Bombay. But, the craze of music that is present in Shillong is like that of no other city in India. They celebrate the musical icon, Bob Dylan’s birthday with lot of pop & show every year! “ Music here has been a unifying cultural force rather than a divisive one.” The story also talks about how music is an integral part of the Khasi tradition “ In Khasi culture, when a baby is born – from the age of three months till three years – the mother sings a heart song to the baby. This song is unique to each child – that is, every child has his or her own melody that the mother comes up with. It is believed that singing this specific heart song protects you from evil spirits”

people called shillong

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It’s stories like these that make the beautiful city of Shillong so diverse, this book called People of Shillong captures the essence of Shillong by the heart. If you love the city, you shouldn’t miss out on buying this book, here: https://www.amazon.in/People-Called-Shillong-Nair-Gupta-Curator/dp/8193392493/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507544300&sr=8-1&keywords=people+called+shillong;

Also check out their website: https://www.thepeopleplaceproject.com/

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