January 05, 2015

Asia's Cleanest Village

As it was Valentine’s Day, my driver asked for permission to bring his girlfriend along on our day trip to Mawlynnong, Asia’s ‘cleanest village’ and home of the spellbinding living root bridges. A true romantic, I acquiesced to his request. He picked me up outside my hotel early in the morning and we headed over to his aunt’s place for breakfast. He belonged to the Khasi tribe, a matrilineal clan that calls this region home. Thankfully the Khasis enjoy a meat-centric diet. I immediately dug into some tasty pork meatballs.

The driver’s girlfriend was taking a while to get ready, so he dropped me at the nearby Elephant Waterfalls while he went to pick her up. After wandering around three different waterfalls I met up with the couple at the exit of the popular tourist site, where we exchanged pleasantries and had some tea at a stall before starting our road trip in earnest. On the way we stopped at a roadside Khasi diner for more delicious delicacies consisting of animal flesh and internal organs.

Home to approximately 100 households, Mawlynnong was arbitrarily named "Asia’s Cleanest Village" by Discover India magazine several years back and the moniker stuck. All the waste generated by the households of Mawlynnong is collected in bamboo dustbins and composted, while littering is a fineable offense. The entire community is aware of the need to coexist with nature and boasts a 100% literacy rate too boot.

Tucked away in a remote part of northeast India 90 km from Shillong, the village is cleaner than the balance sheet of a firm audited by a Big 4 accounting firm. The forest cover around the village is not especially dense, but a canopy of trees provides sufficient shade to comfortably drape the entire village. Agriculture is the primary industry and betel leafs the main crop. Pathways wind around the homes and lead to a staircase down to a nearby river where the most magnificent site of Mawlynnong awaited.


Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean. 
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe