Yesterday, I accompanied my pastor friend to a small War village for a programme he had to preside over. Khwad falls within the Mawkynrew constituency and, it meant for us, a 35 minute trek down a cliff with a friendly guide and his son. There had been thick fog all around, making driving there a slow and frustrating task. When we reached the village, we were greeted with curiosity and smiles like coming back home after a long holiday. Water and bananas greeted us as well, for which we were very thankful. Our host was a 25 year old church elder whose speech was slow but well-paced.
When the sermon started, I suddenly realised I had not attended one in 6 years. In the city, I felt tired and sad going to church, I felt like it was merely one van to beat the air with but there I felt comforted. It was comforting to hear the villagers poking fun at pastor, to see them come to church in dirty clothes, to see children think of church as a big room to play in, to hear chicken fighting outside and pigs oinking their disapproval. Where is this in Shillong? We talked more about the land, the plants and animals, the distance from “civilisation” than about God, because as my friend said it correctly, that is where God truly resides, in what the people love, what they care about, what they tend to, what their children are ensconced in.
It took us an hour to make it back to the road where the car was parked. Sweat drenching our clothes, thoughts running wild within us, we reached the summit and looked back down at Khwad so far below, feeling both pride, and disbelief at those people who settled there so long ago. The sun was out by then -brighter, it looked, than ever before – the clouds had been dispersed.