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India’s town that’s too wet for the British

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The local Khasi people, on the other hand, long ago adapted to the extreme precipitation. They build corrosion-resistant bridges using the roots of the Indian rubber tree (Ficus elastica), feeding them through hollow canes of Areca nut palm and training the growth for decades until the banks of a stream become connected. Since umbrellas are often rendered futile by strong winds, locals craft knup – knee-length carapaces made from bamboo and broom grass – that allow double-handed work even in rainstorms. In nearby Mawsynram, a village that has long competed with Sohra for the title of the world’s wettest place, villagers use grass to sound-proof their huts against the battering of rain.

Today, Sohra receives an average annual rainfall of 11.43m, a modest figure compared to 1861 when the town had a record-breaking year of 26.46m of rain – enough to submerge the Statue of Liberty in waist-high water. That same year, it set a record for the most rainfall in a calendar month. Then, in 1995, Sohra broke another record when it received a staggering 2.49m of rain in 48 hours.

During winter, however, Sohra faces acute water shortages, compelling locals to fetch water from the nearest shared water tank or community tap. Homemade contraptions are used to ease the Herculean task of heaving several hundred litres of water every day on foot. Containers can be seen wedged under pipeline leaks everywhere, and people walk for miles to the closest spring for water-intensive chores such as washing clothes.

“My mother carried water when she was a child, I followed her footsteps, and now, my children follow my suit. They begin early in life – sometimes as young as four or five years of age. What can be done? It’s unfortunate but everyday life for most children in Sohra can’t be all fun and games – they have to share the burden of this land with the grown-ups,” said Lakynti, a resident of Sohra.

During the May-to-September rainy season, however, leaky roofs and flooded rooms aren’t unheard of. In many Khasi households, mornings mark the commencement of the crucial act of salvaging waterlogged belongings, a task reminiscent of the experience of Welsh missionary Thomas Jones, who wrote in 1841, “Most of my time is occupied in saving our goods from being ruined by the rain.”



www.bbc.com 2021-08-05 21:30:13

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