The drive uphill from Pasighat ( headquarter of East Siang district, Arunachal Pradesh, India) till now was enjoyable, amidst the beauty of nature and the mountain curves. Less traffic and habitat made it more enjoyable. However, as lunch time was approaching, with no eateries seen, we were a bit apprehensive. Suddenly, by the roadside, a wooden construction, deemed to be a hotel in future, few semi-permanent shops, mostly made of bamboo and wood, women selling vegetables and oranges and another hotel, luckily was open, brought the light back in our faces. Wife started chatting with the ladies and purchased oranges, papaya, chillies and lemon; a la organic ones. I went to the hotel and was delighted to find that food including Maggi will be available till 3 pm. As, we were about to restart our journey towards the confluence point of River Siyom and River Siyang, an old man with shorts, a hat and the traditional Knife hanging came and chatted with me. After asking about where I work and after saying that I work in an oil company, he surprised me by uttering the name of my beloved company Oil India Limited. I was so touched, that in such a remote corner, we are able to make an impact. I asked him about the distance to our destination, but he was unable to understand and could not make out. As, I took the name of Panging (a small town in Arunachal Pradesh, India), he seemed to understand and told that the place is called ‘Sangam’. It will be more than an hour’s ride and some portion of the road are not in good condition due to landslides and the occasional rain. Nothing such could deter us from undertaking our journey to the destination. He then inquired politely if we could give a lift to her cousin (sister’s daughter) to Panging as she has to carry back half a sack of rice, some vegetables and a blanket. She had come from Panging to collect these as she stays in a hostel there to study. I readily accepted which was also agreed upon by my wife and son, as we three were only travelling and we had enough space to accommodate her. But, I made a request that if possible she could guide us to ‘Sangam’ and the ‘Komsing Hanging Footbridge’ which was gladly accepted.
‘Sangam’ (left) confluence point of River Siyom and River Siyang ) and ‘ Komsing Hanging Footbridge ‘ (Right)
The shy young girl introduced herself as ‘Nupur’ in Hindi, student of Govt. High School, Panging. She stays in a rented accommodation with her elder sister to pursue her studies. Her home is across the River Siang amidst the hills, in a place called ‘Medog’. As there is no bridge to cross the River Siang at Panging, the Komsing Hanging Footbridge (around 395-metre-long and the only mode of communication for nearly 9,000 villagers spread across eight villages) was constructed long back for communicating. The distance from Panging to the Komsing Hanging Footbridge is 13 km which is about 30 minutes’ drive through the hilly terrain with poor road condition. But, she along with her sister has to track 17 kms to reach her home after crossing the Komsing Hanging Footbridge, and the total time taken is around 3 to 3 ½ hours due to the hilly terrain. Each time they go home, they carry essential items back home and bring back other necessary items like rice, vegetables etc., the weight carried on their back equaling to around 25 to 30 kgs. We were shocked and speechless after hearing her.
To our astonishment, she just smiled and said that it is a part of their life and they are happy. Seemed like; ‘Oh, it’s nothing.’ She also added with a smile, that they are lucky as there are other villages which are much far away with no means of communication expect foot. She also informed that she had gone to her aunt’s house in the morning travelling though ‘Sumo’, the only public vehicles that ply across and was waiting for her return. These ‘Sumos’ leave to Pasighat from Aalo ( headquarter of West Siang district, Arunachal Pradesh, India) (110 kms ; 4 hours ride) in the morning and return back in the afternoon, reaching Panging by around 2 PM. Most of these vehicles are overcrowded due to inadequate number of vehicles and we were so much happy and satisfied with our decision to give her a ride. So, it’s a bit easier for her to fetch things from her aunt’s house than her own home.
Her guidance helped us to reach ‘Sangam’ and ‘Komsing Hanging Footbridge’ with ease.
Nupur (left) with Mausumi
the wooden bridge (motorable) over the River Siyom connecting Boleng
Mausumi, Atreya and Nupur in the Komsing Hanging Footbridge.
In the background across the bridge on the other side, through the hill and hilly terrain is the village where Nupur comes from.
On our return journey, after dropping her, we were just uttering; Why life is so different?
For her, the track of 17 kms for 3 ½ hours with a 30 kg weight on her back is a necessity; a means to survive and for others it’s a pleasure. It is her routine and for people like us it’s a thrill, once or twice in a lifetime, maybe.
But, her smile and non-complaining attitude won our heart.
It reminded me of a quote by Thomas Paine, an American philosopher and revolutionary
Lesson learned and Belief Reinforced, “Let’s be content and happy; To Enjoy life with Gratitude.”
May God Bless her… Please Pray for her success and well being…