Reflections on Mechuka
Travelogue by Sabyasachi Phukan
Mechuka is a small and remote town in the Shi-Yomi district of Arunachal Pradesh with a population of just over 10,000. Located around 50 km from the Indo-China border, the town has also been a victim of the Sino-Indian war of 1962. My journey to Mechuka took around 14 hours via Dibrugarh covering 380 km. The patch between Pasighat and Along has been eroded, a stretch of about 28 km. This road, which connects Pasighat to Along, took me around 3 hours to cover.
Mechuka’s scenic beauty inspires one to connect with nature, which has largely shaped its tradition, culture and life. Mechuka is yet to be graced by tourists and as such one cannot find litter and waste as we do in Manali or Kasol. Around 70% of the population belongs to the Memba tribe.
Going from the plains to Mechuka, it was a sudden and abrupt transitory change for me, although the journey was for a couple of days. BSNL is the only continuous available mobile network which was set up for mainly for the military personnel posted in the area. Internet and electricity are luxuries and the villages in the region use solar panels and wind turbines to meet electricity requirements. Owing to its difficult terrain, logistics are difficult and so supplies usually run dry.
So the question often asked is: why are the Memba people still living in Mechuka, amid such struggle? Well, if you see what I saw, you would know why.
The homestay I was staying in was entirely made of Pinewood. One of the rooms which really caught my eye was the kitchen. It was spacious and had a fireplace made of cast-iron which can keep the entire room warm. It had a pipeline which ran down to become a chimney or a smoke outlet. The kitchen was inspiring; it was organized and had three couches for the visitors to interact. It felt lively as I chatted with the hosts while they prepared my food. Kandu, my host believed that a personal relation with his customer in any business helps. It connects us and we can know more of the customer’s demands. Kandu, his wife and his three children (who are young children below the age of fifteen) worked equally in the kitchen.
Mechuka does not require a migrant work force. The locals are interdependent and help one another. They fulfill Mechuka’s labor force requirements. But the most inspiring deal about Mechuka was the dignity of labor among people as almost everyone here starts small. My host and his wife started as laborers but have evolved their hard work into a beautiful homestay. Like everyone around, they grew with their work and now own this homestay business for which they worked hard.
In a place with extremely limited resources, the locals of Mechuka have learned to live in peace and harmony. The concept of “Dignity of Labor” has triggered the creation of a self-sustainable society and has turned Mechuka into a better place to live in. People have kept the town clean, although there is no municipality. Men and women work actively and equally to help the town running. Crime is absent because the locals are not unemployed.
However, with time, certain problems in Mechuka are surfacing. With lack of pace due to poor connectivity and transportation issues, the town is suffering at the hands of modernism. Also, the practice of crop residue burning in Mechuka might pose a serious problem in future. Lack of government intervention in these areas is a crucial reason for modern facilities not reaching Mechuka.
Education is another hurdle. During the lockdown, due to lack of internet connectivity, numerous students had dropped out from educational institutions. The government has done minimal in terms of providing education to people in these remote areas. This might hamper the people of Mechuka to evolve with the modern world at the right pace.
In spite of these problems, the people of Mechuka are part of an inspiring society and are open to evolving. The influence of the modern era and culture has laid down some modern problems in the city which should be tackled tactically rather than only technically and the culture and traditions of the locals should be preserved for future generations.