Hill Cut

The sunrays glimmered on the sloping pineapple fields. Men and women abstained from listing out their dreams, and went on doing what their ancestors did and what their children would do- reaping what they had sown and selling it in some dainty markets in Shillong.

The hard workers toil the earth as if it were their own. Neither did they stop to rest nor will they glimpse at the ferocious dark clouds looming on. From somewhere blew a smooth, tangy air enticing their freckled, pinkish skin. But will they rest? Sigh, life goes on just like the wind does.

Behind the tree stood a tallish hill, what Mathew called ‘the Meghalayan Everest’. If people of Noylingom ever had their piece of rest, it was all devoted to nurturing this hill. Children and old had memories firmly bonded with Everest, perhaps, watching a rainbow, amassing firewoods or recounting the building of the highway winding around the hill.

In the laps of Grandpa, Conrad hears his goodnight stories, not of fairytales and fantasies (that’s for children) but about the building of the highway, about better connectivity and communications. Conrad only gapes at grandpa’s worldly wisdom and his old man’s weak voice quivering big things. One thing for sure is that Conrad didn’t understand Grandpa. Not at all.

But Conrad soon understood what Grandpa meant when he witnessed it one morning. Dozens of bulldozers lined at the foothills of Everest. Days went by and the hill was denuded and stripped, bored and dug until it was no more a hill.

Tugging at the hems of one of the worker’s uniform, Conrad asked, “What are you doing here?” The worker suddenly becoming aware, looked around. Amused by Conrad’s innocence, he crouched down and said, “That’s called development, child.” He smiled looking at the construction site, “Of you, your place. The country’s. Every-”

“No sir,” Conrad interjected, “We don’t need it, thank you.”