By Misty Dhillon

Introduction

I started obsessing over fly fishing for Himalayan Mahseer in 1994. This bio-indicator fish species swims in rivers across the Himalayan foothills of Pakistan, India ,Nepal, Bhutan, and Mayanmar. My passion soon turned profession leading me to organising expedition travel involving complicated logistics, special permits and much of the stepping into the unknown as one can imagine in the remote, sub-Himalaya.

As a travel guide, and then tour-operator for 15 years; I fulfilled our travelers’ needs for safety, certainty and consistency while manifesting their contradictory call of stepping into the unknown. The need for exploration. Their need for an adventure. Seeking rewarding moments, perspectives and cultural insights. Spontaneous unexpected moments that often leave lasting impressions.

For me those impressions showed up at age 26 while working for the Tai Phake tribe. Setting up the Naharkatia Ecotourism Camp in Assam, North Eastern India in 2005. Perhaps one of the most culturally rich regions in the world. Historically significant due to its part in the 2nd World War. But also a part of India that offers access into some of the most pristine rainforests, as the Himalayas taper over the Indian frontier with Mayanmar.

Assam’s rich ethnic diversity is owed to dozens of small tribes settled here from as far as Thailand. Coming together during some of the most fascinating festivals. Enriching Assam’s diversity of language, attire, dances and ancient traditions. Sadly, separated in a void of political tension.

The Tai-Phake

The jeep steered off the Stillwell road past Ledo following a dirt track to the village Naharkatia. Another world appears before stepping over a canal, through a grove of thick bamboo and orange plantations that often attracts herds of wild elephants from surrounding forests of Arunachal Pradesh.

My attention soon catches the curiosity of a tribesman. Greetings quickly and seamlessly dissolve assumptions or hesitations. A sense of connection takes over preconceived ideas. Consumed the next two weeks helping build a small community-based homestay using local building materials. Learning about their views toward sustainability, following natural order but also about their sense of community. Endorsing a standard of abundance and gratitude that we seem to be losing in urban worlds due to the constant conditioning (politics, marketing and media) we are subjected to.

Leaving Assam more aware of these sharp contrasts was enriching. One living in abundance, the other in survival even in spite of it’s amenities. I feel honored to be part of the little world of the Tai Phake that  inspiring me to continue to come from a place of gratitude and abundance on a whole new level.