Last week I bumped into an old friend and his wife. Russell is from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya (land of the clouds), a State in the North East of India. Ronnie, as he is affectionately called, is Scottish/Khasi, i.e. father is Scottish and mother a Khasi from Meghalaya. The Khasi women are known for their beauty and also for the power that they wield in their society.

The name Shillong is derived from ‘Leishyllong’, the Superpower of God. Shillong was established in the mid-1800s by Colonel Henry Hopkinson, agent to the Governor General of India, as a refuge for the officers and staff of the East India Company during the summer months.

The Shillongese are a matriarchal society. A man gives the dowry and the man leaves his home to live in his wife’s parents’ home after marriage! There are instances where boys are kept at home to help in the house work while the girls are sent off to school.

A predominantly Christian State with echoes of the Raj reflected in the architecture, attire and other wonderful things like bakeries, pastry shops, libraries and the ubiquitous place of worship, the neighbourhood church; and momos…

Khasi woman power is formidable and one can see the hold they have over their men even when they live and work outside the State, in other parts of India.

The family, for them, is paramount.

My meeting with Ronnie and Rebecca reminded me of all this and much more. The midnight masses, the rock concerts (talented musicians continue to come out of this State to work in Mumbai and Bollywood). We also talked the talk about State politics and how their society was slowly being corrupted by rampant consumerism sweeping the country. We never slept that night.

The following morning as I waited for the taxi to drive me to the airport, leaving once again, Rebecca came up to me and placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “When will you settle, when will you set up home again? Find a nice girl and settle down.” I smiled, kissed her on the cheek and looked away muttering under my breath, “There is a time for everything”.

Btw. Kerala is the other State in India that has a matriarchal set up.