Since the 1950’s the discovery of coal in the region has led to a sudden growth in commercial mining and business ventures.
“When I am in Shillong I am a house wife, and when I am here I am a business woman,” Ferdina says, who first started in the coal industry, but now runs a building materials company.
"Because I am dealing in a male business, everybody takes me as a man,” she says, laughing aloud like a very confident woman, or - like a man!
"Women in business are coming up, we cannot just depend on men or our husbands. We have to help each other, not for competition between husband and wife, but for our children's future too.”
“Girls mostly propose to boys, and sometimes the boy can refuse,” says Namus, a Geologist working for the local Government.
Namus goes on to explain about the old tradition of ‘Bridegroom Capture’. "It was considered the only decent way to invite a man to become a husband."
'Male relatives of the girl capture a boy she likes, and bring him back to the village, where she is waiting for him. In order for the boy to show his pride and prove he is not cheap, he has to escape at least two times and be recaptured. Generally, it is on the third capture in which he agrees to marry; if, however, he escapes again it is considered to be a refusal.'
“My wife was chosen to be the heiress, by her mother’s and father’s clan representatives from all their eligible daughters. But, she still cannot sell ancestral property herself,” Namus emphasises
“For me, this means, after the death of my father-in-law, I will become a ‘Nokma’, the chief of the family and village, but, even then, I cannot sell the ancestral property myself, that decision lies with the clan.”
"Everyone is kept under check by the clan - everyone is known,” Namus says with wide eyes trying to intimidate us.