Gwalia in Khasia Written & Presented by Nigel Jenkins Photography : Ronal Denning Editor : Norman Gettings Producer& Director : Michele Ryan A TELIESYN production for BBC Wales 1995
If you are in the know and are not obsessed with the “Scotland of the East’ myth about Shillong or Khasi Jaintia Hills, there are very few films or books to guide you in truth-telling. Late Nigel Jenkins, poet and Welsh Radical Socialist was one of the few phareng visitors who managed to stay clear of either the ‘colonial’ civilising journeys or the ‘liberal’, believe in any myth that the local informant throws at you. Visiting Shillong in the early nineties, during the times of unrests and troubles, Jenkins befriended the disruptive, disaffected modern poets of Shillong like Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, Desmond Kharmawphlang and Robin Ngangom. These poetic conversations stripped Jenkins’s experience of all the tourist guide pretensions. His book Gwalia in Khasia (Gwasg Gomer, Llandysul, 1995) and subsequently reprinted in an Indian edition with a terrible title, Through the Green Door (2001), sadly remains of one of the few books which combine travel writing with a serious engagement with the history of colonial encounter in Khasi Jaintia Hills.
Very few people know that along with the book Nigel Jenkins also wrote and presented a film for the BBC Wales with the same title. This film, unlike the book was not much seen locally. There were some VHS tapes available in Shillong Nigel had sent to people who appeared in the film, but they gathered fungus and witnessed the change in viewing technology to VCD and DVD.
So, we of Raiot Collective in our bootleg obsession managed to recover the film from one such VHS, so that the film escapes being a ‘prized possession’.
As a film, Gwalia in Khasia is a classic BBC documentary with sit down interviews, presenters wit and illustrative visual moments. But what makes it a film worth watching is its ability to enter into debates within the Khasi society beyond its various sectarian walls. So if you have PBM Basaiwmoit of the Presbyterian church, you also have Fr. Sngi, catholic innovator of an indigenous kind. So enjoy the bootleg