The local Khasi people, on the other hand, have long adapted to extreme rainfall. They build corrosion resistant bridges using the roots of the Indian rubber tree (Elastic ficus), feeding them through hollow Areca nut palm canes and growing for decades until a stream’s banks are connected. Since umbrellas are often rendered useless by high winds, locals make punch – shells up to the knees in bamboo and broom grass – which allow you to work with two hands even in the event of a thunderstorm. In the nearby town of Mawsynram, a village that has long competed with Sohra for the title of the world’s wettest place, villagers use grass to soundproof their huts against the pouring rain.
Today, Sohra receives an average annual rainfall of 11.43m, a modest figure compared to 1861 when the city had a record year of 26.46m of rain – enough to submerge the Statue of Liberty in waters at waist height. That same year, it set a record for the most precipitation in a calendar month. Then, in 1995, Sohra broke another record by receiving 2.49m of rain in 48 hours.
In winter, however, Sohra faces severe water shortages, forcing residents to fetch water from the nearest shared water tank or community tap. Homemade contraptions are used to facilitate the Herculean task of lifting several hundred liters of water every day on foot. Containers can be seen stuck under leaking pipelines everywhere, and people walk miles to the nearest source for water-intensive tasks like laundry.
“My mother carried water when she was a child, I followed in her footsteps, and now my children do the same. They start early in life – sometimes as early as four or five years old. What to do? It is unfortunate but the daily life of most of the children of Sohra cannot be all fun and games – they have to share the burden of this land with the adults, ”said Lakynti, a resident of Sohra.
During the rainy season from May to September, however, leaky roofs and flooded rooms are not unheard of. In many Khasi homes, mornings mark the beginning of the crucial act of collecting water-soaked goods, a task reminiscent of the experience of the Welsh missionary Thomas Jones, who wrote in 1841: “Most of my time is busy saving our possessions from being ruined by the rain. “