On my previous post, I shared about our trip to Mawsynram village to meet the amazing basket weavers and our most loving, kindhearted Kong Elvira.
Today, I want to share the story of how we met Bah Rishot Wahlang, a beekeeper who talks to the bees in the beautiful village of Lawbah.
So here's how it goes...
To recap, our explorers on this trip were Ralph, Bipul, Badshai, Khraw, Peter, and lastly, Me, Chan.
We, the Zizira explorers, took a16 km drive from Mawsynram to a village called Lawbah. A group of women silk rearers and farmers were waiting for us at the village community hall.
As Khraw and Peter were having intense conversations with the silk rearers, we noticed a shabby farmer sitting on the lawn under the sun, patiently observing the two groups engage in conversation. Little did we know that this man would be Zizira's next potential beekeeper.
Rishot Wahlang was his name, and he is a father of six children and a loving husband. He was a daily wager and a farmer by day, earning bread for his home. Bipul and I were curious about this man and began to converse with him. He told us that he was passionate about beekeeping, which immediately caught our attention. We began to inquire more about the bees in Lawbah.
Rishot has around 10-15 beehives at his home and a couple of dozens more in the forest. He collects honey up to 3 times a year from these hives. He seems to have rich, unique knowledge about beekeeping.
"Tell us more about how you raise bees. Do you feed sugar to the bees like some beekeepers," we asked Rishot?
Immediately, Rishot gave an irky look as he did not like the idea of feeding sugar to the bees. He said that feeding unnatural food to the bees will make them unhappy, and they may eventually leave. He said that it's imperative to understand the bees and keep them happy always. "If the bees are happy, they will stay," said the wise beekeeper.
"Well, how do you keep the Queen in the hive? Do you tie her to the hive," we asked some more.
Rishot said some beekeepers force the Queen bee to stay and tie it at the centre of the hive, and some clip the wings of the bees. However, he believes in doing the best of his ability to keep his bees happy. He leaves the Queen to her freedom to come and go as she likes. Rishot believes that a happy hive will produce more honey.
"What kind of flowers do the bees in Lawbah like to go to," I asked
Rishot explained that there is no way that anyone can control the bees and make them gather honey only from a specific flower. The bees will go to any flower they like. However, there are two particular flowers that he's observed the bees collect nectar regularly.
They seem to really like these flowers. The first one is "Um-soh-shynrang", and the other - "Um-soh-pyrshit". He's seen that even animals and birds come to these flowers to drink the nectar. Rishot said that the sweetness of the flower is sweeter than sugar, and the bees are addicted to it. These plants blooms and withers rather quickly.
Intrigued by Rishot's perception and his traditional approach, we were curious to know if he uses any modern technology to filter his honey. He wanted to show us how he does it, to filter the honey. He invited us to his home, which was only a few meters away from the community hall, where we had our conversation.
He took us through the rocky paths, which led us to his house. Rishot showed two barrels filled with fresh unfiltered honey, with chunks of raw honeycombs left to sit in the tub. He explained how he uses a mesh and clean cloth to strain and filter the honey. He empties the unfiltered honey into a clean container and uses these cloths as a natural filter.
He speaks to the bees!
Yes! We visited him back in February, a month after we first met him. We had a good gut feeling about him.
On one of our second visit, we witnessed something unusual. Rishot told us many stories about his beekeeping experience. He spoke with such passion and wisdom. It's evident that he has in-depth knowledge about the bees, and connecting and caring for the bees was vital for him.
While we were in the jungle, we asked him if he could open one of the hives and show us. Rishot picked a hive to show us, and it was the most obedient colony as described by him.
As he began opening the front of the case, he started speaking to the bees. "Hey, friend!" he said to the bees, "These people are my friends, and I just wanted to show you to them. I hope you won't mind".
As he opened the front opening, the bees started to swarm around us, and the air became intense immediately. It was nerve-wracking and intimidating, even though we stood several meters away from the hive.
"Don't be angry, my friends," Rishot said to the bees, "It'll just take a while, don't' get mad at them".
Suddenly as though the bees understood him, the atmosphere became light instantaneously. The bees listened to his words and went back into the hive.
Rishot did not have any protective gear to protect himself. His only defense was his words because he trusts them. Surprisingly, nobody got stung by the swarming bees.
The Opportunity for Zizira
Amazed by his expertise and wisdom, we knew Rishot could add significant value to Zizira, and Zizira to his work. Rishot has a plot of land in the forest, 30 mins walk away from his home. He had inherited the piece of land from his father. He had many hives there, but many of them got destroyed and raided by trespassers. Most of his hives would get destroyed almost always.
The years have been painful for this simple farmer. Building his business was a big challenge since he cannot afford any fencing to protect his land. He seemed eager to work hard to revive his business again so that he can support his family.
He said that he could take care of 300 hives by himself. Bipul and I couldn't just stand and listen to his stories. As we engaged with Bah Rishot, we could see his sincerity in his eyes and hunger to work.
We saw him as a perfect fit for Zizira, and an ideal opportunity to help the farmers and make them thrive. It was a considerable risk, as our responsibility to make the collaboration work would not be an easy one. We agreed to get in touch with Rishot and figure something out together. That was our promise to this amazing farmer who talks to bees.
Zizira has been in constant touch with Bah Rishot. Our plan is to work towards fencing his land so he could take care of the bee hives. This will help revive his dreams again.
Soon, you will be able to taste the honey from Bah Rishot of Lawbah village. So stay tuned!
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