Preface to the 2022 Edition


The Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, like the rest of the world, have changed a great deal since I wrote the first words of The Green Unknown in 2015. If I was to travel back to that time and tell any Khasi guide, government official, or village elder that in 2020 the local tourism economy would be brought to a halt by a world-wide pandemic, I would have been dismissed as just another damn crazy foreigner (which, in fairness, I am).

Since 2015, Meghalaya’s fortunes have changed in various ways. Large parts of the state have become world-famous tourist destinations and protected forest reserves, while others have been consigned to ecological oblivion by Hydro-electric projects, limestone mining, and rampant deforestation. Sleepy villages once hours from India’s road network are now an easy jaunt from the cities of Shillong or Guwahati. People I met on my first sojourns in the Khasi Hills who had never travelled outside Meghalaya have gone on to develop successful careers as environmental activists and have had stories about them published in the BBC.

In short, The Green Unknown is not quite so unknown as it once was, and the Meghalaya that appears in the pages below belongs to a very different, pre-Covid, time. Hence, I’ve made the decision not to update this work much beyond the occasional note, a few much needed corrections, and some copy editing. While I’ve learned quite a bit about the Khasi Hills since the first edition was published, it struck me as better not to expand the text of the book with reams of new information. Instead of doing that, I simply wrote a whole new book: Through the Canyons of Living Bridges.   

Some of the chapters below might seem like post cards from a lost world…

…and that’s exactly what they should be.