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© Janet Hujon, CC BY 4.0

Without Mark Turin this book would still be hovering in the realms of maybe and perhaps. So thank you Mark for your guidance and support which led me to Open Book Publishers where I have received only patience, kindness, and care.

My family in India have been unstinting in their love and belief in me: my uncle Ma Wat, my sister Lily, my aunts Nah Jean, Esther, Margaret and Rose, my cousins, nephews and nieces. I just cannot thank all of you enough especially those from whom I sought specific assistance—Alephi, Dee, Elvira, Joan, Linda, Quenda, Raphael, Sandra, Sarah, Sela, Shem and Taflyn. I remember too those who have gone on before. My father who believed in Soso Tham, Meina, my father’s siblings, my grandparents, maternal uncles, and great uncles. I still feel the sustaining strength of your love.

I am grateful to Madeline Tham, Kong Alvareen Dkhar and the descendants of U Soso Tham for their faith in me. I hope with all my heart that I have not disappointed you.

I owe a special debt to Bah So Khongsit who shared with me his knowledge of natural history and culture and my respects to Badap Pynnaw and his family, who reminded me that Khasis listen and remember. Kong Maia, thank you to you too for the long-distance help you gave a total stranger.

My school friends: Paromita Lahiri whose soul, deeply marked by her love for the Khasi and Jaiñtia hills, accompanied me on this journey and steadied my nerve. Deepa Majumdar who exhorted me to pursue this dream and Etta Syiem—our long friendship gives added meaning to ki sngi barim.

Here in Cambridge encouragement first came from Gina often fuelled by a glass of wine or two. Colleen, Jane, Gail and Gill—the warmth of your friendship has sustained me throughout encouraging me to keep going. Thank you too for sharing your love of beauty with me and for wanting to know about a green corner in northeast India. Susannah you entered my life at just the right time and showed me the way, and Glenn thank you for being there at the end. Sarah gentle spirit and friend of so many years, you graciously gave to me of your time and skills. And Ruth, to you I offer the birdsong of the Khasi Hills. Ros, Wendy, Habi, Beverly, Linda, Carly, Jenny and Deborah—all of you have carried me along and been happy for me.

Living in Cambridge has brought manifold blessings. The writings of Robert Macfarlane have especially been a source of profound inspiration and encouraged me to walk the old ways again. This city with its interest in other cultures and the vibrant spirit of enquiry has had an undeniable impact on the way I see and write about the world around me. I found myself here.

And finally to my children—Angela and Tom: nga ieit ia phi—I love you.