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Day 93: Digboi, Assam

Tipong Mine, Nagaland and Assam 
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Safety is the big issue at Tipong. I suppose they could start by giving them overalls.
Michael Palin - HimalayaAfter lunch at the Tipong Mine Guest House, a once elegant, plantation-style building, now surrounded on all sides by coal heaps, Mr Das takes us up onto one of the hills overlooking the river to hear a selection of Safety Songs, specially written for Tipong. A five-man choir, accompanied by a harmonium and a tabla, a pain of small hand-drums is set up in the garden of a red-brick terraced house overlooking a hillside of mango, pineapple, jackfruit, guava, betel and banana trees. Across the river a slowly moving plume of white smoke rises above the trees, tracing the progress of David back up the valley again. Against this background of an industrial Arcadia, Hahmid Rachmar and his group, all sweatered up like a glee club, perform the safety song they've written themselves. It's a catchy song, beautifully performed, and in the abundant goodwill afterwards Mr Das shyly reveals that he's learning the violin at home.

'Does your wife mind?' I joke.

His brow furrows. 'No, she is very helpful.'

I leave Tipong with some doubts as to whether there really is a mine here at all and thoughts that this grubby Garden of Eden might simply be kept going by Mr Das and his friends so that they can learn music and write hit songs.

The last thing I do is ask him to write down the words of the catchy Safety Song.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 93: Digboi, Assam
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Digboi
  • Book page no: 219

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