Dolfie Jean Lyngdoh is a neatnik. Her house in Shillong, Meghalaya is a concrete example of the old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place”. She keeps organising the contents of cupboards and showcases, and all the kitchen utensils have their assigned places. The dry laundry has to be folded and arranged just so, and a tear in a garment or a missing button or busted zipper is immediately mended.
Dolfie, with an intellectual disability, studied till fifth standard in Christian Academy which provided a warm and welcoming environment. She fondly remembers all her old teachers including her favourite Miss Alice Ryntathiang. Sociable by nature, she had several friends with whom she played everything from hopscotch and skipping to basketball, and she rattles off their names: “Brian, Michael, Brenda, Nampher, Ridame, Heather, Miracle, Ewanmi…”
Her weekdays now start at 9.30 a.m. in Bethany Society, a registered charity that provides opportunities for persons with disabilities. She is currently in the Arts and Crafts unit (she was previously involved in Tailoring and Cane Craft) where she makes handmade paper products such as photo frames and also trains others in the skill. “In all the things that we make, whether they are greeting cards, or pen-holders from the cardboard core of toilet rolls, we try to recycle and reuse material,” she explains. At 1 p.m. she and the other trainees enjoy their lunch break (“we always share food with one another!”) and work goes on till 3 p.m.
Sundays have always been ‘family time’. Stevenson, Dolfie, Wendy, Ronnie, Jovie and Lizanne along with their parents form a tightly bound cluster. (Following the Khasi matrilineal tradition the siblings adopt their mother’s surname, Lyngdoh.) Both their parents were government employees – their father in the Sales Tax department and mother in Public Works.
During their childhood the siblings would play games like hide ’n’ seek, ‘Shopkeeper’, cricket, carrom – in which Dolfie is an expert – and badminton, which they continue to play. Shillong was, and in many respects still is, a small town with an unhurried pace of life, pure air and breathtaking views of green-clad mountains. On Sundays after church service their uncle and aunt would take them and their cousins for a long drive or to play football in an open ground. Or else they would visit their grandparents and the extended family would get together for food, multiple rounds of tea and much laughter. Dolfie enthusiastically took part in all these activities, and the siblings would always keep an eye out for their Kongieid (Khasi for eldest sister) when they were outdoors.
Their mother’s unexpected demise cast a shadow over this picture of domestic harmony. Lizanne was in kindergarten and Jovie barely 10 at the time. Their father became their anchor, and Stevenson and Wendy assumed parental roles for Dolfie and the three younger siblings, cooking, packing their tiffin and picking them up after school or tuitions. When it came to taking Dolfie for medical check-ups or helping her with her dental duties or medicine intakes, the siblings gradually took over these responsibilities from their father as they grew older.
The family has evolved a natural and smooth division of labour; chores are equally shared and each member plays their part in running the household. Shillong is a town of music lovers and this family is no exception, their favourite genre being classic rock. They are basically homebodies who watch TV as a family – shows such as Full House, Masterchef, American Idol, Pretty Little Liars and Mind Your Language – or sit around chatting with loud music playing in the background.
Dolfie enjoys creating her own crafts at home like organdie flowers and handmade jewellery. Her favourite movies include Home Alone, Baby’s Day Out and Sound of Music and she never gets tired of watching Christmas-themed, especially Hallmark movies. Her music tastes run to Abba, The Beatles, Smokie, The Bee Gees and Shania Twain. She loves Gospel music and usually listens to the worship band Hillsong United and similar playlists. Her favourite food? She says, “I love pork chow!” Momos, fried rice, egg rolls and omelettes are also on her list and she is sorely tempted by junk foods.
Dolfie has a goal – to help the underprivileged. “It is in my nature to help out,” she says. “I would love to visit orphanages and give food and clothes.” That sounds like a young woman who was born to spread sunshine, not only in her family but in the world around her!