The Memang Narang (Citrus indica) or Indian wild orange is a rare and very sour fruit with a pleasant smell. It is usually eaten along with it’s skin and, as it is only available fresh once a year it is traditionally preserved after harvest by drying on a fireplace or on a bamboo stick over the fire. The fruit is used both as a food and as a medicine for people, cattle, pigs and birds when they suffer from disease such as fevers and colds or as an antidote for poisoning. When prepared as a medicine the fruit is crushed along with it’s peel in a bamboo tube and the sour juice is eaten mixed with food.
According to stories passed down from one generation to another Abong Noga and Silme Doka were the first people to settle in the in the hills of Durama (part of the Garo Hills) in the days when men and gods lived in harmony. They were said to have 1000 servants working for them who cleared the jungles using jhum (shifting slash and burn) methods and cultivated the land. They had plenty of cattle, goats, pigs, birds and other animals and citrus fruits grew abundantly and well in the Durama range. The story goes that once, when all Abong Noga’s animals fell sick he was told by the gods in a dream to crush the citrus fruits and give them to the animals. After all the animals were healed the fruit was named Memang Narang meaning “fruit of ghosts,” a name still used by the a-chik mande (hill people).
The tree grows in cool places with a lot of shade from other trees and only in the Nokrek National Park and its surrounding foothills, which are part of the Garo Hills in the state of Meghalaya, India. The fruits never fall from the tree, even when they are ripe, and so are harvested straight from the branches each year in November. Memang Nerang is still available in some villages and sometimes in small amounts at markets however it is hard to estimate how much fruit is produced and local communities have reported a steady decline in their harvests.
Memang Nerang is at risk of extinction because people are removing the saplings to clear their land without replanting them in suitable shady areas, which are also becoming fewer and fewer. Also, due to a lack of knowledge within communities there is less availability of the fruit and so it is used less. If more trees are planted and the forested areas are preserved then the citrus trees will also be able to grow well. Since the Nokrek region was declared a National Park Memang Nerang have been available only within the Nokrek and Durama regions of the Garo Hills.