Noted Khasi philanthropist and Richard Attenborough’s friend dead

Shillong, Jan 23 (IANS) Noted tribal Khasi businessman and philanthropist Honsen Lyngdoh, who was closely associated with Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning film “Gandhi”, died at a hospital here in Meghalaya on Tuesday following a brief illness, family sources said. He was 81.

The Khasi businessman was known for constructing roads in remotest of villages with his money to connect the villages with State Public Works Department roads and National Highways. Most of these roads are the lifeline of the villages and named by local people as “Honsen Roads”.

Lyngdoh came in contact with Attenborough when the latter used his 1904 Model-T Ford in his 1982 movie “Gandhi” starring celebrated actor Ben Kinsley in the lead role.

The scene for which the car was used was in a procession by Gandhi in front of a factory in South Africa.

Attenborough had paid Lyngdoh Rs 15,000 for using the vehicle, which he purchased from the first British surveyor for Rs 250 in Shillong.

The film garnered eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Lyngdoh had told IANS in an interview in 2014 that the late British director had plans to make a documentary on Meghalaya’s matrilineal system.

“Attenborough wanted to make a documentary film on our rich culture. He was very keen to visit our hills to get first-hand knowledge about the Khasi culture,” he said.

“However, he (Attenborough) couldn’t fulfill his wish or ever set foot in Shillong. I hope his son Michael Attenborough would visit Shillong and accomplish the dream of my good friend Richard Attenborough,” he had said.

Lyngdoh was a recipient of the Silver Elephant Award from the then President Pranab Mukherjee in 2015 in recognition of his contribution to the Scouts and Guides movement. He was also conferred the Life Time Achievement Awards by 5th North-East Consumer Awards for social entrepreneurship.

Lyngdoh was also the recipient of the National Citizens Award 1991 for his contribution to the development of northeastern states.

Born on March 16, 1936 in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district, he will be laid to rest on Thursday at Jaiaw Presbyterian cemetery.

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