In the tiny hamlet of Mawlynnong in the far north east, plastic is banned and spotless paths are lined with flowers. Bamboo dustbins stand at every corner, volunteers sweep the streets at regular intervals and large signs order visitors to throw away plastic packaging: littering is sternly frowned upon. Mawlynnong’s concern for hygiene emerged about 130 years ago when an outbreak of cholera struck. With no medical facilities in the village, cleanliness was seen as vital to prevent the spread of the disease. It has gone on to other achievements – eradicating open defecation, prevalent across much of rural India – with toilets for each of its approximately 95 households. Home to the Khasi tribal people it is famous for being a rare matrilineal society, where property and wealth are passed on from the mother to her youngest daughter and children take their mother’s surname.