I almost seem to have forgotten how to write a blog post. Yes, it’s been that long. I returned from Meghalaya this Sunday. Now I am twenty six. I was touched by the number of facebook wishes. I was much more touched by the few phone calls that I got on the 25th of July.
I really didn’t know where I wanted to go to in July for my vacation till Indu suggested Meghalaya in a comment to one of my posts. I decided to give it a try. I have a NE expert in my company. Back in June, I asked him about places to see in the tribal state of Meghalaya. He asked me to venture out to Arunachal Pradesh instead and check out this place there called Tawang. In case you don’t know, there are seven NE sister states in India – Assam (biggest – and the only one with a railway station besides Nagaland), Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland & Tripura (Sikkim also lies in the north eastern part of India, yet for some reasons it is never included in this list of the not so ‘secret seven’). To reach any of these states, you first go to Guwahati and then take a taxi for your destination. Now, from Guwahati, it takes 3 hours to reach Shillong – the capital of Meghalaya while it takes 16 hours to reach Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. My NE expert told me that Tawang was totally out of this world and was definitely worth the longer ride. But I had a problem. The road to Arunachal Pradesh was cut off. During summers, because of excessive rains and the melting snow, the link between Guwahati and Arunachal is usually cut-off. Thus, I had to be content with Meghalaya. And as it happened, it turned out to be a decent place.
The journey began last Saturday when I flew to Kolkata and headed straight to IIM. There, I had my share of laugh, chit-chat, old sentiments, fags, dum, booze, dance, chivalry and a lonely night spent in an empty wing of the OH. I slipped off the nice campus early in the morning to reach the Howrah station where parents and sis had arrived some time back from home. I crashed like mad in the waiting room till the train for Guwahati was ready. I didn’t speak much the whole of Sunday – the after effects of the dum kept me drowzy and the old sentiments kept me numb. I was with my family and yet I felt totally cut-off. Only when we reached Guwahati the next day – did I feel normal.
Guwahati was fucking hot. Mom’s door-ka-nephew came to pick us up at the station and his class I kid made my day. It was the kid who really lifted up my mood. I played cricket with him with his inflated plastic bat and his rugged plastic ball and the cardboard stumps. I built ugly houses with his fake lego set. I taught him how to use my DSLR and let him shoot pics. He was a lovely kid. The evening was spent on a river cruise in Brahmaputra as the sun went down but note before it painted the evening sky with delightful shades of crimson, yellow, orange and blues.
Mom’s door-ka-nephew’s kid (my nephew?)
River Cruise – Brahamputra (Guwahati)
We reached Shillong the next day and were so happy to find that the city was so much cooler than Guwahati. My reading habit has spoiled me. The first thing I did in Shillong was to pick up two books – one was a text-book about the initial developmental issues of the state (note that Meghalaya came to existence only in 1972 – earlier it was a part of Assam). Another one was a collection of Khasi folk stories. Khasi’s are the the most abundant of the three major tribes of Meghalaya – the other two being the Jaintias and the Garos. The city was full of black and yellow Maruti 800 taxis. The next three days were spent in these taxis – a new route taken every day.
Police Bazaar, Shillong
The first ride was to Cherrapunji and yes it rained there all the time. Meghalaya is sometimes referred to as Scotland of the East. I might not have seen Scotland, but I have seen enough of the UK greenery. Thus when I looked out through the windows of the Maruti, while on our way to Cherra, and found the magical green colour of the hilly contour shining like polished gold, I realized why they had compared this place to Scotland. The rains created an air of purity and added that extra gleam to the green. Cherra was about waterfalls and caves and clouds and mists and ethereal peace. Finally the connection with family was charging up.
Next days’Â ride was to Laitkynsew where we walked over a living bridge. A living bridge is a bridge made up a livng tree which connects the two banks of a water body. You get to see such tribal marvels only in Meghalaya I guess. The bridge was impressive. Papa even threw off his clothes and had a nice little cold bath in the clear stream over which ran the bridge.
Last day’s ride was to the Jaintia hills where we checked out a small time durga temple (which was totally not worth the visit) and a stone memorial in Nartiang. By the way, on all days spent in Meghalaya, every evening we strolled in the streets of Shillong, papa and ma in their slow pace and sis and I, almost always ahead of them. On the last evening, folks picked up few pastries and a candle and later that night, much before 12, a cake was given shape. When I blew the candle, the family sang the budday song and I grew up some more. That day I bought two more books – one about the rise of extremism in North East and another one a novel based in Shillong from some local writer and published by a local publisher.
We left Shillong for Guwahati on my budday. We left Guwahati for Howrah the same day. Thus I was either in taxi or in train, with papa, ma and sis on my budday and it felt good that way – travelling with family. We were back to Howrah on Sunday morning. Family left for home while I roamed around the streets of Kolkata (mostly Park Street) because I had nothing else to do till my flight for Bhubaneswar would leave at 6:40 in the evening. I checked out yet another book-store in Park Street and came across yet another book – it was a travelouge on Cherrapunji – and at 50% discount, I picked it up with open heart. I had already finished the text-book before I left Shillong while the local novel was devoured during the return train-journey. I wrapped up the folk-tales in the flight and since yesterday I have been reading the Cherra book.
I might be back but memories still linger in the wet green humpy fields of Meghalaya. Once again, I feel disconnected from everyone. Once again I feel all alone.