The trip to Shillong. Circuitous roads through dew laden rain forests. It actually began on a dismal note.
Excited and ready since 8 in the morn, it was upsetting to wait for the driver to turn up for more than an hour. More so because the particular driver never turned up. Our dear Prime Minister also chose this fortunate day to come to the city. As a result all the roads were jammed. Finally driver no. 2 arrived at 9.30 and after much deliberation with Naurin we went ahead with the trip. I was fuming, patience not being one of my virtues and waiting for 2hrs one can hardly expect to show that. The later we started the later we reached and it being a one day trip we couldn’t afford to be late.
Anyways we began and as we eased out of the city, the weather became pleasant. Luckily even the otherwise stubborn rains didn’t play spoilsport. My eyes drank in all the green. Though I won’t say I remembered much of my earlier trips to Shillong, I was filled with a strong sense of déjà vu. At lightening speed my mind embraced the lush foliage, slopes of pineapple plantations, khasi faces, ‘khublei’ written on every writable place. Jorabat now boasts of a ‘Red Ranch’. Bernihat is much more crowded and later in trail is Nongpow.
The driver somehow turned out to be quite a nuisance. Mr. was really not in the mood of wasting any time any where and wanted to rush us away. Inspite of his protests we got off at Nongpow. I started clicking all the shots which my mind was anyways clicking. Nongpow is the land of pickles, pickles in big jars, pickles in little jars, tangy pickles, spicy pickles, hot pickles, sweet pickles, all begging to be eaten.
I bought plenty. Bamboo shoot and chillies, Naga sour fruit, only chillies and garlic. After buying these slightly expensive pickles I felt appeased, just like how Kumbhakarna must have felt after his hearty meal every 6 months. Shopping done, we settled at a small tea shop/restaurant. We snacked on chops and hot tea as I mused about the old world charm brewing along with every sip of the tea. I also bought a pack of White Rabbit while Naurin bought Malaysian onion rings. In half an hour, refreshed we set out once again.
To meet Shillong. Shillong dripping from pine trees. Hiding in the meandering paths. Peeping from behind the hills. Wearing a foggy shawl. Gushing from the small streams. Sitting on bamboo shoots, hanging on bamboo sticks. Suckling pineapple.
About an hour before we reach Shillong is Barapani. Naurin and I spent some nostalgic moments remembering Class 10 picnic. Barapani so blissfully still, so serene it evoked something in you. Though I wanted so much I dared not to ask the driver to stop so I could take a few shots.
In another hour we reached the Scotland of the east. The high and low roads of Police Bazaar. The interesting crowd lost in various nooks and crannies. As I listened to mom I realized how it could have been 10 -15 years ago. Chiller, greener and more beautiful. I can imagine khasi women in dresses covered with woolens all hoity toity in black pencil heels. Men in suits, long over coats and ties all the year round going to the cinema or sitting by the fire sides reading. I can imagine the pretty umbrellas on the ladies arms and the pitter-patter of rain on the tin roofs. I can hear the guitar strings, the smoke coming out of chimneys and the pavements washed with rain.
What I see now is a shadow of the past culture, no way lesser. Pretty girls in bling attires, boys with cheeky messages on their T shirts “I want money for alcohol research”. I won’t say I was overjoyed with the market, but it was a different experience altogether.
Shoes in Shillong are really dainty, just like the pretty feet of the gorgeous petite women there. What’s even more surprising is that they are found even in size 4 and 3. Unluckily I could buy just a single pair because of the dirty looks mom was sending my way the moment I drifted into any shop.
After literally walking up and down Police Bazaar we had lunch at Hotel Broadway. Nothing less than chicken with bamboo shoots and chilly fish. The restaurant was done up tastefully with lanterns covered in bamboo frames and little cozy alcoves. It was again nostalgia time, this time for papa. This was the hotel where he had fallen sick with hernia.
After lunch we headed to Shillong peak, Upper Shillong. It was 4 in the evening and we were skeptical about being allowed in the restricted area. Nevertheless it was worth it simply because of the breath taking view.
As expected we were not allowed to go to the peak, but what we saw on the way made it worthwhile. It was definitely the highlight of the day, another round of pictures followed. Mom shopped fresh vegetables, Shillong being famous for potatoes. Inspite of it being the height of summer it was so cold up there that I regretted not having taken a sweater.
From there we headed to the Lady Hydary Park. That proved to be a slight disappointment as it too had closed down at 5pm. Thus exhausted and left with no other option we began our return journey homewards.
On the way I renewed my acquaintances with “Vicky James Memorial tombstone”, Grace’s Café, Naba’s rice bowl, Super Bazaar, various pickle shops on the roads. I also made friends with Po-po Horn, Horn do please, Father truck (a truck painted in all white and with Jesus’s photo in the front) and various Hanuman trucks, Guru Nanak trucks all the while wondering how trucks came to have religions.
Little drowsy, I bit into onion rings now and then, and gazed at the flying tree tops in the twilight. We flew through the darkness and saw clots of light interspersed with night. Tiny specks like fire flies saying bye bye…