I was just going through my old diary which I had written just after my 10th class board exams (those days I was quite inspired by Anne Frank), when I came across lines describing my journey to Shillong and the east just after my 10th boards. And even though my writing skills were not half as good as they are now (grin), I still fell in love with east all over again. And since no one ever is going to publish my diary, I thought I might as well pen this down as a travelogue. So here it goes.
Deep valleys, bamboo dominated vegetation and the narrow serpentine roads…this is the picture that emerges in ones mind when you think of the east. I had thought much the same before starting my journey on a fine morning of April with my family. We took to
Half past eleven and the train took a final pilgrimage at the Howarah station. My grand father had come to receive us. When we stepped outside the first thing we saw was the gigantic, one of the most iconic and historical features of
We stayed a couple of days in
We were to stay in a cantonment at Mausimpur, which lay on the fringes of Silture and you wouldn’t be able to locate it on any map, which is the reason why, I for several days kept calling the place ‘a no mans land’. The place is entrenched within tiny hillocks and has some scary wildlife to boast about, a couple of snakes which even I got to see lingering about the old British time barracks. Apart from that, the place is actually quite like my previous description of east, except that it has a flourishing handloom, furniture and foreign market. The handicraft industry comes under the public sector and the prices are fixed and fairly reasonable. What they are known for are all sorts of bamboo crafting and bamboo furniture and even old tea timber which grows in such artistic ways that after coating them with a just layer of paint they are ready to fetch good business. Amongst textiles the place is famous for its shawls and temple prints which in spite of being really light keep you very cozy during the cold winter of the city. We bought some of everything.
While in Mausimpur, it rained almost everyday and when the hail storms struck, the ice cubes fell on the tinned roof sounding like a thousand blistering crackers exploding all at once. And when my sister and I began to crib that the place was very confining and lifeless, my parents (finally!!) made a plan for us to visit Shillong. The city called, the
The next morning we were on our way to our first visual feast. Umiam Khwam or Bada pani, as it’s called is a huge lake located somewhere in the heart of the city. It was when we were somewhere at an altitude of 2000ft above the lake, that I got the first glance of it. Clear pellucid azures, within a green spill of conifers and hillocks bounding its sides, it looked breathtaking. We descended and stopped at a resort which overlooked the lake. A beautiful timber resort with a splendid sight behind, in most circumstances would be making a good business. Which is why I was taken aback when one of the few staff members told me, that the place was going to be closed down soon. Preoccupied with that thought and wondering how much would it be sold for, we reached our final destination for the next couple of hours. The water in the lake was freezing and stretched endlessly on both my sides. I managed to pick cones which had fallen of the trees. These can be used for some very creative flower decorations and even as I wanted to wait and gulp in the beauty of this placid sight, the travel guide insisted we leave for Shillong peak which he said would be difficult to drive up to, unless it was sunny enough. I didn’t take him seriously of course, which is why I could only blame myself for the rather difficult, journey uphill. Imagine driving up narrow serpentine roads, with U bends every 200 meters and thanks to me, now we were also traveling ‘through’ the clouds. But the scary journey was worth it. The peak was as grand as anything I have seen. I could see the entire city below. And yet more, I could see the grey clouds hovering over it, ready to pour, which they did within a few minutes of our arrival. On our way down I saw the headquarters of the radar station of the Indian Air force. The rain became more intense as we descended as really very few clouds had been above our level when we were on the peak.
So after tiring ourselves thoroughly and getting drenched, all I wanted to do was to cozy up by a fireplace and watch some TV and munch some hot and if possible vegetarian delicacies of the place. Fireplace was out of question. But we did go to a local restaurant and set by the hill side, it offered a picturesque view of the valley, after which we retired for the day.
The next morning we were off to what’s popularly called the Elephanta falls. And maybe the name amuses you, but they’re anything but boring. Water gushing on rocks with cascading falls and surrounded by lush green growth of ferns, it was marvelous. Since this was our last day in Shillong and also since we were keen on visiting the city that claimed the record for the highest annual rainfall, next thing we knew, we were driving towards Cherapunji. Located on the Border of India and
Nohkalikai falls are probably the most photographed feature of Cherrapunjee. You’ll find it on most travel brochures for the town. And the falls are beautiful. Unlike the Elephanta falls, it’s takes a straight plunge down a 1100 feat drop. The cliff, over which the stream falls, is caved in, scoured by the force of the gushing water and looks like one of those caves shielded by a curtain of water, like they show in movies. It is said to be the second highest waterfall in
And so ended our journey to Shillong. It’s been five years since, but the memory of those peaks enveloped in a white cover of clouds, water falling over steep cliffs into an aquamarine pond several meters below, valley and lush green canopied serpentine roads, still take my breath away.