A Meghalayan Photodiary

For some strange reason, whenever I thought of northeast India, I would imagine cold weather…and I love cold places. So, Guwahati was an uncomfortable surprise. As we walked out from the plane and onwards to the small airport, the sun shined hot on us. It was humid and sticky. To hop into the waiting car and drive, therefore, was a relief. I was tired, probably due to lack of sleep, and I was excited. This, after-all, was the first time I was going to meet any of the ‘Seven sisters’.

Guwahati to Shillong takes about 3 and a half hours by road. On the way, I saw how almost everyone had similar facial features(Duh!) and suddenly realised how alien I may look to them. I realized why south indians were called Madrasis many decades ago. I realized why we so easily call people who look strange and different from us with easy names(chinki, african, chinese, etc). Travelling, therefore, do open our eyes. The tables are then turned. We become the aliens. We see that life doesn’t fit exactly into our preconceived boxes. We find the world is so varied and so big, and there is more than one right way of living.

As we climbed higher and sometimes down, the weather kept changing…from warm to cool and back to warm, the terrain grew more and more green, sometimes intimidating(signs of landslides), and yet, beautiful.

Our driver Sinha-ji with his Datsun Go.

Food: As we entered Meghalaya, one the first things I noticed was the many pineapple stalls along the winding roads. Pineapple is a popular snack through out this state. You’ll see it at most tourist destinations, served diced and mixed with salt and a little red chilli powder.

Lunch plans: We told Sinhaji that we want to eat what the people of Meghalaya eat. So he stopped at the Khasi Tea Stall at Nongpoh Down Gate for lunch. Served in steel plates, it was tasty with hill rice(which is big like rice from Kerala, but without the bran layer), pork curry, potato fry, mint and chilly chutnies introducing us to the Meghalayan cuisine.

We drove some more, and as we closed in on Shillong, came a lake and a dam. The dam had a beautiful steel bridge next to it downstream, but by the time I decided to ask to stop for a photograph, we had crossed it. As if on cue, Sinhaji told us that photography is prohibited there. And then, we came across this view a little up the road.

The name of this lake is Umiam. Um means water in Khasi language. Many villages and rivers here have their names starting with this word. Very appropriate too, considering this is one of the Indian states with the highest rainfall, with some places getting rain every single day.

To be continued.

PS: I decided to write this to preserve my memories in my own mind. I hardly remember the small yet important details from my previous trips..like names of places, or people I met once. So I thought writing these down is the way to go. And whenever I have read blogs, writing seemed easy. After all, I write good emails at work.

But Boy, what a struggle this is!!! I didn’t expect that! As I write, I am realizing that I have to become comfortable with baring myself to others. My preferences, my imperfect judgements, my thoughts. When I wrote the first draft(which some of you read) without that part of me, it sounded like a collection of sentences copied from Wikipedia. So now I know, the masala is not in the facts, it is in the emotions.

Part two here: