Shillong 3.0

“Veda loves Shillong so much, she’s come here for the third time,” said Ibynta.

“Ibyn I love you not Shillong so much, that I’ve come here for the third time,” said Veda.

And thus even though I abhor going to the same place twice, just like lightening does not strike the same place twice, yeah yeah, one cannot step into the same river twice, for the river is not the same nor is the man, I feel Shillong is always the same in the 3 different decades that I have been there, and so am I. Ibyn noticed that I still couldn’t pack to save my life. Ibyn was my roommate at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi for five years where we studied architecture. Needless to say, she has since been a very happy part of my life, she claims to still quiver with my alarm “Tokyo Drift” that I would blast at 5 AM since at that time in my life I prided myself to be a 5 AM person. Clearly, that got me nowhere I wanted to be so I decided to swear off alarms and respect my body clock a bit more! Now that the education is off my back, though Ibyn keeps prodding me to do a PHD, I am for now, floating through life like a leaf or even water dictated primarily by gravity. (read life) My life was totally different each of the times that I went to Shillong, first in 2006, then 2015 and then in 2022, even the people I went with, but then Shillong was just the same, its Golf Course, its Umiam lake, it’s living root bridge, only that the bridge had a few more sign boards and a lot more tourists, but in essence it was just the same.

A couple of hotels have sprung up in Shillong and lot more tourists have bee visiting but the craziest part of having a cloud enter the car when we first drove from Guwahati to Shillong did not happen the other two times. Ibyn too has largely remained the same. Her family is as warm and sweet as ever. Now both of us boy-moms, the boys had enough to bond over as did we. My family made a foray into the North-east for the first time and they were absolutely smitten and I could recollect my first visit there as they marveled at the living root bridge, the Mawlynong village, Cherrapunji, the Elephant falls and the breath-taking valleys that make the long, winding roads so much fun to traverse. On this trip in this season many waterfalls that Shillong is so famous for run dry, and winters are exceptionally cold, just as the monsoons are typically very wet. The one place that was new to me too, was Dawki, where we can boat in a tiny long row boat and watch the incredibly clear waters below that showcase the pebbles. It is increasingly beautiful and still. Dawki river flows as a border between India and Bangladesh, it flows through ravines, has its rapids and accounts for beautiful scenery. The river is also home to various fauna that are fished out by the locals sitting with their fishing rods all day by the rocky banks of the calm and peaceful river. The rock formations under the river cause the pebbled spectacular formation under the steely water surface.

The rocky formations are found in terms of stalactites and stalagmites in caves across the state of Meghalaya. Some are filled with water while others are trekkable from one part opening into another part. In these rocks, one can find fossils embedded of snails and other such crustaceans including fish. One such cave is the Arwah cave in Meghalaya, where water found its way through rocks, dissolving the carbonates in hard rock slowly to gush out and make holes in the terrain of the landscape to finally weave out caves all across the hills of Meghalaya. The Arwah caves are located in the Khasi hills, known for Khasi people who’s love for the betel nut is famous. The nut itself is grown all across the hills, as the locals soak it along the state highways, the smell is unmistakable. The National Highway number 1 courses through the states of Guwahati and Shillong one time we spotted a sign saying we are on Asian Highway no 1. Now that was definitely new! The roads in the state were mostly great except for the one to Dawki that has been under repair for a while and would put anyone using it under serious repair. 😀 But mostly the roads are decent if one is okay with the curves and snaps of the hills. Most of the beautiful nature locales are reached by road from the major cities, but once the wait is over it is all worth it.

With the holiday season under full swing during December, all places in Shillong are utterly sold out and planning a holiday to these places however so enticing is definitely a challenge. With limited options finding accommodations are not a cakewalk. So planning ahead is definitely the holy grail of paying a visit to the North-east. Nature is centre stage here, it is the star, and music plays a close second fiddle. The very many music fests that Shillong is famous for is further enhanced during the cherry blossoms season. When Ibyn was telly me about the play that INTACH did recently I could feel the throb of culture. The memories I have of Shillong are of the clouds getting into our car through the windows, the beautiful party in the wilderness with insanely awesome music of the older times of my visit and now of the Dawki River that is so calm and peaceful that it is almost stunning. The throes of culture and nature make Shillong irresistible, and it’s people absolutely soulful. It is one of a kind, the place and it’s people. Shillong is also called the Scotland of the East with many references to the British presence in the region. They loved it too, after all who wouldn’t!

The Meghalaya State Tourism lists their tourism tagline as “Halfway to Heaven” and I wholeheartedly agree about that. The locales are spectacular and with every season changing, changing themselves with waterfalls unfolding during the monsoons and some staying over through the winter too. Rainbow falls, elephant falls, and the like are all named for the effect they unfold or the thing they would remind one of.