Part 6 – The Naga Conversations

Two thoughts come to mind when we think Nagaland.

  1. Dog meat
  2. Head hunters

It’s very sad that these are the only things we can think of. Nagas are said to be the one of the bravest of the Indian army. The current chief minister of Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio had been the CM 3 times before. A 13 year old girl started an armed resistance against the British rule in 1929; Rani
Gaidinliu was arrested in 1932 at the age of 16 and was only released in 1947 after the independence of India. There are many Naga football stars including Talimeren Ao in who’s honour the government has released a postal stamp. But do we know any of this? Noooo.. we can only think of dog meat and “violent” head hunting.

Sadly both of these topics are highly misunderstood, misinterpreted and misconstrued. Stereotype dog meat jokes on the Nagas are one thing, but alleging that they feed dog meat to tourists or to anyone without consent is rubbish.

Finding Dogmeat in the famous Shah house of Hyderabad or some hyped restaurant on Indiranagar of Bangalore might be bad. Bad because they sell Dogmeat in the name of mutton. But this doesn’t happen in Nagaland.

In our visit to Kohima, one of our expectation was to see dog meat and other exotic animals for sale in the markets – we missed it. In Kisama, we did see black boards outside Morungs with menus selling dog meat.

The board clearly read:

Local Dog Meat – ₹150

Local Pork – ₹180

Local Beaf – ₹200

So it’s just like ordering salad or juice, just another item of the menu. You order it, you get it – simple.

For dinner we tried a variety of food from a line of eateries – who were all hoteliers from across the state and had set up stalls to serve food at the Hornbill Festival. They were also part of a contest for the best food stall. Choices were abundant, both for veg and non veg. They served grasshoppers; crispy, roasted grasshoppers. I didn’t eat but they asked everyone explicitly for prawn allergies before serving. Of course we also had rice beer in bamboo shoots. I asked our friend from the TV channel if they used the bamboo shoots as a drinking glass at their homes also or was it just for the tourists in restaurants. He wasn’t surprised, he said in the towns we use normal steel, or plastic or coffee mugs – just like everyone, but in villages some traditional people do use the bamboo shoots.

This was followed by some karaoke, the head chef came out and sang too, it seemed like he was very popular. A group if pretty girls – they could be older – got excited and had animated conversations with him. The ladies of Nagaland were by far the prettiest in the north east.

*

Back at the house, it was biting cold. Avin had started a fire outside and there was a group having dinner around it. We said our goodbyes to our friends and went up to the room – which is where Nikie came to enquire about our stay.

Upon seeing us, she realised we had run into her a couple of times in the carnival. After pleasantries, we started talking of the different stalls and activities at the fest. I said I was surprised to see the Indian army put up stalls too. To which she said Nagaland provides a sixth if all soldiers to the Assam rifles. The hornbill festival was a major showcasing platform for the army. Infact there was also a stall from the BSF and another war memorial stall that showed us about the war of Kohima – A world war 2 battle that lasted for nearly 4 months.

Speaking to her was easy, she had done her graduation and post grad at St. Aloysius in Mangalore. She was now doing her PhD in history at Guwahati University. She enlightened us about the myth of head hunting.

The world outside the Naga society thinks it’s a way of living that the Naga tribes go on beheading and collecting heads of their rivals. While it’s true that tribes get into conflicts and the Nagas have beheaded each other, they don’t collect heads and it’s definitely not a tradition to behead one another. The Nagas too are victims of the British misconstrue. When the British and other exploiters came to Nagaland through Myanmar, like any natives the Nagas resisted, and to de-legitimise their claims the Nagas were made to look evil, violent and dangerous.

The girl had seemed like a carefree “girl from the north east” who ran to the beaches. She looked so different now. We were left with a sudden realisation of our ignorance as she made her way back to her room.

The fire was still burning and the other group – who were a bunch of consultants looking to get students to their colleges from the North east – had gone, so we went down to sit by the fire. Avin, who we thought was the caretaker was there sat with us. We were to find that he was an artist, a sculpture, he worked different jobs and had come to Delhi in 2017 to work with the media for a sporting event. He was now taking care of this property for the winter and had plans of going up to Guwahati or Delhi in the summer.

We had heard him stum on his guitar, so we asked if he could play for us, he wasn’t shy, he played the guitar and RJ – my other travel companion sang. It was a nice soothing end to the night. Realisation of our ignorance on one side, and understanding of the Naga way by these casual conversations on the other. Both had left us yearning for Nagaland.

*

We left the next morning, took a rather bad and lengthy drive to Mao Gate in Manipur, switched cabs and passed through some towns that ended with -oan, except for Senapati. We ATM-ed at Senapati, bought some water and headed to Imphal. That’s where we saw hoardings about something called Sangai Fest in Manipur. Its an annual festival in of Manipur – just like the Hornbill of Nagaland. It happens in the last week of November – so you could go-to Manipur in the last week of November, experience the Sangai feat and then come to Nagaland in December for the Hornbill. Make it happen!

~*~

Also read: Part 5 – Nagaland

Part 5 – Nagaland

Nagaland is one of the few states in India where the biggest city is not the capital by default. Kohima is the capital city of Nagaland, it is located in the south-south central region of the state. Kohima also serves as the seat of the Legislative and Executive arms of the state government of Nagaland. The state doesn’t have a High court – but has a Kohima Bench in the Gauhati High Court.

The largest city of Nagaland is Dimapur, located about 75 Km from Kohima in the south west corner of the state bordering the neighboring state of Assam. Dimapur is the last accessible place by Air and Train in Nagaland. It is not unnatural as Nagaland is mostly covered in hills – about 90% of the landscape is covered in hills and hilly terrain.  

There are numerous trains on the route and 10 of them are daily trains. So we pushed our departure and decided to take a late night train that would a. Give us time to meet the players of Bengaluru FC in the day, and b. save us the hotel cost for the night. We’d booked a non-AC – sleeper coach – which cost us a little more than 200 rupees. The train was on time at Guwahati – but was filthy. Since mine was an upper berth and it was a late-night train I didn’t bother if the floor was clean or not – I hopped in and slept. I was told that the train was duly cleaned before it left the station.

The train pulled into Dimapur a little after 6 AM. I was exhausted and visibly dehydrated. Luckily the train station has enough food joints and to our pleasant surprise, there was a south Indian stand that served Dosas – which we had with much gratitude.

We had run into the tourist police – female – with whom we spoke about the ILP. The ILP – Inner Line Permit is what tourists and other non-native expats need to visit Nagaland. It is made essential because of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that is in force in the area. The Act itself might be enforced in different regions up to different extents, but the ILP is required in only a few regions of India – and we didn’t have it. Our friend and host – who worked at a Kohima based TV station had said don’t worry about it, you’re only in Nagaland for 2 days. So we didn’t worry about it and fat mouthed the cops who detained us at the railway station for our troubles. Eventually we were let off on our own cognizance and on assurance that we would obtain the ILP from the commissioner’s office in Dimapur town. I would suggest – you get the ILP before hand and not try to pull stunts like these – its available online or in bigger cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati and Shillong.

Upon our “release” from the Railway station, we were hounded by cabbies – normal of any city in India. We found a cab that had 1 passenger ready to leave and with the 3 of us joining, we were ready to go – except – now we had to find a driver. The cabs may not always be privately owned – hence there are 3 moving parts – the passengers, the vehicle, and the driver. It was only on the road to Kohima did we find out that every part in the car is a moving part and it’s a miracle the chassis still holds, and engine still runs. The road is terrible, most of it is attributed to the new highway project, but the construction has been going on for years and likely to go on for years more. The distance of 75 Km took us nearly 6 hours. Bikers and landslides were a common site. Armored vehicles too. I couldn’t enjoy the mountainous scenery much – but the mountains and valleys can make an enjoyable sight.

The terrain gradient of the city of Kohima was constantly varying. The city itself wasn’t any cleaner than majority of India, but there was a lot of construction going on, houses, shopping complexes, bigger housing buildings – which suggested a sort of progress. There were also numerous schools and coaching centers – coaching centers that taught computers, and other professional certifications. Good signs! Since it was Christmas season, the whole city had Christmas decorations – not a lot of lights – as electricity is a commodity, but decorations, sky lights, and a lot of red and green everywhere. The homogeneity of the decorations made me as our friendly -stranger co passenger if it was handed by the government – which was the case. We took another cab from downtown Kohima towards our homestay in Kigwema.

We were welcomed warmly by the owner/keeper of the house. As a welcome drink, we were offered rice tea. Rice is a big part in Naga society, rice with meat, rice tea, and rice beer are every Naga’s daily routine. The homestay was a minimalist stay with minimal furniture – just beds and bedding, a small table with a bible and a calendar. There were candles and matches reminding us we were in rural India – albeit a tourist destination. The facility had community bath and toilet – toilet being the squat toilet.  We freshened ourselves up and waited for our friend to pick us up to go to the Hornbill festival.

 Kisama is an artificial village created just for the sake of the festival. It gets the name from the two nearby places of Ki-gwema and phe-Sama. The village is basically a big carnival area with parking, outdoor stage area, restaurants, a chapel, ATMs, medics, outdoor flea markets and everything else you find in a carnival. The main attraction however are the Morungs. A Morung literally means a habitat – a place of residence for a family or a group of families of a Naga Tribe.

Nagaland is home to 17 indigenous tribes, some are as big as 200 thousand people while some endangered ones at less than 20 thousand inhabitants. All these tribes are incredibly interesting with their own unique culture, language, scripts and art forms. The Hornbill Festival is an event that showcases and celebrates all the different cultures of these tribes. Each of the 17 tribes are depicted in their Morung, which they get to design and decorate themselves, cook food, set up stalls, brew beer and hold all of these for sales. Photos are encouraged and everyone is friendly.

The festival not only runs in Kisama but after nightfall, concerts from famous and upcoming native bands are held in the city concert ground in Kohima – which is just 15 Km from Kisama,

The people we met, our friends who we had seen in a different light and the new friends we made opened our minds to a whole new world. The conversations with the Nagas will be last of the 6 part travelogue of the incredible North East of India.

Also Read : Part 4 – Dawki and Jaintia

~*~

AV Fistula – The Surgery

Procedure we called it. Because it’s small, done under local anaesthesia and can be discharged from the hospital on the same day. Or the real reason – too scared to call it a surgery. Let’s not be scared and call it what it is – a minor surgery.

In the previous post, we learnt what is an AV Fistula and why we need it. Some of the readers of the blog have asked me to write about the surgery with special emphasis on my experience through the surgery. Sorry I don’t have comments on the blog to prove it, but you don’t have a choice – read on.

The buildup

Once the doc saw the numbers on my blood work, he declared let’s get the Fistula done soon. Get admitted on Monday. We’ll hydrate you for a day and see what to do next. We sensed the seriousness in the tone and didn’t ask many questions – or should
I say any questions.

The weekend was spent reading, and the few phone calls and mails to office to let them know I would be off work for the week. I had already read up on what and why Fistula, but there wasn’t much info on how the surgery would go and other patient experience about the whole process. As due, we reached the hospital in time thanks to Raaghu who picked us up late from home but dropped us in time at the hospital for the admission.

The first day

I was put in a room, robes on, hospital tag and IV line attached, and then there was nothing left to do but wait. The doctor came in, no small talk, took a look at my wrists and elbows and said let’s do it at the elbows. He was the nephrologist, he ordered the nurse to put me on fluids for the next 24 hours and monitor the vitals along with my urine output. I had an uneventful night – apart from the 92 year old grandpa who constantly craved for coffee deep into the night. He was in because he was just old and had taken a tumble that had send the sugar racing.


The Prep

An afternoon surgery was planned and since it was a local anaesthetic process, there was no requirement to have an empty abdomen. Hence I had my lunch at around 12:30 and waited for an hour for my ferry to the OT. (called OR is some parts of the world) As I was wheeled into the OT complex I could see a white board that had a list of all the surgeries for the day.  I was a little taken aback on how they could just list them so publicly. It had details of the patients, doctors on duty and even the procedure. Perhaps the OT complex is an small community in itself and everyone’s a professional. But they have guests – the patients, who may not always be so trustable to keep the contents of the board to themselves. 

The surgeon walked in as I was being prepped and wasn’t happy that the staff wasn’t ready for him. Sir, 2 minutes  pleaded who seemed to be the senior most nurse in the OT. They quickly adjusted my position on the operating table, held out my arm and dabbed it in betadine and other disinfectants. As one nurse held my arm up to drain out excess betadine, I could see a tattoo on her arm that red “Irresponsible” for a second I felt like the moment the cop saw Mr. Bean in the hospital – luckily Dr. Timepass was in town, and I could see the funny side soon. 


The surgeon stormed into OT 3 a few minute later and the nurses stiffened up again. He tore the scrub that was draped over my face to reveal the right side view – Don’t cover the face, the patient can get claustrophobic – actually I felt comfortable and warmer while fully covered. 

Just a small prick, after which you wont feel anything. The surgeon said to me

Prick, Sting and a Shock

I wasn’t sure if it was the surgeon or a nurse, but I felt the prick, a sharp sting and a sudden shock run down my arm – maybe that’s why they had padded my palm. Then everything went numb. I could hear the surgeon voice commands like we see in movies – scalpel, forceps, clamps, suction and a few others that I can’t recall. I couldn’t hear cutting or what was happening inside as my left arm was totally numb. 

About 10 or 20 minutes into the operation, the “Irresponsible” nurse came over to my right side and asked sir are you awake? Not so irresponsible I was thinking when we asked again, sir can you open your eyes? I opened my eyes and gave a thumbs up on my right hand. But as I kept my eyes open and turned my gaze upward, I could see my reflection in the clear glass and shiny rim of the huge operating lights. The incistion itself was hardly 2 inches long – so nothing much could be made out – but it felt funny that all their efforts to shield the patient from seeing the blood and gore was undone. 

Soon after I felt my arm tightening. Like when you feel the arm under pressure while they check your BP.  I hadn’t realised what had happened. The surgeon continued voice commands for more tools, and he said get the Heparin ready – the anti clot. The nurses were fiddling or getting it rather slowly and the surgeon made sure he didn’t waste time and gave them some constructive negative feedback – on which I laughed a little. He must’ve notices my shaking belly as he acknowledged the laugh and addressed me to say the main operation is done, we’ll just close it up.

Surgeon's tools


I could hear some hard pulling and yanking in between shouts of wet your hands, wet my hands, don’t touch him without wetting your hands. Is this how all operations go? maybe just mine because it was a minor surgery. He was the only doctor in the OT, the 4 others were either nurses or far too junior than the main Surgeon

Its done, it went well. He said more like a declaration and went out to meet my parents. The nurses got me out to a room just outside called the Recovery where I spent the next 2 hours before being moved to my room. 

My arm felt tight. The pressure at the elbow was still there and I couldn’t flex and stretch – I felt I wasn’t supposed to move my arm because of the stitches and tried to keep still. It wasn’t until late that evening – around 7:30 that my Nephrologist walked in and told me to feel the Fistula. I put a finger on it and could feel it – like a jet of water running in pipe. Just that it was my blood and was flowing in full force just a few millimeters below the skin. I little freaky, but I managed to stay sane. I had an uneasy night – the stiffness, the pressure and the uncertainty of whether I should move my arm or not kept me up most of the night. 

The Next morning

My Nephrologist’s assistant came in early morning as I was having my breakfast.  He saw that my arm was half flexed – and seemed really regid. He said no you need to move it constantly. That’s when it became clear.

  1. The pain was not of the stitches.
  2. The stiffness would only get worse if I didn’t move the hand.
  3. The stitches were secure enough and there’s no need to worry about them ripping.
  4. It is essential to exercise – the flex and stretch movements as well as the wrist pumping action. 

As I tried to stretch – my arm would ache – exactly at the point of the surgery and hence I asked the doctor again if it was normal. He then explained beautifully. 

The veins are superficially located, but arteries are located deeper. So in the surgery, they first made an incision of about an inch and a half on the outer skin, then they dug deeper, seperated your muscles a little, found the artery and linked a portion of it with a suitable nearby vein to create the AV Fistula. Since they went beneath the muscles and fiddled with all that’s inside, the muscles would be disturbed and stiff. By exercising – making the flex and stretch exercise you will get the muscle to perform their intended action and hence restore their original shape and condition. The wrist pumping action will increase blood flow into your arm, and there are many reasons why more blood is better than less – faster blood, more nutrients, more flow and fluidity and hence faster healing.

Hospital Tag

Exercising became easier and made more sense after knowing this. The arm slowly gets better, the veins in your arm slowly start popping and the jet of high pressure blood flowing in a pulsating motion just under the skin becomes an everyday thing that you’ll learn to live with. It’s not easy, but where’s the fun in easy?

~*~

Bow wow eww

Repost from a 2012 post on the Original Dr. Timepass

drtimepass.blogspot.com

Three months after my sister was married, her old cupboard was finally mine. It smelt strongly of cosmetics and little did I know that the perfume of oriflame would eventually help me in understanding dogs. Yeah… it makes less sense, but let’s keep going. I had had the almirah for two or three months, and there wasn’t much I actually wanted to keep inside an almirah. My mom made use of this, she needed a place to keep her herbal tea stock; and since I didn’t have the almirah full by then, my mom stocked a full shelf with her herbal tea. Since then I would be greeted by the scent of tea and herbs as I opened the doors. I should say here, I really missed the scent of oriflame.  


Moving on, just a few weeks back my dad needed a place to store his gifts. Gifts as in wooden mementos. So quite easily he took another empty shelf and filled it with his mementoes. I know!! I really need to stuff things into that almirah! So now the cupboard smelt of wood varnish. I would wrinkle my nose and make a bad face whenever I opened the closet. Actually it was this repelling scent that made me think how important the sense of smell is, and how stimulating it can be. I started thinking about how dogs always sniffed around other dogs’ pee, or I had heard that male star tortoises travelled for miles to the scent of a female tortoise in heat. I started to think that maybe the sense of smell is wasted on us, and of course a lot of other crazy weird shit; but that’s when it hit me! I finally realized why I was being chased by dogs, or why Rani, the dog in our street was thought to be a bad dog or why the number of dog bites had increased in the metros. It was smell! 

I knew that dogs are rarely aggressive towards humans, but the number of Dog bite cases has had an increasing trend over the years.  I had been chased by dogs myself on a few occasions, I really didn’t care to think about it, but I did see a pattern, I saw that on the days I wore an Adidas, ‘sport’ deo(marketed by Calvinkare in India) I noticed dogs barking at me and on two occasions aggressively perused . A dog with a limp near my friend Pinky’s house, which is otherwise the most peaceful dog also seemed to want a piece of me. I though, the deo was bad luck and stopped using it. But It was the scent!  


I was chased again by Rani, this was right after I had had a bath; I had used my mom’s VS shampoo… I thought the shampoo smelled really good, and after I came out of the bath, my mom was seriously mad at me for using too much of her VS shampoo. That was probably worse than Rani’s chase, but the point is, it could be possible that Rani was repelled or felt threatened by the weird smell of my mom’s shampoo. Rani, was also known for barking at fast traveling cars; and she would really get mad at the two guys who had wicked looking Bullet bikes in our street. 

There were reports of dogs attacking infants. It really seemed threatening, and many organizations plus the government took to the streets to sterilize, move and even kill dogs. Maybe, a lamenting infant in the hands of a funny smelling woman with shopping bags full of more smelly things scared him. Just a thought.


In our fit to be metro, we are confusing and threatening these poor creatures. The sense of smell, sight and sound are all that these playful creatures base their life on, and all the different smells, sounds, sizes and shapes that we create or have these days are harming the creatures we share our ecosystem with.  If we can talk about being sensitive to nature, we can surely think why animals do what they do.


The next time you are chased or attacked by a dog, just smell yourself

Sensitivity

This Mental Health Monday, lets just look at something simple. The simple act being sensitive. Ofcourse, no one really means to be mean, we’re just not mindful enough, not sensitive enough.

Now these words in the picture to the right are usually used as adjectives. They are urban slangs basically, and a part of our everyday urban vocab. But that’s not right, is it? how many times have you heard yourself say ‘Just because everyone does it, it doesn’t become right’ ?  Let’s stop this. Mental illnesses are no joke and everyone knows that.

Let’s not talk small of it. Let’s not say I don’t mean offense or talk small of those affected. Let us not say it’s just an expression or its just the way we talk and get away with it. It’s not easy changing the world and its even harder changing oneself. Let us accept that if we as a people want to create a society with better mental health then we need to make these changes to our lives, everyone’s lives.

~*~

Part 4 – Dawki and Jaintia

Picking the Slack

Our first day in Sohra wouldn’t end without some native food. It was spiced up curry with crispy pork.

After hunting for hotels and spoiling ourselves over choices, we finally nailed one down. We wanted something that gave either a 3 bedded room or 2 double bed rooms, whichever cheaper. Apparently such requests are not unusual.

After the spicy curry, steamed rice and crispy pork, we settled for the night. It was chilly and the 24 hour hot water service was a boon. After all of us had had a hot shower, we sat across the TV and tuned into the night’s football game. It was hardly 8:30 PM. But it was pitch dark, biting cold and dead silent outside.

Our driver cum guide had told us to wake up as early as possible, 5 AM was what he had said, we made it at 6. The first place we went to was a waterfall. It is to be enjoyed from distance, sadly as it was December – the dry season, we were barely able to notice the falls.

Next on the route was a park, a man made attraction with lot of benches and view points. Something from where we could get a vista view of the khasi hills. Note that we were still in Sohra on the Khasi hills.

The last tourist spot in the Khasi district was the Mawsmai caves. The caves were basically nature’s art consisting of stalagmites and stalactites – which is a structure created due to the gradual deposition of minerals from trickling water into valleys. These had created some really wild structures. Some looked like the a ministry of magic chambers, which some looked like the frills of silky cloth. It takes about 40 mins to an hour to explore the caves.

We had a cup of tea and bought some chips as we weren’t really hungry yet. Our driver did suggest that it was an hour and half to Dawki.


Dawki is actually a river that flows between India and Bangladesh, but the cluster of tourist places along it, which are technically the Jaintia hills are collectively called Dawki. In Dawki, we had planned to see 3 things

1. Live Root Bridge – in Dawki

2. Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest village

3. The river Dawki along Bangladesh border.

Root bridges are unique to this region. The most famous root bridge is the double decker root bridge in Sohra – which is an expedition in itself. It is advised to hire a khasi travel guide and requires a day for itself. Our rootbridge was in Dawki – Riwai village to be exact. The idea of build bridges out of roots of rubber trees is to befriend and live alongside nature. The native tribes believe building a steel or wooden or concrete bridge may look sane and modern, but it will fall in years due to the geography of the region. The root bridges though may not take weights of vehicles, will stand the test of time.

Our experience with the root bridge was inspiring, a stereotypical and momentary appreciation for nature loomed. And then we were back, littering and shopping and selfy-ing our trances away.

All the pop up shops were run by women. Fruit stalls, coconut water stalls, souvenir stores and every other store was run by women. They wore money satchels and something that looked like a traditional attire. I did ask a lady what it was called in their tongue, but its been too long.

Our next destination was the cleanest village in Asia, or so claimed. Mawlynnong. It has been much commercialised and currently looked like a version of Delhi haat with people living there full time.

The village was ofcourse clean, dustbins a plenty and pay and use toilet for the tourists. The drains were open but didn’t stink much. Every house – kacha houses – made of wood and cane had a pop up shop in front of their house. They sold basic souvenirs like toys, magnets, key chains and postcards. Some people had photo booths and some ran small eateries or restaurants from their homes. Again – women ran the show. Given the fact that the tribes of Meghalaya are matrilineal, it’s not so surprising.

Although it looked like a small village, dependent on agriculture and tourism with a suspected poverty, one thing that I saw in all homes – however big or small – was shoes, football shoes – studs as we call them. This land had provided so many stars to indian football, no marketing body or no federation was responsible, football is in their blood and in their life.

The food is reasonable, the place where we ate, the owner said

“people keep asking us we want local food, but we only eat rice and pork, not many people like that – so we need to go-to Shillong and learn a few things they sell at the city’s restaurants”

The last stop for the day was going to be Bangladesh border along the river Dawki. As we reached the river bank, we noticed there was huge pile up. A line of trucks seemed to be stopping our way. On enquiry we found that they had been stopped by border security. The trucks would be allowed entry into Bangladesh after 4 PM. Hence we had to walk the last couple of minutes to get down to the river.

The river reflected the green of the cliffs around it. But it was so clean that we could see the floor of the river. A flowing body of water with numerous boats and divers was crystal clear.

We asked around for a boat ride, and a boy no older than 15 asked us to get onto his boat. As we floated towards Bangladesh we made small talk with the boy, we found he was actually 18 years old and supported NorthEast United FC and Pune City FC. He saw our Bengaluru FC jerseys and bantered with us a little. The clean water showed us how deep the floor was and hence we didn’t banter back with our boatman.

The sun had just begun setting as we headed back towards India. We gave a little more than the agreed 700 said our goodbyes.

The trucks had gone and our driver was waiting for us with the car just as we climbed the cliffs. No walking on the way back. It took us about 2-2 and a half hours to get back to Shillong. We reached there by 7 but as we had seen earlier, it was dark, but not as cold as the previous night in Sohra and definitely not silent.

Also read: Part 3: Khasi hills of Meghalaya

~*~

Part 3 – The Khasi Hills of Meghalaya

Meghalaya literally means the abode of clouds. It is known as the Scotland of the East and as the wettest place on earth. The state can be broadly classified into the lands of Goro, Khasi and Jaintia. These are also the three predominant tribes of Meghalaya.

Meghalaya is a beautiful place in the hills. It doesn’t snow in Meghalaya, but the mountains belong to the Himalayan range. The hills are generally identified by the tribes that reside in them. Meghalaya is one of the few matrilineal cultures of the country with the youngest daughter of the family inheriting all wealth and is responsible of taking care of the parents. This won’t be a shock once you take a walk in Meghalaya. All businesses are run by women, women with satchels manage all the finances and they (wo)man the cash counters too. Men generally drive around tourists

Our journey in Meghalaya took us to the places in and around Cherrapunji and Mowlynnong in the Khasi hills and a small town called Dawki in the Jaintia hills. We couldn’t explore the Gora hills.

We also missed exploring the tourist attractions of Shillong as we dedicated most of our time to see the Shillong Lajong game against NEROCA FC.

In Shillong, the biggest attraction is the Elephant falls. It gets its name because of a big boulder that’s lodged at the foot of the fall. It’s a beautiful place with white gushing water. About 25 Km from the city, it is on the way to Cherrapunji and is one of the much visited places. We missed it ofcourse.

There are quite a few places in and around Shillong, within 30 km radius and on the way to Sohra. Sohra is the original name of Cherrapunji and let’s also learn to use that.

We hired a cab from Shillong for 2 days and you can read about the experience of getting the cab and other available options to reach Sohra from Shillong here.

Sohra is situated on a high altitude place surrounded by mountains all over. There are 7 mainstream places that all guides and tourist operators cover in the single day trip. We went to these places and didn’t notice 2 out of the 7 go past. One was a bridge, which is the entry into Sohra, and the second was a view point called the seven sisters water falls, its actually a view point from where we get to see seven streams of water plugging into a deep george.

The places that we did notice and like began with the Ramakrishna Mission Highschool.

This is a temple, museum and a high school started by the Ramakrishna mission. The museum had dedicated art and artefacts curated to showcase the anthropology of the north east. It was here that we learn why our driver had told us that everyone understands English in Meghalaya. The transcripts talking about the exhibits seemed like English, but was actually Khasi. It came as a shock that Khasi uses the English alphabet as it’s official script. Later we went onto learn that English is the official language of the state of Meghalaya.

The temple and a quiet school campus with a huge quadrangle involuntarily made us conduct ourselves with the decency of being in a deciplined institution.

We saw a few children who first stared at us but were not shy when engaged in conversation. The students had finished their exams and were awaiting final results which was to be out on Dec 10. The final exams for all grades other than 10 and 12 are held in November.

We had no time left in the day as the sun had already started to go down. The driver did all he could to drive like a maniac without killing us and took us to the Nohkalikai falls before calling it a day.

Nohkalikai falls is said to be one of the highest falls in the country. 4th to be exact. We reached the view point when the sun had just gone down. We saw the falls in ambient light. The fall of water was only broken when it hit the ground, the water there was turquoise blue which left us hoping for a way to get to the foot of the water fall. There is a hiking trail for this, passionate backpackers may find it interesting.

Once the sun set, we started feeling the chills. It was colder than our previous night at Shillong. The view point had a small line if petty shops, again run by women. I shopped from some interesting looking cinnamon sticks and the famous and dreaded bhoot jholakia chilly powder. We also had Icey cold golgappas.

Cabs and buses trooped out and darkness blanketed with cold air engulfed us. We headed back into the town of Sohra looking for food and shelter.

As we had no reservations, in terms of bookings and inhibitions the next day was going to be a wonderful experience.

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