I continue from here...Meghalaya & Assam
25th Dec 2011
Episode 2 - People and the festival!
What appeared like 9:00 PM was only 7, as we walked the streets of Shillong. The place was filled with activities. A stage was set on the steps of assembly building and loud music set the festival spirit for the city's inhabitants and tourists. On one side, there were small road side shops comprising of a table, a stove and some cooking utensils that served fried eggs, momos, pakoras and haka noodles.
Our first mission was to buy some mufflers and stoles for the cold weather. The shops were flooded with customers and there were heaps of clothes everywhere to select from. After trying several shops we got what we needed. The shops began to close as early as 9:00 PM.
There is a traditional Khasi food restaurant with a lady at the cash counter who is more interested in her phone calls than the customers. The hotel boasts of authentic Khasi food but unfortunately for us we had no vegetarian dish available at that late hour. So we walked to a nearby restaurant called EecMee, which served good haka noodles, aloo parathan and lemon tea. After a good meal we returned back to hotel and retired for the day.
Like in every new place that I wake up in, I followed my tradition here too. I went for an early morning walk to watch the city wake up. I love this part, of every trip I have been in, as I walk down the streets alone and watch people get on with their daily chores, like the usual, before they put on their masks for the day.
At 6:30 AM, in Shillong the sun was already bright and the police bazaar junction had attracted a crowd to witness few youngsters who had drunk all night, fighting over some difference in opinion. Taxi drivers watched from distant and I spotted this lady drag her shop away to avoid any damage.
Hangover and after effects of an incident always leave back an impression of the past and what this told me that many youngsters in the city had not slept last night and were engaged in booze parties. I ignored the fight and took a walk down a street. The city was dirtied with lot of garbage waiting to be cleaned.
Hotel Pegusus crown is expensive but it had one silver lining in the form of a complimentary breakfast. It was simply amazing with Idli, Dokhla, Poori-Sabji, Parathan, Bread-Omlet or food of your choice with egg cooked in front of you. The dessert included – Mal puva, two halwas and kheer. The breakfast made up for all the disappointment we might have had over the price.
Bara-Bazaar is a market place in Shillong where villagers arrive every morning to sell various products like clothes, fruits, vegetables, bags and meat. On account of Christmas celebration many shops were closed for the day. We tried some eatable that looked more like vegetable than fruit. When we asked the shopkeeper for its name, she shied away unable to translate.
That is when we found Mitrian, a middle aged lady who can speak decent English and has a son who studies in Chennai. She informed us the names of them– Sohphlang which grows underground and Sohling which grows on a tree. Both are plucked, cleaned and the skin is peeled before eating. Sohling is finely chopped. When I clicked a picture of Mitrian, she asked me to post it to her and provided me her address.
From Bara Bazaar we took a taxi to the Shillong Peak. Being a day of festival there were very limited taxis available. Most of the Khasi tribe, now converted to Christianity, were busy celebrating their major festival. Our taxi driver agreed to take us there and back for Rs100. One good thing about people here is that they do charge more for tourists but the price is always fixed and is not exorbitant.
From the peak one can see how widely spread the city is. Thankfully the mist had disappeared providing a clear view.We drove back to Don Bosco church, where hundreds had gathered for the mass. Men and boys dressed in blazers, women in traditional Khasi dress and a overcoat and girls in frocks assembled at the church, looking graceful. Almost every woman or girl had high heels, which made an interesting capture for my camera.
The painted glasses inside the church were beautiful and glowed with the sunlight behind it. After the mass we took a walk inside the church to see the crib.
After some waiting, we found a taxi back to Police bazaar. I had read on the net, about a Marwari hotel called Sharma Bhojanalai, which served good vegetarian meals. I had to find this place to taste some great Gujarati cuisine. So we went looking for it. It is near a saree shop called Roopkala, so we started inquiring about it and one of the shop owners directed us to the Bhojanalai. But we found the place to have more of snacks and sweets rather than food. Looking at our puzzled faces, the shop owner suggested taking the staircase next to the hotel if we were looking for meals. They had a counter in the first floor that serves Vegetarian unlimited thali for Rs 50. The thali was very simple with roti, sabji and dal with rice but it tasted excellent.
A young man at the cash counter, who looked like the owners son was busy chatting with his friend on his cell phone. He was audible when he said he had woken up at 11:00 AM and that pointed towards a late night party like the other youngsters I had seen the same morning.
After a good lunch we stopped at the shop in the ground floor to try some excellent rasagoola’s. After which, we ran back to the hotel as we had exceeded the checkout time by an hour.
We packed our bags and walked out of the hotel to find a taxi to our next destination – Cherapunji. I could not wait to get there for the root cause for this trip lay in the hilly regions of Cherapunji.