Friday, July 22, 2005

The Mourning

Today morning while strolling in my garden, I found a crow lying peacefully dead in a corner. Electricity lines pass over that part of the garden,maybe it met its end while sitting on the line.

I was surprised not to find any other crow around cawing as part of its mourning ritual.Perhaps it was because it was early in the morning and they might not have noticed the absence of their fellow bird.

The sight of that poor bird which had no soul to mourn its passing away was heart-rending and I was in tears. I had heard the painful cries(caws) of that bird the previous night ,but it was too late in the night to go out and see what had happened.

It was not long before a crow spotted the dead bird and started raising an alarm. It looked as if it was telling me to do something about it. I didn't know what to do, and came back inside.Once I was in, the cawing stopped.

Later in the day, I mustered up the courage to take the dead bird and put it somewhere away from my house. When I stepped out of the house, a few crows flew out of nowhere and began cawing again. Some were even following me,screaming ,hopping from one place to another, trying to catch my attention and persuade me to do something....anything at all that would be equivalent to a respectful homage to the bird.

I carefully pushed the bird in a dust pan with the help of a broom and put it in the red-green "Makkum Kuppai ,Makkatha kuppai" bin in our locality. I don't know if that sounds respectful at all but then it was the least I could do instead of letting it rot away in the garden.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

NE and ME- Part I

On the afternoon of May 23,we packed our bags and set out on the journey to Guwahati, Shillong and Cherrapunjee. This post about the 7 days trip is a very long one and so I am posting it in two parts- the first one about Shillong and Cherrapunjee and the second is about Guwahati and the flight travel.

We left for Shillong on the morning of 28th of May . Shillong is a hill station in the Meghalaya state,100 kms. from Guwahati. It is known as 'the Scotland of the East'. It lies to the south of Guwahati. But the road to Shillong isn’t like the typical route to a hill station…there are not many sharp hairpin bends and the roads don’t wind up on the same mountain with the valley becoming deeper and deeper as we go. There are beautiful plains in between and you seem to forget that your destination is a hill station.

We went in a Maruti Omni with a pan-chewing driver at the steering wheel who thought he was a Formula One racer. Our journey was a roller-coaster ride, thanks to him. We almost crashed into an oil tanker, when our car was speeding down the road and the oil tanker suddenly took a right turn without showing any signal (the truck drivers there have very bad road manners or should I say they didn’t have any).

Well, the rest of the journey was safe enough for us to return home in one piece. About 50 kms. from Guwahati is a place called Nangpoh. We stopped there for our breakfast at a Woodlands hotel. Actually, most of the tourist buses and vehicles stop here for food.

We resumed our trail soon and after winding up for sometime,we could see a reservoir which was shallow due to the summer. I forgot its name but it sure is a very huge one and a source of hydroelectric power. Just some distance away, the road forked with one way leading to Shillong and the other to the Shillong airport some 12 kms. from there.

By around 11 o'clock, we reached the Shillong city. And from there , the search for our hotel where we had booked the room began. After almost one hour of hotel searching and going around on the same road almost thrice, we spotted it. It was a small entrance to the staircase that led to the hotel lobby on the first floor. No wonder we missed it.

Tip : If you book the hotel room before you go to Shillong or any place for that matter, make sure you know the exact location. If not save time, it will surely give you time to see places at your leisure.

In 15 minutes, we were ready to explore Cherrapunji, which is around 60 kms. from Shillong. I think you can hire local taxis,all yellow-black Maruti 800s, for the sight-seeing.The roads to Cherrapunji are surrounded by heavenly beautiful sights. Two eyes are just not enough to feast on the beauty. It looked like one of those race tracks you see in the Need for Speed -Porsche game.

Cherrapunji is locally known as Sohra.I didn't know that and thought we had come the wrong way to some other place because our racer driver too was coming to Cherrapunji for the first time and had no idea where the falls and other places of tourist interest were. We were stopped at a place by two men. We thought it was another toll booth, but on the contrary,the booth turned out to be tourist information center and they were providing the route map with all the tourist destinations in Cherrapunji marked and their details in a brochure. Guess what, we didn't take it and were riding on the road without knowing where it leads to. Thankfully, there was a signboard which mentioned that there were 4 places to be seen there- an ecological park, Mawsmai cave, Mawsmai falls and Noh Kalikai falls.

With no idea which way to go, we thought it was a good idea to follow the taxis or cars before us, so that we can visit at least one tourist spot. One car turned left to the ecological park, but my dad said,"There would be nothing to see there but the same plants.And, who knows,it may be a park employee's car?Let's go to the falls and caves."

And again,we found another taxi to follow. This time we ended up at the right spot, the Mawsmai cave. After paying entrance fees for the people and the camera, and memorising the map of the path inside the cave, we made our way to cover an adventurous 150 metres distance inside . Seeing some people return, giving up on the trip, we had second thoughts. But then,we didn't want to waste the entrance fees. So we mustered our courage and ventured inside the dark cave.

After every step we take, we tell ourselves, "If we cannot go any further, then we shall retreat." And once we had reached almost half way, after squeezing our way through narrow openings, we said,"No matter how the way is further down the cave, we have to move forward.We cannot take that narrow way back...".

The cave was lit with enough light to make our way without stumbling. Water was dripping from the roof and it was like standing in the drizzling rain. There were stalactites above. I could take only two photos there. It was not because there wasn't enough light, but the fear ' what's the use of taking pictures if we don't get out of this cave and are stuck inside here?' nagging us. My parents spent most of the time worrying about this, while my brother went ahead of us checking to see if we can go further safely and also warning of the possible slippery areas.

All of a sudden, some 4 or 5 five-year-old local kids came screaming with joy and ran past us like a superfast train. They could easily pass through the narrow passages and didn't need to bend or push themselves as we grown ups had to. They went some distance and came back with the same speed. I thought,"Oh no! Are they returning because the way was so small that even they were not able to go through?" I was relieved to find them heading again with the same energy and later learnt that they were reliving the same adventure by doing it all over again, going to and fro the passage.

There were 2 exits. One exit needs us to bend to get out in the open, while the other was a bit high above us and requires us to use the monkey skills in us to climb out of the cave using the roots of a tree.

We were happy to be in the open again. Celebrating our victory,we came down the stairs which led to another side of entrance. We heard the voices of some people and thought they were coming from the cave. But there was noone behind us inside the cave. We later found that they belonged to a family that did not want to take the risk and so was retreating from the cave.

Then the most exciting ( and er...embarassing! ) thing eyes locked with those of a boy( I think he is a Bengali) in that group of people. It was just for a second ...but felt like a very long time...My brain was belting out this song....

" Nazaren mili dil dhadka
meri dhadkan ne kahaa..."

Even before the line ended , I suddenly felt very cold. I thought may be it was because of getting wet in that drizzle inside the cave. But one glance behind that boy answered my question... His mother( I am damn sure ... ) was shooting ice cold stares at me....C'mon, what did I do? Why are you staring at me like that?

I tried to ignore...but then almost everyone in that family(except that boy) began to stare at me as if I have committed a sin! Well, I tried to focus elsewhere and this signboard on a shop there caught my read" Hang ne Die. Sha Bad Ja."

I don't know what that means...the only words that make sense to me are 'hang' ,' die' and 'bad' and surely they are not good words to be understood.

Guess what! Our driver had a chat with that family's taxi driver and in no time, we were following this cool boy and his cold family to our next stop...NohKaliKai Falls.

This is where you will find this signboard...

....and this beautiful falls...

But the fog soon covered the entire view. The best time to visit Cherrapunji is in the mornings because, the fog recedes with time and you will get more spectacular views of this natural beauty.I must say now, we missed a lot many places there...

It was time to leave and head back to Shillong. On the way, there was Elephant falls(which is a part of the local sightseeing). You will know the reason why this falls is called so when you see it. The rocks on which the water cascades down appears to bear the carvings of elephants standing one behind the other. It looks like the elephants are carved out of the rock just like you see in Mahabalipuram. But these are naturally present on the rocks here.

Unforunately, because of less light (it was almost 6p.m.) and no flash , the pictures I took were of no use.
We were back in the hotel. We went out shopping at 8.00 p.m. and to our surprise and disappointment , found all the shops closed .Also the shops remain closed on Sunday.

The next day morning, we went out on the local sight-seeing to Shillong peak, Ward's lake and Lady Hydari park. Nothing very special in the lake and the park.From the Shillong peak, one could see the whole of Shillong city.This point is inside the residential quarters of the Airforce...and so it is well guarded. At the entrance,the driver's driving license is to be submitted which will be returned when leaving the place.

The lake has a cobbled track around it. One end of the lake is filled with dark pink lotuses and the rest of the lake is used for boating. It is a nice place to jog in the mornings but then it is open only after 8 a.m.

The park also has a mini zoo inside. You can find some signboards in this park stating that "the visitor-couples should maintain decent behaviour" . I also saw a couple capturing this signboard on their digicam.
We were back at home in Guwahati by 5 that evening.

If you have reached till here, then keep watching this space for more on my experiences in Guwahati....