I had a seven day break at the end of 2009 and started planning a vacation in the first week of December. I was considering the option of going to either Mumbai, Pune or Nashik as I have a bunch of friends and relatives residing in these cities. but their was a voice, which kept saying try something new and adventurous. I would be lying if I said that it was the voice of my alternate brave self, but the truth is that it was the voice of one of my good friends Anjana, who had gone to Ladakh a few months before. I could constantly hear her saying, “Do something adventurous, something you have never done before. You have just one life and this is the time to travel and see the world.” It was during one of my day dreaming sessions, when I was seeing an animated Anjana repeating her speech to me that it struck me that a fellow blogger from Shillong, Nitu had been polite enough to extend an invitation to visit her city and stay at a her place. The best part of such ideas is that once I get them I rarely think of anything else until I see them through.
So I began planning my exploration of the North East. The trip became even more special since I had never traveled to the east of the country. I gave Nitu the shock of her life by telling her that I was planning to come to Shillong and also self invited myself to Kavita's home in Guwahati, which is the nearest railhead to Shillong. Kavita is also a blogger and I am sure she must not have in her wildest imaginations thought that a blogger would, from all the way to Delhi, visit her. Once the reservations were done, I devoted most of my time in reading about Meghalaya, which means abode of clouds in Hindi, and its capital city Shillong. As intellectual as I might like to sound, confessing that I have a mean streak comes easily to me (visualize a grinning devil with red horns). I spent majority of the waking hours, during the days preceding my departure in teasing my friends about all the fun I was going to have during my trip. :D
I left for Guwahati in Assam on December 22, with a HUGE black bag, a small red backpack and a BIG grin on my face. It is not that I have not met my online friends before. But we mostly met for lunch, dinner or coffee. This was the first time that I was going to meet Nitu and Kavita and also stay at their places (read as completely impose myself and take maximum benefit of their generous hospitality).
The Rajdhani Express took me, and several other passengers, who are absolutely insignificant to the readers of this blog, across three greatest rivers of India – Yamuna, Ganga and Brahmaputra – to Guwahati on December 23. The journey was one of the most boring ones ever, with the attendants in Rajdhani trying their best to kill me by feeding me constantly and co-passengers it seems had pledged not to talk to anyone for the 28 hours of rail travel, which I saw as another ploy to kill me.
Kavita had sent one of her helps to receive me at the Guwahati station. Dijen happily received me but his smile vanished as soon as he saw my big black bag and realized I was incapable of lugging the load and he would have to carry it instead. After a long and adventurous ride on one of the most flexible auto-rickshaws I ever sat on, Dijen and I reached Kavita's house. I should avail this opportunity to ensure that I tell the readers that Kavita's house is beautiful and I was extremely fortunate that I managed to corner her into inviting me to stay overnight at her place. The family was extremely warm in welcoming me and I did not feel for a single moment that I was meeting them for the first time ever. Her two kids – Gauri and Kaustubh- are lovely and gave me an enthusiastic welcome.
While waiting for Kavita's husband, Chandan, to arrive home from his clinic (the couple are dentists), Kavita told me her love story. It was ultra cute but I cannot share the details as I promised her that I would not blog about it. And a promise is a promise. Once Chandan came, he kept teasing Kavita and me by calling us the “blogger girls”.
A scrumptious meal later, kavita gifted me a Mekhla Chadar and showed me how it was worn. We talked till almost midnight and then went to sleep. Breakfast was one more feast with Kavita serving hot puris (fried bread) and chole (white gram curry). After the delicious meal Chandan gave me a tour of their garden, where the family grows most of their vegetables and herbs. The best part of the house was that they had reduced their carbon footprint to the minimum.
They utilize every single drop of water and also dispose of garbage in an environment friendly way. And just in an hour, it was time for me to leave for Shillong. With my gifts (a gamcha, a bisoni (made by Kavita's help Chandrika) an the mekhla chadar) packed into the bag I said bye to the family.
Stay tuned for the next part where I will tell you about my Shillong trip.