All good things come only after a wait, it has been said. As luck would have it, there was a huge traffic jam on the highway connecting the capitals of
The good thing about the delay was that I passed by several groups of carol singers spreading the holiday joy.
After a sinuous drive, along the picture-perfect greens, I reached Shillong, the Scotland of East, at around 3:30 on the Christmas Eve. Standing on the road trying to spot Nitu and her red car, it hit me… “Oh My God! I have travelled across the country to stay and impose myself on a friendly voice.” This woman I am about to meet is one of the best people I am ever going to meet.” I hoped with all my heart then, “I hope, in the next four days, she does not end up regretting inviting me.”
Thank God for small mercies and Nitu was there smiling behind the wheel, with her son, Neelav. A huge Hi! and hug later, I was bundled inside the car and it did not feel for even a second that I was meeting her for the first time.
First lesson learnt from Nitu: Always welcome people in your life with a smile. Make them feel at home the instant they meet you.
Within minutes my respect for Nitu surpassed my respect for Mother Teresa. I mean I have never seen any woman drive so easily on those roads. As a lady driver, who has been complimented for her driving by her male friends, I can write an epic praising Nitu’s driving. During the drive from the taxi stand to Nitu’s place I tried my level best to make Neelav my best friend. But boy! He is a shy guy. He maintained his stand and spoke to me on his own just once in the four days I was at his home.
We reached home and Nitu called her brother, Anthony, to help lug my HUGE black bag. He was a complete gentleman, did not let me help and was sweet enough not to complain at all. To add to my guilt, he just smiled and left for the evening to meet his friends, who I guess were waiting for him since afternoon.
Nitu gave me a tour of her house, which I will try to describe in the next few lines. But trust me no amount of words can do justice to its beauty. The house is part wooden (traditional) and part concrete (new age).
All the rooms are connected to each other and just as you enter the house, you know, you have come to the house of a person, who loves souvenirs. There are collectibles all over Nitu’s place and they speak of a woman, who loves travelling and shopping!
The concrete part is colder than the wooden part. The cold was biting despite, their house well equipped with numerous electric heaters.
Despite the cold, I was glad that I had chosen the time of Christmas to visit the city. I wore around 4 layers of clothes and still my teeth were cluttering because of the cold. I know by this time you must be thinking, “Uff, enough about the cold already!” But I think that it is important to describe the cold, as it was almost as if I was introduced to winter for the first time. With my teeth cluttering, I was looking forward to sleeping under the quilt as soon as possible and polite.
The sun sets in Shillong very early as compared to
Once Prakash came, we all sat for dinner as my involuntary teeth cluttering continued. Anthony suggested that I accompany him and his neighbours to the church for mid-night mass. Initially I thought he was just kidding, pulling my leg to see if I would take up his challenge of braving the cold. But at 10 o’clock he said, “You are coming right?” A true Delhiite, it is against my moral belief to use my brains and say no to any challenge. So I wore one more sweater, taking the layers of clothes I was wearing to the magical figure of 5, and went to church to attend the mid-night Christmas mass for the first time in my life.
That is me (in 5 layers of clothes) and Nitu's neighbour, who is also Priyanka, standing for a photo-op. :-)
Along with Nitu’s friends and neighbours, Anthony and I left for the church. Everyone told me, the church is walking distance from their house. I fell for the oldest trick in the book and ended up asking every ten minutes of walk on the steep roads on the cold Christmas eve, “Are we there yet?”
More in the next post…