After asking, “Are we there yet?” 20 more times in the next 20 minutes, we finally reached the church. The first thing that hit me was everyone was dressed in their finery and I looked like a big trunk of woollens. That thought remained with me for less than 20 seconds as the choir began singing carols and hymns. It was a beautiful service and I was transported to my school days as I sung all the hymns. The best part was that the service was held in Khasi (the local language of Shillong) as well as in English. While I knew almost all the hymns in English, Khasi was a whole new experience for me as this was the first time I had heard the language. I am proud to say that by the end of the hour and half of the Christmas mid-night mass I sang a hymn in Khasi as well.
Once the service was over, we wished each other and began walking once again. Thankfully for others, I forgot complaining about the walking and began enjoying the festive spirit. We walked to see naivety scenes across the city. Strangers-driving, walking or just standing having a hot cup of coffee, wished each other. It was an open road party. We had coffee at a shop near Nitu’s home at 1 o’clock and then proceeded to have tea and cake at her neighbour’s house. The best thing about everyone I met in Shillong was that although I was meeting them for the first time, they instantly made me feel at home.
At almost 2 at night, Anthony and I bid farewell to our hosts and left for home. By this time, I was fresh as a daisy. Sleep seemed like an alien concept. However, by the time we reached home, everyone was asleep. We tip-toed into the house and I felt like a princesses when I saw that my bed had already been made. There were 2 HUGE quilts and a hot waterbag was placed under the two layers to ensure I would not feel cold. I was told the next day that my excessive shivering earlier in the evening had scared Prakash (Nitu’s husband) who had insisted on spreading the 12 Kg quilt for me.
After a wonderful sleep I woke up on Christmas day sure that the cold was enough to guarantee snow. Although my hope for a white Christmas were not fulfilled, the view from Nitu’s balcony over a cup of hot tea, boiled eggs, bread toasts and cakes (yes I had cake for breakfast!) was breathtaking. Over tea she made me jealous by telling me that she need not leave the comforts of her home to enjoy the performances of international stars, who regularly perform in Shillong. The stadium, where the performances are held is a stone’s throw away from Nitu’s place and that day we could hear carols while sipping our tea. After a lazy morning which languorously turned into afternoon, I had more tea, a lot of conversation and read my book in the sun. It was awesome.
The day progressed to be even a better one, as Nitu, Neelav (Nitu’s son) and I were dropped at her friend, Lana’s house by Prakash, who joined us later. The house was beautiful and was a culmination of all my British home fantasies. It was wooden, had a huge Christmas tree, a fireplace with a mantle and loads of family photos everywhere. Lana served 5 types of cakes and all I could think of then was… "Oh my friends are going to be jealous when they read about this in the blog." It was a wonderful evening as I met a lot of people at Lana’s house. All of them wanted to know what I did, how I knew Nitu and when they found out that we were blogger friends, they all had a priceless expression on their faces.
When we returned home, I was advised to sit around the fire, being lit in Nitu’s mom’s room. I can guarantee that was the warmest place I have ever been too. Not just because of the fire, but because Aunty is such a loving and caring lady. The six of us – Aunty, Prakash, Nitu, Anthony, Neelav and I sat around the fire warming our hands and watching TV. It was pure bliss.
On the third day Nitu and Neelav took me around the city. We went to the
Exhausted with the day's labour, we returned home. At home, I went to may favourite place, near the fire, had a long chat with Prakash and Anthony about politics, while having dinner and watching TV. I was a perfect guest, shamelessly enjoying the hospitality without once picking even a finger.
I was told that the next day, Prakash would drive Nitu and me to Cherrapunji. I was super excited to actually visit a place about which I had been reading since 3rd standard. Charrapunji is the wettest place on Earth. Well it was for several years.
The drive to Cherrpunji was beautiful. There was greenery all around. We stopped at several places to click photographs. Prakash had Nitu and me in splits with his jokes and remarks. There were a number of waterfalls we saw and we clicked photographs at the best ones. I don't want to say too much about this day. So I am posting loads of photos for you to see and imagine the fun we had. Just a request, simply multiply your imagination by 100 and then you might come close to the fun we had that day.
More in the next and the final post. :-)