Prep at Mawkdok, Caves and Waterfalls

FYI, this post is successive to my previous post Entering Meghalaya ()

Our forenoon agenda was sparse, we just hit the Ward’s Lake at Shillong. A calm water body and the active settlements around is just the identity of survival. Apart from being a tourist attraction, this lake serves as the shortest path to Police Bazaar — our next destination — on the other side. This leaves me puzzled on our intentions to visit this lake till date. Whenever I see waves on a freshwater body, I just see it as her being happy. Waves are just an artifact of wind and movement of freshwater organisms scientifically. Humans who tend to smile a lot develop many a wrinkles called laugh lines, as a result. Waves could just be synonymous to laugh lines, to me, liveliness of an ecosystem is it’s happiness quotient. Lost in thoughts we just walk around the path that leads to the other side of the lake. Few ducks quack to shatter our attention, one of them jumped into the water and the rest followed seamlessly, adding more to the wrinkles of happiness. A trot, a twerk and a dip in the water, the same goes in loop until these ducks were content.

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Wrinkles of Happiness

A stairway leads out to the street adjacent to Police Bazaar. Few cherries, lacking niceties with their ripeness stained our taste buds. Police Bazaar was a toned down version of Ranganathan street, but the thumb rule still applies, headcount is half that of footfalls. The experience was vivid, some with umbrellas, some with sweaters but everyone trotting that street had a need. We were looking for some snacks, Jhalmuri and Pani Poori. Sometimes, humans tend to be unreasonable, people who travel on luxurious trips tend to bargain at shops that make meager livelihood, as a result prices of souvenirs are hiked up ridiculously, may be that’s how the law of economics operates. On our way to the dormitory in Cherrapunji, at the flash of a board “Zip-lining” our cab was halted to ingrain some adrenaline dosage.

Zip-lining is not just shuttling between two points on a displacement metal wire, its something more, a strand between life and death, a feed to your adrenaline rush. Our zip-line was suspended between the two mountains. The valley is covered with a bed of lush trees, their branches extended to save us, just in case. You get hooked to the metal wire on a movable hinge to shuttle between the mountains, no kidding, you are all by yourself. Instructors get your signatures, declaring that any mishap would be considered as an act of “GOD” ( It’s customary to blame the nonexistent ). On reaching the other zip-lining terminal, you take an ascent to gain some potential energy that will serve to travel back to your start point. You are a suspended mass that travels with the aid of gravity, that’s important. On my return, I had been too conscious of braking that I neglected the distance to be covered ahead, as a result I halted the zipper few meters short of the end point. Loud giggles coming my way, I was afloat and nudging my way slowly and steadily 😀 Everyone had enjoyed the adventure, the gratification from zip-lining, like another sport, served as a catalyst to future adventurous explorations, in our case the “Nongriat”.

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Mawkdok zip lining valley

After lunch, the exhausted cells were replenished with carbs and vitals; many of us were restless. We started to ascent the facade of a hill at our disposal. It was an easy trail, served as a warm up and reality check to the first time trekkers. The principles are very simple, watch your foot during the ascent, watch your foot during the descent, that’s it. Mountains are so real, they are like our day to day hurdles, a reminder that anything can be conquered with determination and effort. The base and the peak are just different point of views, similarly different problems need different perspectives to approach. The food was pathetic, but it doesn’t matter when your needs are so primitive, the only purpose is to fulfill. At dusk, we descended the hill after a rush of selfies and flashes.

In mother nature’s vocabulary, Cherrapunji must be synonymous to rainfall, it rains cats and dogs incessantly. Our dormitory was cozy, well bedded linens and quilts to keep us alive. The wind is substantial, you get smacked for standing right besides a door without an active stopper. Life here is tangential and feels surreal, since I am acclimatized to the urban concrete jungles. Having found a good restaurant, we were all stomach full and mouths grinning wide. We are all set to explore the caves and relish our eyes with sights of waterfalls.

We started our day at Mawsmai caves after a good breakfast. Caves are not my cup of tea, to be particular caves have some restraints on exploration. I tend to enjoy the degrees of freedom that the open spaces like mountains and oceans adhere to, again I am not claustrophobic. My prejudices were broken, caves have addictive tangents too. Cave exploration is demanding, the narrow passages and crouching ducts. We were just tailing the ray of light that was the only hope of exiting this cave. Caves require flexibility alongside fitness and shear determination. Our exit meant a visit to seven sister waterfalls. To our surprise, the waterfalls were not flashy, instead too shy !! They were hiding behind mother nature’s mighty curtains of mist and fog. You know what? the oglers consisted of a powerful member, the wind. He would sway those curtains, momentarily, the seven sisters were at our disposal. A splendid visual, that’s the token for your patience. A trail led us to a creek nearby. Folks went crazy like kids on seeing the candies. Everyone’s legs were watermarked knee deep. Hops and slips on those rocks are so memorable that my muscles yearn to go back in time.

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Elephant Falls (Shillong)

Next, we were headed to Nohkalikai Falls, supposedly it is named in the reminiscence of a mother who mortified herself in grave anger at step-dad’s injustice to her daughter. May be she just hoped that the mother nature would have her daughter at guard. I hope they amended peace, atlast. Unfortunately, these curtains were ironclad and we never got to witness Nohkalikai’s spectacle.

Arwah caves is a duplex trail and consists of mild streams of water throughout. The flickering lights in the darkness added to the effects of adventure. These ravines would have been explored by someone for the first time, without the cognizance or certainty of what the cave would offer eventually, that’s fascinating. On our return, we explored a narrow trail which led to a wider capsule after strenuous crawling and crouching. Bats were suspended at every corner, I don’t mind breaching their privacy after knowing what these caves had to offer us.

Tremendous effort has been involved to make these inaccessible places a tourist friendly trek zones, my applause to the tourism society of India.

To be continued in my next articles …

Entering Meghalaya ()

Sometimes you need to travel far ; the farther you travel, the richer is the experience. You will eventually understand this, that’s how we learn. And learning is why we travel.

Things could get screwed up ; either you handle that or file for bankruptcy just like Jet Airways. Luckily our trip was splendid, just a few hiccups sporadically. A gang of 13 — folks with an assortment of attitude and tenacity towards life — pooled in together on a trip to Meghalaya from Chennai , Bangalore , Jasarguda, Pune; the only tenuous link was Venky, my best friend. Reaching Guwahati was tiring, despite the efficacious boeing. Traditional runways are so gloomy, flights taxing on black tar or bright white-topped concrete layouts defined by yellow markers. Landing in Guwahati was different, it was like thudding a black pitch on an international cricketing field. You step out to walk on the green carpet, with a welcoming thunderous chirping call of the birds on those lush trees; my senses were heightened. Afar, a yellow t-shirt with wordings “whistle podu” was approaching us like the Rajdhani, so much josh and adoration. Hugs all over and then it was all about food. Wheels were set to roll to a place called “Delicacy”, few blocks around the airport. State highways are patrolled by the trucks and fuel tankers, amidst them we were just the bygone souls, straddling to cross the roads safely.

Shillong — our next destination — is just hours away and “Raju Bhai” is our chauffeur. Dark tar, sparsely lit roads and mountains: sexy curves, of those roads; dew and fog just the intensified it’s beauty. At the turns, wheels were just sliding over, defying the friction. We stopped at a tea shop, and a localites’ jaw popped “You guys coming from South India ? Good Good. We got friends down south”. We exchanged stares, until we realized its just anatomical differences and nothing more. A recollection, booze supposedly helps in cold weather, but not advisable while driving. PineAir — our night’s stay dorm — was a wooden heaven with an Italian haunted soul. Crazy as we are, GOT S08E03 was aired: credits to “Danny fanatics”. To know someone , you talk to them. To know a Place, you just walk around her. Striding down those pacified roads was so much of a reflection on the way of life around. Their ancestors are their beliefs and they are rested just besides household, what a sweet way to define heaven at your door step! Over the centuries, christian missionaries have shaped the rural parts of this neighborhood – affluent community halls and churches were plentiful. Cascaded homes down the slope and the ghostly trees fighting the capillary rush are a bliss to walk through. Dense trees that look wonderful by daybreak change their demeanor at dusk — their silhouettes during sunset are appalling — due to the uncertainty and wilderness they present, hence majestically fearsome. Enough of walking, now its time for some bread omelets and bland milk…

To be continued in my next articles …

Albums on the go : 96 – Tamil

Books on the go : The Green Unknown: Travels in the Khasi Hills

green_unknown

Her Highness ()

My heart skips a beat, your Highness.

Too small, I felt watching a cuckoo perch those braids,

Let me gaze afar.


My heart skips a beat, your Highness.

Too afraid, those ramparts ain’t enough,

Let me takeover the night’s watch.


My heart skips a beat, your Highness.

Too loud, the rumbling sounds of thunder tonight,

Rain Lord, has stormed this place.


My heart skips a beat, your Highness.

Too great, to see you remain, despite the suitor.

For centuries to come, we owe You.

– Palakkad Fort, 1766 ACE

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Her Highness.
P.S. Photos of Palakkad trip.

The Jewellery Night()

On the eve of my sister’s wedding, I was tidying up the rooms at my home. Venky, Sri and Vejay were the witnesses of this epic night. I got a call from my sister around 1 AM that night, apparently she had called to check on the fancy jewellery to be worn for the wedding ceremony. I had totally forgotten about that item in my checklist, it’s still marked Todo. Muhurtham was early in the morning. I sifted through the business cards in my wallet, Prince Fashions was all colourful. In split second, I dialled out that number and I could hear a caller waiting tone. I had some hope by now. Late at this night, a call waiting for >10mins literally means a cool guy on the other end of the line. Finally, my call was answered, a lady on the line 😀 I asked ,”Is this Prince Fashions?” She said “Yes, want do you want at this hour of the day ?” in a sweet voice. I explained the situation and she handed the phone to her husband, the store owner. Initially, he refused to open the shop at this late hour. After a lot of pleading and explanation about the crucial situation, he agreed. We met him at his shop around 230 AM. He was accompanied by his son. I walked along with them into the rear entrance of the shopping complex, we wobbled some long keys into the holes the locks clicked open. Two of us – the youngsters – pulled up the shutter, darkness everywhere. A light was much appreciated, the old man’s torch was the best source untill the incandescent bulb lit up. He asked for the receipt, then handed over the corresponding jewellery from one of the tall racks. Finally I started to hear something other than my own heartbeat, Innerpeace. I thanked them heartful and walked out sporting a smile; a guilty grin was what I held. “Situation back to normal, copy that Sister ?” , calls then spanned to others to ensure they all go back to sleep ! You see, people go crazy about these mishaps in the last minute 😉 I spent the next few hours snoozing my alarms, ultimately I was forced out of my bed to participate in the rituals.

#Nostalgia #WeddingNight #jewellery

The Road ()…

A fine day it was, nevertheless I did not know the following narrative prior. As usual, the reminder pops – Cab, Go home! – @17: 00. Shutdown the demon, packed my bag and left the cubicle. I was alone, waiting at the bus-stop behind the fenced shabby grass. My cab was delayed, past beyond the routine, in-fact no sign of any cab that runs for my company. Yes, your intuition is right, its the aftermath of rain. Not a heavy rain by Chennai’s standard, recently Hyderabad has raised the bar. This place is now overcrowded, the ones who never stayed back for fire/safety drills were now lunging forward eagerly to spot their cab, while I for VT 061. A lady, who genuinely looked like a HR manager was waiting a few meters away from where I was seated. A car at high velocity ran over the dirty puddle orthogonal to her, I could hear some genuinely swear words from that lady. I pulled my legs closer to me, hoping to miss the splashes in my way. After an hour, the cab arrived; we boarded.

Yet another hour, we were still inside the tech park. Our cab took a left turn around the corner of our building , a detour. The Road that lead to the rear gate was blocked, and our detour was a total failure. This unplanned detour, lead to another detour and yet another viciously. Finally, we were outside the tech park via one of the rear gates. The Roads, supposedly belonging to the residential society had HMV barricades installed lavishly, adding to our detour. All this while, I was buried in this book “The Road” which boasts full of misery that the protagonist faces during his road journey. I appreciate every author’s vivid narration that helps teleport us to the fictional plot, but this time it was surreal – everyone around me was teleport-ed along with me, how is that even possible? I closed my kindle, reality was no less than the author’s narration. Our cab was literally circling around the residential lanes to find a way out. Wayfarers would point to a direction, google maps would be misleading because there would be no tracks in that direction. To give myself some peace of mind amidst this chaotic ramble, I switched on the shut-demon, Quantico S02E22 it was. Babe Priyanka was single-handedly saving the US of the A from the badass Mr.President. I could relate Priyanka’s instinct & skills to my Driver’s instinct & puddle drifting expertise, those helped us reach the Thanissandra main road safely. After all madness for 02:30 hours, we were at the Nagawara junction which was just 500m from the tech park’s main gate. ORR ring road was beefed-up with smoking vehicles glittering brown puddles on the tar. After sometime, the roads cleared and our driver was peace-out; rashly taking turns; enjoying his ride. I reached my home in half-hour from that junction, credits to the road, the rain and the traffic !

The Lemon Tree()…

It’s been a few years since I moved out of Chennai, still nothing to mark my presence here. A mistake that I regret, thinking about the lost time. Yes, I should have spent some time planting and watering some saplings. 4 years in Bangalore now, I would have had some fruits and a legacy to leave behind. So, I went to the nearby Lumiere store – handpicked the plump, juicy and rounded yellow balls; lemon. A glittering knife slit them apart, I was cautious as to not to damage the seeds. Found a terracotta v-shaped pot, I had some manure stocked under the stairways. With some gardening tools and the available manure , I potted the seeds I had ripped out of the juicy yellow balls. Shades of brown, black spots and layers of sand formed the burial bed. Not knowing what to expect, I just took a stick and pushed the seeds deep down the layered soil in the v-pot. 7 seeds at a time, to increase the chances of germination.
After a month, the soldiers veered out of the soil, piercing out – peekaboo. Sun served as their guardian. They grew lush green, tilling high hopes of lemon fruit in the near future. As we know, a tale of happiness often faces some harsh realities. One night, when their guardian was away, the shady night-crawling mice – with claws of death – visited them with flowers, unaware about the ploy, the lush kids welcomed the shady villain to their own funeral. Morning, I was shattered at the sight of splattered greenery all over the balcony. The day was bruised, I could not take those wavering tiny green leaves off my thoughts. Vengeance – before I could think, I was at the nearby hardware store paying for the glue board (mice trap) to take down that swine. Not to be said, I got some steel mesh to fence the v-pot for about 3 feet and some lemons. All over again, I had the next set of seeds potted in a fenced pot. Maintenance was never a big task, watering was an effortless task. Some days, rain would cheer them up with chilling drizzles. Now, after six months I see them all grown up, wavering in the breeze. Their defenses were up, strong, sharp thorns all over the stem and branches.
I felt they are good to be let alone, not really alone: their guardian, their rain-mother have the eyes on these lush kids. I planted them in the soil near the stairway and the rest is nature. They are growing vehemently (look at the roots in closeup) and I can happily look back, these lush kids will be there to remember me. The next time, day one: I will plant a seed in the new city I move!