Why is it that I absolutely hate writing about a place I so love? It’s a classic love-hate relationship. One that keeps you awake at nights, seduces you to think unabashedly and yet places a lock on your fingers so intricate that it’s well impossible to break.
Often, when I face writer’s block, I take out my trusted notepad and an age-old pencil. The ones with a pink eraser on top? Yes, those. I take short notes of what exactly I am thinking and what ought to be in print. Sometimes, those writings are about not being able to write itself. I often tell myself, “when you do not know what to write, write about that”, if you know what I mean. Shillong beats me to that.
Shillong, and Meghalaya at large, had borrowed my heart without asking and has kept it with her ever since. The dead cold nights, the bon fires on New Year’s eve give me the bitter sweet smiles come every turn of year. Mother’s sewn white lace curtains are something I have never been able to find anywhere else. The soil and moss that sustained such exotic species of orchids need to be bought now. Plums grew in the backyard, ripe peaches dropped on our heads as father and I raked the weed. Sounds of far away lorry struggling to pull along seventy degree rises and distant echo of chopping wood broke the silences of the night and sleepy evenings.
Ice cold sleet hitting the face would hurt like needles while sitting on dad’s scooter, riding to school. Heavy gumboots would pool with water and we’d pretend to be fishing in them. Teachers with rimmed glasses and kind smiles showed us how to be better humans. To have compassion more than marks.
Summer and spring were colourful and balmy. Never did I know how it felt to sweat while doing nothing. Beautiful women would captivate us, walking in flowing skirts and long coats as the seasons changed. Scorpions would sing on their tour, chamber choir would declare it was christmas time. Trick or treat was not a thing of movies and communal lunch saw us breaking freshly baked bread on many Sundays. Hindus would lend christmas tree branches from their yards and the Christians would buy their kids pretty dresses to mingle and laugh with other kids celebrating pujas.
Climbing up relentless hills for a few seconds of locked gazes with the love of your teen age, only to stumble upon her mother and lose your heart all over again.
Walking down Jacob’s Ladder was like walking down serenity itself. Pine needles can be treacherously slippery and pine cones just as much fun, though it hurts the elbows when your friend hurls it at you. It is a place where you make friends for life for when you move out, you cannot find the same men and women.
You stand outside a Catholic girls’ school and women’s college, waiting for your best friend to come out. You hunt through many junk shops for earrings that she wants to buy. You eat at places called Slow Food Junction, you play football to a deafening local crowd. You walk with vagabondish teenage aura and fight for your school’s image with the last ounce of teen spirit.
You eat jadoh from the kind kong across your college gates who forced a second helping just because you look too scrawny for your ears. Knowing well that your pockets are just but empty. Sometimes you wish you took more photos but then who owned cameras at that time and why would we capture the moments?
You meet someone who has walked those lanes with you, with whom you fought and kissed on a bitter cold night in the middle of a football field. She came to cheer you on games and with whom you spotted flickering lights on the hills. You go on to marry that woman.
Shillong is not a place about which can be written. It is not a place you can instagram or create microblogs of. I have read many articles about travel to the land. But you can’t travel to Shillong. You can only live it.
Note: This post has not been proof-read. I cannot make myself to read it yet. Please forgive any mistakes that you might find in it.