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Friday, December 12, 2014

Travel: From Shillong With Khublei!



From Shillong Peak

Shillong---a city of the North Eastern India we have grown up with. Because, this beautiful hill station had been the capital of Assam till January, 1972 when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as a separate state. And because the music legend of Assam, Bhupen Hazarika composed beautiful songs on Shillong and Meghalaya during the 50s, 60s and 70s. These songs have been our great favorites from our childhood days. So it hardly mattered that I visited the city only twice—once in my childhood days with memories getting blurred and one very brief visit in the 90s. When Shillong suddenly became my workplace I went there with all familiarity and with an unspoken bond of love.

Ward's Lake
I must mention the three evergreen Assamese numbers by Bhupen Hazarika on Shillong that always haunted me. ‘Shillongore Godhuli’ (Evening in Shillong), ‘Shillongore Monalisa Lyngdoh (‘Hello, Monalisa Lyngdoh from Shillong’ with Jayanta Hazarika) and his Assamese-Khasi movie ‘Pratidhawani’ (1964) duet ‘Lieng Makau’ with none other than Talat Mahmood. Lieng Makau is the imaginary name of a Khasi girl from the hills and the song describes her beauty in conformity with incredible nature giving details of culture and ethos of Meghalaya.

Umiam Lake
Shillong is an enchanting city with nature endowing her full attention and with narrow hilly roads winding through the peaks and plateaus of the city. With concrete buildings constantly on the rise at some lanes two vehicles could hardly cross and there have been traffic jams nowadays for similar reasons. Shilling has a altitude of nearly 5000 feet above sea level. Shillong Peak encompassing the Laitkor Peak has a height of about 6400 feet offering breathtaking views of the city and having sub-zero temperatures during December-January while in 

the city average temperatures range from 25 maximum (rarely up to 28) to 3 minimum throughout the year. Here you will never see ceiling fans or air-conditioners anywhere, but will find only room heaters in all office and residences. Khasi community forms the majority in the city with sizeable sections of Garo, Manipuri, Nepali, Mizo, Bengali and Assamese people apart from other Indians who mostly come on transfers. In Meghalaya 70 percent of the population are Christians which reflects in Shillong too.
Elephant Falls
Thanks to the cool climate you will find markets for woolens, wine outlets and fish-meat (mainly pork) shops almost everywhere in the city. In most of the activities you will find women in the forefront thanks to the matriarchal society of Meghalaya. Meghalaya has 11 districts including 5 in the disturbed Garo Hill region and the population is more than 30 million.

The cosmopolitan nature of the city is reflected in the workforce of most of the offices, organizations and corporations. Shillong Doordarshan, being a Government of India organization, has a workforce covering almost all parts of India including the major chunk from North East and East.
Doordarshan Shillong, Lailtkor Peak
This writer has the privilege of working now with a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-religious team. And there is absolute harmony and bond as if all are bound by soothing Mother Nature. Inside, the inner chords of human hearts speak eloquently to you and outside, the descending clouds often have a dialogue with you. Sunlight is something in considerable scarcity here, but the warmth of human hearts make up for that.

English is the official language here, however of late efforts are underway for the inclusion of Khasi language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. As I communicate in mostly English or in Hindi or in Assamese or in Bengali every member of the team endearingly asks about how I am doing or how I am finding the city. I say to them, ‘Shillong is breathlessly beautiful. It is of course very cold, but you people are very warm.’ Khublei (meaning Namaskar or thanks) to all of you! Khublei Shibun…thanks very much indeed! 


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