Thursday, March 22, 2012
Thursday, August 25, 2011
It was an ordinary morning. I stepped into an almost vacant bus that would take me to work. In spite of all the empty seats, I saw a man dressed as a woman sitting next to the opposite gate. He seemed oblivious to the some-curious, some-demeaning stares and awkward glances his co-passengers shot at him.
Happy in his own world, he felt freedom in having the wind playfully smacking him in the face. The pallu of his gaudily sequined purple saree kept going out of control from behind him, and he let it fly about. Clearly control is not something he liked. He hummed to himself random songs of his heart as he continued to look outside, absolutely nonchalant about all eyes on him. He was happy in his own cocooned world.
Two hawker-women got on the bus. One of them held out her hand as a friend would to another, and helped her settle down. The second sat cross-legged on the floor, next to the cross-dresser. She elicited his gentle attention and a smile when she untied the the huge bundle around her shoulders to reveal a gurgling cherubic infant. The baby squinted against the sudden light and let out a small chuckle of delight. The mother and her friend laughed and the child was smothered with adoring kisses. The man extended his hand to touch the child's cheek. It was a touch that reminds one of a caregiver - soft, loving, tender, giving and passionate. The child reciprocated with a smile of recognition of that love.
Another stoppage, another girl boarded and allowed herself a space next to where all of us were. Impeccably attired in a carefully-careless sense of fashion, she finished texting on her swanky iPhone and crouched to play with the child in his mother's lap. She exchanged a few dialogues with the infant in baby language, a smile with the man and picked up a bangle from the lady's wares-box. She asked her how much they cost, picked up a few more and paid for them.
Yet another stop for the bus. The girl gave a last beatific smile to the baby and got off. More women embark. Two friends, in particular, looked in the direction of the small group and turned their faces away as if they had seen something unappealing. The man continued to be unaffected and hummed to the wind blowing away the sparse hair on his head. The women began piling their ware-boxes again and the mother strapped the baby to herself, preparing to get off at the next stop.
They did. The man waved them goodbye and kept looking outside the bus, into the sights blurred by speed and bright sunshine. He continued to sing to himself. I continued to admire his indifference.
The sneering ladies got off at the next stop. Now it was only me and the man. Another two stops before the bus reached the terminus. He looked up at me and in a gentle soft voice asked if it would be okay for him to sit on the seat; if I would mind. Mildly stunned for a few seconds, I welcomed him to take a seat. He smiled graciously, took a seat opposite me and went back to staring outside the bus through the window.
Feigned indifference? A want to avoid inconvenience or unnecessary and unwanted attention? Cautiousness to ward off hurtful mud slinging and name-calling? Thoughts rattled in my head as I tried to think of something to say, to ask, to start a conversation. He appeared so consumed in his world, that I did not want to intrude. I got up to leave. The man turned to look at me, curved his lips to give me a smile of friendly gratitude. I returned it with one that said, "you're welcome," and got off the bus.
I wove my way in and out of clusters of people, all the while wondering about the man, the woman inside him he wants to bring out, and the judgmental world he is carefully resisting.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Nestled barely four km from the Bangladesh border and 90 km away from Shillong - Mawlynnong - is the nearest I could get to paradise.
Though there were many interesting places in and around Shillong, my choice of visiting the small, picturesque village of Mawlynnong was not random. For, the village has earned the reputation of being the ‘cleanest village in Asia’. It was accorded the status in 2003 by the Discover India magazine.
After reaching Shillong, I and three of my friends set out for Mawlynnong on a Sunday morning in a taxi. The journey, I must say, was as beautiful as the destination. The road was relatively empty that day so we stopped on a ridge overlooking the Sohra plateau. We then climbed onto top of this small hillock and got an eagle's eye view of the terrain below us. It was at this instance that I wished I could get on a glider to enjoy the view.
After around three scenic hours of driving through meandering narrow roads, we arrived at Mawlynnong. ‘God’s Own Garden’ – the sign at the entrance of the village read. Inhabited by people belonging to the Khasi tribe, we were awestruck by Mawlynnong’s cleanliness and aesthetic beauty. The village was dotted with small houses each sporting a colourful neat garden. Clean concrete walkways and beautiful flowerbeds all along marked the village that is home to 87 Khasi households. Interestingly, there were no fences between the houses and huts. The village was spotless with no debris on the ground and no littering of any sort. The paths were also dotted with dustbins made of bamboo. Plastic bags are completely banned and waste disposal is environmentally friendly. Rubbish is thrown into a pit dug in a forest near the village where it is left to turn into compost.
There is a small tea stall at the entrance of the village. We stopped here for a cuppa and our guide Henry was there to receive us. He then took us to the Mawlynnong guest house, rather a tree house, which Carol Nongrum, a member of the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum, had booked for us in Shillong.
The house, entirely made of bamboo, had two cosy rooms on both side and a central area. Outside was a machan which looked onto the jungle and a small waterfall. The machan was suspended at least 80 to 100 feet in the air, supported and constructed by bamboo on stilts. Connecting the verandah to the first machan, was a narrow bamboo bridge. Staying in a tree house like this one was indeed a childhood dream come true. The rooms had comfortable double beds also made of bamboo, clean linen and blankets, mosquito-nets and squeaky clean bathrooms.
We quickly placed our luggage in the house and set out to explore the nature’s marvels that Mawlynnong had in store for us. Henry took us to Riwai village which was 10 minutes drive away from Mawlynnong. Riwai housed one of the most interesting and unique creations of nature, a living root bridge formed by roots of Indian rubber trees. It was a 20 minute trek to the root bridge from the village. About 150 years old, the roots of two trees have been entwined by villagers to grow into a natural bridge. A gurgling stream flanked by dense forest flows below the root bridge giving the finishing touch to the picture.
We next proceeded towards an unnamed waterfall amid thick forests on the outskirts of Riwai. The roar of falling water, butterflies fluttering around and the mist – the sight was simply astounding at the bottom of the falls. We were sweating after the difficult trek to the falls and dipped our heads into the water to get some respite. The trek uphill was the perhaps the most tiring thing I had done in the recent past.
Henry took us to another spot nearby which defied the forces of nature. A huge flat rock lay balanced on a much smaller rock and has been so for how many years, none knew. It is believed to have been an old Khasi sacrificial altar.
After the tiring trip, we went back to our guest house to freshen up and have a late lunch. The caretakers, whose hut was on the guest house premises, served us local chicken, fish curry, rice and fresh vegetables that were seasoned with Khasi herbs.
Our evening at Mawlynnong was spent in lazy walks around the village and a visit to another attraction – the Sky View Point or the Hanging Bridge. The bridge was made out of bamboos spanning across two trees. Climbed in twos, we could clearly see the flooded plains of Bangladesh as far as the eyes could go.
Henry told us that Mawlynnong's reputation for cleanliness has even earned it a place on the State's tourism map. “Our village is a 100 years old, and we have learnt to maintain cleanliness for generations,” he said. There is a fine imposed by the village council for anybody found to be throwing litter around or cutting trees. Besides, children are taught to collect litter at an early age and regular inspections are carried out by village council on sanitation facilities in each house. True to his words, cleanliness seemed like a way of life for villagers here.
Since it was a long day for all of us, we returned back to our house early and decided to relax at the machan under a star-studded sky till it was time to retire for the day.
The next morning greeted us with a sunny smile. The village looked like a colourful canvas decorated with flowers of various hues. We finally said bye to Mawlynnong with this mesmerising sight in our eyes.
Getting there: Mawlynnong is situated 90 km south to Shillong, Meghalaya. Taxis are available to the village from Shillong round-the-clock at the price range between Rs 1800 and Rs 2000. It preferable to hire the taxi for overnight stay and visits to the tourists spots nearby the village.
Where to stay: Mawlynnong guesthouse has two huts — the larger accommodates four persons and costs Rs 2,400 while the smaller sleeps two and costs Rs 1,000 each. To book, call Deepak Laloo or Carol Nongrum (0364-2502420, 09863115302). The caretakers prepare tasty meals that include some interesting local cuisine using meats, jackfruit and Khasi herbs. One has to pay an additional Rs 250 for the tourist guide and Rs 100 towards community welfare and upkeep besides the food and accommodation charges.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Hope everyone is doing well. Just wanted to say that I have created a new photo blog (hopefully this will be updated regularly). Please visit Ephemeral Visions at http://www.dailydoseofpixels.blogspot.com/
Suggestions, Criticisms, Opinions, all are invited.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
cover the moment, I try to stay calm,
but its not in me, I screamed.
I screamed like crazy,
hoping that the sound would reach somewhere
It stayed in me, in my every bit, this confusion
and its aftermath, like the recoil of a bullet,
it hit me hard.
Never knew that I would ever dream the dream,
Never knew that I could also endure the pain afterward.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
There is nothing like sitting on my terrace, after a fuzzy day at office. The soothing breeze, and the calm blue of the sky, and maybe some music or a novel to accompany me. Its just perfect to slow down the pace of this madness called life. But there are times when the sky sports a different hue. The twilight of the evening turns a fiery red. A red that creates an instant urge to immortalise the moment. This strong glow of the evening, quite surprisingly, has a calming effect on me. It tells me that all this anger and regret, is just a short-lived feeling. Just a while later, it will give way to the same mistakes all over again.