shillong.jpgAs the winding road descends right into the lap the Khasi hills, the familiar smell which I have learnt to love all my life comes back, with it come back a million thoughts. An unexplained feeling of curiosity , anticipating changes and wishing that everything is just the way I left it. As I pass through the main streets of the city, the comfort of being back is unparalleled…

Tucked away in the hills of north-east India, Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya and one of the major cities in this region. It is a picturesque hill station, a city which celebrates music, is one of those small cities where everyone knows everyone and it is one place which has the merits of both modern living and living in sync with nature. For me Shillong is home, the city where I have grown up and the city which has made me the person that I am. Having spent sixteen years of my life there, and knowing how much I yearn to go back every holiday is reason enough for me to advocate a visit to Shillong.

Although visiting Shillong for a short while does not afford you the joys of day to day living, one does savour the feel of the city even as a tourist. The best time to go there would be after the rains and before winter sets in, between August and November. The weather is just heavenly and the autumn winds create an aura which is almost enchanting. Mother Nature has endowed Shillong with Her best, the sunshine bouncing off the lakes which seem to sparkle like a thousand diamonds and the high-spirited waterfalls gushing with full force are simply breathtaking. The Umiam lake and the Wards’ lake offer boating facilities. The ‘Elephant falls’ and the ‘Sweet-falls’ cannot be missed, just standing there and listening to the thundering water is an experience in itself. The Shillong peak is a popular tourist spot and is frequented by both locals and tourists. A visit to Shillong peak is incomplete without ‘makai’ (corn-on-the-cob) and some hot ’chai’ , sold by vendors there. The 18-hole golf course is the second largest in Asia, so if anything described above hasn’t excited you enough, this is yet another reason to come to Shillong. The golf-course, set in undulating valleys of lush green grass is not only a treat to look at also promises a challenging game. ‘Mawphlang’ or the Sacred Forest situated a few kilometers from the city is of cultural and religious importance to the local Khasi population and is a treasure trove of flora . The forest has been preserved for over a hundred years and if you are lucky you can spot some of the rarest varieties of orchids here. Visit Cherrapunji and Masyngram on(both have the distinction of receiving the highest rainfall in the world, at different points of time) on day-trips and explore the limestone caves and waterfalls. In Cherrapunji, the local orange honey is a must buy. Other souvenirs worth looking out for are cane and bamboo works and pineapple fiber articles.

Apart form visiting the usual ‘touristy’ places there are some things which everyone who comes to Shillong must do. It is a crime to leave Shillong without sampling the Chinese food available at some of the local eateries in Police bazaar and Laitamukhrah. All the school kids will swear by the ‘aloo-muri’ sold by vendors all over the city, an improvisation on ‘jhal-muri’, this is one chat which I have never eaten anywhere else. Locally grown berries called ‘soh-phi‘ should necessarily be tasted. Girls, this place is a shoppers paradise, visit the Tibetan market at Glory’s Plaza in Police Bazaar and you will find all the fashion accessories and clothes that you ever dreamt of, but don’t forget to bargain! You can also get a haircut at some of the parlors here, its cheap and very very trendy. The nightlife in Shillong is lively and buzzing with great music, visit one of the three local nightclubs and revel the night away with the easy-going and fun-loving younger generation of the city.

A lot of people are not aware of the rock culture of Shillong, this city in fact is one of the most rock-music mad places in the country! Some local bands and music enthusiasts along with Lou Majaw (a.k.a. Shillong’s Dylan) have been celebrating the legendary Bob Dylan’s birthday every year for over three decades. This celebration of music has gained popularity not only in the country but is also well-known all over the world. May 24th every year is a day of jubilation and great festivity. Inspired by the idealistic renditions of Dylan, Majaw has been paying his annual tribute to the legend for 33 years now.

The smaller picture is my perception of my city… home, nostalgia, familiarity, adulation and maybe even partiality. The bigger picture is Shillong itself and all that it offers. No visit to the North-east can be complete without an experiencing the wonder that is Shillong..

Still wondering where to take your next holiday? Hopefully not, because “the answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind…” !

Vatsala Tibrewal