In spite of the day’s tragedy, the drive from Guwahati, in the state of Assam, to Shillong, in Meghalaya, was a wonderful one. This is hill country where smart slant-roofed houses line the highway and where the landscape is clean and green. I love the aroma of the forest. It reminded me of the days I spent in a forest monastery in Togo a decade ago. There was that same freshness. The same vegetative sweetness. (Scent memory amazes me). We passed hilltops shrouded by rain-clouds and palm trees reflected in placid lakes. This was my first experience with ‘natural’ beauty on this trip, and after Mumbai and Calcutta, I didn’t realize how much I missed it.
Meghalaya is predominantly Christian, and as we drove into the region the statues of blue Krishna are replaced with white Christ’s, and the tiny roadside stalls selling rice with pig’s blood, a local specialty, outnumber the vegetarian eateries. The people, too, are different. They look more East Asian than Indian. Once we reached Shillong I was impressed with how clean the city was – again, especially coming from Calcutta. And although this is one of the most economically depressed regions of India, there are no beggars on the streets. I wonder why that is.
The nights are cool. Another relief after Calcutta’s and Mumbai’s swelter.