A Heart Tied to Meghalaya

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Meghalaya. Megha (cloud)-ā-laya (abode) is where I realised clouds are not fluffy or like candy floss; rather, they are the gust of cold wind – sending chills down your spine and making you oblivious (even just for a while) of the mundane activities that you left down below. Among the bountiful greenery, countless waterfalls and rolling hills of Meghalaya, I left a piece of my heart.  

Anika Chowdhury

Travelling is a luxury for me, especially when travelling outside of the country. Yet, the stories I have heard, the accounts I have read, and the stunning images I have seen of Meghalaya, allured me and as soon as I had enough money saved, without giving a second thought, I boarded the bus straight to Sylhet and found myself negotiating with the customs officials at the Tamabil border.

If you ask Google ChatGPT about Meghalaya, you may see an answer quite similar to this: Meghalaya is a state in northeastern India. It is known for its beautiful landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and abundant rainfall, and is often called the “Scotland of the East.” 

However, Meghalaya was a different experience for me – so distinctive that I may not find it in any other place. Every corner of every street had a story, on almost every turn there was a crystal-clear waterfall and before my eyes was a never-ending arena of green that appeared to be happily married to the mighty Khasi Hills. 

For an urban dweller like me, who seems to spend most of her days in windowless cubicles, writing stories on the blue screen of computers, it was certainly a change of scenery. 

It was such a visit that changed my perspective.

After crossing immigration, I went straight to Dawki Bazar to exchange money. Alas! To my discontent, I was faced with the first hurdle of my journey – renting a car. Public transportation in Meghalaya is sparse, and if you want to truly explore the nooks and crannies of this enchanting state, a personal vehicle is indispensable. 

My adventure in Meghalaya began with a visit to Umkrem Falls, located near Dawki Bazar. The journey to the falls was a scenic drive, winding through lush greenery. As I visited Meghalaya in September, I could see her waterfalls and rivers in their full glory. The cascading water of Umkrem against the backdrop of vibrant green was truly a marvellous sight and the cold and slippery rocks under my feet felt surreal. 

That said, do not be surprised if you see packets of chips or cigarettes floating in the water or stuck between the rocks as people seem to abandon their good sense while admiring the glory of nature. Nevertheless, I respect the people of Meghalaya for how brilliantly they have taken care of the environment and how well they honed the blessings of nature. 

People there not only drink from the waterfalls and rivers but keep them unspoiled just as they would have kept their humble dwellings neat. And that brings me to Mawlynnong Village, dubbed Asia’s cleanest village and believe me, this title is no exaggeration!

Walking through the village, I was awestruck by the well-maintained gardens and the tropical foliage that adorned every corner. The villagers’ pride in their environment was evident, and it was a humbling experience to witness their dedication to preserving nature – the smiling face of villagers only added to the beauty of the place. 

The Living Root Bridge in Riwai Village was my next stop. This unique structure, made from the roots of rubber trees, is a brilliant example of indigenous engineering. Crafted by the Khasi tribes, these bridges are made by guiding the aerial roots of rubber fig trees across rivers and streams. Over time, these roots strengthen and thicken, forming sturdy, living bridges that can last for centuries.

This centuries-old bridge, seamlessly integrated into the natural landscape, left me amazed at the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the local Khasi tribes.   

Though standing for too long on the bridge was not allowed, I took my time inhaling every of bit serenity I could while sitting on the water that flowed beneath the bridge. If I could, I would have stayed there for an eternity (this is certainly not an exaggeration). 

The water was neither warm nor cold, and to me, felt cleaner than filtered water. The harmony between humans and nature I saw there made me think: How beautiful this world could be if we had left nature just as it is.

I felt peace in every breath I took there. I felt free and connected to something beyond this material world. 

And then, off I went to Cherrapunjee, also known as Sohra. The ride there was breath-taking (quite literally). Perched at an elevation of 1,966 metres, our car drove the hill roads of Khasi Hills. As our car ascended the high-altitude road, the scenery transformed from bustling cityscapes to tranquil hills cloaked in a verdant embrace. The air grows crisper, filling our lungs with the freshness of unpolluted skies. I could feel an uncomfortable pressure on both of my eardrums and even my jacket wasn’t enough to protect me from the chill I was feeling.

But every sensation I felt there was worth it!

As soon as I saw the signboard of Sohra, I had to hold my breath to take in the surroundings. Sohra or Cherrapunjee is a high-altitude town; so, everywhere you look, the rugged beauty of the Khasi hills and miles of greenery come before your eyes.

I would say you will not experience the heart of Meghalaya until you reach Cherrapunjee.

The Seven Sisters Waterfalls and Nohkalikai Falls were the highlights of my journey. The Seven Sisters Waterfalls, with their seven segmented cascades, presented a spectacular view. The mist and the rainbow created by the sunlight piercing through the water added a magical touch to the scene. Nohkalikai Falls, India’s tallest plunge waterfall, was equally impressive. The view of the water plunging into a pool of mineral-rich blue-green water was a sight to behold. 

Standing there, overlooking the falls, I felt a sense of awe at the sheer power and beauty of nature. There are many splendid caves and waterfalls in Cherrapunjee. So, if time allows you, do visit them.

No tale of Meghalaya is complete without wandering through the bustling streets of Shillong. However, due to a shortage of time, I had to conclude the journey without visiting the state’s vibrant capital – but I know my heart is still tied to Meghalaya! 

I look forward to the day when I will again find myself roaming through Meghalaya’s ethereal landscape of roaring waterfalls and living root bridges.

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