The fragrance of incense was everywhere I went. There was a pleasant energy in the air. The people, the places, the sounds, the sights, everything seemed to be warmly welcoming me. I felt like I had found a long lost home. A smile enveloped my face and my jawline expanded into a new geography as a consequence of it. It was only June, but the wind gave me the feeling of time travelling to the month of February, my most favourite month in the whole year. My lifeblood could sense the heights I was at. My heart jumped with joy and heartbeats danced to the tune of it’s music. That’s what Shillong did to me at first sight.
Aunty picked me up from the taxi stand and we started walking towards home. It was a pleasant 5 minutes walk uptill home. I settled my luggage down and was welcomed by Naani with an eloquent smile. I had the time of my life at Pritamjit’s place. This was my first ever elaborated interaction with a Bong family. The home-stay was pure bliss and this was one of the very rare times that I had felt being at home. Home is where you can look like an ugly duckling, even smell like a raw fish sometimes and be not judged for it. This was home! I had the best home-made Bong food ever. By the time I was leaving, I had become so habitual and fond of Bengali food, that it started feeling like ‘Maa ke haath kaa khaana‘ to me. It was the football season going on and the whole family being fond of football would sit glued to the TV during dinner time. I watched football matches, Bengali soap-operas and Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma with the family. I learnt that sometimes doing what you’re not interested in doing ‘can be’ a pleasant experience. Naani was very fond of me. She loved my long hair. She even made a beautiful plait out of my hair one day and called me ‘Shoondor‘ – the best compliment I’ve ever received in another language. Living with a Bong family and interacting with the locals influenced my hindi to a large extent and converted my Delhite accent into a mix of Bong-Khasi kind of a hindi accent. Khasi is the local language spoken in Shillong.
Most of the time, it rained. Some days, I would just sit around, watch it rain, read, have chai and sleep like a lazy bum, not caring about going out at all. And on some others, I’d go strolling in the streets, people watching, window shopping, nature-gauging, sit on random pavements & watch the world in movement. And then there’d also be days when I would just get out in the rain with my umbrella and sit at the gate of Buddhist temple with a Bhutta to eat and witness the clouds make out with the mountains. I wandered around relentlessly trying to find myself, quenching my wander-thirst. I roamed around on random streets just for the fun of it and to enjoy the simple pleasure of lonely strolls. How magnificent it feels to be amongst people you know nothing about, at places you’ve never been to before. It’s ironical how people we already know make us feel more conscious about our self-image and tend to judge us inevitably. Whereas, at a place like this, where I was a total stranger, there were no judgmental thoughts about each other. The happiness of being oneself can best be found or lost at a place like this. Oh what fun it was to be on my own. Freedom tastes so good!