To Guwahati

I could now breath. I looked around and scanned all the people around me. There were people from variant walks of life; Bihari families, two middle aged men from Assam, a beautiful old Marwari couple going to visit their hometown in rural Bengal, an army man going to be posted at a new place across Brahmaputra again after 9 years and a lot of North-eastern young friendly faces and the most interesting one – this intriguing Bengali woman (who seemed to be an eunuch in first look). She caught my attention mainly because of that beautiful red bright sindoor tika on her forehead, stunning kaajal clad eyes and thick dark long hair tied into a braid which instantly gave me an impression of her being a Bengali woman, which I later discovered she was. I was almost bewitched by her charm. There was something about her aura that was quite intriguing and enticing. The train was moving now. I was a little low-spirited because there was no empty seat on the lower berth and no window on my upper berth. That made me feel a little caged, as I had day-dreamt about constant doses of visual delight throughout my train-journey to Guwahati. I decided to take my diary out and write something. I had brought this dairy with me, so that I could write whenever and whatever I felt all through my trip. I took a look around and caught a few pairs of eyes trying to have a peak into what I was doing. I discarded the idea of writing and simply sat there – people watching. There was this group of cute North-eastern college students, who were perhaps going to visit their homes. They were gossiping about life in Delhi and sharing jokes about their Delhite counterparts. Their tone was soft and puns hard-hitting.

I noticed a lot of curious eyes trying to figure out where I was heading to (alone). It was only later that I thought to myself that these people must have conspired to get friendly and eventually ask me about my whereabouts so as to satiate their curiosity. As time passed by, the fellow passengers became more friendly with each other and I for the first time in my life I felt that strangers can open up while commuting without really knowing each other or having certain pre-defined motives to fulfill. There was this hyperactive kid on the train, who continuously kept jumping around, laughing & asking cute silly questions. He made me think that kids are the only creatures who have the courage to honestly be themselves anywhere without fail. There were no curtains in the train. I felt privacy-deprived. Urgh! I thought to myself how can an express train not have curtains in 3rd AC. My fellow passengers, the ones who were like me, travelling for the first time in that train shared same thoughts. The food was bearable. In fact, for the first time in my life I traveled without falling sick because of food.

There were gorgeous views outside, especially the moment we entered Bengal. I had never in my life imagined Bengal the way I saw it from that train window. I thought to myself, how beautiful these unseen places in India are. The greenery was unmatched. The views were like those straight out of photographs of professional photographers. It was like being a part of a perfectly captured photographic view of dreamy gorgeous rustic India. It was drizzling in-betweens and the weather was changing every 5 minutes. I had never seen clouds floating so nearby that it felt like I could touch them easily if I could just get on the roof of the train and put up a ladder stand on. I giggled like an excited kid who had experienced something for the first time. The sky was super deep sky-blue in colour. I had never in my life seen sky so gorgeously sky-blue. The colours of anything and everything I saw were so happily bright that it was not funny. I could see each and every object in precise colours and shapes, as if there were no impurities or disguises anywhere. The houses, the structures, the mountains, the plains, the clouds, the rains, the rustic Bengali people, the railway tracks, everything was picturesque beyond imagination. My spirit was almost jumping with joy while I kept sitting calmly amongst the constant chatter of my fellow passengers, trying not to be too conspicuous and shady. I did it intentionally so as to not let anyone around me get free access to strike a conversation with me at their convenience. At the same time I was doing my best to remain calm and approachable in appearance. And I must say, I was quite successful in keeping everybody around me confused.

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Inception

It was the night before “the Day”.. the day I was going to start something I had always wanted to do – my fully solo 20 days trip to places I had never before even considered going to, let alone planning to go to. I have always loved and chosen the ocean & the beaches over the mountains. In fact, I have always proudly called myself ‘water-baby’. But when it finally came to taking that much-needed and anticipated plunge and following my passion and travel for indefinite time period, I chose the mountains.

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After day-dreaming about a solo trip and undergoing unbelievably crazy internet research about travelling experiences of people from around the world for days I’ve lost count of, I finally, for no significant reason, chose SHILLONG as the starting point of my journey. Believe me, there was no specific/special reason for the choice. I was so insatiably and madly into this whole idea of travelling to random places and finding my way along the way on my own, not planning and knowing anything at all even about the very next step to take on unknown lands, that it’s not funny. I have consistently been into this idea as if I was in a deep state of slumber from a long time and the sleep had just gotten more prominent and deep during the three months prior to the actual materialisation of the dream I was seeing during this sleep.

After innumerable “inspiration sessions” outside and inside the office building, on a variety of chat windows while sitting right next to each other at work, in the lift, in loo and on breaks while having omelette and chai, Chandni Chadha, my dear dear friend helped me kick-start the realisation of my dream by giving me live lessons on how to create a user account on Indian Railways website and hence book a train ticket(Yes, I did not know how to book a train ticket. Urgh.. kinda embarrassing I know!!). I still remember Chandni telling me time and again like a saviour saint-soldier from the good old books, “There’s a first time for everything, crazy woman. Don’t you dare worry. I’ll help you materialise your dream. Let’s start it by booking a train ticket for you. You better stop over-analysing and look for the ticket availability, as it’s always better to book a ticket at least two months in advance.” And so I booked my first ever train ticket on my own(well I know not really) from a freshly created IRCTC user account. Before getting a ticket booked, I had had long discussions and conversations with a few friends(brain-storming sessions is what my little brain calls them), including Pritamjit, who belonged to Shillong. We talked incessantly about the weather, the people, the food, the places, the culture, what to expect and what not of Shillong. I made a gorgeous mental picture of Shillong in my mind which later turned out to be quite different (but not even an ounce lesser beautiful) when I actually put my feet on the land of Shillong.

WP_20140621_009The very first photograph I took from my phone when I entered Shillong.

Finally the night before the scheduled day of my journey was here. I remember, how I had made a long list of things to do and things to take along. I decided not to sleep that night. I kept talking to friends & listened to music almost the whole night and then finally began the packing part a few hours before leaving my place for the railway station. Urgh.. I eventually realised that I should have started packing a couple of more hours prior to when I actually started doing it(turned out to be my very first ‘travelling’ lesson). I was late. I left home late and reached the station exactly on my train’s departure time. A friend, Vikas came over at the station to wish me good luck and wave good bye. He helped me with the station chores, board the train right on time and hence saved me from the station-confusion-syndrome. I wish railway stations were more like the Delhi metro stations – more clarity and hence lesser confusion. We wanted to click a selfie before the departure to keep with ourselves as a memoir of a kind. But as I was already late, we couldn’t make it. We hurriedly looked for my berth in the train, settled all my luggage when found and waved adios to each other. The train slowly started to move right after.