150 and rocking: Shillong – a city amidst the clouds

Shillong - as seen from Shillong View Point in Laitkor

Shillong, as seen from Shillong View Point in Laitkor Peak on May 8, 2011 (Photo: Soumyadip Choudhury)

[Have been away from Shillong for 17 years now, but that is the city I still call home. For the last decade-and-a-half have been occasionally writing on Shillong or on themes that somehow connect to place and its people. There’s so much to be told. Some, which hasn’t been told before, and some, that haven’t been put together in a way I would have liked them to be. This series of Shillong Stories on Cutting the Chai is my attempt at a tribute to the city I grew up in, the city I couldn’t continue living in. This post is only the first in a long series.]

Classic Shillong city bus

Chassis and engine from a Tata or Ashok Leyland truck (some vintage ones with Mercedes and Bedford engines still exist), body locally made of wood and tin. They are fast being replaced by more-modern vehicles. The classic Shillong city buses did what they were the best at doing – ferrying passengers at the slowest possible pace. (Image: Soumyadip Choudhury)

A city atop the abode of the clouds. A city that is a town in size but a metropolis in demeanour. A city that wouldn’t have existed, if not for a rebellion and incessant rain on the other side of the hills. A city that is now 150151 years old.

A momentous anniversary that almost went unnoticed last year save for a few instant messaging forwards and an editorial in the eponymous The Shillong Times.

WhatsApp message on 150 years of Shillong

Screenshot of a WhatsApp message doing the rounds on April 28, 2016.

Shillong Times editorial on 150 years of Shillong

Editorial in The Shillong Times dated April 29, 2016.

There are cities and then there are cities that residents (present and past) wear as a badge of honour. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is one such.

Driving to Shillong up the winding road from Guwahati the breezy four-lane National Highway 40 suddenly shrinks to a narrow two-lane as if to penalise you for basking in the beauty of the Umiam Lake for a little too long.

A flypast GIF of National Highway 40 connecting Shillong with Guwahati, skirting the Umiam Lake. (Source: Google Earth)

Driving further up the pine-lined hills, two things are most likely to welcome you to Shillong – a rain shower and a traffic jam.

Shillong traffic

Typical Shillong traffic, photographed on June 4, 2016. Slow but not chaotic. (Photo: Soumyadip Choudhury)

[Continued to: Shillong – atop the abode of the clouds]