Whenever I was asked where Shillong is on the map, I would say its near Cherrapunji or Sohra, the place which get's the world's most rainfall. Today, it's no more reigning rain (with Mawsynram enjoying the lead) and I'm tempted to answer queries about my roots with a happy "near Cherrapunji, the runner up to Mawsynram when it comes to rain." But I do manage to stop myself and cross-check my wikipedia facts - which are as inconsistent as the rains these days!
Rain or not, Cherrapunji is one of my favourite places, one big reason being my maternal ancestors being from there. I know I may get bashed up for this fact by my Khasi friends who would surely see the contradiction of my ancestry in my surname. I assure them of an explanation in another post.
The last time I went there was in 2008 when I visited my relatives - to invite them to my wedding. After working in fast Mumbai for four years, I was looking forward to a country trip like this. I vividly remember the marks of old rusted British establishments giving a slight European accent to the the farms that formed most of our journey to Cherrapunji. The clouds were generous enough to make us feel like we were driving to a mystic abode! So yes, we missed the canyons and falls, but relatives were waiting at Mawsmai and we couldn't wait to meet them.
Sweet melancholy - Mawsmai
Having Cherrapunji as a distant hometown sometimes makes me take the place for granted. I always procrastinate the whole joy of knowing this beauty better. I like to just go along with whatever the group was doing. So when my cousin invited me to visit the Mawsmai caves, I happily agreed - just to realise that I would be left on my own as my mom and her wanted to be alone with mutual interest in discussing my marriage details.
So I went about on my solo 'caving' experience. The cave was well lit though the visual felt weird when I just stepped in, quite like when you enter the theater. I took my time and it gradually became thrilling. The narrow passage and slippery uneven cave floor made it interesting and challenging (unless you're with kids or elders).
In a Verne-ian imagination. It could well have been a gateway to the centre of the Earth. According to me, maybe it should be Ms. Cave or Madam Cave - she has so much personality!
Glimmer of Light
She seemed to be crying sweet salt water which gradually formed the baby rocks along the way. I felt a strange sense of belonging in this "almost science fictional place". It was like a soothing haunt.I happily combed her thoroughly till I saw a vague greying afternoon light so unaffected by the cheerful catching up session happening between the two "Family"ar women.
Our trip ended with lovely lunch at the restaurant run by my cousin - quite near to the cave. Indigenous indulgence was the theme of the day! My mother made sure we got back some local tomatoes from the Mawsmai market. She said they couldn't be compared to anything in the world to which I nodded my head vigorously.
As this is a short personal experience, for more information, you can go to http://www.mapsofindia.com/meghalaya/tourism/mawsmai.html