Travel plans are always overwhelming. I jump with joy every time and the excitement persists throughout. I think making a travel plan while travelling is the best way to keep the excitement alive.
Early November, was all about my childhood friend’s wedding and travelling all the way from Goa to Dimapur in Nagaland; it was quite exhilarating to say the least, and even more so as I was taking my friend along who had never been to my part of the world.
The journey started from Goa to Bangalore on an overnight bus, to meet a friend who was accompanying us on this reunion.
Early morning flights and cab rides are the safest routes when you are time-constrained. With limited time in the land far far away, we left for Meghalaya – the abode of clouds – from Lokpriya Gopinath International Airport in Guwahati.
My agenda of reunions was pretty strong. Even though I made phone calls to my friends, I was only interested in reconnecting with the ones I had lost touch with.
Jarryd Warjri used to be my colleague back in Delhi during our agency days. We became friends very fast, and family faster. So it wasn’t a surprise when he invited me to stay with his adorable family in his breathtakingly stunning mountain home in Nongrah, on the outskirts of Shillong town. Being a matriarchal society, the women and their strengths are evident not only in their day-to-day lives, but also in the air. We drank tea and watched the sunset from his terrace. His mother made traditional Khasi beef curry for us after she got back from work, as we panicked about demonetization setting in from the next day. His banker mom assured us that she would take care of our money.
The next day, while the entire country was confused, we took a ride to jaw dropping Laitlum and rolled in the meadows drinking local rice beer that was sold for only thirty rupees in recycled beer bottles. All that I experienced that day made me feel on top of the world. There was some apprehension because we were traveling further to Nagaland, but I was relishing the fact that I was amongst nature at its most striking and not in a queue for the bank or the ATM. The lunch at Smit of pork blood rice with beef balls and chicken curry and radish salad was a highlight amongst all lunches I have had, but nothing beat Mother Warjri’s boiled pork with spinach and rice with fried potatoes for breakfast that morning. It was undoubtedly the kind of breakfast I would like to have every morning. Seeing around Shillong with the locals, eating lots of street food and meeting lots of nice people; we were pumped for the wedding and seeing more of the north-east. Mother Warjri got our money exchanged, and with lots of 100 rupee notes we set off for Dimapur.
The bride and the groom came to pick us up and in between innumerable hugs and greetings we were at the spot of the reunion and the excitement level was on an all-time high. Checking-in to our hotel rooms, everyone was still talking about the banned notes while I was ordering Pork with Bamboo Shoots (Naga Style) and making shopping plans.
The Hong Kong market in Dimapur is very cutting-edge in fashion and reasonably priced too. Even my online-shopping, brand-conscious friend from Mumbai was unstoppable. His face was a delight.
Dimapur town starts to shut down at around 6 p.m. as it starts getting dark. By 8 p.m., it is like an abandoned town. The party continued with my childhood friends however, and nostalgia was at its peak.
The wedding day was finally here and as our bride dolled up in a custom-made gown, we shone no less as bridesmaids. Even though unofficial bridesmaids, the four of us did not leave her side and cried at appropriate moments. Weddings are just so emotional!
The ceremony was short and sweet. My first-time at a Baptist wedding, I was moved at how beautiful the traditions actually are. The groom’s friend, who used to be a vocalist in his band, sang “The way you love me” and the entire church was in tears and saying “once more” under their breath. The ceremony was followed by an elaborate meal by the groom’s family and the spread was opulent. With pork and beef dominating obviously, the menu included rice, lentils, fermented kidney beans and Naga chillis for an extra twist. The fresh apples for dessert took my heart away. So simple, yet so elegant.
The next few days I detoxed myself, still continuing to eat lots of bamboo shoot with pork wherever I went and enjoying lots of shopping from Hong Kong market. Dimapur is a crowded and noisy town. The roads are not in a very good condition because it is remote and neglected. The people and their homes are all British influenced-Assam-style houses and an insight into the lives guaranteed a good heart everywhere. An auto driver even returned a few of my things when I forgot it in his auto after two days.
On the way back, my Mom and Dad traveled 12 hours from my hometown to meet me in Guwahati. As they played perfect hosts and made my friend feel at home, I realized where I got my social skills from and felt so grateful in the way they brought me up, helping me be where I am today. The last day of the trip came, and as most of our 100 rupee notes had been spent, we stood in the ATM line for almost an hour only for the money to run out in the machine once we got to the front of the line. That was a moment of realization that maybe this sudden decision will hit some of us real hard and it is just inevitable chaos that will follow.
Trump winning the presidential election gave me lots to read about on my way back. Americans do perplex me the most and I was really interested in politics suddenly. I realized that, for better or for worse, the political system will always have control over a portion of our lives. We will only be a content nation and citizens by following the law and doing what is right for our consciousness. Travel is still my answer and not even demonetization can stop me from travelling. I am coming back to the North East in February 2017 while, for now, dealing with business in Goa in the times of demonetization is my agenda.