On the North-East leg of our trip we’re travelling with three others – Rashmi Rakesh and Tarun, who we met up with in Guwahati a few days ago. The couple of days in Guwahati we just caught up, made plans, had two delicious meals – one at my friends’ house, Amin and Benazir, and the other at this Assamese restaurant called Parampara. We then scooted out of Guwahati as fast as we could to get to cooler and better places.
In Shillong, we’re staying at the Earle Holiday Home, a sort of club-like hotel built around a 1920s house. We reached there, dumped our bags and headed out to lunch and then to the archery, a place that both Tarun and I have seen, and were super excited to see again. The archery is part of a unique lottery system they have here and it happens every evening in a large maidan near the Polo Grounds. A target – really, just a thin pole – is put up at one end of the maidan and professional archers stand around in a semi circle and when the signal is given they all start firing arrows at the pole. The whole thing lasts about a couple of minutes and if you blink for too long you may just miss it. It’s an amazing sight, the archers are effortless, and the atmosphere in the maidan is quite exciting, because people bet on the last two digits of the number of arrows that hit the target. In fact you can place your bets at any one of the many betting stalls all over Meghalaya.
The second day at Shillong we went to the Iew Duh or Bara Bazaar, an open market that is a fantastic maze where you can buy every conceivable thing – vegetables, meat (we saw men carrying entire carcasses of cows and giant pigs), fruits, tobacco, betel nuts, bakery goods, bamboo baskets, knives, clothes, spices (including the most spicy chillies in the world), and apparently live frogs too, although we didn’t see any. There’s really no way to capture the scale of the market, so here’s one photo, a spider’s eye view.
Some chunambu graffiti created by pan chewers …
And this is how we all look most of the time J
Later that evening, we met up with Robin and Ravi, whose contacts Rakesh got through another friend, Mary, who is from Shillong but lives now in Delhi. We quizzed Robin and Ravi about all things Khasi –the history, things to see, and of course food. And when they started talking about the smoked pork, of course the non vegetarians in the group started salivating so they decided to take us on an expedition. A half hour drive out of Shillong is a town called Mylliem where Ravi claims you get the best Khasi food. He also promised Iswar and me some good vegetarian stuff – rice, dal, yummy keerai, and roasted potatoes.
This is Ravi with the pork smoking away in the background, and our three meat eaters stuffing themselves with unbreakable concentration.