Monday, 11 July 2016

Sohra




                                                     


 Sohra is a place that will play peekaboo  as you drive along the road ribboning down Shillong for almost 60 kms. The hills will ensconce you now or suddenly disappear behind a thick layered veil of clouds and tease with just a portion of the road visible ahead. But you know you are on safe grounds because the journey is through a table top and the edges are way off the road. Snaking through the  meadows in multiple shades of green, the clouds welcomed us into their folds and showered us with rains. In any case this was what I had come for, chasing the rains. 

Through the rain washed window panes, blurred landscape rushed by. I could make out a stream flowing or jumping off a rocky ledge in the meadows. A settlement passed by, people moving around unhurriedly with colourful umbrellas, an integral part of their existence. The rains had stopped as suddenly as it had begun as if to let us have a good look around. We passed  pretty Khasi homes with just one or two little windows on either side of the front door. No matter how humble the home was, there were no compromises on two aspects. Cleanliness and curtains. Every window, whether it was of a roadside kiosk, a shack, or a home had pretty curtains on their windows. And cleanliness? There was not a piece of wrapper within sight even within the compounds of their homes. Woven baskets hung from tree trunks or placed by the road was a common sight. And the roads forever had a washed look.  A string of laundry was staked up on a bamboo pole, left to dry in the breeze. Even from the distance I could make out they had been scrubbed clean. I wonder how do they dry the clothes with rain pouring in every now and then? And then I see some women attired in Jainsen  walking down to a stream with yet another pail of clothes. 

The owner of the resort we stayed in, claimed that entire Sohra once had an abundance of fruit trees and probably that's where the name came from "Soh" meaning fruits. And then came the British who couldn't quite get it right ( as is evident from the spate of renaming them throughout the country) and referred to it as Churra. The Bengali babus who assisted the British in administration further added 'punjo' to indicate a cluster. The local name Sohra changed to Cherrapunjee. The slopes of the south Khasi hills looks out at the vast watery Bangladesh. For the people of the adjoining Bangladesh plains, it made sense to   turn this side rather than trudge a long way to the nearest city. Sohra was a hub of fruits market and the local people  had trade relations with  neighbouring Bangladesh. "People here flourished then. But now they have left for distant places in search of livelihood" she claims. Tracks that connected the hills with the plains are overgrown with years of disuse. Strangely even the fruit trees started disappearing and the locals were looking at a grim future.

For all its lush greenery and rainfall, Sohra doesn't yield itself to cultivation. The traditional practice of jhum cultivation has robbed the land of its green cover. The incessant rains have added to the woes by washing away the precious top soil. A dark rocky surface juts out in many places from the greenery, lending a heightened contrast to the verdant cover. 

This region stands on a rich deposit of limestone. And soon cement factories sprung up to extract and utilize this resource. It provided respite to the locals in terms of employment and stable livelihood. Although, there are many who continue to sell off the produce from their homestead to supplement the wages earned here or at distant land. I crossed a cement factory and on the other side was a small wooden bridge that led to a row of buildings in the distance. The sky was overcast taking a respite before the next downpour. The undulating landscape was lush and fresh as only the rains can bestow. And for an instant, I wondered if the women were going to step out of their homes and wait for the men to return from the factory shift. would they hand over their earnings to the women before walking in to take a bath and sit down to a hot meal? Strangely,  Richard Llewyllen's How Green Was My Valley surfaced. But that was South Wales and the coal mines. This is Sohra and cement factory. And yet there is an echo. Probably my imagination of a Welsh countryside coincided with what stretched before me. 

Sohra continued to charm me  with it's quietude and clean air. The only sounds were that of the breeze rustling the leaves, bird songs or the rain falling in a steady pour. When the shower stopped for a while, I sat on the bamboo bench and looked out at the ridge opposite. Wisps of tinged low clouds hovered over the valley. 
"They have taken away our title" the owner of the resort had said. The ridge on the other side under the clouds was Mawsynram, wearing the crown of being the wettest place on earth. Did it make Sohra any less beautiful? Did it rob it of its quiet charm? Did it make the numerous waterfalls plunging down the cliffs any less majestic? 
I made a promise to myself, I shall return to Sohra once again and again. For that is what it does to you. Seeps into your heart with all its simplicity and stays on as a warm thought.


                                                 















This post was written for TWTFOW#5



                                   

14 comments:

  1. beautiful. thanks for sharing! hadn't known about Sohra. have a lovely week~

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  2. That is such a tranquil and lush and an almost idyllic description. The allusion to the coal mining familes of South Wales added another dimension to the narration. The cleanliness and serenity of the Khasi is a slap on the face of the free-littering, gutkha munching and spitting crowds of India.

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    1. Yes Uma, that part of the country is untouched by vulgar tourism. But for how long it will remain so, I have my doubts.

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  3. Nice pics and nice writing too!Beautiful

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  4. It looks so calm and filled with natural bliss. Would love to be there some day, actually entire north-east is worth exploring!

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    1. These hills have a soothing effect. I am sure you will not regret planning your travel to this part of the country.

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  5. Sohra is such a gorgeous place in the rains. Lovely read.

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    1. Yes, it is lush and alive in a quiet way. Thank you :)

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    2. Yes, it is lush and alive in a quiet way. Thank you :)

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Your words keep me going :)