Editor’s Note: Beautiful places, stunning people!
Anecdotes from the most picturesque parts of India: The North East. Learn more as you traverse the region through the eyes of our cover star
If I told you that I could sum up my major experiences in the North Eastern states of India in this one note, would you think it’s possible? Probably not, but do read on.
My first trip to the region was to Shillong about 10 years ago. The beautiful highway that now links the main airport in Guwahati with the capital of Meghalaya wasn’t ready yet, and I was offered a helicopter ride. “We used to have seven helicopters, three of which have crashed,” I was told. “But we still have four!”
Of course, I chose to drive up!
I was in Shillong for a government-organised fashion week, but more stylish than the models on the ramp were the young locals walking along the main street of the town centre.
I sat at a coffee shop and chatted with a few: they didn’t look at Bombay or Delhi for fashion advice, they told me. They flew to Thailand for their shopping hauls. (There was a direct DrukAir flight between Guwahati and Bangkok at that time that corroborated their claim.)The youngsters were from different states of the North East (seven sisters as they are called), they looked at Assam as the “eldest sister”, Shillong was their “coming-of-age city” with the best colleges etc, and while they all appreciated the opportunities that being Indian offered, they were pointedly upset by the racism they faced.
Since then, I’ve visited Meghalaya half a dozen times: I’ve travelled to India’s wettest region, Cherrapunji, sailed on the Dawki river that can give the Dal Lake some serious competition, walked on bridges made of living roots of trees, wandered through the longest network of caves in the world, and hopped over into Bangladesh at the border, if only for a photograph.
I’ve attended the Hornbill music festival in Nagaland, eaten Raja Mirch-spiked dishes in Dimapur and walked past tribal homes bordering Kohima that still display headhunting wins with pride.
In Sikkim, I rode on a yak alongside the stunning Lake Tsomgo in April last year, where the yet-to-melt snow made for some of my best Instagram pictures ever.
I’ve done weekend trips to Agartala, Aizwal and Imphal, and attended a not-so-close friend’s wedding in Arunachal, only for the opportunity to visit.
I’ve marvelled at the beauty of the region and complained about the poor infrastructure. I fail to understand why the glamour Leh-Ladakh evokes does not extend itself to the far more diverse North East as well.
At the Brahmaputra Valley Festival in Guwahati, I found myself on a dinner cruise with our cover star today, Papon, and saw first-hand the love he got from his people. But it’s only after I read the singer’s cover story in today’s issue that I saw the love he feels for his people.
Things are changing: the Shillong Chamber Choir is much loved, as are the countless musicians we have from the region, the Netflix film Axone (2019) evoked curiosity about the food and culture, several supermodels are now mainstream, and the recent Ayushmann Khurrana movie, Anek, brought stories into the popular context.
With some efforts from our end and yours, I promise that next time, we must be unable to encapsulate all our experiences on one page. The region is vast and beautiful, and it deserves all the attention it can get.
Also in this issue: The Make Instagram Instagram Again debate finds some new arguments, former HT Brunch cover star and celebrity nutritionist, Dr Sid Bhargava writes on Emotional Eating, and in fashion, we question the new anti-fit clothes movement: what will it take to tailor a fit for you?
Follow @JamalShaikh on Twitter and Instagram
From HT Brunch, August 27, 2022
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch