The rolling hills break into sudden cliffs while a slow thickening mist wraps everything in her translucent cloak. The clouds rise gently, they swirl above and through the steep gorges as though Nature has been weaving them amidst those hills, cradling them before they take a flight far and beyond. The wind whistles a tune, while the blades of grass flicker in the gentle rhythm. Quiet, quaint, solitary, scattered houses, the faint murmur of a cascade across the valley, Laitlum, untouched, unknown to many, remains magnanimous in all her splendour. Meghalaya, ‘Abode of Clouds’, and Laitlum seems like the epicentre of everything marvellous and majestic.
I had always desired to go to Laitlum every time I am at Shillong, home, but the visit would never materialize which only fuelled my lust to see the steep canyons, immerse my senses in the virgin air, witness the dance of clouds and sunbeams over the hilltops and submit myself to the edge of the world that Laitlum is. This April, without much ado, my cousin and I, against odds, did actually go to Laitlum! To prevent any hullabaloo we had decided to take the local bus from Shillong to Smit, the nearest town to Laitlum, while we were quite unsure of reaching Laitlum thereafter. We chose to rely on our gut, a local cab may be or walk the roughly 18 kilometres. The night before I could barely sleep, excited that I was, optimistic yet uncertain, and with the rain pelting all night long my scepticism only multiplied. By morning the downpour had reduced to a drizzle and the smoky clouds metamorphosed into shapes known and unknown while the earth was soaked through and through. With a single umbrella between us, two bottles of water, we ran for the bus which we had almost missed and soon we were out of the cacophony of Shillong, climbing higher and higher, the houses reducing to red and green Lego blocks, the tarred roads to threads, the air growing heavier, the clouds a million shade of grey and the faint blue sky peeping through little keyholes in the tapestry of clouds. In a while we were atop the hills, a rickety last league through the rain-washed winding roads, greener than green fields spread about on either side, wild mountain flowers lay strewn on the grassy carpet and little mountain sheep led by little shepherd boys paraded without order through the trough and crest of the rolling earth. From Smit an extremely amiable cab driver drove us to Laitlum in his local cab.
I was out of breath, out of words, out of any earthly emotion, to express what I witnessed, at Laitlum. Nothing mattered then, nothing at all save the moment.
The clouds rising through the valley to linger on the summit, caressing us with their cold vapour touch.
The village of Laitlum at the bottom of the valley. The village folks use about 3000 rocky precarious steps to climb up or descend to the bottom!
A ropeway used for transporting heavier load to and from the village. Although I have to add that the villagers had been carrying most of their daily, and indeed heavy, loads across their shoulders as though it were air that they had been carrying.
The mist had enveloped everything in its sheen. I particularly love this picture. The silhouettes of two souls in the mist laden pasture.
We chose to walk from Laitlum to Smit. Drenched in the drizzle, caressed by the mist, hearts overflowing with an inexpressible joy, conversing, pondering I was an enchanted man. We had to run, yet again, at Smit for the bus to Shillong, shouting, waving, dreary, and sensing our predicament a lady screamed in all her loudness to the bus driver and miraculously the bus stopped! Smiling, running, happy, we thanked her promising to ourselves that this was certainly not the last visit to the edge of the world.