“Saab, why are you not staying in Shillong? All the tourist like Shillong.”
“No. We want to be in Cherrapunji and Mawphlang only. But do stop at Shillong. We have to buy raincoats.”
Abdul, the driver of our cab, from Guwahati to Mawphlang, dropped us at Police bazar, in the heart of the city. The heart aka city was pulsating with locals and travellers. We found our way through the congested arteries, winding and climbing up and down, and found a shop to buy raincoats for all of us.
Mr Rayen, the owner of the Cherrapunji Holiday resort, told us to expect rain on our third day of arrival in Cherrapunji. It had been marked for ‘A walk in the Cherra Rains’. First day was spent trekking to the Double Decker root bridge and the second day was spent nursing the calf muscles! However, we could not stop ourselves from chasing birds and a red squirrel and running in a fright from a nearby dense patch while chasing the Indian Pitta….The evening was spent lazily gazing at the clouds emanating from the valley and rising up to our eye level. Would we be witnessing the Cherra rains next day?
Thick cloud cover the next morning kept its promise. It started first with a moderate pouring. We donned our rain coats and slippers, and went for a walk to the other side of the hill overlooking the Bangladesh plains.
Not ten minutes from the gate and the rain hammered down in full force. Raindrops were big and so forceful that these bounced off for once from the earth like frogs, before making a river on the road. Leaves bowed down in reverence and let the drops fall down immediately, roofs slanted the flow down towards the earth. Hills turned into ever eager, innumerable channels of small and big waterfalls.
All the water sent up by the Bay of Bengal, wrapped-up in the clouds and floating over the Bangladesh plains, could not successfully manage to cross the Khasi Hills. Unable to bear this responsibility any more, they fell down then and there.
The up and down winding roads were flooded with gushing water, flowing fast and furious down, down and down … Tanmay could not keep hold of his slip-in and it came loose out of his foot. Before we could lay our hands on it, it flowed away with the water.
Rachit said, “Stop it Papa, or it will go to Bangladesh.”
Tanmay responded, “Bhaiya, what a nice boat my slip-in makes. Our paper boat always drowns.”
Manish ran to catch it and just before it could tumble down the cliff, caught it. It became a game for the kids and we had to warn Tanmay that if it goes away again, he will have to walk barefoot amongst the leaping frogs and the crawling worms.
For one hour it rained relentlessly and we walked on the roads in almost zero visibility, in ‘more than the knee deep’ water, wading through the running water which came from hills along one side of the road and went down the slopes at other side.
Some stubborn raindrops did not respect the barrier put on by raincoats and sneaked in. We felt their wet weight on our clothes but not the chill as air could not manage to enter in.
We walked and walked but could not reach the point from where we could see Bangladesh. Perhaps we had missed some turn. After about two hours, when rain had lost some of its rage, we turned back. It reduced to pitter-patter and finally to a drizzle.
The trees regained their posture, leaves hurried to drop the last of the drops and the drip drip still continued under the trees. The tar road glistened and water stayed put here and there in potholes. The younger child cribbed for the paper boats. But there was enough on the roads to keep him engrossed. Frogs, from the tiny nail-sized to the large palm-sized, leaped everywhere. All kinds of creepy crawlies came out and took hold of the tar. We had to look down all the time lest we kill some tiny frog or crawlies.
When the rain stopped, every living thing, hiding not-know-where, came out. Dragonflies and butterflies, bees and beetles, and the most wonderful ‘stick-insects’ walked, crawled or flew, creating a performance in the background percussion of high pitched cicadas.
I was always curious to know how it looks after a rain in Cheraa. Does it look as the baking and dusty countryside washed, greener and rejuvenated after the rains? But how could a place look washed, or rejuvenated or greener when it rains so frequently and so intensively? But rain is rain, at least in tropical and subtropical countries where it can never ever be related to the gloom and doom as in the Europe.
The countryside of Cherrapunji after this intense spell of rain did not look greener as it was already green. Nor did it look awash because there was already not a speck of dust on the leaves. But it did look renewed. The tar looked darker and distinguished itself from the surroundings. The trees retained lot of water drops and continued dripping even after an hour. After gifting away their wealth, the clouds turned saintly light in their white robes. As they drifted here and there, the blue of the sky smiled, the air accepted the remains of the showers shyly and whistled a sweet tune when it went through the jungle.
Above all, the rain also percolated into the deep wells of our consciousness, washed away the toxins, and made our heart leap like a frog, flutter like a butterfly, and sing like a cricket.
(There are no images from this walk. The beast was left snuggling in the bag in room.)