Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India


| Meghalaya Meghalaya, Meghalaya Meghalaya

Mat pardes ja re, Aaj tu prem Ka sandes barsa re |

When it had been just one or two days in Meghalaya, I was ecstatically reciting to my girlfriend what beautiful a place this wonderland was. In disagreement with John Mayer, definitely better than her body. And with this I risked breakup for the sake of the pun. She intervened, "so if you had a choice, would you rather live in Delhi, or Meghalaya's fine?" You know the thing with girlfriends, you never know what might come up next so you have to answer smartly. Well, "I'd live here for the vacation, then get back to Delhi, to you." Nothing extraordinarily smart there, but at least avoided breakup by not being prompt. It was scheduled to be a one week stay. Plans changed soon. My family went back, I stayed. For 3 months. And thus confirmed breakup this time, hah! But every single moment there, totally worth it!

So what's so special about this place, you ask. Everything! From people to culture, to mountains, to waterfalls, to nature, to maize, to pineapples, to waterfalls, the roads and much more! People from the rest of India really treat north east Indians like they are not from India. Of course, people from the North East are much more conscious as human beings. During my stay of 3 months, I was in Meghalaya for the most part, and apart from it, I was also in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Assam is the transit state to the north eastern states, which we together call the 7 Sisters. So, I can say Assam, and particularly Guwahati is nothing like the rest of north east India, and in fact is an amalgamation of the cultures of the north east and central India. It is a general notion, and an unofficial, but established fact that India is a very dirty place. Nature has been very kind to us, and tries its best to give us its maximum, but with our careless (read retarded) behaviour, we mess it up. My friends don't think even once before 'innately' littering here and there. As they buy a pack of chips, assured is, that there will be litter. It never occurs to their conscience that the waste belongs to the trash can, such a shame! But such is not the case with this special part of India. Anyhow, there is an endless list of things which caught my attention there, all of them in positive sense. To tell you, here are some of them -

1. Trash cans at every 20 metres 

Yes, there's a trash can in sight from wherever you are standing, at any given point of time. For most people I know around me back home, they wouldn't bother to put it to use if it's more than an arm's distance away. But in all parts of north east India, I saw everybody felt responsible for cleanliness, and families worked together to keep their surroundings clean; and never saw even one person being a crack. There were dustbins woven out of bamboo for the most part. This place always maintains cleanliness so much that anybody would feel too embarrassed to litter here, I hope.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 1/10 by Mukul Bhandari
Cleanliness wasn't specifically imperative here, but spotted such creativity also.

2. More chances of finding a public urinal, than yourself

What's also impressive is that there is a pay and use urinal in sight from everywhere too. The charge is nominal 5 and 10 rupees, and always shining clean and odour-free. And it's not like their poop doesn't stink, I'm sure; but nobody misuses the resources, and proper and timely cleaning is ensured. In India, it would really qualify as a luxury, for most parts. And never did I ever find somebody spreading the 'dirt' in open. People come to such peaceful and off-the-center places to take a break from their routine, and maybe to "finding" themselves. They can at least find a healthy habit and take it back home.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 2/10 by Mukul Bhandari
Construction workers in Guwahati more civilized than some educated people in other parts of the country.

3. The language barrier

I heard my brother trying to indulge a local tea stall owner in a conversation, with some serious struggle, because of the language barrier. "What tea?", in a strange accent, my brother tried to break the sentence down for him. The local framed his response with same difficulty, and in an accent - "sorry I don't understand".

My mother oblivious to all this came and asked the stall owner, "Is chai mein kya kya daala hai?"

"Ji is mein, odd-rock (adrak/ginger) aur elaichi daala hai" spoke he, so fluently.

Apart from Khasi and Garo languages, people speak Hindi the most, and thenEnglish. So. I've established that it's a lie if somebody tells me that all North Easterners speak English, but struggle with Hindi.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 3/10 by Mukul Bhandari
But sometimes you have to be less cute to understand simple things anyway.

4. Superlative condition of roads

Apart from scenic beauty, the state is also endowed with large deposits of a number of valuable minerals such as coal, limestone, kaolin, clay, granite, glass-sand and uranium. The state is one of the largest dealers of asphalt in India. The government has taken appropriate steps, and first of all made sure that there are proper and high class carpets of tarmac to connect every little corner of the state. The condition of roads is so fine, that it puts the roads of Delhi to shame.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 4/10 by Mukul Bhandari
Went pot-hole hunting to far away villages, but the quality of roads only kept improving.

5. Nature friendliness 

The thing with India and Indians is that we have everything here, but we don't recognise or value it. Mostly. But not here. The state is the wettest region of India, and the rainiest place in the world, recording an average of 1200 cm of rains a year. About 70% of the state is forested. It has absolutely gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, lakes, caves and much more. But something as simple as a huge piece of rock, standing on little surface area has also been respected, and been protected. They call it the balancing rock.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 5/10 by Mukul Bhandari
No child is allowed to play see - saw on this, and test it's balance. If they do, it'll be from - 'we see' this rock, to 'we saw'.

6. No alms state

Coming from Central and North India, it was so refreshing to enjoy this scenic place without having beggars play the spoilsport. I never spotted even one beggar, and I'm sure you wouldn't too. This is the place of hard workers. Meghalaya has predominantly an agrarian economy, with a significant commercial forestry industry. I also call this the land of pineapples, and always found my face sunk in one of them. You can find it for as low as just 10 rupees. Maize is another main produce here. People here are self sufficient, and more importantly, always happy and content.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 6/10 by Mukul Bhandari
They were the (pine)apples of my eye.

7. Momo land?

No, not really. Momos are not the staple diet in this region. And not all people eat them. In fact not many of them know of momos, and it could be really difficult to find them too. Momos are originally a Tibetan, and Nepali delicacy, so started spreading from their nearest states - Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. And then is found a lot in Darjeeling also. It started gaining popularity in Delhi, as trying to run free from the clutches of Chinese imperialism, and Mao-ism in Nepal, people from around these areas started migrating to Delhi. To adapt to Delhi, they also had to give us vegetarian and chicken variants, and added more of the sort as they made progress. So this way these got only selectively popular in the places of their migration as yet. But of course, the popularity of momos has always been on a rise in mostly all the states of India, at different rates though.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 7/10 by Mukul Bhandari
Our Kung-Fu Panda feasting on the Chinese variant of momos - dumplings.

8. No dog eaters either

No they're not. Well some are, but it's not primarily a dog eating state. I know some who've had dog meat in Delhi too, and Delhi's not a dog eating state either. The staple food of the people in Meghalaya is rice with spicy meat and fish preparations. They rear goats, pigs, fowl, ducks and cows and relish their meat. Typical north Indian dhabas are also found without much hard work, I will not give them a nod for taste though. Even when there wasn't vegetarian food on the menu, the dhaba/restaurant owners were kind enough to arrange for me rice and dal, from some nearby household.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 8/10 by Mukul Bhandari
Mostly the food spoke of simplicity, and health.

9. India's gateway to tree-houses

Didn't we all dream of living in a tree house as a child? We saw them mostly only in American TV shows. Didn't I tell you this state is far ahead of us. This place really fulfilled the fanciest of my childhood fantasies. In the one I stayed, it was more than 25 feet up in the air, overlooking a waterfall and a placid pool, a dreamy little house constructed entirely of bamboo. The tree house culture is catching up fast, and now tree-house resorts are coming up with lavish and luxurious rooms.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 9/10 by Mukul Bhandari
Straight out of dreams.

10. To get around the city

Travelling to different parts of Meghalaya could be a task. There is a frequent bus service if you want to travel within the capital - Shillong. The city appears to be swarmed by a fat lot of black and yellow painted Maruti 800 and Alto 800 taxis. Also the concept of shared taxi has been absolutely normalised here. Sometimes as many as 8 people could be fitted inside one taxi, and without paying extra for the super driving skills, you get to see the little engine-d taxis crawling up the steep mountainous roads. The places that I really wanted to see were a good 2-3 hours away from the city, and I hitchhiked to get to almost all of them. It always took me a long time waiting and walking before I had a car passing, with a vacant seat. And so by now I know why some people call this place the 'pedestrian's paradise'.

Photo of Meghalaya: Why this north-eastern state is nothing like the rest of India 10/10 by Mukul Bhandari
Truckers became my best friends.


Sure, going places in Meghalaya was an adventure, and the destination was like a treasure. Each place almost brought tears to my eyes. This is what it holds in its chest.