A journey of 80kms and we ‘almost’ reached Dawki, where India shares borders with Bangladesh (How I came to know this is interesting). A ceaseless queue of trucks crawling ahead was already making me impatient and we still had to cross a bridge which happens to be the connecting link between the two countries. Getting restless, my eyes caught sight of moss covered steps leading down. I paid the guy 120Rs, got down & carefully manoeuvred in my floaters as one wrong slip, would had been a very bad fall. Down there, it’s a favoured fishing spot for the locals. The water is very clear near the shores, making the rocky bed apparent. I had read on the internet, that Dawki’s got the most clear waters that gives the apparition of boats floating in air. Now I witnessed that. That narrow shoreline seemed to connect to a bigger landmass further ahead. I asked the fishing folks if it’s ok to go through. What they said was beyond my comprehension as they muttered something in Khasi language. I forwarded nevertheless. Few steps and I was stopped by a group of guys sitting on a rock, drinking beer and chilling out when one of them spoke, “Hindi na Bangla”. “I know both Hindi and Bengali” was my neural response. They repeated again with a pun, do you have a visa? I was baffled. They said it’s Bangladesh where I was headed and Border personnel is stationed with a gun at the other hill to check any suspicious activity, “you could even get shot at”. This revelation gave me a momentary scare. Thank God for those guys otherwise I would have (or atleast tried) wandered into a different country altogether without even knowing it, let alone the consequences. Phew!
I climbed back on to the main road and this time walked through the usual route over the bridge into the Dawki Village. From up top, the green waters look too appealing; couldn’t wait to get into. The water is pleasingly cool. It’s such a joy to watch kids play in water. As I waded through, a voice interrupted my stride. “Dada thamen”. I looked up, an aged man sitting snugly in his pitched tent (read shop) asked me, “Hindi na Bangla, eita Bangladesh. apni ki ei desh e ashte chan? oi je police wala dariye ache”. (Are you Indian or Bangladeshi? You want to come this side? See that policeman, standing at that tower). Second time I almost made into another country. Twice I was stopped. It was a strange feeling how borders are marked. Gave me goosebumps. That boulder near the shop demarcates the boundaries between the countries, I wonder how. People walking through water were all Bangladeshis, everything(everyone) on the other side of the boulder was Bangladesh(is). The low lying mainland with shallow waters is Bangladesh while the deeper waters and the surrounding hills India. There’s a shop on the Indian side where they serve excellent pork (doshniang in khasi) dishes. A plate of each curry and fried recipes satiated my hunger. It was drizzling now and already past 3pm. The shopkeeper owner, Ban Stalin offered me stay options in tent but I had to refuse him as I needed to reach Mawlynnong which was hardly 30-35kms from here. Stalin affirmed you can only reach by a hired taxi. I was so disheartened to hear this. I had drafted an itinerary and this just shattered it all. I was deeply saddened, could only contemplate heading back to Shillong to catch the early cab for Sohra/Nongriat, as it was planned for the next day. The thing with such retrograde while traveling alone is that it creates a domino effect psychologically, everything going Murphy’s law. For long I couldn’t see any yellow colored cab coming. Standing on the main road, waiting for the next cab, I took a shot, asked a family if I can tag along with them to Shillong. “Sorry we have a full car”. Waiting in my own abyss of despair, my eyes lit up to see one shared cab coming, fingers crossed and hoping it had a seat vacant. There was space for one person still left at the front seat. Sigh of relief! To divert my mind, I started talking with the guy sitting next to me and when he said he was from Mawlynnong and was returning home, buoy I was elated. In your face Murphy! Interestingly the guy’s name is Riban Kmen which in Khasi means one who is & makes others happy. Coincidence? The guy was equally happy to see me happy and assured he’ll take me to his beautiful hamlet. How lucky could I be!