The canyon at world’s end

By Simanta Barman

Some journeys are so dreamy and peaceful that it rings in your heart long after you have left that place. Laitlum happened to be one such place for me.
I was half asleep from exhaustion when we started for Laitlum a few years ago. A friend woke me up midway to show the beauty along the way to Laitlum.
I was thrilled by the beauty – the azure sky and the green meadows lined by trees. It was idyllic and I could not blink for minutes lest I miss the beauty. We started from Police Bazar in a hired vehicle. After a short negotiation, the driver decided to settle for Rs 700 for a round trip.
The landscape changed as we progressed. At times it was only meadows, low-lying pastures or small settlements. But amid these, some things are constant, like the smiling faces of children, their playfulness, women carrying bamboo baskets on their heads and men enjoying an afternoon siesta on a porch. It felt like a never-ending progression into a world that was hidden and pristine.
One has to pay Rs 50 at the Laitlum gate. We were told that the money was used for the welfare of the village.
Laitlum means ‘the end of the hills’. Indeed, it was. Thick fog covered the canyon and we could not see beyond 2 m. The fog was so thick and the wind so chilly that we started shivering. It only added to our thrill. We were curious to find out what lay beneath the foggy façade.
As we walked toward the edge of the canyon and tried to fathom its grandeur, the fog blocked all imagination. It almost felt like we were standing above the clouds and floating amid fog and wind. The thick clouds made us realise why the state was named Meghalaya, the ‘abode of clouds.’
As the clouds moved away and the fog cleared, we witnessed another splendour. The meadows and the low-lying habitations became clear. There were several steps leading down to a few viewpoints and later we learnt that it led down to a village located at the faraway base of the canyon.
The village there is called Raslong. It seemed as if someone left the village there and forgot about it. It lies in such an extreme depth and is quite disconnected from the other villages. The villagers’ only way of transportation as it appeared was the flight of about 3,000 tiny stairs, provably a five-hour trek.
There was a trolley attached to a house by the edge of the canyon that transported food and other essentials to the villagers. A few men guard the house and the trolley.
There was a lone shop that sold tea and noodles to the tourists. A bowl of hot Maggi and a cup of tea were refreshing. We climbed down a few steps to a viewpoint from where we looked over the canyon and the village. The clouds played hide-and-seek occasionally. The fact that the fog obliterated the view came as a blessing in parts as it blanketed the presence of other tourists and made us feel as if we were alone amidst such a great expanse.
As we were absorbing the beauty of nature around us, a few village women walked past us in their traditional head gear and with bamboo baskets. It made us feel how the lives that we live were different and yet we all were part of our stories, one way or the other. And with that feeling, we left Laitlum; but in our hearts, it stayed to be treasured for life.

(The author is an alumnus of Tezpur University) Photo by author

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