Shillong is currently on the cusp of winter-end and advent of spring. Although the bite of winter is gone, few are brave enough to proclaim that winter has bid adieu. For, despite temperate weather during most days, the mornings and evenings are still nippy, warranting retention of warm clothes.
It’s the beginning of March and there is a palpable change in nature. After a seasonal hiatus, flowers have begun to bloom with a riot of colours in all their splendour. Some summer birds have also begun to reappear. From the crack of dawn a variety of birds begin to chirp these days. Mornings are also greeted by the cooing of doves, which are essentially birds from the plains, and the constant twitting of unknown birds migrating from the plains into the neighbourhood. The familiar windy days of February-March are also here. As winds pass through the pine needles, the “ripe” needles are let loose making way for green ones to appear. Roads and footpaths are full of the fallen pine needles which at times lead to bush fire. The seasonal change is almost here, although winter is going, going but not gone!
For a quick fill
Like all cities and towns, Shillong too has her own share of idiosyncratic features. The capital town is by no means an early riser. Even though public and private vehicles make the roads busy fairly early in the day, the place tends to come alive after 10 O’clock. That’s not difficult to explain. Being the seat of administrative head, it is a town filled with a large segment of office-goers. In fact, the town has grown over the decades centring around the governmental edifice. So, as the siren goes at 10 in the morning, it virtually signals the start of the day not just for the offices but also for the market places and business establishments. Barring some select few at Khyndai Lad, most of the eateries and restaurants follow the 10 am regimen. For those who seek a bite in the morning have very little options.
However, one sure shot place where morning fill of ‘jahstep’ (day’s first rice-based meal) with either pork, chicken or black gram cooked as local cuisines, is the string of road-side stalls in front of Civil Hospital. These makeshift stalls get down to business as early as 6 in the morning. Those who are unaccustomed to filling the belly with rice so early in the day, have the option of indulging in a hot cuppa laced with puri and veg curry or the old trusted samosa. Tourist taxis and Sumos going down to Guwahati are the prime beneficiaries. Apart from the cabbies and their support hands, the passengers too stop by to enjoy an early fill.
Begging in Shillong, living elsewhere
An old man from Nongthliew village sat on the road in the busy Motphran area. He looked ill and for lorn and could not move due to disabilities. A young man who was buying fruit from a shop nearby spied the old man and took pity on him. He gave him a 20 rupee note but not before asking where he came from and if he was disabled then how could he travel to Motphran daily. The elderly man now reduced to a beggar said his family members drop him to that place every day and pick him up at night. The young man was shocked. “How can your own family abandon you like this? He asked. The elderly beggar who looked resigned to his fate said, “When you are in my position you will know that if you are in dire straits then you will realise that even your family will abandon you.” Having said that, the elderly man wept bitter tears. What does this say about family, clan and community?
Social distancing over?
A visit to Iewduh will inform us that the pushing and jostling is back to where it used to be. If people are not careful they can be pushed aside by porters carrying heavy loads. Women especially are vulnerable. The market looks busy as ever and it looks like business as usual until you start a conversation with the stall owners. The vegetable vendors, fish sellers all says that things are not back to normal.
Sales are low and it’s not a happy situation.
Although the prices of vegetables have fallen considerably making it easier on the pocket for the common person, it seems that the economics is not working out for the vendors post the pandemic. But then how does one explain the crowd at Iewduh?