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  • Day60

    Shillong : museums, street food & yoga

    May 9, 2019 in India ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    I almost used another bad wordplay with "Chill out in Shillong" as a title... Its hard to find short and catchy titles !
    Two days after Guwahati, I reached Shillong, cute little town perched on top of hills (1525 m) but also capital of the state of Meghalaya. I arrived late and in the dark, since the first cycling day only started around 2:30 pm (due to the temple visit and the jam session in Guwahati). I also swapped the rain in Sikkim for the terrible heat of the plains, which is not easier to cope with... On the road, I halted in a crappy hotel, but I bargained a lot, so as not to pay too much for it (from 2800 to 800 rupees!).

    In Shillong, I was happy to ride in clean and quite well-organized streets. Many officers are posted on crossroads, striving hard to regulate and pacify the traffic. And there actually seems to be a traffic management plan ! (with one-way streets, etc).
    The theory of a French guy I met at the hostel is that this stems from peoples' different culture and mindset (people here being from local tribes and mostly converted to Christianity, and not Hindustani). That may be part of the explanation but I dont think that a specific mindset generates by itseld garbage bins and officers at every crossroad ! Public policies also have an impact....

    Guillaume is an interesting man. A former "beaux arts" student, he has travelled for several years and is now working on a graphic novel about the culture of the Khasis, with a focus on their matriarchal tradition. He uses Tinder to chat with Khasi women and know more about their traditions, but is then shy of actually meeting them. These women can easily be recognized by some kind of checked toga/ apron that they skilfully knot on top of their regular clothing. It's quite aesthetic.

    Together, we visit the city : a small but well-assorted entomology private collection, the Don Bosco "center of ethnic cultures" (Don Bosco movement has supported the creation of many schools in Meghalaya, like in many other places in the world) - however strange it is to learn about indian local cultures in a museum with an Italian name. Here we see and read such disparate things as prehistoric men's skull shape, traditional weaving/building/farming techniques, and in the religious section... that on the Hindu path towards enlightenment (moksha), women lie somewhere between animals and men, who themselves lie beneath "men of higher class". No comment...
    We also try out local fool in little joints, and when at the hostel, Guillaume plays some sweat melodies on his flutes and challenges me for some blind tests. Relaxing atmosphear !

    I also seize the opportunity of this urban break to go to the beauty parlour and to a yoga class. I am lucky to meet a very friendly and talented yoga teacher, Christina. After a one-to-one class, where she shows me several stretching postures adapted to my cycling condition, she invites me for breakfast in her home. Like many Indians, Christina seems to have lived many lives in one. A former air hostess, she now works as a teacher specialised in "children with special needs" (im using her words, i dont know exactly what it comprises), and as a gym/ yoga teacher, in the studio adjacent to her house. Her ancestors are from Tripuram and from Shillong, but she also has an Irish grandfather, who unfortunately disappeared after making two children to the unmarried indian grandmother...
    Around the porridge, we debate quite hard on some burning topics: interventionism of "the White man" in other countries, America's foreign policy, the impacts of colonialism in India, etc. But we eventually find common ground around our shared distate for Trump and our shared admiration for India : a complicated machinery that nevertheless achieves to unite hundreds of cultures and several religious in a single country...

    After this beneficial yoga class and breakfast, I feel all energized to get back on my bicycle. Next destination : Silchar, again in Assam (Meghalaya has a strange shape and stands between Guwahati, west, and Silchar, east, both in Assam).
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