A Long Awaited Trip to Shillong

To me, Shillong was always an unfinished painting, which evolved in my imagination each time it was talked about. Leo, my friend was the one who added a stroke of a new colour on the canvas of imagination. When I finally got to visit the place, all I could utter was, a song of praise to a God who was so gracious to fulfill my dream.

The weather at the time (mid-May) was pleasant and the folks from there said that it was unusually cold for this time.
The Don Bosco Museum of North East Indian Culture was visual encyclopedia of information on the history, culture, occupation, language, weapons, music, etc. of the various tribes in the North East of India. constituted in seven stories, the museum contains artefacts, models, pictures, documentaries, statues, sculptures, etc.  and if you are interested in knowing more about people from cultures than your own, then this is a perfect place for a fairly good introduction. Trust me, you will never feel bored there.

Shillong Peak, is a beautiful place from where you can seee the whole of the city of Shillong. Being the geographically highest  point in Shillong, the Peak attracts tourists from all over the world. There are shops where you could buy local artefacts, crafts, textiles, souvenirs, etc. You can even take a picture of yours in traditional Khasi attire, which is definitely fun.

Elephant Falls is a a scenic rocky place consisting to three areas from where you can view waterfalls. You can walk down the numerous stairs to where the water collects into small lake, surrounded by rocks. You almost begin to wonder whether you were in one of the locations of the Lord of the Rings movie.

Shillong park, like lush beautiful eyebrows around the gorgeous pair of eyes that Shillong is would help you rest your weary soul. Go there just to be. Never go there in a hurry. Make sure you sit under the trees or in the grass and enjoy those moments. If you have a ‘significant other’, as one of my friend likes to put it, bring him/her along.

Wards Lake, an artifical lake surrounded by beautiful gardens was a beautiful place to be. The ambience of the place just fills you up, reaching all the way deep down to your soul. The calm waters will lead your mind away from your struggles of life. We just walked around the place and ended up lying in the grass looking at the sky.  What a beautiful moment it was. My world stood still for all the time I was lying in the ground.

The beauty and the ambience of ‘Mary – Help of Christians’ Cathedral in Shillong is indescribable. It was evening  when we got there and there was a service about to begin. While we were marvelling at the holy building and its ability to remind us that we all are deeply spiritual beings, the servic started with a beautiful Khasi hymn. We just sat there in awe of the Godly presence it invoked and I felt like praying and thanking God for the most beautiful experiences in life. And for life itself.

We were staying at the guest rooms of North Eastern Hill University ( NEHU) campus. Needless to say, like Shillong, it was beautiful. In the cool breeze, we took night walks and in the evenings watched movies on our laptop. I must say, that stay brought me closer in touch with the spiritual side of me. May be it was the absolute quietness around me while I stood in the room. Perhaps it was the sound of the strong winds blowing in the woods which echoed the chaotic rhythms inside my head (and heart). I felt like praying and spending time in devotion. I seemed to have become calmer and open to the world around me. During the trip, discussions with my cousins Merin and Soji, as well as my brother Tommy helped me break down my barriers and prejudices to life and look with the wider perspective at life. All in all, I was growing. I just know.

Travelogoi : Daphi and her dream job

If you go to Shillong, you must  not miss going to to Daphi’s Bakery. You won’t find it so easily. Instead just might have to earn it, but believe me, it’s worth the go.  My cousins, Merin and Soji, along with Thomas, my brother, climbed the 257 stairs from Malki Point to reach an altitude where we were treated to a beautiful sight of the city on one side and the forest on the other, with a road winding up behind us. 

From the time I heard that my friend, former college band mate, soulful singer and at-times-rapper, Daphimonroi Warjiri , went to learn what she loved the most in life – Bakery Science, I felt I should go meet her and pat her on the back for taking a step so daring in life. After a BA in Psychology, Sociology and Economics, when she had opportunities in Bangalore ( where we we did our graduation) to earn good salaries in corporate companies she chose what no other friend I know did. Just because she wanted to do something close to her heart; something she believed she was made for. In days like ours, many of us don’t dare to be so authentic, of course, due to a variety of reasons.

It was a risky decision, of course. But all you need to agree with her decision is to taste one of her chocolate Brownies. 7 months ago, she took a huge step in life by setting up a Bakery. That too at the front room of their house, a beautiful wooden cottage, so well maintained despite its age : nearly a century old. Her grandmother’s parents, who bought it for their daughter decades ago, may have not foreseen this state of affairs, but I wish they had. That one large room has all she needs: her oven, mixer and her provisions and of course her music system. She begins at 8 am and works through her orders ( she’s been refusing many orders since there have been too many). Then she bakes ” . . . Whatever I feel like, that day,” besides the regular bread ( and whole wheat bread). This could be any thing right from Muffins, Cookies, Brownies and hundreds of different things. I couldn’t catch all the names but they sounded delicious. When she’s done baking, which is around 2.30 pm  she opens the white window of the bakery to her customers and sells her delicious bakery products.

She shares that it is very exciting and that there are difficulties as she work towards making her dreams come true. She goes through her share of struggles each day, even as she stirs her vessel (literally and figuratively) through a life which she chose. “There are days when I feel like I don’t want to get up and come to the bakery,” she says with a disarming frankness which  transparently veils an undying determination to achieve her dreams, and to abide by her decision to live for what she was made for, rather than fall into a life with a set format.  

But to believe in her and her decision, one only needs to taste one of her signature goodies. I could mouth brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and muffins and cheese biscuits and ask for more. There is no question on whether she has talent, the question is only, when is she becoming famous!

Daphi is one of those people who just don’t care about the money coming in. She, rather, foan ncusses on doing  her best, being content and making people happy. It isn’t easy, mind you. There comes a lot of indecision, uncertainty and pain, even as you follow your dreams. The question is, when you look back at life a couple of decades from now, would you rather have lived a life you were made, thus having been fruitful for the good of all, or, someone else’s life?

Endnote.
Daphi makes two types of bread – wheat and whole wheat. On the outside they look crusty, and hard with its brown, baked-just-now looks. It s when you slice them that you realise how soft the bread is, despite its crusty appearance. It reminded me of us. We look hard, tough and durable on the outside. But inside those looks, we are just tender, ready-to-melt human beings, covered in what seems hard crust, meant to protect our inner beings. Interestingly, I had to cut the bread to find out that it was soft. It seem a painful rupture in everyday life causes us to discover that we are all good beings with a tender hearts.

Flying in and out

Recently, I met a person who travelled a lot. He has been close to 50 countries in the past two years alone. That means he atleast travels twice a month! I envied a life like his, where he got to travel around, attend programmes, live in hotels, meet different kinds of youth around the world, especially Asia.
“It’s gets to you after a while, La”, he said trying to show me the other side of all the travelling he did. Sometimes you just rush in to a country and don’t even get o see the place other than where the meeting is happening.
“On top of that you suffer from a lot of jet lag due to flying in and out of time zones. I can’t sleep these days you know!”
He is the dynamic youth Consultant ( like the secretary) for the Christian Council of Asia in the department of Ecumenical Formation, Gender Justice and Youth Empowerment.
“But the brighter side is”, he added, ” you get to meet different kinds of youth and how they live their Christian lives, you get to see the faith of these different kinds of people and it’s amazing . . . Different cultures and all of that. God’s creations all around. . .” There was a sparkle in his eye when he said that. Obviously that is why he is at this post now. God bless him.
There is always another side to the brighter side of life. And vice versa.

Providence :Weekend trip to worship

I had a fantastic weekend back where I consider home. It’s my city for the past eight years. Initially I never wanted to be identified as someone from there. But later, my family which developed there made me feel at home, literally.

It was great to be back and attend the Bob Fitts concert with people whom you love being around with. I simply enjoyed ecery bit of it.

I wanted to go, but on what grounds would you travel 700 kilometers with your parents money when you still haven’t decided which path to take in life?

Dramatically, no it’s definitely God’s providence, my Dad’s brother came to visit and gifted me some money when they were leaving. Just the amount to take an adventurous trip for the weekend and come back comfortably. When I was back, I still had 50 bucks left. But I still hadn’t received permission to come. A weekend trip to Bangalore, how luxurious!

I tried with hope against hope to go for it on the week leading to the concert. No hopes.

Finally on the previous day of the concert, there was some kind of persistence on my side with my heart telling me deep inside keep trying. It wasn’t violent impolite or noisy. Simply persistent.

They flatly refused. When I went upstairs with my coffee, my mum came behind and asked me later, whether I’d go if I was allowed to, and I said that is if I was allowed. She said, then go. (What?? The impossible suddenly turned possible!)

No looking back. Take the train and leave. Packed my bags quickly for a self-financed adventure trip to be part of the worship concert by such a great singer! Squeezed myself into the general compartment of the train to Bangalore, that afternoon.

What happened in three power-packed days?

Met with friends over lunch, attended youth Bible Study, Went for the Concert, followed by a sleep over at my friends place towards where I got a free ride from friends, back to church in the morning- another free ride from a kind friend who stayed nearby, attended the first service , attended Sunday School and led a song with my favourite friends, where another fav friend suddenly turned up with an exposition to the verse mentioned in the song gloriously making the truth in the verse clear, attended the anniversary of a mission-field where we reached by another joyride in two cars with a quickly propped up plan, got back and attended a Seminar on Worship by Bob Fitts, went for dinner ,went home and talked a lot with friends who came for a sleep over, went next morning to meet an old friend, went to college to meet a teacher who I wanted to speak to, Met with friends, went to see off another friend and got on the train, found space and got back comfortably. Praise God! What providence! It’s indescribable and how God carries you through is amazing.

Yet another instance to show that God provides and takes care. He has great things planned for those who’ve given their life to him. I’m waiting but He’s making the wait worth.

ISFiT arrival!

04:52 pm, 20th Feb
Trondheim

Just can’t believe I am back in Norway. Stepped out of the KLM city hopper singing “Nanniyode njaan sthuthui paadidum” ( I will sing praises with a thankful heart. I love travelling and God’s given me another opportunity to attend an awesome conference.

With two Indians , a Korean and a Singaporean whom I had met at the Amsterdam airport, I moved out of the baggage claim place and found the ISFiT volunteers waiting for us (Vaernes Airport, Trondheim). FRee ride to Trondheim! I had only 200 Kroners with me and they wouldn’t do rupee exchange at the airport. But the 90 kroner ticket to Trondheim was given to us by the ISFiT volunteers Marte and George.
Trondheim is all snowy at this time and it looks beautiful. Minus two degrees is the cold and I had gone and worn my thermal underneaths on the plane itself, as planned before. Wanted to stay warm, you see…

The reception at the Student Samfunnet Building was awesome. The theme andthe atmosphere has such a mood associated with it that it’s been fun. Meetings loads of people… Norwegians kinda surprised that I speak their language. Not speaking much of it because this is an English speaking conference due to it’s multicultural international nature. It’s ok, I can manage fine without showing off. IT’s fun seeing there faces when I speak it though.
I’m in workshop 16 Music: Jamming for PEace and I am the only bass playing participant in the workshop, as of now. The workshop coordinators are very nice and friendly and Adrian, one of them, plays the bass and we have plans to play two basses at the same time. Gonna be fab with the music. Very excited!

I must talk about the warmth of the ISFiT Volunteers. All of them are doing a a fantastic job! They’re so welcoming , put you at ease and help you at any point. Very friendly. The whole atmosphere right now is suited to make a lot of friends and talk to a lot of people. There was coffee and snacks to supplement the milieau which makes it just perfect. We’ve got our conference kits and a t-shirt too.

My host is a Canadian from Cubec named Geulleaume (JYOM) and a very frinedly person. He stays at the students quarters of the university of Trondheim known as NTNU – Nord Trondelag Norsk Universitet. Nice cozy place. I told him to not worry about my comfort and stuff coz I am a travellerwho stays on basics and this facility itself is fab for me.
Gonna catch some sleep in while. Really tired. By the way, I met people in my workshop from Grenada, Belarus and Turkey. Hadn’t met anyone from there before.
Yonas (the turk) and I got some talking going about Turkey and multiculturalism ( which acccording to him is not true) and the EU membership and his experience there. He’s a guitarist and taught me some basic lessons in sweeping. Nice chat. Looking forward to making a lot of music!

Today special – no.1:
Wherever I go something has to happen and I make a fool of myself.

2 girls from Belarus introduce themselves. “Have you heard of Belarus?”
“Of course”, I say fully confident. A broad smile appears on their face.

“What language do you speak in Belarus?”, I ask. The grin fades away suddenly.
“Russian.”
“Any other language?”, I try to make amends.

No use.

Of course I know Belarus but suddenly couldn’t place it!
No use. Next time, a little more guarded`Of course’s.

Vaernes
Vaernes
Where its all happening
Where its all happening
Host ghost leading the way
Host ghost leading the way