That's how Darl describes Shillong. And how apt. I spent a good seven days in my hometown last week and three days in muggy Guwahati, my other home to attend my mom's second death anniversary. The time flies. In the process, we also make myriad memories. I was both sad and happy to be home. But Shillong is always such a welcome break from the humdrum of city life, that at the end everything else far outweighs the pain.

After two hours and 15 minutes, Darl and I reached Guwahati. Didn't feel different than Delhi because of the heat. We were received at the airport by my brother, sister-in-law and my little niece Likla aka Kikky. We didnt waste too much time in Guwahati, the gateway to the northeast, as we had to come back after exactly four days to attend the family ceremony at the Ishkon temple there. So last Sunday, we took off on the three-hour drive to Shillong from Guwahati on a taxi, which Darl says must find its place in one of the ten top thrilling rides of the world. Reason: The cabbie was speed high and overtook every truck and other motorists around the hair pin bends and was at his acrobatic best! We laughed a lot but on hindsight, not very amusing.

Barapani looked amazing. Time has not changed this scenic lake, the favourit haunt of college goers, lovers, tourists, et al. Being September, the waters had swollen above its normal height. The air was cool, the pine trees nostalgic. My only grouse along the way was the obnoxious smell of diesel from the many trucks that ply along. And Shillong is losing its space to the numerous vehicles and ever rising influx of people. Sad. Nowhere do we see the lanes and bylanes anymore as everyone is building concrete houses everywhere. Shillong is indeed jostling for space.

But move away from the town and you can still capture pristine nature. Cherrapunji, Dowki, Mawsynram.. it also now boasts of the cleanest village in Asia -- Mawlynnong (more on it later). Cleanliness, of course, is something that comes naturally to the Khasis, the main inhabitants of the place. It is said that the Khasis love to keep their houses, utensils and their heels absolutely clean. Not necessarily in that order! So you find sparkling wooden floors, sparking utensils and women with soft red heels. Darl, who comes from Down Under, seconds it. "It is not India and it is so clean," is what he says. Not to mention the simple, friendly, westernised people who make the place such a livable and lively one.

From pop singers to bikers to nuns to anglo Indian residents, Shillong has such a mix of interesting population. Darl, a bike enthusiast, also met members of the Royal Enfielders' club with whom he exchanged notes on biking expeditions. It was also my first exposure to Shillong's thriving biking community, thanks to Indari my friend and her versatile siblings. And thank God for my friends there too, each visit to Shillong always becomes a memorable one!

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