As we trotted upstairs to reach our designated room in Tura, Meghalaya, strong memory flashes enveloped my senses. It was over three years ago when we’d first arrived at Shalom Guest House after going through a nightmarish travel experience.
Three years ago
On our first visit to Meghalaya in October that year, we’d faced nature’s angst in the form of a severe flash flood at Dawki, Asia’s cleanest river. My husband, Arvind and I, were camping beside the river at Shongpedong. I’d retired for the day and was going through the fun filled events from earlier in the day. I was comfortably settled in our tent when I heard Arvind shout, “Come out, now!”
I scrambled out bare feet to find the river water barely a foot away from where we’d pitched our tent. The river was in spate and was rising by the second. The rain gods had chosen to burst upon us in all their fury. Arvind urged me to run towards safety over the sand and pebble river beach but I was reluctant to leave him behind.
He forced me to scram and sent out loud alarm calls to the villagers and other campers tucked within their tents. It was a very dark night and I remember being terrified as I struggled to climb up the steep, slushy incline. The path was strewn with sharp pebbles, rocks, sand mixed with glass bits and rubble left by careless visitors. My tears were mixing with the incessant rain water as I kept looking back to see where Arvind was, but to no avail.
A lucky escape
After what seemed an eternity, the consistent flashes of lightning allowed me to spot Arvind and two other men pull out our tent (just the way it was) and carry it with all our belongings towards higher ground. A rain-soaked tent with bedding and luggage within can be quite a challenge to haul, especially when strong winds make the task more difficult than ever!
Our rescuers had dumped our tent on an overflowing open drain that was gurgling with the high river current. The place was infested with mosquitoes and we could barely move as everything was in a mess and drenched. It rained heavily the whole night and we could hear continuous cries and shouts of people as they scurried around to give or take shelter.
Early next morning, we stepped out to see the river flowing from one bank to the other. The place where we had pitched our tent was totally under water and inaccessible. We thanked the Almighty for sending the flash flood at a time when we were still awake and could get help. Over the next hour or so, we heard the narratives of many other campers, night fishermen and locals who’d experienced equal, if not scarier, rescue operations all through the night.
The hunt for a roof over our heads
We were the only campers with our own car. After asking a few stranded tourists if we could offer them a lift, we left for Tura in the Garo Hills. The drive from Dawki in the Khasi Hills near the Indo-Bangladesh border to Tura took us about six hours via Guwahati. I booked Shalom Guest House online as it looked reasonably good and we were desperate to get a room for ourselves.
I shall never forget the warm hospitality and kindness bestowed upon us by Phoebe, the beautiful owner of this lovely place. She gave us all possible aid to dry our clothes, luggage and other belongings including our camera and lenses. The food served was all homemade and it tasted awesome after two nights of basic, camp food. Neat and clean in every conceivable way, the guest house seemed better than a Taj or Marriot property to us that day. We felt as if we’d returned home to safety and comfort, and that mattered over anything else!
Back to the present
Only recently, following a 450 km long road trip, we were glad to check in into Phoebe’s place once again. It was our first visit after that fateful event. Everything was just as we remembered. It was all well laid out and packed with books. There was a welcoming terrace with a view of Tura’s hills and beyond, white lacy curtains kissing the breeze, beautiful cane and wrought iron furniture and above all, a profound sense of homeliness.
It was after all her home, not a hotel or guest house. And, as expected, it was warmer and more welcoming than any other commercially managed accommodation in Tura.
Honestly, Meghalaya has not failed me in any way till date. I love how clean the state is and I adore its people wholeheartedly. They harbour no pretentions or false hopes and expectations. What you see is what you get. I feel so relaxed in Meghalaya’s precincts, be it in its Khasi or Garo hills. Given this and a lot more, we both look forward to creating more and more memories and engaging in interactions with the place and its people. Our visits to this peaceful region will continue, in equal parts for work and leisure.