One of the best ways to travel across Meghalaya is by having the steering wheel in your own hands. With enough time to stand and stare, you can be assured of having one of the most wonderful drives of your life through the Scotland of the East.
Rolling meadows, lush sideways, flowers galore and misty clouds; there is so much to relish at each turn.
Impossible to be ‘destination oriented’ here
My last drive in the state of my dreams, took me through places frequented by tourists like Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak, Dainthlen Waterfalls, Mawsmai Falls and Mawsmai caves. Having visited these ‘points’ on earlier occasions, I was not too excited to visit the ‘touristy’ places once again with my young friends from Shillong. But it was the thought of driving along the Shillong-Cherrapunji highway–that connected all these places and ultimately led to the Nokalakhai Falls–which was temptation enough.
As a travel writer, I can go on and on about what I saw and experienced along every kilometre. But what I would like to share today is a short narrative about the famous Nokalakhai Falls in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya.
The Nokalakhai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. At 340 meters, this landmark is fed by rainwater collected on the summit of a comparatively smaller plateau. The power of the waterfall reduces drastically during the dry season — from December to February. Fortunately, I have visited the region during the monsoons. The rainy season is the best time to be in Meghalaya if you want to experience a sea of clouds floating below you!
Legend has it….
Serene, obscure and far away from the maddening crowds of Shillong, Nokalakhai Fall has a legendary tale to its name. The first time I heard the story, I was left in a state of trance for minutes. How could anyone be so cruel? What did the little one do to deserve such a fate? Her mother Nokalakhai, why did she have to face such an ordeal?
The story goes back decades, maybe a century or two even. A khasi family comprising of a stepfather, daughter and her mother lived at the edge of this natural wonder, in a village called Rangjyrteh, upstream from Nohkalikai Falls.
The stepfather had no love lost for the little girl. One day, when the very tired Nokalakhai returned home after her day’s work, she was happy to find a meal prepared by her husband spread out for her. She ate it all up greedily only to get stuck on a piece of meat that was different.
Obviously it was.
She had just bitten into the finger of her gentle, and now no more, daughter. Filled with angst, pain and guilt, she ran out of her hut howling like a mad woman. Her run stopped at the edge of the waterfall where she jumped to her death.
Every time I come across this waterfall or its pictures, my vivid imagination goes back to the moment that defined the lady’s fate and immortalised her. The lush environment and beauty of the region sinks in eventually, but only a lot later.
I am waiting to go back to Sohra – the local name for Cherrapunji. I wish to once again see the white clouds sailing at low heights set against the mighty falls, see the green patch where the plunge fall ends into a beautiful fresh water reservoir. Many an adventurous tourist visits this pool with its unusual green-colored water.
An added attraction is the fact that Meghalaya is clean. Be it its roadside eateries, public toilets, home stays, resorts, or other points of interest, there is a general sense of freshness all around. I miss all this in West Bengal, where I stay. I miss the essence of the adage that highlights ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ — a trait that is second nature in the ‘abode of the clouds’.
Every inch of this beautiful Himalayan state is beauty personified for me! No wonder I keep finding myself wishing for a drive on NH27 again, and soon.