Sinlung /
26 May 2010

The Torrential Luxury

By Patrick Bryson

Cherrapunji Raindrops keep falling A pragmatic pedestrian with a makeshift cover on the streets of Cherrapunji

Forget the beaches of Goa, the French architecture in Puducherry or the old school charm of Kolkata. For once, I want a week-long break where there are no photos, no tourists and no landmarks to visit. that’s my idea of bliss.

I first went up to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya when I came to Shillong to get married, five years ago. each time we come home I make the trip up there at least once.

Known in India and around the world more as a piece of trivia — as the wettest place on earth — surprisingly few visitors ever see Sohra (as Cherapunji is known to locals) in that state. the height of the tourist season in Meghalaya — the December- January period — coincides with winter. And from October through to March it actually has a shortage of water.

So the bulk of the tourists, mostly Bengalis or other northeasterners, see Sohra when it is at its driest: cue group family photos around the rusty-yellow the Wettest Place on earth sign, with blue skies and no clouds in the background. then there are the whiners; I have a good friend who said it was false advertising and still complains about the time we took him to Cherrapunji when it didn’t rain.

That’s why I prefer to time my visit with the thick of the rains. there are barely any tourists, and you get to see why Sohra is so famous. the weather is truly old testament in its magnitude. For my first time, in the monsoon, the jeep had to travel from Shillong at jogging pace — with visibility almost zero. As we inched closer the mist grew thicker, the sky got darker and then it hit us.

The sound of so much water collapsing on you like that really has to be experienced first-hand. Just when you adjust to the noise, and you think that it can’t get any louder, Mother Nature turns it up a notch, and then does so again, and again.

Cherrapunji is home to a bioengineering marvel: living bridges. These are bridges built by ‘guiding’ the huge roots of rubber fig trees across chasms and streams
Nearest airport: Guwahati, Assam

When we finally made it, we headed straight for the local met office. Just stepping out of the jeep and running the few steps to the veranda soaked us, before the officer on duty said that the rain had been sheeting down like that for 17 days, without a break.

Think of the luxury a week of torrential rain like that gives you. I’d take along a well-stocked iPod — think Leonard Cohen, the Clash, some Frank Sinatra — my Kindle, and no phone. they’ve got an old government bungalow up there that would be just perfect for it.

I wouldn’t need to worry about organizing an itinerary, as we’d be staying in. the one day-trip that I might force on myself would be to some of the various waterfalls that populate the area. A glance at the tide vaulting over the cliffs is enough to confirm why flooding is such a problem for our plains-dwelling neighbors. rain that falls in Sohra is said to flow down-stream and across the border into Bangladesh within half an hour.

But on second thoughts I’d rather stay in, and spend the time with my wife. those Shillong-born, like her, absolutely adore the rain. People really do get excited here at the prospect of a good downpour. You’ll never call it gloomy weather again, after witnessing the monsoon in Sohra.

**Australian writer currently residing in Shillong, Meghalaya

[ via Tehelka ]


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