Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Charming Shillong

Now I'll finally show a bit from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya where we were based.

A characteristic feature of Shillong is the many remaining colonial-era buildings such as this one set in a quite lush garden. During the era of the British Raj this was the capital of all Assam, which pretty much means the entire Indian Northeast. Fortunately the British heritage has been relatively well preserved, giving Shillong Town a rare charm.

A view of part of Shillong's outskirts seen from Wapang and Mark's roof top terrace. In the front of the picture you see another example of an old British style building with a timber frame construction facade and slated roofs. However as you can clearly see in the background so called "modern" concrete block buildings are shooting up everywhere giving the impression that the charm of Shillong could be all but gone in a generation or two. Unless the young Indians start to realise the importance of the heritage left behind by history - be it colonial or not.

Another example of fine old buildings. In the picture below you see two of the children living in the white building to the right.

We stopped to talk to the kids and to tell them what a beautiful old house they live in. Susanna said that they were lucky to live there. "Really?" they said. Because their parents were planning to sell the house and move into some apartment building instead. It was very disheartening to hear, since you have no idea what will happen to the house now. I suppose someone could make good money tearing it down and putting up a new big concrete block. Anyway, we told the kids that they should be proud of their house and ask their parents to reconsider.

This is the cathedral of Shillong and a testament to another heritage left behind by the British: Christianity. Whereas the British - unlike the Portuguese, French and Danes - never had any great ambitions in terms of converting the locals, Meghalaya is the one state where the British religion actually made a real impact. So much that in fact the state is majority Christian, one of only three Indian states. However the other two became Christian mainly because of the work of zealous American missionaries. We were in Shillong in December, so all the churches plus the fairly cool weather gave it a good Christmas atmosphere.

More Christmas Spirit here in the commercial part of Shillong. Plenty of stores such as this one put on Christmas Displays, sold Christmas merchandise and played Christmas carols from large speakers.

To put the icing on the Christmas Cake take a look at the flowers surrounding this small Christian monument. These are Poinsettias, in Denmark better known as Christmas Stars (Julestjerner) the ultimate flowery symbol of Christmas. These are growing everywhere in Shillong in December.

If this doesn't bring out the Christmas spirit in you, then nothing will.

Speaking of flowers, the inhabitants of both Shilling and the rest of Meghalaya seem to love flowers and plants and they do a great deal to decorate their houses with greenery. This lovely front entrance to a small, old house was just a few metres down the street from Mark and Wapang's house. In general Shillong is nice to wander about because you see this kind of stuff everywhere you go.

Another example of Meghalayan flower culture.

Yet another beautiful flower cultivated by an inhabitant of Shillong.

Jumping to a whole other topic: A man carrying two baskets full of bicycle parts. Exactly why he does it I do not know, but it remains a fact that many jobs that are simply not worth doing in Europe, still occupy people in India. I think this is a good example.

And finally a picture of Susanna I took at the terrace in Shillong. It doesn't really fit in thematically, but I like it so I thought I'd post it anyway.


Oxhomiya Jeet said...

Hello, I was born and brought up in Shillong. You photos brought back a lot of memories. And truth be told, I have almost NO bad memories of that little town. As time passes, it becomes more and more fairy-tale like in my mind! Thanks for putting your photos out there.

Jeet Das

Esben said...

Hi Jeet

Glad you liked my post from Shillong. It is indeed a very nice town, although one can easily be a little concerned about it's future development. Quite a few concrete blocks shooting up everywhere. I don't know how long ago you lived there, but I imagine it must have been even more idyllic back in those days.

Oxhomiya Jeet said...

Oh yeah, it was idyllic. Which is why the Brits developed Shillong in the first place. I left Shillong right after my 10th grade, in 1978. The last time I visited was in 1988! It's been a long time. I'm sure much has changed. (http://oxhomiyajeet.blogspot.com/2005/11/shillong-as-i-knew-it.html)

Since I'm here, just want to say that I spent a lot of time looking around your other posts. Loved the Meghalaya pictures. Atleast now I can point people to your blog and show them where I grew up!

Your pictures of the sadhus at the Kumbh Mela were amazing as well.

You have a real talent with your camera.


Esben said...

Thanks for all the nice words. And you are of course always welcome to show anyone you like my blog.

Mike said...

Hi, Enjoyed surfing thru your blog. I really appreciates your skills in photography, however, If you don't mind I would like to know what brand and model of camera you use.
Thanks Mike

Esben said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your comment. I am currently using a Panasonic Lumix FZ-50, but I'm looking into upgrading to a DSLR camera (probably Canon EOS 40-D). The camera I have now is really good for the beginning hobbyist who is getting a bit serious about his pictures, but not yet ready to handle a camera with changeable lenses.

ankita said...

hey esben i was surfing on ur blog as m going to shillong on this christmas and ur blog has made me even more excited for my trip....nice pics look ilike u have explored the place inside out...and guess what m also a pol sci. graduate frm delhi and currently doing masters frm jnu.

colormesunshine said...

My hometwon. How i miss it :(. love your pictures of the place. makes me nostalgic

Esben said...


Hope you had a great trip to Shillong - even thought it was long ago now :)


Glad to have taken you down a small stroll on memory lane.

borne said...

Hello Esben, thank you so much for the lovely snaps of shillong... i really miss my town, its beauty, cool breeze, amazing culture etc... im a khasi myself & my parents are based in Laban,i hope u visited the place.
Myself,im based in calcutta as i an working here fr the past 5yrs
KIndly mail me more pictures of shillong at bornemylliemngap392@gmail.com
Hope to hear from you soon....
A.Born Mylliemngap

Indranil said...

Hi Jeet. It's been 15 years I think. You really took me on a long trip down memory lane. Are u still in Toronto. Will be there next month. We could catch up. My e-mail is indrdta@yahoo.co.in.

Indranil Dutta

Sudip said...

My self Sudip Bhowmik. I am from Tripura. From my childhood I had a dream after establishing in life I will make my dream house at Shillong. Because Shillong is my dream town. I love this town too much.

Gaurav Dorje Lama said...

Hi Esben! Admirable work! Love the photos and the descriptions.

WELLS S said...

Thanks to this blog , I'm ab;e to realize the beauty of Shillong..