Monday 12 October 2015


Everyone knows how mothers are: they want to take the best care of you, they want to nurture you and pamper you, they want to know your every move and they’re always worried about your safety.

I am the victim of a huge network of an extended family of such mothers all over North-East India: ever since my union with Glonț, the bikers and Enfield owners around here are twisting and turning, making sure nothing bad can happen to either of us. These tough Bullet riders with their honed knives and leather boots turn to tender loving swans when they have to take care of me and of Glonț.

If I ride with them, they are attending to my physical health (‘Have you had your breakfast/lunch/dinner?’) so much more than I would actually require, but I’ve literally heard it said that I need lots of food to have the strength to be able to ride Glonț. They are overlooking my manoeuvring technique, giving me subtle advice on how to put the bike on the main stand (can’t do it for my life), how to kick-start the bike (out of the hundred-something tries I’ve had doing this, I did finally manage to start it once or twice), when to start the bike so that it has enough time to warm up, when and how much fuel I should get, what spare parts I should always carry with me and where to get those from… Of course, most of my mothers tend to these issues themselves not letting me exert myself too much and they help me out whenever they think I might not be able to do something, like tying the bags on my bike or tightening a loose screw on Glonț.

The mothers also lovingly tend to the maintenance of Glonț, accompanying me to the nearest available mechanic although, unfortunately, the mothers can’t agree on the best mechanic around. This is how Glonț and I ended up going to several mechanics just in Shillong, each with his own idea and method of fixing the bike (more on this in a future post).

If I want to leave the nest, the mothers join forces and contact other mothers from along my route, so that these new mothers can take responsibility over me, greet me and accompany me wherever I want to go. The new mothers will then assume the duties of caring for my health, for Glonț’s wellbeing and all the other motherly obligations until again I leave the nest for another destination. Other mothers are informed and the circle closes once more…

My own responsibility is considerably reduced through this ingenious method. Mothers, guardians, chaperons or simply just friends always have the solution and I only have to tag along. This is why I don’t have even the slightest clue of the route I should take or even the name of the cities where we stop at night. And if anyone tells me not to worry – because, for some reason, my mothers always think that I do – I don’t have any concerns whatsoever about almost anything.

There is only one drawback to all this and that’s the fact that I need to check in all the time. It started with just one of the mothers but, as time passed and my mother supply got considerably bigger, by now I have to inform at least 10 different people of my whereabouts and my intentions. I get text messages every day which inquire again and again what, where, when, with whom… So now, whenever I stop on the road and switch on my phone, I’m bombarded with messages and calls and there’s not much else I have time for than to clarify every detail of my trip.

And if that wasn’t enough, this mother-network works in such a way that, by the time we get to a place, Glonț and I are perpetually anticipated; and after we leave a place, some mother from a different part of the North-Eastern states will have already known everything about our stay (I’ve heard it say that, because I was riding for about 300km in Assam, all the police force was informed not to even think about flagging me down).

If we tried to be alone, ride solo or stay for a while without motherly contact, the mothers would probably get consecutive heart attacks and would turn the whole of North-East upside-down just to find us (and they would probably succeed in doing so).

Bottom line is this: being a mother is hard; but it’s not easy being these mothers’ kid either.

Monday 14 September 2015

Bullet For My Heart

I am in love.

There is nothing in the world that can be compared to this feeling, this amazing sensation that makes you not to be able to contain yourself any more, this feeling which seems to overflow through every pore of your being, transformed from pure emotion into particles of light, making you agile and denser at the same time. Your precious secret makes its way out through your every action, every thought and every gesture: there’s no denying it and it can’t be held back any longer.

Before I saw him, I heard him from the distance and that song made me feel conscious of everything around me, senses heightened, heartbeat elevated, knees weakened, the roaring sound piercing swiftly from the ground below, rising wildly, shattering my eardrums and reddening my cheeks. It was the sound of Cupid’s missile shattering my heart.

And then I saw him. It was, indeed predestined. It was, possibly, love at first sight. There couldn’t have been a better match. His towering presence made everything else fade, turning the surroundings into a washed-out black and white setting with his strong overpowering build the center of attention. No eyes could turn away and he was painstakingly, secretly studied from every possible angle, and no one could deny his flawlessness.

And he was mine. So proud I was about my most recent conquest that feelings of excitement, anxiousness, nervousness and nausea competed for their turn at the steering wheel of my heart. In the end, love won, for the perfect stud had all he needed to sweep me off my feet and carry me away forever.

His name: Glonț.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Casual Khasi Conversation

Best ‘Whele flom’ talk I ever had:

Walking on the street back to the guesthouse, I failed to notice the two young Khasi lads walking in the opposite direction on the other side of the road. I only did notice one when he started crossing the street diagonally so as to meet me sort of halfway.

‘Hi!!!!’ he said, loud and clear, just in case I didn’t properly understand English and needed an official sign that it’s, in fact, English that is being spoken.

‘Hey,’ I said, looking up at him, unhindered by his yell.

‘Where???’ he said, showing no intention to stop.

‘Home,’ I answered with a presence of mind rarely seen, going by serenely.

‘OK,’ he said as he was already well past me, seemingly satisfied with my answer.

Could it be any easier?

Thursday 13 August 2015

Mawlyngbna - No Typo

They say that a long time ago, when animals could still speak, they had a weekly trade place, where they could meet and chat and exchange goods brought by each of them at the market. This meeting spot, Ka Iew Luri-Lura is said to have been in the land of the Khasis, in Meghalaya, more precisely close to Mawlyngbna, a small village close to the Bangladeshi border.

It’s there that I got to twice, the first time just to have a wonderful swim across the little lake, and the second time to retrace the steps of the beasts to the market and to witness the animals’ passing through, as their footprints are seen all over this fantastic place. I like this account more than the other one, which says that the imprints left on this million-year old seabed are just unusually shaped and the fossilized sea-urchins embedded in the rocks are proof to that effect.

Regardless of its origin, the place is simply astonishing, so I’d better leave the photos to do some justice to the place:

Survival Of The Most Adaptable

Meet Andy. 

He is one of the many that passed through Cherrapunjee during the last month. But his is a memorable story because it might just be one of a kind. Also, it’s a good lesson in how not to spend a month in Cherrapunjee.

At first, he was just an illustrious anonym among others, and on the third day here he went to Nongriat, the jungle village 10 kilometers away that houses the famed double-decker living root bridge. Nothing out of the ordinary just yet; on his return to By The Way guesthouse his person still did nothing to impress us and his leaving to Shillong was met with fond waves and words of safe journey.

And this is where things take a different turn: a phone call from Andy informed Heprit that he would be coming back on account of the fact that he couldn’t find his credit card any more. So, when he arrived back here again, we learned that Andy might have left his credit card somewhere around the swimming ponds in Nongriat. The next day he readily got his things and literally ran the almost 3000 steps down back to Nongriat in search for his precious credit card… which he didn’t find.

Low on cash and on morale, Andy became our new long-termer, being forced to wait for some money to be transferred to him here. Andy is half Khasi and half Sikkimese, living under the watchful eye of his aunt in Singapore, where he studies economy.

At first All-knowing Andy was conceited and overly informed about any subject known to man (well, of course, as long as he had his Google and Wikipedia around…), drawing conclusions from his 23 year-long life experience that would make even ants cringe in terror and frustration, but as soon as his money contracted to the size of a chewing gum, he became meek and compliant. The one piece of information I did get from him was that international transfers between Indians would take a very long time, as the government insists on checking each and every detail concerning the transferee. So Heprit found a guy who owned an account with zero balance so that Andy could use it for the transfer, in the hopes that it would take less time to send the money into an account than through Western Union or the like.

After four days of Humble Andy, 700 rupees were transferred to the account and Entrepreneurial Andy’s investments were a chinlone ball and two metallic chains sporting colossal Christian crosses. Heprit received one. Two more days and the following 800 rupees were spent on a ride to Shillong and back, and a haircut. The subsequent day with its striking 100 rupees was deemed a pitiable day.

Our Adopted Andy – by now we had taken upon ourselves to keep Andy alive and somewhat fed, as Heprit was providing a daily allowance and I supplied the cigarettes – was dejected and bored, bombing me with motivational cards on WhatsApp and mostly thinking about food. He had nowhere to go, except for the regular trips to the ATM machine, amounting to 5 times a day, or the tea stalls where we took him daily to keep him hydrated. Desperation and impatience grew in him like weeds in a carefully cultivated crop. And, after we extinguished all other strategies of keeping Andy busy (like having him make the beds, clean the rooms and tend to the guests, as well as other small errands), we finally sent Dutiful Andy to earn his living. Heprit’s electrician friend took the inexperienced Andy with him to work one day. As luck would have it, that day was pretty dreary, rainy and foggy and Linesman Andy had to watch how skillfully and fast the electrician would climb the 10 meter high electricity poles and fix whatever lines were damaged. Photographer Andy soon gave me a detailed photo-account of how things were going. Coming back damp and dirty, Industrial Andy brought home the astonishing sum of 100 rupees.

A week later Serendipitous Andy gave me the good news: ‘Merry Christmas! Money came!!!’, enough for his ride to Guwahati and the subsequent flight to Calcutta and, last but not least, the flight back to Singapore. Careful as he became, he gave all his money to his new custodian – Heprit – and worked out the exact sum he would have to give to Heprit. And then he proceeded to plan a picnic with all of us together and a fun day for all of us in Shillong.

Picnic day was a rainy one so we had to move the picnic inside, where Andy, with his new-found omniscient voice delighted us with visions of kebabs and barbeques, and treated us with pork and beers. The next day was our day in the big city. But by that time, Budget Andy realized that money will not suffice for all expenses. So we ended up parenting again and, certainly, paying for the whole trip. To top it all off, he finally grasped the value of his money and figured that it will not be enough for his 20-something day accommodation and all the other expenses on flight tickets.

On an early Monday morning I woke up startled from the knocks on the door. Andy was leaving the nest and wanted company. We accompanied him to the jeep stand where he booked two seats – one for himself and one for his luggage. And with promises of gifts, presents and contributions to this new adoptive family, he left waving a sad goodbye.

I will not lie: I will miss the little shmuck. But we are now entirely prepared for the new waiting period that’s ahead of Heprit: the transfer from Andy for the lodging and allowance; nevertheless, we already know it will take more than three weeks.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Behdienkhlam - The Mud Dancing Festival

‘Go to Jowai. There is a festival there. I think you’ll like it. Jaintia tribes-people celebrate the sowing, trying to drive away plague and diseases and hoping for a good harvest. The men dance in the mud and carry huge chariots around and go from house to house carrying bamboo poles and beat the rooftops of the houses to symbolically drive away evil spirits.’

That’s what I’ve been told. And why not go and see men dancing in the mud in a pre-Christian sacred ceremony of a religion that also worships one major god and other lesser spirits?

Incidentally, another Romanian fellow is travelling around the area on a Royal Enfield bike, so we decided to go together. But Romanian customs work just as well even 10000 km away from the motherland and, although we started riding at around 11 AM, we managed to lose track of time and cover the 120 km from Cherrapunjee to Jowai in almost 5 hours. Of course the ceremonies will wait for us; we’re Romanians after all. At least that was what we’d hoped. But by the time we reached Jowai, the biggest city in the Jaintia Hills and the place where Behdienkhlam is held every year in July, the masses of people walking hurriedly through the streets meant that the mud dancing part was over. No matter, the weather was great and the people were in a celebrative mood, so we stayed around to see what else was going on. And, sure enough, our patience payed off: each year after the bad spirits have been chased away (through mud dancing, clearly), the locals have a football match between the upper part of the town and the lower part, making the winning team the agents of good crops on their side of the town.

Not only is this a very serious matter, kept every single year for generations, but it is also the perfect occasion for the townspeople to display their best clothes and accessories. We went along with remarkably well-dressed families (feeling very out of place with our own modest attires) and sat down on the side of the road in a large square lined with shops and masses of people to watch the football match.

The town’s elders, dressed in Sunday clothes bearing ceremonial canes arrived bringing along the traditional ball, the one used over and over again for every match. Something seemed out of place: why would the elders carry a coconut for a football game? But, as it was explained, this is a wooden ball, used so many times that the wear and tear of countless football games shrank it to the size of a fairly round grapefruit.

The players followed in this strange procession: different every year, these young men proudly engaged in what would turn out to be a fight that could have been easily mistaken for a mass kickbox match with a funny wooden ball misplaced amongst them. They would run around the square barefoot, hitting the wooden ball, trying to score for their side of town.

The game began. Kids, photographers, town elders, policemen, and bystanders all gathered as close as possible to the players, leaving only a small circle for the players to pass the ball. Whenever the ball rolled to a side, the circle would also move accordingly. I couldn’t distinguish any delimitation for this football field and it appeared that neither did the players, the referees or the onlookers; nor did they really care about that. Casualties were left to tend to themselves as the game went on while the spectators cheered for one team or another. The confusion climaxed in another part of the square, so it wasn’t clear for me who won. I was to find later that, as it mostly happens, the lower part of town won the game. I suspect that it’s also because the terrain is slightly inclined towards the lower part and, naturally, the ball would eventually find its way there.

The people quickly scattered after the elders proclaimed the end of the festivities, leaving everyone to enjoy the most important holiday of the Jaintias however they liked, mainly by carousing until the early hours of the morning, dancing happily to music played on cell phones, eating barbequed meat and rice, and simply enjoying themselves all night long. We were invited to join a family of no less than 100 relatives, who kept on coming and going, drinking rice beer, shaking various hands and taking countless pictures with us.

Well, the next day, a beautiful, peaceful Sunday, the bike refused to start. No pleading, persuading or cajoling could get the bike moving and no mechanic could be found awake and/or sober to take a look at the electric wiring, as all the people in Jowai were having their well-deserved rest after the celebration. A full day of waiting around resulted in the transport of the bike and us in a pick-up truck that came to our rescue from Shillong, where we spent the night.

To recap: the whole trip turned out to be a hell of a roller coaster ride  fun to be on and eager to look past the next turn  and my disappointment that we missed the actual ceremony of the festival was put aside because everything else was really great. Still, next time, I’ll try to be in time for the mud dancing.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Working Away the Rain

As you might know by now, I’m in Cherrapunjee (a.k.a. Sohra) in the far away land of North-East India, where butterflies and tribal people roam free all around, and where any good day is a day without 4 hours of continuous rain. Even so, if the rain doesn’t melt the last remaining thread of fabric from your clothes, the humidity – usually orbiting the 80% area – will probably get to you in ways unimaginable to anyone not born here.

When it’s raining, there’s one of two ways of spending time: counting heaps of money or engaging in the deep-rooted art of making children. Since none of the two is available to me right now, I desperately needed to find something else to fill my time. And that could only mean manual labor. I’ll grant you, usually it shouldn’t be the type labor that requires lots of space and/or proper tools to undertake it, but if there’s no other possibility, even that will do.

Confused? Well, let me explain: out here time is mostly spend inside. And if the inside is not big enough, one must find ways of making it bigger. That’s what we started out to do. Heprit, this great guy, who also happens to own the hostel I stay at in Lower Sohra and me decided to change things around here and make the common room/reception bigger.

Imagine a 4x4 meter room with a door and two windows on one side. Now imagine that as soon as you step in, you are confronted with either going to the right and virtually walking into a DVD rental place, or striding to the left and thus landing in the hostel’s reception. These areas are partly divided by a plywood wall right in front of the door, leaving about a meter in front of that for people to decide which way to go. We agreed that the best (and only) way to make a bigger reception where people could also hang out would understandably be to shrink the DVD rental. Also, in order to give the people some intimacy from the inquisitive eyes of the locals, Heprit, who also happens to own the DVD rental place, and me decided that the best place to expand would be behind the DVD rental.

Our planning summed up no more than one full day of steady work. But as my mother taught me, to get to the real amount of time any construction work takes, you’ll have to multiply what you planned by three and then hope for the best. Still, our minds were racing towards the end of this prodigious effort and didn’t even bother to think that it might just possibly take a little longer, considering the fact that we started at 2PM. After taking down all the DVDs displayed on the shelves and the shelves themselves, we intended to move the back plywood wall about halfway towards the front. But for this to happen, we had to first fix the shelves so that the plywood could be secured onto something. Well, by the end of the day, half of the shelves were in place.

On the second morning, we realized that if we put all the shelves up, there’d be no way of getting out from the back of the DVD rental, because we hadn’t cut through the wall towards the common room. So we started on chopping the dividing wall so that we’d have access on all sides.

Fixing the back plywood proved a bit tricky, as we couldn’t see where to nail it to the shelves from the back side so, on a closer look, you might see a small assemblage of tiny holes (and only imagine the thunderous diatribes we uttered every time we hit nothing on the other side). Still, on the third day, all the DVDs were dusted and put back into place.

The back room is still not ready; we came to an abrupt halt because we are not sure how to go on and what exactly to do back there. But in the meantime, friends come and help out with difficult tasks, such as applying the varnish, being fully, professionally equipped:

There are other projects filling my time. For instance, the 3-day disco ball made of old CDs or the new sign from outside the hostel, complying with Heprit’s requests and fashion sense, so I have yet to be bored.


If it ever rains and you find yourself with nothing better to do than change the size of your DVD rental place or brake some scissors while trying to cut through old CDs, feel free to give me a shout and I’ll walk you through any of these projects free of charge and with accurate time spending information. After all, you know what they say: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try a bigger hammer’. Alternatively, 'If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you ever tried'.