Meghalaya – Land of the Clouds
The borderland is marked by clouds that balloon along the highway to envelop the car. The ridge is peppered with tropical jungle, scarred red and pockmarked by quarries, the clouds swallow the grim reality of progress advancing into Wonderland, eating at her edges. The road twists along the back of an ancient dragon, snaking this way and that, shedding waterfalls like scales at every bend. The dragon sleeps and breathes bellows of clouds to protect the magical kingdom.
Meghalaya pours water into that great ocean of Bangladesh below a land more sea than land, overlaid with sheets of monsoon rain. A vast flat landscape disappearing into the unseen Bay of Bengal. The end of the known world. Land of a million sighs, a trillion sorrows, Bangladesh.
“When the war was on (in the 70’s) these fields were a refugee camp,” says Moni, my Bengali driver. “Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi lived here. Both sides of the road.”
As we take the turn to Mawlynnong, he remarks, “If you go straight that way, you will reach the border.” He says it the way one would tempt another into something illicit, or maybe a daytime tourist jaunt. A cheap thrill for another few hundred rupees, a post on Facebook.
To straddle two countries in a day.
But despite the lines man would draw on a map, or the fences they would plant on the breast of mother earth, this land is and will always remain resolute. The land of clouds, a mixture of sighs and sea water, a land lying between love and desperation and hidden behind the mist.
Butterlfies in conversation with the forest draw no such distinction. As big as birds, as small as a childs fist, coloured outrageously, swirling drunkenly, flitting, flirting dancing on the edges of paths. Singing on tree branches, falling headlong into the green abyss of the forest. The forest whispers back in loving sighs.
In the village there is no line drawn between where nature left off and man began. The ground so lush and fertile that if you planted a feather, a chook would grow! But which came first, the garden or the gardener?
And why did the chicken cross the bridge?