Khasi thali : soul food and heartfelt conversations

‘ Jadoh’ is a staple among the Khasis . Ja means rice and doh means meat . Pork is served almost every where in Meghalaya , which is not so in most parts of India . Reading about Jadoh online wasn’t very appealing , ‘ pork spares’ and ‘pork blood’ are enough to make the most iconic dish of the Khasis sound repulsive , but the truth is far from it . I must admit , being a Goan , the concept of pork blood in cooking  is not alien ( read sorpotel ! ) and so I had decided I was going to give it a go .

Wanting to experience an authentic Khasi thali , we zeroed in on ‘ Trattoria’ , a hole in the wall ( really ! ) in the extremely crowded police bazaar . With no menu , dim lighting , narrow benches and bus style sitting , we weren’t sure what to expect , when out came the owner / chef , high on energy at the end of a long day and asked what we’d like . Three thalis were brought out rather quickly and she explained what each dish was . It was a pork party on a plate ! Jadoh , pork meat ball ( doh shain ) , pork curry , pork salad ( doh khleh ) , tungrymbai ( fermented soyabean paste ) , tung pat ( dry fish chutney ) spicy and some potato veg. The pork dish in the side was fatty but yum ! Not a morsel wasted ! 39BEC57E-7F4C-485D-99E2-B751712091EC

Soul food and a heartfelt  conversation with the owner, what a meal ! C138921B-019C-44A6-8AED-979710D9AF88

With the gregarious and super enthusiastic owner 🙂 This is what a  ‘happy meal’ really is .

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Shnongpdeng : A river and suspension bridge

Surrounded by the Jaintia hills in Meghalaya , Shnongpdeng is a beautiful place to experience the crystal clear waters of Umngot river. While most travellers zero in on Dawki to take a dip or enjoy a boat ride  , Shnongpdeng remains fairly quiet and peaceful. We were the only ones there that morning , and later joined by a family of three.

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The best time to experience the river in all its blue glimmering glory is winter and since it had already begun raining when we were travelling through the hills , the water in Dawki was brown and muddy and a stark contrast to what one mostly sees in pictures.

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Taken form the suspension bridge

Shonongpdeng had some part of the river clear as the mud settled and it had another advantage over Dawki , which is the suspension bridge that is stunning and a swaying walk over it gives one a bird’s eye view of the majestic river.

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The picture above – muddy waters after a downpour two nights before we were here and the clear water as the mud had begun to settle . Also ,the suspension bridge which is a thrill to walk on .

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Taking a dip in the icy cold water ,watching the locals fish and admiring colourful boats are rewarding !

The river resonated with my state of mind , muddy in part and beginning to clear and the walk over the bridge spoke to me too , build a bridge and move on . I got more than I expected from Umngot and Shnongpdeng . The most unexpected places have the greatest lessons sometimes 🙂

Khublein (Thank you) Meghalaya .

Meghalaya : The little things I learnt

During my stay in Meghalaya , I realized that desserts are not an integral part of Khasi meals. In fact , during one of my conversations with Mona Rose , the daughter of our host in Mawlynnong , she mentioned they eat a lot of fruits that are grown locally instead of dessert . Pine apples and jack fruits being very common. On the last night in the village , Mona Rose came to our hut excitedly with a plate of jack fruit. They grow these in their garden.

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Jack fruits in Mawlynnong

I also tried a handful of the seedy fruit locally called ‘Sohphie’  . They come in to varieties the red sweet ones and the green sour ones . The red ones were nice, but the sour ones were extreme . I couldn’t have beyond a bite. The latter are used to make pickles and are enjoyed by the locals .

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Picture taken in Shillong

Every lane in Mawlynnong has pretty flowers and homes have neat colourful hedges that add to the beauty of this already charming place. Travellers are requested not to pluck any of these , but I saw quite a few showing complete disregard .

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Bright on a rainy day

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We also received a lovely piece of art made by Mona with some hydrangea from her garden.

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So this was a little about the healthy snacking of the Khasis and their love for all things natural . It shows ! They are lean and fit and beautiful . It comes as no surprise that when my husband tried buying a tee shirt for himself ,we figured they don’t keep them in his size. The largest they had were large, and their large still looked small to me !

So much to learn from them , so much !

Mawphlang Sacred Forest

About an hour’s drive away from Shillong , is the sacred forest of Mawphlang. The Khasi tribe revere this site and narrate stories of its importance for rituals performed  to appease divine forces, especially before war and at the time of epidemics.

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A few feet away from this sign board , one can hire the services of a guide and opt for a one hour quick informative tour or a leisure walk into the grove which might last a little over two hours. We opted for the latter. Before one enters the forest , the guide warns us against taking away anything from the forest , not even a leaf . They believe it brings bad luck and has proven to be fatal .

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Years ago ,we are told , this site was frequently visited by men of the tribe ,  once they had crossed a certain age and only if they sported a beard . These men would make their first halt at what is now called ‘ the preparation site’ to check if they had with them all they needed to perform their sacred rituals . Once this site was crossed , there was no turning back without the successful completion of the ritual as they believed it would anger the divine and bring them ill luck.

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The stones in the picture above mark the place of preparation. As we walk towards the sacred site of rituals ,  we are shown the Khasi pine , snake like plants , a variety of mushrooms and rhododendron trees . The largest among 200 sacred groves in Meghalaya , Mawphlang is a treasure trove that attracts botanists and nature enthusiasts from around the globe.

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Khasi pine

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Our guide ( who insisted we call him ‘wish’ , since his Khasi name was a tongue twister that none of us could get right ) kept pointing out to little mushrooms peeping from dark nooks and wet branches and explained the botanical names of each , none of which I remember !

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‘Wish’ was my wish come true . Unhurriedly , he let us marvel at trees , feel , stop and question. He patiently answered us , helped pick us up when we slipped and struggled with our raincoats and let our two year old pretend she was spidey climbing trees horizontally or splash around in a stream we discovered behind the thicket.

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The picture above is one of the sacred sites for the sacrifice / rituals .

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Someone had arranged these leaves on a stone and I couldn’t resist clicking them. For me it sums up Mawphlang , like the different colours of the leaves , Mawphlang has something for everyone – history , tradition , stories ,  the enchanting forest , bird song , mushrooms , colours , silence and peace and for our two year old , this was better than any jungle gym in the world .

With bruises , a few bites and mud stains all over , we left Mawphlang feeling blessed .

Mawphlang magic to continue ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Umiam

It’s a long drive from Guwahati to Shillong and just before one enters the city , scenic Meghalaya welcomes and soothes tired travellers with a glimpse of Lake Umiam .

Bara pani , as it is locally called , is picturesque and is just the beginning of an unforgettable journey through the abode of clouds.

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Meghalaya , India.

Towards Ross Island

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Our first stop after reaching Port Blair was Ross Island . An island that has deer , peacocks , a variety of birds and squirrels, all responding to Anuradha , a lady who has spent decades roaming the island during the day , spending time with the animals , calling them by name , feeding them and educating tourists about life on the island back when it used to be the capital of the Andamans .

Now under the control of the Indian Navy , traveling to this island is subject to  weather conditions and boats sailing out of the Rajiv Gandhi water complex towards Ross Island need to wait until the Navy officials give them a go .

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The picture above is one I took as we waited for our clearance . The changing colours of that water – magical !