Exactly a year ago, I was concentrating on writing my second last post in the A2Z challenge when the reminder mail from Blogchatter arrived in my inbox about signing up for the Blogchatter e-book carnival. I wasn’t sure if I had the time or skills to convert my posts to a book. That is why I was one of the last ones to sign up for the e-book. Little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the best decisions in my writing career.
As the days progressed, I realized that the book based on the theme ‘A Dollop of Bengal’ from my A2Z challenge posts needed more information, detailed research and better structure that looked quite difficult in the limited time period. With just a few days left for submission, I realized that the only way out would be to bow out of the carnival. But Blogchatter turned out to be a perfect example of what a sense of belonging to the blogging fraternity can lead to. Just six days before the date of submission, I sat down motivated by my fellow bloggers, to write my first ever detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ introducing Raya Ray.
Post submission, I executed all my marketing knowledge for the next few days to create an interesting trailer for the book launch and a video on the book reading. Through social media promotions, I had managed to create such a hype about my book that it led to 80 downloads hours before the book could be officially launched on 22nd May. Deal of Death went on to become the first book to run out of stock despite getting restocked twice within a week of launch. Encouraging reviews and positive feedback helped me establish my identity as a writer. Two months later, Blogchatter gave the authors an option to take the book to a different platform and most of my fellow authors went ahead and published it on Amazon.
In my fifth post E for Examination Expectations, I wrote about a certain school following a ridiculous assessment methodology. That post had details about the final steps of the evaluation process while the first step of a Group Discussion involving the parents and decision-making authorities of the school follows here.
In his tenure of being a medical student and then working as a Doctor in various cities, Sr. T had never even heard of the concept of Group Discussion or GD, as we prefer to call it. As a B-school student, I had been part of this terrifying process twice in my life. The first time that I was a part of a GD group was to get through ta B-school and the second time happened as part of the campus recruitment selection process by a certain organization. This school was the only one who spoke of a GD and our curiosity to see how crazy things could get landed us in the school on the date of interaction.
On the scheduled day of the interview, there were a bunch of parents with their respective kids sitting in a posh air-conditioned conference room waiting for their turn. Post verification of the documents, a group of five parents and their kids were asked to walk inside a meeting room that had the Head of the institution and a child counselor already waiting for us.
The Head welcomed the kids with a toffee each wherein she expected every child to say ‘Thank You’ after taking the toffee (later she claimed to be checking the social skills of the child). After the initial formality of introducing ourselves, she threw the forum open for discussing the old and new parenting practices. Sr. T had a wide grin on his face as he looked at me. All through my student life, I had been the kind who raised her hand first in response to a teachers question. Also, I happen to be quite an opinionated person. He knew that I was raving to go at this topic. Little did I know that the group composed of someone who was more enthusiastic than me.
I usually don’t write posts in advance for it kills the thrill of writing. Today when I was brainstorming about the topic for my post, I came across a sheet of paper that got me giggling like a kid. It mentioned Assessment format on the top. The first line began as ‘The expectation from this examination is to assess..’ and it went on for about a full page. Can you guess what examination we are talking about here?
Well, a new age school in the city that resembles a corporate house more than an educational institution had handed over this leaflet as part of the nursery admission brochure. The school still doesn’t have any board results to its credit but definitely has huge claims related to facilities and technological advancements. I am all for the holistic development of a child. There’s definitely much more to a child’s’ development than academics only and any school that encourages extra-curricular activities and sports has my support. However, when the same school has ridiculous standards of selection criteria, the hypocrisy gets too prominent.
This particular school had two levels in the selection process – the first part involved a group discussion of parents and the later part was about interviewing the child. The leaflet spoke about the parameters on which a child was to be judged. It spoke about his knowledge of English alphabets, numbers, a couple of rhymes, his social skills, his ability to answer basic questions (glad that they didn’t mention oratory skills already) and his writing. Yes, you read it right! A three-year-old was going to be assessed on his ability to draw lines or a circle and write alphabets by joining the dots.
Hello travelers, hope you are enjoying the ride on #XploreBharat express that has covered eight destinations until now with the most recent trip to Kashmir by Saba yesterday. Today it reaches a part of the country famous for its natural beauty and unique customs – Meghalaya in the mesmerizing North East.
The backstory –
In 2002, my first post-graduation took me to Delhi. My address for the two years that I lived in the city was the North Eastern Students Hostel/House for Women. It was here that I was introduced to the variety and richness in our culture. The North East stands out from the rest of the country for being a matriarchal society where the man leaves his premarital home to stay with his wife and her family and also takes up her surname. It took me more than one and a half decade to start exploring this part of the country but I am glad that it began with a family trip to Shillong in Meghalaya in Oct 2017.
In Sept 2017, two things happened – I started this blog and my son turned two. While junior T has been traveling with us since he was one and a half months old, it had mainly been to sea beaches and places of historic significance. So, my husband and I decided to make Shillong as the first hill station destination for him. Needless to say, the excitement of an unexplored destination was equally appealing to both of us.
The journey –
Shillong has a fully functional airport though Air India is the only flight operator that connects Shillong to a handful of cities. Though there was a direct flight from Kolkata airport to Shillong, we felt that the best way to travel was to take a flight to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati first and then cover the rest of the distance by car. It takes three to three and a half hours from Guwahati to reach Shillong by road. Most of the resorts usually arrange for a pickup and drop facility on request though cabs are also available on hire. The journey is quite comfortable because of the four-lane roads which never get too steep. Also, the entire stretch is filled with a gorgeous view. There are a couple of eateries on the way for a quick meal like Jiva restaurant.
The stay –
While there were multiple options available within the Shillong city namely Hotel Polo Towers, The Habitat, Tripura Castle among others, we decided to stay in the boutique resort Ri Kynjai(clickhere for detailed review) in Umiam district, a little away from the main city of Shillong. The location of the resort is its biggest asset. It is just opposite Lake Umiam also known as Barapani which is one of the main tourist attractions in the state. Overlooking the Umiam lake and mountains, the resort had all the modern amenities without compromising on the feel of royalty and tranquility.
Places to visit –
The places for sightseeing includes
Umiam Lake– It is also known as Barapani and offers boating facilities to visitors.
Don Bosco Museum – The Museum houses and documents the various indigenous cultures, arts and crafts of North East India.
Elephant Falls – It is also known ‘The Three Step Waterfalls’ because it consists of three falls in succession.
Shillong Peak – It offers a panoramic view of the city.
Shillong golf course – It is one of the largest golf courses in Asia.
Butterfly Museum – It is a delight to take a tour of this museum
Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians also referred to as Shillong Church – The Cathedral is the principal place of worship of the over 300,000 Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese which covers RI Bhoi and East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.
Lady Hydari Park – This place offers a spectacular view of flowers, birds, and animals. A portion is allocated to the Zoo that houses animals like bear, deer among many others. Fishes in the ponds, variety of birds and a colorful and well-maintained garden with flowers in full bloom is a sight to behold.
Local market –
No visit to Shillong can be complete without a visit to the local market known as Police Bazar. Shillong is famous for its bamboo handicrafts, cheap electronic goods, and woolen clothes. This market provides ample option for each though I would like to advise that almost all the prices are negotiable and thus bargaining is a virtue to shop here. The market also has a huge sweet shop Delhi Mistaan Bhandar that caters to the taste buds of people from every corner of the country (their jalebis are definitely a must-try). There’s also a movie theatre Gold cinemas at the end of the street.
Local cuisine –
While Sao Aiom, the in-house restaurant of Ri Kynjai provided us with the option of a Khasi cuisine along with Indian and Chinese varieties, we ended up having Bengali cuisine like Prawn Malai Curry instead. In fact, there are multiple restaurants in and around Police Bazar that serve different varieties of dishes, especially Chinese and Tibetian. One place that is a must visit is Cafe Shillong overlooking the buzzing Don Bosco Square with a beautiful ambiance and serves the best Irish cafe along with a host of continental dishes (I loved the steak here). Another place that serves good pork dishes and momos is Cafe Shillong Heritage inside the Tripura castle.
The road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji takes approximately two to two and a half hours but for someone like me who gets enthralled by the beauty of nature quite easily, I ended up asking the car to stop at frequent intervals for capturing some gorgeous sights. This is the kind of experience that stays with one forever because the emotions felt while walking amidst the clouds is something that goes beyond words. The entire stretch of the journey is picturesque with the Sun playing hide and seek. Cherrapunji has multiple waterfalls worth, notable among them being the Nohsngithiang Falls, also known as the Seven Sisters waterfalls. The double-decker living root bridgeis the next most sought after tourist attraction. Cherrapunji also a few accommodation options like Hotel Polo Orchid along with a bunch of home stays.
Two more places around Shillong that deserve special mention are Asia’s cleanest village Mawlyngong and the crystal clear Dawki river.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Shillong is between October to April. Ideally, the weather is most pleasant during October-November and in the month of Feb – March. We traveled during October 2017.
Recommended Itinerary –
A trip to Meghalaya can best be scheduled keeping two days for Shillong, one day for Cherrapunji, one day at Mawlyngong and the last day, rather a night for camping near the Dawki river.
Shillong gets quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist season and the roads are filled with traffic, causing an unnecessary delay in movement. Hence it is advisable to start the trips a little early so that the crowded roads can be avoided before vehicles start crawling at the pace of a snail.
My two cents
Shillong will always be memorable on a personal level for being the first hill station journey of my toddler. However, the emotions run a little deeper since it is the simplicity of the Khasi people and the serenity of the place that has ensured a permanent place for Shillong in my heart.
Hope this destination leaves you with a smile on the face and a desire to plan a trip to this city very soon. Tomorrow the express will leave for its next destination as Sanjota take control to direct it towards Hampi. Until then, have a safe journey and don’t forget to read, comment and share this post.
About Roma’s ebook: A girl child who listens to all the malicious ways of the world in her mother’s womb feels petrified but decides to survive and take the challenge. She proves herself and the society how a commoner with zero support system manages to live life queen size.
Few months back I wrote a post on my career trajectory from a chemistry major to that of a Banker and then how my love for the writing world turned me into a full-time blogger. Little did I know that the next step of elevating this writing journey to that of an author would happen so soon.
In April, I participated in the Blogchatter A2Z challenge to bring discipline to my blogging schedule and meet like-minded bloggers in the blog-o-sphere. Despite the hectic 26 days of non-stop writing, it turned out to be an extremely interesting and insightful month. During the month we were given the option to sign up for the Blogchatter E-book carnival which meant we could convert our blog posts into an e-book and become published authors. I was probably one of the last ones to sign up for this. There’s a difference in the quality, word count, format and nature of a book from that of a blog post and I kept wondering if I could manage to put in so much of effort and time while raising a preschooler back home. Besides, month-long the challenge had left me mentally exhausted.