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A Day in Shillong Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Frank Bamon, India Sep 12, 2006
Languages   Short Stories
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My name is Phrangkupar (in my language it means, the Usher of Luck). Not many can really pronounce it, hence Frank has become my nickname. My hometown is Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya a state in the north east of India. We’re a tribe called the Khasis.

It’s Monday morning I dragged myself hesitantly out of bed, as I heard the loud noises of my grandmother thumping around the house. I looked at my table clock, half past five, too early but I have to get out of bed before my grandmother, Meiduh, that’s what we all call her, decides to use her own version of an alarm clock, her voice! The smell of burning wood fills the house: that means she’s woken up the maid and has got the fireplace started. My mother still grumbles as my grandmother still refuses to use only gas for cooking. Like all Khasi old women, my grandmother believes that food tastes better only when it’s cooked over a wood fire.

A quick wash and the family---Meiduh, Papa, Mei (Mummy), my two brothers Larry and Barry and my sister Ruth---huddle in the kitchen around the low dinning table placed right next to the hearth. (We do not eat in the dining room----that’s only for the very important guests.)

The fireplace is, as usual, crackling with yellow and red flames from the old, dried and seasoned logs, the hissing water from a half-blackened kettle, and the gentle bubbling of the boiling rice in the pot synchronizing in perfect harmony. Meiduh always cooks rice early in the morning. It's tradition that there should always be cooked rice in the house.

A short prayer and we are treated to hot cups of red tea and biscuits. As we munched and drank we gossiped too. We gossiped about everything- politics, business, cricket scores and what’s happening with the neighbours.

As the clock chimes seven, Mei briefs the maid on the tasks for the day as my siblings and I move to do our part of the housework. Almost every home has a maid in Shillong. It is a source of employment for the villagers on the outskirts. They do the cooking, washing, laundry and even taking care of the young children in very busy families. I know my mother can never do without one even though dad has bought her a washing machine. Clothes not washed by hand can never be clean, she says.

Having completed my chores, I sit down to watch the Breakfast News on the television. There was nothing exciting. I went back to my room to rummage through my lessons on Japanese. Each character opened up mental pictures; I was told, by friends who took up Japanese as a course of study. For me it was a maze of incomprehensible symbols. Thankfully I dropped the degree course in the language and took up Political Science instead. I just wanted to learn Japanese not get a degree in it. That would have been a little too much work.

Finding the task monotonous and unexciting I decided to join my brothers in a stroll through the St. Edmund’s school grounds. That was the school in which I completed twelve years of my education. The school is just a stone’s throw from where we live. The lawns and the football fields were our favourite haunt from childhood. We had explored each inch of the fields as children. Daddy was always with us. Mummy joined us at times when she was relieved from her supervision of the house work and doing her own part of it. Today, as I walk down the familiar trail, I am again drawn to the knotted and gnarled sycamore tree. I just wondered then how old the tree would be. It looked the same even today after so many years. I remembered how we (my brothers, sister and I) swung backwards and forth from its branches as Daddy sat down under its shade to watch us lest we fell.

The three of us sat as down at the same place. I skimmed through the Telegraph, a newspaper I just bought from the old woman who does the rounds of the locality at this time in the morning. There was nothing much. Leaving my brothers to daydream a bit more, I marched off briskly home. The car needed to be washed.

It took me fifteen minutes, with Larry and Barry’s, help (they had joined me five minutes later) to make the car look nice and clean. Dad and Mei will never want to sit in a messy car and cars do get messy in Shillong because of the rain. The heavens open up at any time in Shillong, be it spring, summer or fall. That’s what expected of living in a place that has the heaviest rainfall in the world.

Half past eight. I am with the family again in the living room. Mei read the Psalms today (we take turns to read verses from the Holy Book) and Dad led us in prayer.

Nine o’clock…Lunch? No, rather it's brunch. Its back to the kitchen where once again I sit around the low table with my family, to plates of rice, boiled beef with carrots, potatoes and "Tungtap" (dried fermented fish, grounded with onions, red chilies and wild green pepper). Brunch is completed with the eating of Kwai, Tympew and Shun (beetle nut, beetle leaf with a dash of lime).

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Iahunlang Diengdoh | Aug 24th, 2011
I really enjoyed the story... Can relate to it yet it's refreshing.

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