To say that we arrived in Shillong on Christmas Day would be to stretch definitions a little. We left Guwahati airport on Christmas morning, but the Clan Bus made very slow progress. It was after five in the evening when we rolled up to Laitumkhrah. Not only had the sun set, it was pitch dark on the road. The Family was not going to let the family loll back on their cushions. We had tea and broke open the Christmas hamper we had bought from Bandra. Then, suitably ballasted by the wonderful plum-cake, we set out to the well-lit cathedral on Laitumkhrah main road.
The grounds were bustling. A good fraction of the population of Meghalaya is Christian, and the area we were living in not only had this cathedral but also a Baptist church, a Pentecostal church, and a Mizo church. We passed bunches of impeccably dressed young people hanging out in the church grounds. I spotted tea being served and made a beeline for it. I can’t overdose on caffeine. A long queue shuffled forward quickly, and I soon had a steaming cup in my hand. What was that flavour? Niece Tatu identified it, “Bacon, isn’t it?” Everyone clutched their cups and set out to explore the place. I stuck to the little chapel on the lowest level (featured photo). A large statue of St. Mary dominated one wall; this must be St. Mary’s Chapel, I brilliantly deduced. A priest stood near the entrance smiling at people and shaking hands with parishioners. Niece Moja plonked down on a pew and started catching up on her messages.
I planted myself outside the chapel. While The Family and a few others went to explore the cathedral on the upper level, the rest of us took photos of each other in different combinations. It turned out that the cathedral was closed, but there was enough of interest to see. I looked for a refill of the bacon tea. Niece Mbili was game. We found some biscuits to go with it. The place looked cheerful with the lights and people, but there wasn’t much happening. It seemed to me that families were coming by to greet the priest, chatting briefly with acquaintances, and leaving. Younger people hung out a little longer before leaving in groups. Soon we had our fill of the lights, gathered stragglers, and left. We were faintly disappointed. We’d expected buskers and music groups, but maybe we were a day late for that. Luckily we had walked, because the traffic was a nightmare. The next day was going to be long.
(All photos by The Family; it seems that while taking photos of people I forgot to take photos of the place we were in.)