In that enchanted summer, for a five year-old visiting her mother’s brother, Shillong meant pineapples in the garden, dog biscuits in the hall cupboard, and a real dog, oddly named Kitty, to hug and to hold and to take for walks. It meant living in a resin-smelling wooden house, with roof beams one could touch from tall Mama’s shoulders. Unforgettable plums where the juice ran amok, and plum-cheeked babies tucked into the bazaar grannies’ backs, staring bemused.
Most of all, Shillong was about tumbling.
The vast golf club green, an extended backyard from the house, was a friendly space where my new friends and I spent our days rolling down the mounds and grassy slopes. On breezy days, we felt as though our feet were almost airborne.
Six years ago, I returned for a spell to stay with a friend in Shillong. The little town I remembered had changed, the houses grown tenfold, and the road before Ward’s Lake had bumper to bumper traffic. And the hill path to my uncle’s old home, which in those days was marked by all of six houses, had about a hundred now. I could not find it.
But the golf course was unchanged, mostly. The same faded green shutters. The rolling vista. The emptiness. The grassy slopes held out friendly arms. Could I, should I?
Roll down, down, down.
Find the child who tumbled and toppled
And plummeted without a care, down there
Way down now, and how does one even begin?
Not so easy letting go, with unthinking, trustful surrender
When did fear grow wings?
Lina Krishnan is a poet and abstract artist in Auroville. She has a chapbook of nature verse and her poems and paintings have been included in six collections of poetry. Lina is addicted to outmoded cinema and prefers birdwatching sans nomenclature.