Whispering Hills

“Meghalaya is not just a place, it’s magic,” declares 36-year-old VJ turned- actor Purab Kohli, who was recently shooting in the northeastern state for his next film, Rock On 2. “Riding my bike on the open roads, lined by the cloud-covered mysterious hills was a magical experience. The freedom is incomparable,” says the actor, who was recently seen in the movie Airlift.

Kohli first visited Meghalaya in 2004. “Back then,” he says, “the state was just opening up to tourism. I remember
being completely taken in by the beauty of Meghalaya. The drive to Cherrapunjee and MawPhlang was awe-inspiring. We also trekked to one of the living bridges. I was thrilled to know the people of Meghalaya re-forest sacred groves.”

Although his recent trip to the state was a professional one and was mainly restricted to the Khasi hills, where most of the film has been shot, Kohli managed to take some time out to explore more of Meghalaya. “During a hectic shoot, sometimes all you want to do is sleep in your free time. But since we were there for two months, I managed to get a few days off just to look around,” Kohli says.

The shoot was in October-November and the cast was staying in Shillong. “Afternoons were breezy and sunny, and the evenings were cold. It also rained once in a while. It was perfect,” Kohli says. What about the locals? “They are very warm and welcoming,” Kohli says. “They are non-interfering and relatively open to outsiders.” Another draw
for the actor was the state’s music scene. “Meghalaya is very musically charged,” Kohli says. “Almost every family has a singer or a musician. They are also very enterprising.”

When it came to local cuisine, the actor confesses he experimented a lot and loved it. “People should visit Meghalaya with an open mind. Local food is obviously different from what we are used to, but it’s important to try out new dishes without being fussy. Besides, they are all yummy. My favourite is kwai, which is betel leaf rolled with lime paste and areca nut. It is amazing.”

Though there are private cars available for transportation, Kohli would take his bike for long rides. “The experience of riding in cool, fresh hilly air is amazing and can help solve a lot of your life’s problems,” he says, laughing. “On a serious note, I felt rejuvenated. The traffic in Shillong made things a tad tedious, but on the beautiful open roads, everything felt worth it. The ghats were winding but not too steep. The picturesque landscape made up for everything that was amiss,” Kohli says.

Sitting at the edge of a cliff in Laitlum Canyons and watching the clouds rise from the bottom of the valley, enveloping everything in mist, is his most memorable moment. “It was surreal; watching the clouds and how low they hung was fascinating,” he says. Prod him on talking about the most adventurous moment and he says, “Riding back from Dawki, one of the border crossings between India and Bangladesh, was a great adventure. The highway makes for a beautiful ride.”

Kohli is keen on visiting Meghalaya again. “The Garo Hills top the list. I have tasted Garo cuisine and enjoyed their music too. But I want to explore the hills this time,” he says. Before signing off, we ask for a quick travel tip for Meghalaya. “Never underestimate the rain and the clouds up there,” he reminds us. “They can take over and bring any trip to a complete halt.”
megh

 

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