A place called Home

-Pritika(ChaloHoppo Travel Expert)


The lady walking home with a baby straddled onto her chest waved out to me.

“Kumno, hello.”

I shyly waved back, holding tightly onto my mom’s little finger.

While my mother, fair and button-eyed, looked different from the people I grew up around, she fit right in. Dressed in crisp coats and high heels, she climbed up and down the roller-coaster roads of Shillong like a mountain goat. My dad, though, is the real mountain goat of the family. A 6-foot-something South Indian, whom you’d expect to be a klutz, my dad can often be found at the edge of the highest point of a mountain or balancing off a rock. This is all in the pursuit of capturing the best shot—the perfect perspective of the sun as it sets between the hills, the golden tortoise beetle that magically appears on a walk, or a reflection of the pine trees over the lake as a troop of Khasi boys jumps into the cool waters. Dad could be the reason my little sister and I desperately need to snap pictures of little moments and big ones, holding onto them dearly for memory’s sake.

Caves of Meghalaya in 2004
My mom, my sister and me in Arwah caves in 1999

An imagery that comes flying into my thoughts as I walk down memory lane is from the year 1999, of the four of us, huddled into a Maruti 800, the trunk stuffed with all that we own, making our way to Guwahati city—the place we’d now have to call home. As we made our way past the Guwahati-Shillong road, crossing Byrnihat, it’s almost like the fumes from the industrial town had us classically conditioned to reach out into the pockets of the front seats of the car for sweet treats my dad had previously hidden. The journey from Shillong to Guwahati and back was one we’d gotten used to, out of circumstance. As the years passed by, Guwahati seemed like the perfect move, a launchpad—one that would throw us out into the world of high rises and metros, big cities for big dreams. And boy, did we dream big! Step by step, hopping-skipping-and-jumping our way to places we had only heard of through movies and books, we made our way out into the world—our oyster.

Maruti 800 in Meghalaya from 2004
On our way to Sohra in 2006

A natural way to integrate into societies (be it college, a coffee shop, or even at your workplace), an ice-breaking question I’d often come across was, “Where are you from?” And while I’m a cocktail baby of half North and half South Indian blood, with a sprinkle of identity crisis (having picked up none of the languages), the straightforward answer was to say I’m from the North East of India, the place I was born and then brought up. This typically led to a series of follow-up questions: Where is the North East of India? What language do you speak? How do you even get there? It also led to some unavoidable heated conversations: Is it safe to live there? Is your house on stilts? What do you eat? While I’d have my fair share of pretentious educational discussions, for the most part, I believed that I’m a globe trotter, having lived in 6 cities by the age of 25, and my roots could be where I wanted them to be—be it Mumbai (the city of dreams) or Toronto (the city that never sleeps).

living root bridge in meghalaya old photo
A visit to Living Root Bridges in 2002

My world turned upside down around the time I was hitting the age of 25- adding a ladle full of quarter-life crisis to the mix. I’d had no choice but to move back to India, dragging my suitcases back to the place I had once called home—Guwahati. For those who believe in the Universe taking you to places you’re supposed to be, the right time at the right place—my immediate response would be—ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

challenge your children with adventure sign in Meghalaya old photo
My sister and me in Meghalaya- Always ready for an adventure

I only truly understood the journey that I was supposed to be on when I stumbled upon ChaloHoppo, a few months into moving back, in 2018. Choosing escapism as a defense mechanism to deal with my emotions, I booked a trip with this up-and-coming Travel Company for my first solo trek to Dzukou Valley. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of me finding myself and answers to the questions I’d once been asked. I quickly discovered the joys of pitching your own tent, packing a backpack with the bare minimum, roasting your food over the same fire that kept you warm on a wintry night, swimming in natural pools that seemed to have healing powers, chasing waterfalls and sunsets, stargazing, and spending quality time in the outdoors. I learned more about the region that boasts of 8 exceptionally unique states than I had in Geography class. My taste buds were jolted into awakening with every local dish I was exposed to. My mind was challenged, with my body doing things I never imagined it could. I felt truly alive.

Monoliths in Meghlaya old photo 2004
My dad, my sister and me in Meghalaya in 2004

Today, in 2024, it’s been half a decade since I’ve been working with ChaloHoppo, helping bring people of the world to this region that has something for everyone—whether you’re lost and need some anchoring, if you’re looking to feed into that thirst for travel, maybe searching for inspiration or connection, an adventure junkie, or a foodie. Today, I’m on team ‘the universe has your back’, assured of the answer to the question, “Where are you from?”—the Northeast, the place my roots are firm, the place I call home.

Visiting Meghalaya in 2022

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