Our adventure is nearing it’s end. Tomorrow, after leaving our sponsored “Himalayans” with the Shillong bikers crew who will return them to Enfield, we will be driven to Guwahati Airport by taxi (I hate the word, but sometimes it’s practical!) and board our flight, to Bombay for Kalki, Bangalore for myself. Not very keen to ride much today, considering that it’s again raining heavily, we prefer to make use of the little time left for interacting with the new wonderful friends we have met in Shillong, do some shopping (we should bring back some souvenirs for our family and friends) and prepare for a small closing celebration party in a fashionable Shillong joint, the Heritage Café.
And so, we start by visiting the “Atelier” of Daniel Syiem with whom we had diner last night, a charming old bungalow in the upper parts of the city where lush vegetation prevails, and where he conceives, designs and executes the prototypes of his “haute couture” creations. The whole house breathes his extraordinary refined taste, from the arrangements of the bungalow itself to the clothes themselves, hanging in cute recesses. A dedicated manufacturing room houses 6 sewing machines where the development work takes place. Production, he says, is contracted to garment units in Delhi. Kalki delightfully browses through the multitude of hangers and finally chooses an outfit for the evening party that, as a typical Frenchman, I qualify of “très chic!” — “very elegant!”.
Follows a weaving demonstration on a simple portable loom, by a small group of women who have come from their far-off village by bus specially for us: they normally do the weaving at home, and Daniel strongly encourages this type of artisanat. His fabrics are based on raw silk, using artisanal and environmentally friendly techniques and natural dyes. Equally important, a different method is used to extract the silk from the worm, without killing the worm — by opposition to the murderous industrial techniques which contribute to the recession of the silk worm as a species.
Once done with an uneventful shopping spree, we are back to our “Sunshine Guesthouse”, having to pack for tomorrow’s flight. Not a simple affair considering the mountain of biking equipment we have accumulated as well as other souvenirs, among which a gifted bottle of home-made “ara” (local rice wine) which will later attract the ire of the airport security, why? Because it’s not sealed… (but I fought a battle for the precious nectar and finally took it along with me, after a long row of negotiations which almost made me miss my flight).
By evening, we head towards the Heritage Cafe party.
For the occasion, Kalki had rehearsed a song of Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way“, that she sings accompanied by an excellent singer guitarist, who’s only sin is to have reached the venue quite late (we almost gave up on him!). Anyhow, it’s another opportunity for all present to appreciate her multi-talented nature: always at ease, from a motorcycle to a musical stage! And of course she is splendidly dressed in silk by Daniel Syiem.
Tomorrow, we will depart from North-East India with a heavy heart, but not without summarising our extraordinary experience of the last two weeks, be it hardships or friendships…
Stay with us for our next and last post of this adventure: “The Great Escape: aftermath“
And be welcome to watch our upcoming Travel Show on FOX life TV Channel in August: “The Great Escape with Kalki”