‘Cherrapunji is on a plateau, which is flat ground on top of a hill. And all the villages are down on the slopes of the hills and valleys below. We have a story for why that is …’’ Explained Bansan as we were struggling to get a bearing on how Meghalaya worked and of course, like every Khasi man we met on the road, there was an elaborate story for just about anything and every story always had the sun hiding in a cave for a certain period of time.
We soon discovered an interesting thing about Cherrapunji. Once every week, you have a market that is held at a little square in the center of town. The market sells everything from baked goods to tobacco to baked goods with tobacco in it. And on market day, every village from the slopes and valleys around Cherrapunji make the hike up with their wares to sell. Most of these villages aren’t connected by road, so they all walk up the ancient stairs and trails to the plateau. And it isn’t only the people who want to sell, that make the hike; the entire village makes the weekly pilgrimage to the market and spends a day celebrating in the center of Cherrapunji.
All you need to do to be a part of this experience is to hike down to the village the day before, spend a night with a local family and hike back up with the entire village the next morning. It is an experience like no other. You become a part of that village and you definitely feel like a part of it, when the journey ends and you are squeezed into a tiny Tata Nano taxi with 8 other members of the family.
The market experience itself is quite overwhelming and you could take part in helping the villagers set up shop if that interests you. If not, you can walk around and try your best to bargain, but mind you, every bargaining attempt comes with the assumption that you are being as stubborn as the sun who hides in a cave.