Lily celebrates her first decade in India’s greenest, wettest state

Any idea which state is the wettest in India? I’ll be impressed if you know, because I for one had never even heard of it before this trip. The name is Meghalaya, also known as ‘the land of the clouds’ and ‘the Scotland of the East’ and comprising one of the Seven Sisters of India’s north-eastern states.

Lily had one request only for her 10th birthday: that we spend it in a forest. So I duly began the search for a three night sojourn and hit upon Mawphlang, a 500 year old forest, sacred to its native Khasi people. The trouble was, there was only one place nearby to stay according to my guidebook and they weren’t answering the phone or replying to facebook or email messages. Plus the internet wasn’t throwing up any other accommodation in the area. But I so wanted this place to work out as I knew it would be perfect for our forest fairy Lily’s 10th birthday.

So along with my lovely aunt, Caroline, who had recently joined us in India for a few weeks (laden with oat bars, more wool for the kids’ knitting & crochet and polo mints – yay!), we took an executive family decision: that we should risk it, and just turn up without a booking. Imagine this: We took a long, wet, winding journey out from Guwahati, the capital of Assam, bumped along a rutted track from Shillong (Meghalaya’s capital) into a wild, isolated valley, only to arrive at Maple Pine Farm to be told they were all booked up.

But it can’t be! I cried. I’d thought that since I couldn’t get hold of them, surely no one else would have been able to either, right? Well, wrong. Because it turned out that the host had replied to my email to tell me they were booked up, only I hadn’t seen it, as it had gone straight to spam. Oh God!  ‘I really want to stay here,’ Lily said, her eyes huge and mournful. It was getting late and starting to rain again and essentially we were in the middle of nowhere.

I explained our predicament to the host. He looked pensive, then told us he could accommodate us for one night as it was only the following day a big group were arriving. Relieved, we accepted his offer immediately as the last thing we wanted after our long journey was to be heading out again in search of food and beds. And then…JOY! The following morning over breakfast, he said to us ‘What are your thoughts on camping?’ Yes, it was cold (over 2000 metres in altitude) and yes, it was wet, but if it meant we could stay…well, bring it on! The children were absolutely delighted, especially Lily. Despite the fact that I’ve rarely seen rain like it, and there were hailstones the size of small ping pong balls, we were just so over the moon to be in this stunning wilderness as the sprawling town of Shillong (where we would have ended up otherwise) would have been a poor substitute.

Benji and Lily playing in the river
Caroline at Maple Pine Farm

Maple Pine Farm had a feel of the prairie about it; the last frontier or the wild west with its wooden cabins and sense of being in the middle of the wilderness. Powered entirely by wind and solar power, it was run by a Canadian man who was born here, his lovely Khasi wife and their three sons.

Benji playing with the hosts’ son Imryie and his dog, Caesar
Happy Maya
River time
The children spent most of their time playing in the river
My kids fording the stream whilst Khasi kids wash dishes
Drying clothes in the sporadic sunshine

A view of Maple Pile Farm in the distance from the hillside

We were also lucky enough to be staying here when a local Khasi festival was taking place which was so fascinating to watch, the villagers in their traditional costumes and performing their local dances. The Khasi are interesting for many reasons, not least that they are one of the largest matrilineal societies in the world.

Khasi drummers
Children awaiting their turn to dance
Two barefoot children – a young Khasi girl and Benji
Children on their way to the dance with their teacher
A Khasi lady

On the day of Lily’s birthday, we really couldn’t have been luckier as the day dawned bright and sunny and the heavens open literally the second we reached home after our day out in the forest. Deep within these 500 year old groves, Khasi would come to pray, sacrifice animals and crown their royalty.

Lily Catarina, child of Maya-hand-me-down’s & confuddled frowns, infectious giggler & magic-believer, cupcake baker & fantasy-world maker, tantrum-thrower & kindness-doer, disco-dance-mover & green -fingered-grower, mud-lover & fun-seeker, story-teller & grunge-Cindarella. Our middle child wood sprite, I can’t believe this chiddler has reached double figures ♥︎ (Sorry, have been reading Benji The BFG and the word ‘chiddler’ has rather stuck!)

Lily Catarina, Queen of the Forest
All of us outside the sacred forest

Treasure hunt time
Awaiting her birthday tea
Andy found a cake in Shillong – hooray

Shillong:the old, the new & the chaotic. Glad we didn’t stay there!
Lily, 2009, when we lived in India
Happy Birthday Lily! ❤
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10 thoughts on “Lily celebrates her first decade in India’s greenest, wettest state”

  1. Fab Becks
    What an amazing Birthday
    Am sure she will never forget
    Nor May friends believe her story!!
    And Birthday cake too
    Wish I had been there!
    What a Birthday Lily!
    Nannie Liz. Cxx

  2. You are the most extraordinary family and I absolutely love following you on your exotic and spectacular adventures…. May GOD bless and protect all of you always🙏 Lily is a beautiful forest spirit and she has been blessed with parents that facilitate her prewritten journey…. our daughters name is Lily! She would love to be in the forest with you🍃 I send very HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES to LILY❤️ I love her crown…👑… she is a radiant being….
    Much love to all of you… Abigail

  3. Dear Lily,
    What a wonderful way to celebrate your 10th birthday! Becs, you’ve captured it all so well, as always, drawing us in with your literary prowess and beautifully captured moments in photo. Lily looks absolutely stunning in her forest crown. She’s a magical creature. She reminds me so much of our Emma. Always in tune with nature, but we never know just how much that depth of their connection to the earth goes. It is as if they hide it intentionally, or they don’t believe we would ever quite understand it. I miss you so much dear friend. There are so many times I wish to have a quit witty chat. Vera misses Maya desperately. I miss popping by your charming wooden bungalow. Thank goodness for your cats Simba and Duma who are a constant reminder of our far too short-lived encounter in Kenya and a promise of a continued friendship into eternity. Please give the kids and Andy big hugs from us all. Stay well and keep writing! Never stop.

  4. Ah thank you so much dear Wakanyi! So pleased you have enjoyed following our adventures. We think of you often and think how much your family would enjoy this kind of thing. Please give Simba and Duma a cuddle from us-they are still the main picture on my phone!! Also hugs to the whole family and come visit us when you are in England, lots of love to you all, Becs xxx

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