After more than twenty years I set foot in Shillong, a place I remember as a child for the trauma it caused every time I had to embark on an educational expedition to one of the boarding schools. For all these years the only image I had of Shillong was one that was frozen in time and limited to experiences of nostalgia. Little did I know that I would be returning many years later to instruct a course on transformation. 

It was with a mixture of anxiety and excitement that I reached Shillong in the early hours of dawn. What got my attention were the sea of Maruti taxi cars; and they just seemed to be endless lines, moving from one end to the other. The taxi fare has been fairly earmarked and followed with great discipline; unlike the haggling and unreasonably high prices that one spends in public transport in Nagaland. Having come from Dimapur, I could not help but notice and feel the smoothness of the road. The roads need to be appreciated. It felt pleasant to once again be reminded how it feels to travel on a road that can be called a road. 

Shillong suddenly did not seem anymore like the Shillong I once knew. It had changed. I am still trying to grasp what it is about Shillong that has changed, but I know the spirit has changed. It seems like it has grown, it has matured and perhaps gotten more organized and most noticeably Shillong seems to have rediscovered how to feel good about itself in a positive way. Somewhere along the line, it has started the process of dealing with its baggage and begun to nurture a positive feeling and develop a confident attitude about itself; yes, a spirit of freedom. Of course, it still has a lot of unresolved issues around political and social rights and indigenous people; and yet the city of Shillong itself has somehow remained itself, inspite of its contradiction. 

The changes that I share about are not about the roads, buildings, and infrastructural progress that have transformed the landscape of Shillong. Yes, there are elements of that too, but quite unlike the transformed spirit that I am referring to. In an ironic way, the landscape has become quite modern, and yet the spirit seems so serene, quite contrary to its structures. In some ways the spirit has defied its structures. All of a sudden, I am comfortable with the new Shillong. It is discovery all over again, a sense of déjà vu.

In the midst of these unfinished thoughts, I wish for Nagas to break out of the shallowness that has swallowed us into a mire; I long for a time when we no longer live in pretense but feel free to live the way we wish. I yearn for a tomorrow because I have seen yesterday and lived out today. Somehow, I too have changed. I have grown and I will keep growing till the spirit of freedom engulfs my life into eternity.