The Europeans could look down upon the natives even at sea level, so their pursuit of hilltops must have been purely for pleasant weather. A whiff of their own homes. It was an obsession that would give free India its prized hill stations, Shillong being one of the more famous.
The beginnings of what would be called the ‘Scotland of the East’ go back to 1862-64, when the British obtained two large plots in the Khasi Hills in the North-East through their sharpest weapon – coercive negotiations. The agreement was extracted from Mylliem, one of the 25 Khasi states ruled by elected rajas.
Shillong is a pleasant 3-hour ride from Guwahati and as the city approaches, nature suddenly seems to put on its best face. All along the road, the scenes are laid out in true splendour and viewing points are hoisted to vantage heights. And as soon as you reach Umiam Lake, a little before Shillong, the mercury drops dramatically– as much as by 10 degrees in summer. Non-partisan nature must have extended such a welcome even to Britishers who wandered this far.