November is the month the people of Shillong step out and pray for their faithful departed. All Souls Day is the day when those left on this earth go to the graveyard and hope and pray that their loved ones get in the pearly gates. November 2nd is the day the Catholics in this town go to town to pay their respects. Someone asked me if we had such a tradition in Ireland. I said, “No way, we don’t do this sort of thing at all, at all”. I got a quick dig into the ribs and a reminder that yes, indeed we do do this kind of thing in Ireland. But we definitely don’t make our graveyards as pretty as this:
It rained the entire time we were there. So all the photos I took were with one hand under an umbrella.
Our main task for the evening was to make sure the Irish were not the only ones with undecorated graves. The Irish people in this graveyard are a long way from home (8,561 kilometres from Cork to Shillong) and so wouldn’t get many visitors. They were all part of religious communities and those groups took it upon themselves to go and place flowers and candles on the graves. There were names such as Dooley, O Loughlin and Dunne alongside the Khasi names Syiem, Diengdoh and Lyngdoh.
The dedication of the crowd there was incredible. The rain was so strong it hurt, and I found a little dry patch under a big tree. I went to one of the trainee monks and told him of this dry patch, which was a good few metres away from the graves. His response was, “But we’re about to say the Hail Mary”. And so he carried on praying and getting soaked (while I said a few quiet words under my dry tree).