Madhya Pradesh: A Hearty Affair

This post might be the happiest thing in the world today because this post was in draft mode for more than an year now. But I didn’t give up on it because of the sole reason that the trip to the heart of India was a very special one and the one to remember for life.

Travelling lets you experience the unpredictable. You know everyday when you wake up that you have to catch that 9.32 train and reach office at 10.15 and start the donkey work, run the rat race – the same race everyday, which fetches you nothing.  Travelling helps you break a little free and breathe a little easy – connect with the people and the things outside the routine; see new faces; listen to new languages; understand new accents; talk to people you have never talked to; ask them for help irrespective of whether you get it or not.

February 2016 brought to me, an opportunity to visit Madhya Pradesh. The occasion was our friend’s marriage but we decided to make the most out of it and make the journey even more fabulous. There was another wedding of a friend in same group in the last week of February in Punjab. Not everyone was able to manage two big leaves in the same month. So, it was only two of us on the journey to Madhya Pradesh.

DAY ZERO: KYA SUPER COOL HAI HUM

Re-living our college results days. Our names are in there!

“Krupa kariney dhyaan aapo!” loud announcements were being made as soon as our train reached Surat on the platform number one. We had got an RAC berth:  a single sleeper class side lower berth for the two of us.  It was eleven o’clock at night and already five hours past our boarding time at Mumbai Central. We were somehow managing on a single berth and to our surprise there was one more guest- the mighty and everlasting cold air.  I had carried only a sweatshirt as a cold control measure to minimize the baggage; I had to make only one backpack because our journey involved a lot of travelling and I did not want mess.

But I underestimated the cold outside Mumbai. The cold was there to kill. All windows were shut but there was a super cool leakage in the windows and the joints that kept us ice cold and sleepless till the Sun God came to rescue. We managed by inserting tissues into the leakage areas but all that hard work was just so little. Later on our trip, we would realize that this cold was the better cold; the worse is yet to come.

DAY 1: INDORE GAMES

My friend Amit hails from Indore. So, he was the guide. Our alighting point was Ujjain but we extended it to Indore because I wanted a glimpse of the city which is called as Mini Mumbai and my friend needed no explicit reason to go to Indore.  After getting off the train we went straight to The Indian coffee house and ordered hot medu wada and of course  – coffee.  Then we walked through the city and visited the Rajwada which was once presided by Rajmata Ahilyabai Holkar; Queen of the Maratha ruled Malwa Kingdom. The Rajwada is now converted into a museum which displays the grandeur and the history the Holkars.

After paying a visit to the Holkars, we desired to munch some food again. We ate the famous Kachori, Nariyal wadi and topped it up with Gulab jamun dunked in Rabri - Pure heaven if it wasn’t anymore.


Gulab Jamun <3 <3 <3

Nariyal Wadi


Kachori

We started walking again through the lanes of Sarafa Bazaar which has innumerable gold merchants. They were so many; we wondered how everyone would be making profits. The lanes bought us to the Sheesh Mahal also called as Kanch Mandir which is a Jain Temple with interiors made up of broken glass. All the designs and arts inside the temple looked marvellous. This was the first time, I ever visited a Jain Temple or was probably even allowed in the first place.

After having a good look at ourselves in the Sheesh Mahal, we did some snack shopping and some lunch.

We had to leave Indore and rush to Ujjain because today was the marriage day; it was almost evening and we were still roaming Indores. It would take another hour to reach Ujjain.

We reached Ujjain at about five in the evening and went directly to meet the bride; our friend Trupti. After freshening up, we were directed to a pre-booked hotel room in Ujjain. This would be the only hotel room which we would be staying in our entire trip of four days ranging from Mumbai to Jabalpur and back.


Not Hotel California!

The marriage was after midnight. That was super late and super cold according to Mumbai standards. Only if I had paid a little more seriousness to Trupti’s advice to be prepared for the cold, I wouldn’t have had planned to wear just a kurta that night. The marriage was in an open ground full of cold natural air. They had put these red flowers from The Jungle Book to keep us warm.


The Red Flower

The reception and the dinner were through by 10 pm and then most of the guests started going back to their homes.  After an hour long break, the midnight wedding started in the presence of only the ones who mattered. By this time the cold had surpassed all the human limits known to me. I wondered why it wasn’t snowing. I was going to the lobby inside every now and then to get some warmth. All the uncle and aunties were in their sweaters. Even the brief was given a beautiful red shawl.

Our eventful and extended Day 1 was finally over. We enquired some helpful and local guests about the places which we could visit over the next two days.

DAY2 : INNER PEACE

Sanchi Stupa: The blue line in the middle is me!

The Madhya Pradesh Government makes good tourism advertisements but that's all it does for the betterment of their tourism. Atleast this was what we thought during our transfers because getting around seemed difficult. There was no direct bus from Ujjain to Sanchi Stupa. Locals told Bhopal jao. So we went to Bhopal with our hands full of poha served on paper. Poha is the vada pav of Madhya Pradesh. Even from Bhopal, we got a private bus after much exertion. We left Bhopal without having lunch because we were getting late for the Stupa. While returning it was almost dark.

We hired a guide at the Stupa who had told us many informative details about the designs on the Stupas and the history of the Stupas. It was a very peaceful but since we had to return to Bhopal before its too dark, we had to leave the Stupa. Silence helps you understand yourself and the environment you live in. Our entire day was full of noise, clutter and this part of the day was mending it all. We had tea and went back to Bhopal.

Bhopal served us with warm food. It was a much needed meal of the day. Before the meal, we booked a bus to Jabalpur. It would be an overnight journey.

Poha on the way

Our guide explaining one of the Stupas to Amit.


Many such pieces have been damaged by foreign invaders.

DAY3: ONLY TWO LEFT

By the time we reached Jabalpur, it was eleven in the morning. We tried to get information on ways to get to the Bandhavgarh National Park. There were multiple suggestions but none of them were sure. From Jabalpur Bus station, we went to Jabal Railway Station to catch a train to Katni Junction. At Katni, we decided to hire a cab which will ferry us back to Katni before nine in the evening.



Outside Jabalpur: Interesting Advertisement for a share rickshaw.

The Bandhhavgarh National Park had different plans for us. There were only two tigers spotted that day; those two were none other than us. That’s how we try to joke and change the topic when someone gives us an extra concerning expression saying – ‘Arere! Ek bhi tiger nahi dikha?’



The Barking Deer

Spot the Tiger!

The Two Tigers :D

But the ride through the jungle was interesting. Being continuously on the lookout for the black striped animal; fearing that we might lose out on that one chance to spot one. Of course, by the end of the safari, we had spotted the barking deers, the peacocks and other flora and fauna but not the big guy; the tiger.

On our way back, we stopped at a dhaba. I still remember how satisfied we were after gulping down the chicken curry, the rotis and the rice. With our stomachs full, we marched our way to the Katni Junction Railway Station, ticket-less!


That awesome dhabha on our way back to Katni from the Bandhavgarh National Park.

DAY3 CLIMAX: THE CONFIRMED TICKET

The Return Ticket!
For our last minute bookings, we were grateful that we got an RAC from Mumbai to Indore. But we weren’t lucky enough for the return journey and the return ticket didn’t confirm. We were in a soup. I called home and my dad gave an idea which did wonders.  He told us to take a general ticket from Katni Junction to Mumbai. Using that ticket, we approached the TC of the Allahbad - Mumbai train which arrived at Katni Junction at about eleven in the night. He said that there are two seats available in the 2AC sleeper class. Bingo! We got into the train relieved and ready to sleep in the first class compartment from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra. I never slept better while travelling on trains.

We missed the Mahakaal and the Tigers so one sure thing is that we will be back in Madhya Pradesh once again. #KeDilAbhiBharaNahi


Katni Junction

I couldn't resist plotting our travel. 

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