Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Maa Reva Calling and an encounter with Indian Railways: Part 2

WARNING: A Long Post.

To continue from where I left… I finally reached Amarkantak.
To tell you honestly, the exact place where they say that Naramada originates from - the place with "Narmada Udgam" engraved, (In a very ‘I was here’ way), the first look makes you feel it’s like a municipal gutter lid, which has been leaking for years. The water is at its opaque best, there are ‘just-about dead’ flowers, ‘rotting dead’ flowers, ‘life being sucked out’ fresh flowers thrown in. Add to it the green pudiyas and some organic waste floating around. The instant thought – Did I travel 1300 kms to see this puddle? So much for the romance of Narmade… No I couldn’t let go of the hopeless romantic in me, not so easily… I saw a Panditji sitting there in all his pomp and glory.
So we, Psycho and me, thought of testing him:

We announced our arrival to the very trance like pronunciation of the word – very popular among the pilgrims, "Narmadey..."
(with emphasis on the ‘…deeeeeeeyyyyyyy’….. the sound of which would ring till the end of any conversation!)

"Narmadey" is like the buzz word in Amarkantak. The way "Oh, so cool…" is for Bombay and "Jai Mahrashtra" for Mumbai. Or like "Ganga Maiyaa ki Jai" in Haridwar. The holy man reverted back with not-so warm an enthusiasm. I asked him:

Me: "…Panditji, yeh Narmada shuru kahaan se hoti hai? "

Panditji: "…tumhari umr kitni hai…"

Wise question, but what’s the connect? – I thought to myself, not wanting to irk him I replied.

Me: "…Sataais saal"

Panditji: "…Toh wahaan kya likha hai saamne, padho...." pointing to the engraved writing.
Oh! Now I saw the point – the pandit with the attitude, I continued.

Me: "…Panditji likha to hai Narmada Udgam, lekin lag nahi raha ke Narmada yahaan se shuru hoti hai..."

Panditji: "…yaheen se shuru hoti hai."
He said, getting up – actually I knew from the tone itself – it was the very end of discussion tone, his arising from his glorious posture merely confirmed it.

Infact for a moment I visualized the next cut, the panditji - accusing me of blasphemy, takes the holy - opaque water in his hands and throws it on me saying, more chanting:

"moorkh baalak, mata ke baarein mei sawaal karta hai...

Errr…I raised my hands to cover my face…err…” and I snapped out of it.

We went around the series of temples and then caught hold of another Sadhu – he was the visibly harmless one:

Us: "…Narmadeyyyy..."
Sadhu: "…Narmadeyyyy..."

Me: "…Baba Yeh Narmada ki dhaara kahaan se shuru hoti hai..."

Sadhu: “…Yeh jo jitne chaaron aur parbat dikhaai de rahein hai na, (he said pointing around a full circle – after the finger tour he continued) - …in sabhi jagah se dhara aati hai...So convincing was his act - that both psycho and me did a 360 degree with our eyes following the direction of his finger – we looked around…and before I could ask him anything more, the Sadhu vanished much like a mythical figure.

Psycho concluded: "Basically no one has a clear idea of what happens with the river, but everyone has their story... jaise unke saamne hi shuru hui thi…"
Yeah, the start we don’t know – the end, we’re ensuring is very near!

For the next 3 days, we kept walking-walking-walking and talking-talking-talking, of course without any Mobile network. So sorry dear Idea, Balki, Abhishek and Ilaya Raja, your campaign didn’t work in Amarkantak. – No mobile coverage is equal to being completely untraceable! Much like what I feared…that the river would be once it leaves Amarkantak.

So coming back to the River, the most amazing thing that struck us that they have stopped the flow of the river just about – actually nearly right from its start!
Right after the few small ghats, for people to - wash away their sins, pets, kids, clothes, utensils and their SUVs, not necessarily in that particular order, comes a small dam-like structure which kills the flow of the river.
Why the SUV mention in the pilgrim land of Amarkantak, here’s why… there was a man constantly roaming on a Bicycle and shouting on top of his voice: No it wasn’t “All is Well!” He was shouting in chaste hindi:

"Ghat par gaadi dhona manaa hai. Jo koi yeh kriya karta paaya jaayega, toh usse 500/- rupiye jurmana vasool kiya jaayega"
(Washing your Cars in the River is prohibited. Rs. 500/- punishment).

While walking in and around we discovered that there is still a lot of vegetation, forests, trees, natural resources remaining for men to plunder. Good News all you corporations. Plunder….

From the place one is standing till the far end, right where till one's vision can go - there are mountains and mountains, covered with thick – dense trees, trees and some more trees. It was a beautiful sight. Seen in the photo below.
We sat there hours, letting the eyes soak in the sight of so many greens – eyes deprived of them for years in the megapolis. Then from somewhere behind one of those mountains came the moon. It was 31st December - Full Moon Day… the BLUE moon day. I hadn't seen the Moon so clear, so full in so many years. If the year was 1969, one could have seen Armstrong and Aldrin eating popcorns and jumping around.

While watching the river flowing ahead, we picked up a conversation with a local guy at Dudhdhara waterfalls, we asked him, "…where does the river Narmada go from here?"
He replied back: "To the Gulf of Khambhat..."
Wow...10/10 on geography, but we’ve not exactly come from Brazil.

I insisted: "We know that, but what's the first town or village it crosses".
He realized his mistake and smiled back saying: "Dindori..."

That night, we heard some hushed gossip among the Sadhus and some local men at Amarkantak: "Aaj to partyyyy hai... DJ bulaane waale hai ladke..."

I felt like running, but where to?? I had left Mumbai and come here, only to run away from the party nights-DJs and now this!

At the same time –I got curious, how would the Amarkantak version of new years DJ night be? Not probing further - Psycho and me decided to return to the city and now explore the 0.25 sq. km market area of Amarkantak. Finally we found a dilapidated tea stall with a small bonfire… The perfect place to celebrate our 31st dec 09.
The perfect place to
“To thank the someone up above – who watches, takes care and keeps a check on us…”
“Thank God…”
“For the love and peace”
The decade has been a very good one. We swam across careers and felt the high and low tides of life. At the start of the decade, we didn’t know where we were headed, joining the B.Tech in dairy technology at age 18, the quintessential gujju boys headed to the US land four years from then…to age 27 – the trying to be film maker/story teller.
With the decade coming to an end - we finally know where we want to row our boats.

While returning we spotted a small serene lake. We sat there for next many hours.
As Dev sir told me a few days back: "We have forgotten to hear the sounds that are around us". Right there I heard a dragonfly flapping its wings, the sound of the small tides, the shepherd whistling to his herd, his stick sometimes landing on the hard wet mud ground and sometimes on the cattle s back, the sound of stone landing on the lakes surface – and the ripples that generate, the sound of feet sinking in the wet grass… the wriggling toes to remove the mud stuck to it. I stored these sounds, crystal clear in my memory bank – If technology would’ve permitted; I would’ve recorded them and taken with me back to Bombay. But on this go greenesque trip, I had to rely on my senses to capture it all… the eyes the sight... the ears the sound.

Part 2B: The Journey Home

Indian Railways are always known to surprise you with its unadvertised-or rather uncalled for adventures. Our foolishness lead to one such adventure. It was biting cold that night. Like biting. I cant stress more. It was somewhere near 5 degrees. And like most of our trip, we were as unplanned. We emptied our backpacks, whatever last bit of clothing possible for a drape that we had with us, it was all on us yet we were feeling cold!
As we reached Katni Junction, we were told that the next train towards Mumbai is "Bhagalpur express" (again) at 3 30 am. The clock was striking 2 in the night then, an hour and a half in this biting cold!! Freeze!! A few minutes later to our ‘warm’ surprise - the Mumbai-Gorakhpur Express chugged in. We thought that the "Enquiry" person must have goofed up and this train must also go on the same route. We got in and surprisingly found a relatively empty compartment, contrary to the popular belief, that all trains headed to Bombay are full!

The thought of the warmth of our homes, and the much satisfying exhaustion of the trip made it easy for us to sleep till the biting cold out did my intention - I got up and rather innocently asked Psycho: "Why has Jabalpur not come?" It was 5 in the morning now.

"CHAI, CHAI, CHAI..." - breaking the calm of a cold morning, came the ubiquitous tea vendor. We thought of asking him: "Bhaisaab, Jabalpur kab aayega?". At first he was surprised and gave us a look as if we have asked his Tea for free. In a split second, his expression changed. It was his moment of power – knowledge is power, and it was clearly with him this time on!

Vendor: "bhaaisaab, Jabalpur reh gaya 250 km peeche..."

SHIT!!! We realized the mistake. The Train was actually coming from Mumbai and not going to – heard of the glorious Up/Down version. 3120 up means to the destination 3120 down means from –or some such! And there we were somewhere near Satna - supposedly the last station in northern Madhya Pradesh. If it wasn't for that biting cold, we would have slept in hope and dream of our homes and got up to find ourselves in Gorakhpur amidst travel agents who would take us to Nepal and from there to the Mount Everest.

"Jaldi...bhaag" screamed Psycho. We were shivering with the cold. It was severe. While running I realized that all these bloody news channels should get out of delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and take temperatures for interior India and the statistics would be alarming. Soon on the next platform came "Gorakhpur-Durg" express.

To the Enquiry guy: "Yeh train Katni jaayegi?"
Enquiry guy with on his yet another lazy morning: "haaaaaahhh ... jaayegi..."


Below are the few pictures of Amarkantak and that terrible cold night inside the train. They are in low resolutions.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta


prakash said...

"the Moon so clear, so full in so many years. If the year was 1969, one could have seen Armstrong and Aldrin eating popcorns and jumping around." - this is the gem of a line from this blog. The article was so vivid that I felt i was accompanying you and psycho! Having described the journey, it's time for you to pen down the learnings - not of asking where a train is coming from or going to, but a conclusion on Narmada. Am sure it will come out as brilliantly the first two articles and have the same flow as Narmada. i.e. 'narm' 'ada'.

keep up the good work!

prakash gowda

hardik mehta said...

prakash... thanks a lot...completely agreed...but i think before i conclude something on the River...let me visit all of its flow in its pristine glory, before the politicians and policy makers make the river invisible to us...and maybe then one day...a long long write up on that...:)

thanks again...

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

Hardik, I SO wish I had made this journey! But your post actually took me along. Just love that part of the country.

hardik mehta said...

Wow. Mr. Ghosh himself...thanks a lot sir...

aarti said...

wow yar...iwish i could come with you guys.... have listen about 31st celebration... i think it will be most memorable than any dj party..... and dude you have written it so beautifully..... and i like part 2 more... ha ha ha and one more hting vo moon wala to i have read it three times.. wow......

Himanshu said...

Right on the top this blog defines bhaand..and bhaandgiri derived from there on..I wasn't a great fan of blog reading, but after a long time I came across this blog of his which is catchy..and ll keep u rooted on ur seat...I haven't read other blogs of hardik, so am not sure whether this is the best or not, but what it does is it is inviting me to dive n squeeze out all other blogs in a single go...i forgot my work and all the tensions i had for a short while..I have been reading your movie reviews when in college if you remember..I had written on TROY and SLUMDOG MILL...this blog inspires me to go for a spin on my return to india..and to think beyond what i thought about the 'usual' conventional blogs..or blogging cultures..
thumbs up hardik..
Best luck and keep entertaining as you have done always..

Tunia said...

I told my self today, that once I read Bhand Master post, I will not leave a comment. But just couldn't manage.
After your description of where to listen to which number form Slumdog I guess this is my next favourite writing of yours.
N I say writing, cause I really think u have this brilliant way with words. I could actually picture every single thing you wrote. Bhut sahi. Bhut maza aaya. And yah, interior of MP is freezing cold i agree, have traveling in that same covered up manner so i know :)
and Ma Rewa is a song that I think will last until some one like u will write that if we were in 199o's we could have heard Indian Ocean sing that song :)

Random Thoughts said...

What's with the Mehtas...irst Suketu n then Hardik?

Him said...

awsome hardik...very well written, u made me feel as i am travelling with u....

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