Monday, January 4, 2010

Maa Reva Calling and an encounter with Indian Railways: Part 1

5 days. 3 states. 2 friends. 3000 kms in 4000 rupees. (all included)

The idea was NOT to spend the New Year amidst the jing-bang of Mumbai.

"Where do you want to go exactly?" asked Psycho. "I dont know, but the idea is to find peace when the next decade arrives" said me.

Then something struck: I replied him again on sms: "lets explore Indian Railways. Destination koi bhi ho, bas ticket kataao aur train mei chad jaao.." (Just think of a destination and get on board of the train that goes there).

Then again a destination came to my mind: Amarkantak. We did a basic research of whether a train goes there or not. It doesnt. Amarkantak is situated amidst Satpura Hills on Madhya Pradesh-Chhatisgarh border. Infact its on the top of the mountain range. The rivers Johila, Son and the most important lifeline of Central India, Narmada - they all begin here. "Udgam" as they say. River Son goes eastwards and joins Ganges without much controversy. Narmada flows westwards and as with things that go westwards, it comes face to face with controversies, wicked intentions, corrupt people, baseless right wing rhetoric and a BIG fucking Dam.

Back to Amarkantak, it has been a place in my heart than being on the map. Its been a place I have wanted to go ever since. And there s an interesting link on why Now?

Three reasons.

1. The river Narmada and its flow is a topic that is very near to my heart. I have my politics for trusting in Narmada Bachao Andolan. Thus, where and how does this river actually originate from has to be seen, before the politicians change its course or change the place from where it originates. On second thoughts, have they already changed?. Once while thinking wild I had made it a point to follow Narmada and its flow from wherever it passes through - various towns, villages, cities etc. Maybe a motorcycle ride awaits. But as of now, where does it all begin had to be seen.

2. Aseem Chakravarti, member of the wonderful band Indian Ocean, expired a week back, their wonderful song "Maa Rewa" has struck a chord ever since i had heard for the first time. For beginners, Maa Rewa is Mother Narmada.

3. Believe it or not. But the third reason is watching Avatar. When i saw the Na'vis being forced to leave their native land in the name of development, i was so shocked. I had always read about Harsud, about Kevadia, about all those fucking Big dams leading to displacement on mass levels but maybe had never seen that in actual visuals. Avatar showed me the sorrow of people and how does it feel to leave your own land, your own natural resources. As Arundhati Roy describes in her most dedicated essay: The Greater Common Good: "India's poorest people are subsidizing the lifestyles of her richest". More on Narmada later.

After the above three reasons, of which the last two happened in the previous week there was all the more reason to go to Maa Rewa. Its like she was calling, the way Delhi middle class would say: "Mata ka bulava kaun rok sakta hai..?"

Thus, we - Psycho, my best buddy in the last decade - our friendship literally started in 2001, now a student of NID, Ahmedabad, he and me started on this journey. We took the Bhagalpur Express from Kurla-Lokmanya Tilak to Jabalpur. From Jabalpur we hardly knew that we would be changing two more trains and one more bus ride to finally reach the destination. Being off season worked in our advantage - we got Sleeper Class tickets upgraded from General Class. In the wee hours of a December morning, we saw the great megapolis pass by.

There is an amazing romance involved with seeing the world pass by through the windows of an Indian Railways Train. Huts, Slums, Colonies, Trees, Cows, Herds, Kids, Electric poles, Clouds, Farmers, Vendors, Cities, Towns, Stations etc come and go. An interesting difference I observed is whenever one travels on Mumbai-Delhi or Mumbai-Ahmedabad route - we only see vendors selling packed wafers, branded food items, mineral water, cold drinks, chocolates etc - but when one travels through central Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh etc - we came across vendors selling grapes, bananas, oranges, custard apples along with the usual packed food.

Sunrises, Sunsets, Moonrises, Moonsets all suddenly become magical when seen through the windows of the moving train.

Below are some of the pictures taken through the moving Bhagalpur Express. Of course, needless to say, the Rights to use the pictures aren't your Father's Uncle's ancestral property. so please be aware.

Part 2 on Amarkantak and how we celebrated the arrival of 2010 at a dilapidated tea stall will be posted soon. Till then, enjoy the pictures.


© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta


Anonymous said...

after reading (in fact, re-reading) the article, all i can say is 'brilliant' (it's time i update my vocab to save special words for such special piece of works)
yaar it felt so sad that asheem passed away and the bloody media never bothered to telecast it! they care only about kareena's ass and shaheed's six packs.
amarkanth se nikli rewa - those immortal words have always been etched on my mind, and will always be. but it takes a hardik mehta to reach out that place
and pay the well deserved tribute to a dying river and a dead musician.

am already waiting for the sequel to this wonderful article!

prakash gowda

Random Thoughts said...

"River Son goes eastwards and joins Ganges without much controversy. Narmada flows westwards and as with things that go westwards, it comes face to face with controversies, wicked intentions, corrupt people, baseless right wing rhetoric and a BIG fucking Dam."
Brilliatly said Mr. Mehta!
Although I heard the stories from you verbally (and was equally amused), reading your blog is such a pleasure!

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