Madhya Pradesh! My eyes lit up like the young kid in that cartoon. Clouds of thoughts zoomed into my crowded brain as I kept remembering hot jelabis and world heritage sites (well, not exactly in that order). Ok, So MP! That’s where I was headed to. And ground zero was Jabalpur. It was a wet day and my car struggled to stay on the highway road to Jabalpur. With hunger pangs constantly reminding me to fill my stomach, I pulled out the day-old sandwich that my mother had packed for me. After some time of travelling, it started to rain and I stopped for lunch just a few kilometers away from Nagpur.
My lunch companion, a mute humanoid in a beggar outfit, helped himself to some food that I offered. His manners never failed to raise eyebrows, as he offered me a place to rest. I unfolded myself to take a kip under an enormous tree surrounded by lush green meadows. I slept for nearly two hours and was rudely awaken by the sound of thunder storm reminding me of the long journey ahead. The old man had cleaned up my car while I was asleep as a token of gratitude. I bid my farewell and continued the journey.
Jabalpur greeted me with a ‘thundering’ welcome. I reached the city bus stand where I was supposed to meet my host. He put me up in a room which was reserved for guests of a wedding happening in the town. I had free time in my hands, and went about exploring the town in a rickshaw. The main bazaar was welcoming with its bright lights and people crowding the shops.
I decided that if I ever decide to moonlight, it would be in Jabalpur, amongst the busy market streets, maybe even as a peddler! Striking up a conversation with some friendly folks, got me invited to dinner! And by God, was it sumptuous! With the taste of lip-smacking traditional dishes and sweetened lassi still lingering in my tongue, I bid farewell to these Samaritans. I ventured out late at night for second round of jelabies and after a tired day, I dozed off almost immediately on reaching my destination. After what seemed liked minutes after I dozed off, I dragged my feet to answer the bell that yelled with its full might repeatedly. Not long after I stumbled back to bed, I was woken up again with a request for a room change. I recommenced my sleep soon after the chaotic room shift.
It was 5 A.M when I heard the alarm go off. I rushed out to the parking lot after a quick morning routine. I was half asleep as I drove to Bheda Ghat. Bheda Ghat, known for its marble formation, is a major tourist attraction on the banks of river Narmada. The mystic morning dew added to the beauty of these marble rocks. Setting up the tripod for a video shoot was a mistake. No sooner than I mounted the camera, hordes of children came running to pose for the video. I had to convince them that it was to capture the splendid Dhuandhar waterfalls. Living up to the name “Dhaundhar”, which translates to fog, the sprinkles from the water smashing on to the rocks created a foggy atmosphere. Walking a little further from the marble formation was a beautiful temple called Chausath Yogini (sixty four female yogis). This majestic ancient temple had a northern shikara with sixty four sculptures of female yogis. The slight drizzle added a mystic feel to the temple.
By the time I found my way back to the car, my stomach was yearning for food, and taking advice from Lonely Planet, I drove to Tilwara Ghat in search of a well known dhaba (small eatery) for breakfast. The little dhaba experiment turned out to be an oily nightmare. I was sure that the oil used to cook the dripping parathas would end the Middle East crisis. The only reprieve of this foodie misadventure was a chance to witness one of the funniest sights- a truck driving on the highway with the driver’s right hand sticking out of the window moving in perfect perpetual semicircular motion over the windscreen as a replacement to the non functional wiper. I almost choked at that sight. Well, that choking should definitely have digested the oils that I consumed!
A relocation to another room followed and after a few minutes rest, I went to visit a small natural bio reserve park very close to Jabalpur airport with my camera in hand. The reserve, few kilometers ahead of the airport, looked newly constructed. Expecting nothing but a good stroll, I started walking. My expectant eyes spotted a small mud path deviating from path well traveled. I took the road not taken and it made all the difference (it really did, in spite of the ‘Frostian’ angle to it)! Perhaps this was pinnacle of the whole trip.
The park by far exceeded my expectations. To my surprise I ran into a herd of spotted deer. Watching them graze hid behind a tree was a wonderful experience. Dark clouds threw out enough warning to fasten my pace. I realized that I was lost and had been circling the same area for about an hour. The rain made its move and within minutes I was totally drenched and lost.
Amidst the rain I sensed something move at a distance. I slowed my pace to get a better look and saw a peacock prancing in the rain. Realizing with a jolt, that watching a peacock’s rain dance at such proximity was new to me, I savored the sight. As I inched my way to the dancing bird, he panicked and ran in random directions. I just followed the bird which led me back to the cement road. I reached my room soon and contemplated the events of my surreal evening.
Sipping hot tea with jelabies, my mind began to wander of what tomorrow will bring as I leave behind this lovely town of Jabalpur. Have I seen the best that Madhya Pradesh had to offer or is there more? With a sense of excitement I closed my eyes waiting to ‘capture that flighty temptress adventure’!
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