A Private Discovery of Central India

Last time I wrote a blog post on visiting the capital, I ended it up with the epilogue that I will get back to you about the rest of the trip. The part which took me on a wild-goose chase of discovering the elusive 'Indianness' in it's history and places, brought me back to a larger realization that the thing I was looking for was only to be found in it's people.

By the way, did you guys catch 2 States in the movie hall yet? The main character - Krissh - seemed to be living in the Hauz Khas area - the one place I described very well in the first part of this two-post travel series. Also, finally I'm glad that Bollywood cleared the air about the people living in Tamil Nadu after the image they usually portrayed of them in movies like Singham and Chennai Express! All the locations in this movie were either my favourite or the most memorable of all places I've ever lived in! Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.. aah nostalgia! This movie was already written in the form of a script, so there was nothing that could've gone wrong with the movie. Thank you 2 States, for reinstating the love for masala Bollywood movies all over again! Don't miss this, if you still haven't seen it in the theatres.

Anyway, enough stalling. Let's pick it up from where I left.

After that train wreck of a journey with the seven gregarious girls from Indraprastha College of Delhi University, I finally reached my hometown. In Jhansi, our house is as old as the Indian struggle for freedom. For some reason, my ancestors seem to have relocated themselves from the temple-city of Dakshineswar in Bengal to the heavily-fortified city of Jhansi sometime in the mid-19th century. They worked for the original rulers of the city but soon worked for the foreign rulers as well, after the revolt of 1857.

Such historically linked that my home already is, I decided to spend some time there as my aunts mobilized their culinary forces in genuine efforts of fattening me up.

After the most convivial Holi that I've ever taken part in, we planned a road trip to the nearby fort city of Orchha where we would usually wash away the colours in the fast-flowing water of the Betwa river. Traditionally so. Now now, I know how this raises eyebrows of the environment-friendly lot among you readers. I just went with the flow this time as being mildly afraid of any significantly large pool of water, I've never done this earlier. Six of us on motorbikes, and one behind each of us - 12 guys in total - we rode at an average of 120 kmph on the highway in the obscure hinterland of the famous Chambal valley. There were jungles on both sides and occasionally you'll come across groups of rowdy biker gangs who will only pass by, shouting 'Holi hai!' all the way into the horizon that we were leaving behind.

After Orchha, I planned to go on a trip to Chhatarpur and Khajuraho. The former lies 135 km away from Jhansi by road and it took me about 4 hours to reach there, considering the road was partly accident-prone and was partly being built in accordance with the oncoming election propaganda in remote UP. I stayed at Chhatarpur and went on a single-day trip to Khajuraho which was another 40 km further down the highway.

Khajuraho is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. The ancient Hindu and Jain temples of Khajuraho have been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Needless to say for those who have heard about it, the temples are famous exclusively for their erotic sculptures and artistry. Estimated to be around 85 in numbers originally, only 22 Hindu temples have been unearthed as of now and renovations are currently being carried out on most of them.

The groups of temples are clubbed in three geographical divisions - western, eastern and southern. The temples are made up of sandstone and I was told that mortar wasn't used to put them together. This particular fact amazed me as there they were, standing in whole, braving the test of time. I was told that Mortise and tenon joints have rather been employed in building these ancient temples (the kind of joints we see in the wooden furnitures at home) with gravity being solely responsible in keeping them in place. Architectural genius.

Although frequently singled out as the Kamasutra temple, the erotic sculptures do not really reflect various positions of sexual activity. Instead, the sculptures portray worldly desires. Most of the sculptures portray everyday life of people - women putting up make up, washing their hair, playing games and plucking thorns from their feet - then, there are deities, animals, portrayal of warfare and their victorious kings, and of people indulging in all kinds of sexual activities within themselves, alone and even with animals.

I would suggest you take plenty of water so as to keep yourself hydrated, as the temperature becomes an apparent threat to one's life in the afternoon. Do not take unauthorized guides who ask you to pay them money, as you will find guides installed at each of the temples anyway. They are usually accustomed in great many languages and are personally trained by the Archeological and Tourism department of India. Avoid buying stuff from the market unless you're adept in bargaining. Obscenity is also a nuisance in Khajuraho as the people usually tend to point out the irony of one's trying to define a fine-line between acceptable erotic exhibitionism and plain obscene voyeurism at the very altar of supposed 'Kamasutra'!

After Khajuraho, I returned back to Jhansi. Intricate details of the carvings on the wall had just begun to escape my head when the octogenarian nanny who used to take care of me when I was just a toddler came over to have a look at me. We call her Lanka bai, like everyone else. At her age, its an amazing sight to even watch her stand up however crooked that it may be. My uncle spoke to her partly in Hindi and partly in a colloquial parlance of Bundelkhand.

'Kaaye bai, mora des ke bahar jaariya he. Bata do ki mem-vem na le aaye?!'
Our son is leaving the country for higher studies, advise him not to bring home a foreigner bride?!

Bai thought about it for a really long time. We thought she couldn't hear him, which only saddened us and seemed to remind us of how old she really is! Then, she slowly spoke up after an extremely pensive pause, 'Beta, ab tose ka bataye.. kachu ithei ki aa jayegi, kachu uthei ki aa jaaye.. je hi toh achhi baat hoth hai, nayi?' A bride from over here (aimed at my brother) and one from over there (reportedly, aimed at me) - what's wrong with that?!

Of course, there's nothing wrong in that bai, thank you so much! Sugar, spice, everything nice and an especially amazing sense of humour - this is what Bai is made up of, alongwith so many years of human struggle and experience.

After a while, Bai's daughter-in-law whom we call chachi, came over with her granddaughter in arms. Me and my cousin brother gasped! This baby's father, whose name was Kalu, was way too young to have kids of his own and the baby's mother was perhaps half our age. When did he even get married? Knowing them, chachi's husband being a peon in the railways is enough information for any localite to give their daughter away in marriage. It also meant that me and my cousins were now Jeths (brother-in-law) and Jethanis (sister-in-law) of their household and the great-uncles and aunts of an infant.

In all the shock that we were already in, my sister whispers in our ears from behind, "Kalu's lineage is hereby one up. So buck up, my dear brothers and get on with what needs to be done!"


  1. You brought back my Khajuraho trip memories! I went to sleep the previous night knowing that I have school tomorrow, when at 4 am my dad jerked me off and said, "get dressed! The bus leaves at 5:30!" And off we were to Khajuraho, Bhopal, Satna, Jabalpur and Maihar. Too bad I didn't get to visit Gwalior and Jhansi... But I was in 3rd standard I guess... Enjoyed immensely... Thanks

    And the last part of the logue was amazing... The language is insanely sweet sounding...

  2. If I'm to be honest, there's nothing in Jhansi to see except the fort - that too is better in Gwalior - but the city is geographically in the middle of every place brilliant in and around UP and MP. And it's my hometown, so I get the charm.

    Thank you, glad you liked it Samik!