A note of caution: Though I have written and published three books of short stories I am a novelist basically, and so, brevity is not known to me.
Probably, a tiny spark of desire to visit Madhya Pradesh got impregnated in my mind during 2015 while writing the 5th Volume of my book: I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT … INDIA, ITS STATES, AND IMPORTANT CITIES, which concerned about the Central India, including Madhya Pradesh. While collecting information on Madhya Pradesh for the purpose of the book I stumped upon some information about, among other places, Bhimbedka, in MP, where some 10000 years-old human paintings have still survived under the rock shelters. The desire must have been lying dormant for long until quite suddenly, during November, it grew into gigantic proportions. Fortunately, for me, whenever I am in India, the second half of December is always a dull period, with no activity, due to all round closure of schools and colleges.
In my house, I represent the kinetic energy, wanting action, movement, and commotion, and my wife stands for potential energy, wanting stability, balance, and peace. While I wanted to make the tour to Madhya Pradesh she wasn’t that keen. But, as it always happened, she gave in to my emotional blackmailing and agreed for the tour. Not that she doesn’t like sightseeing, but she has recently developed a habit of concerning more and more about health – present and presumed. So, my gratitude goes to her for agreeing to make the trip. God bless her.
Something similar had happened earlier too. Sometime in late 2013, I was reading Dan Brown’s INFERNO. As I read the extensive description about Florence and its various theocratic structures, suddenly I felt I must visit Italy, specifically, Florence. After some hard bargaining with my wife, we made a very happy trip to Italy during March 2014, and I felt fulfilled.
Coming back to our Madhya Pradesh tour, once we decided to make the tour, I started looking at places to visit. Madhya Pradesh is a very vast state, but thinly populated. I had visited several parts of the State during the early 1990s, as part of my official work, and I had noticed that several parts of the State were primitive in development and public conveniences. But I knew things have changed a lot over there since then.
We decided to limit ourselves to Khajuraho, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Indore, and Bhopal. Though it might look a bit convoluted, the crisscross journey across the State became inevitable as I insisted on visiting the Marble Rocks along the Narmadha River, near Jabalpur. And we were both happy that I insisted on passing through Jabalpur too. Our itinerary broadly fell like this:
Chennai to Bhopal (by train)
Bhopal to Khajuraho (by train)
Khajuraho to Satna (by local public transport) and from Satna to Jabalpur (by train)
Jabalpur to Ujjain (by train)
Ujjain to Indore (by public transport)
Indore to Mahabaleshwar and Mandu (by public transport)
Indore to Bhopal (by public transport)
Bhopal to Sanchi, Udaygiri, Bhojpur, and Bhimbedka by a hired taxi
Bhopal to Chennai (by train)
Taxi was a convenient option everywhere, but we decided to use public transport wherever possible. And it was not inconvenient.
We left from Tenkasi on 16th December evening and returned back on 29th morning. All hotels were booked through the internet through either MakeMyTrip.com or Bookings.com or Goibobo.com. The hotels we booked were decent, centrally located, easily accessible, comfortable, and quite economical. For me, the internet is almost a demi-God. Grants you anything you want!
The trip was quite hectic as we were constantly on the move. Yet, we enjoyed the whole trip. We enjoyed decent north Indian food everywhere. Adharak ka chai was uniformly great everywhere. Fortunately for us, there were no hiccups anywhere during our trip. All meticulously planned and realized.
My overall impressions about Madhya Pradesh can be summarized as follows:
1. Most places were very neat and clean. ‘Swachh Bharat’ advertisements were there on every wall at many places. We could see public toilets everywhere. Very commendable. Proper roads have been developed in all the places we visited. The people were very simple and helpful.
2. The people in the rural areas appeared genuinely poor. One could see large groups of people traveling with headloads of what, I don’t know, everywhere. Incidentally, Madhya Pradesh has the largest percentage of Adhivasis (Tribal people), who were illiterate or only semi-literate, and very innocent. We passed through several small villages during the trip.
3. On casual conversation with fellow travelers while traveling and a few public, we got the impression that the day to day State administration is as inefficient and corrupt as any other State.
4. The weather was cool during the night, but the days were quite warm or hot.
Await a couple of more reports on the details of the places we visited and our impressions about them.