3 August 2006
April 2, 2006, 8:30pm; Rewa, Madhya Pradesh
Phew! What a ride! Ok, where do I start...
I felt slightly weak and sick by the time I left Jabalpur... and the 3 back-to-back bus rides to get to Bandavgarh National Park didn't help me much. The bus ride from Katni to Umaria was my first taste of rural (underdeveloped) Madhya Pradesh. Once every few kms, there would be an excuse for a village, with a handful of houses, 2 pan-cum-cigarette shops, kids sitting by the shade and staring at the bus, which seems like their most eagerly awaited event of the day. An hour into the ride, this young chap, wearing shades which he never removed, got in and sat next to me. And then the conversation began...
After updating him on my geographical roots and the purpose of the trip, he told me that I speak excellent Hindi for a south indian. Right then I should've guessed that he's a retarded bastard. Anyway, with my ego boosted, I told him about South India, my education... he told me that he was going to meet his girlfriend, and that he'd propose to her that evening if the mood is right... and that they'd go to some restaurant and temples... he adviced me to spend a few days in each city that I visit (he picked out jabalpur as an example), to visit the places there... the temples... more temples... still more temples... gosh! I thought he was some saint. And how the women go around the temples in their own unique style (like different from south indian women... god knows what he meant).
Then I generally observed that men and women move move freely here in MP than down south... like the iron curtain doesn't exist. He thought about it for a while, then bluntly said "But, there is a lot of sex in the south, nah?" I was like "eh? What do I do - go around knocking doors to take a census or something?" I mumbled some general bullshit about how it's hard to generalise... then he spoke about actors and actresses... how he likes the dance movements in the south movies... suddenly he quizzed me about the red-light scene in Madras. I told him that it exists... mentioned Kodambakkam... then he wanted to know the rates... I didn't want to let down my know-it-all guard, and mumbled that it starts at rs.2,000. He wasn't gonna let me go so easily, so he asked hourly rates... and asked me if I had experience... I gave a blunt "no, I dunno anything more... only hearsay... by the way, when's your stop coming up... " and changed the topic. Then he spoke about alcohol and ganja... he yelled out ganja so loud that katan, sitting 3 seats away, could effortlessly follow our conversation.
I mentioned the bit about people spitting all over the place, and how disgusting it is... he listened patiently for 3 minutes and then took a gutka sachet out of his pocket...
Then a bunch of early teenaged school girls got into the cramped bus. Our cool dude sat upright and offered this dark, pretty girl with big, stunning eyes, place to stand in between his legs and the front seat. He enquired which class (8th), why she's in the bus (exam in her school, a few villages away), what exam (english)... everytime he'd ask her (in hindi) and she'd reply (in hindi) and he'd look at me and repeat the exact same thing, in hindi. Then I grew sick of his alcohol-temple-ganja-women
-films-sex talk, and thankfully he was getting off soon... then I saw him run his hand up that girl's thigh. I thought my eyes were lying, then I stared at it in shock for a couple of seconds, and then I looked at him, not knowing what to do. He gave me an evil grin, patted my shoulder and got off the bus 5 seconds later. The girl didn't move a muscle. She just stood there like a statue, and calmly sat next to me when the bastard left. I felt so bad, the worst part is that I didn't have a clue as to what to do. Crazy.
Along the way, we saw some modern, jean-and-bright-red-tshirt-clad goondas, the bus driver promised money on the way back and continued.
We stood for an hour in a cramped bus from Umaria to get to Bandavgarh, which also happens to be the name of the national park. That evening, I fell sick. Uncontrollable shivering and high fever... oh, and diarrhoea! I thought I was down with Malaria... didn't go for the safari the next day... I was just happy to be alive. Katan and the german dude he shared the jeep with didnt spot a tiger. I felt better during the day, and we made plans to get me back to civilization in the most painless route possible. Stuck in the middle of the forest, with a minimum of 2 maddening bus rides to reach any excuse for civilization, I was really glad to spot a doc right there. He checked my pulse, then prescribed a bunch of tabs for cold and fever. Total charges for the doc and the tabs ballooned to rs.2.
The German felt cheated cuz he didnt see any tiger. He felt that they had the tigers caged, and that they'd set it out once in a while for the tourists who pay lots of money, fool them into thinking that they've seen a wild tiger, and then return the tiger to the cage... so he didnt' come for the evening safari, and I was undecided on risking the ride, and eventually none of us went.
I nervously awaited that night, to check on the malaria symptoms... fortunately, I felt super, no fever or shivering... only goddamn diarrhoea.
That brings us to this morning. We took a bus to this place called Rewa (pronounced as Reewa)... 150 kms were covered in 8 bloody slow hours! I think, the bus took us to half of MP's least developed villages... gosh! It was really scary. Utter poverty and joblessness. Filth everywhere... the only thing booming is the pan-tobacco biz. No schools in most of the villages... dirty kids, playing around in the filth. People spitting, blowing noses, even pissing right outside their homes. Basic sense and hygeine dont exist. The bus will stop randomly whenever the driver felt like having a smoke. The heat, dust and filth is unimaginable. The driver proudly claimed that this is more underdeveloped than bihar. I think they have some kind of competition. The kids stood in the shade, or chased animals... no schools.
The roads are a different story. Horrible is not the word. I can't find the word to describe it. The best part was when we passed a toll booth, and paid rs.44 (for the mini-bus)... 50 meters from the toll, the road just disappeared... no, not into some muddy path, but random scattering of stones, sand, huge craters (the size of the van itself) and mountains of dust. More like the surface of the moon. And that's the way it was for 50 odd kms. In that extreme heat, dust and madness, there were people working in a quarry, and breaking down rocks... gosh! I thought my job was bad. I still can't stop thinking about it. I've never seen anything like that.
Anyway, we arrived at Rewa. After checking out all possible options for getting to Varanasi, we settled for a night at rewa and an early morning bus tomorrow. Katan has an upset tummy, so he's been living on antacids all day.
Oh, and I forgot to tell you about this interesting signboard at nagpur. I made a blog entry long back about the signboards outside cyber cafes...
In Nagpur, I was gifted with new additions...
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Ok, that's it for now... off to Varanasi and a dip in the Ganges tomorrow! Phew! Crazy trip...