Thursday, 10 December 2015

Jabalpur Diaries-Part 2

Today morning we were received by Colonel Seethi and family (Fathima Nisar) at the Jabalpur Junction. They were quite shocked to see Nazeera Faz and me standing there with four suitcases. We travel heavy. I almost convinced them we were here to overstay their welcome.
I was nostalgic, driving through the army campus and seeing their "quarters", surrounded by a lovely garden.
After a scrumptious east-meets-west breakfast of "mooli parantha" and apple pie (courtesy Zakeena Seethi), we were ready to start our road trip to Panna National Park.
Driving through Jabalpur and asking for directions was...interesting. It's the first time I've heard someone use "seedha haath" and "ulta haath" to describe right and left. That's literally translated to straight hand and opposite/upside down hand for you non-Hindi speakers. Apparently that's how people give directions here, under the assumption that everyone has a dominant right hand. It's great that left-handed me wasn't driving, or we would have reached somewhere else wink emoticon
The journey was through plain lands, occasionally whizzing past tiny villages, women balancing firewood on their head, men driving tractors loaded with hay.
After years of the lush landscape of Kerala, it took some time to get used to the dry scenery. Halfway through the journey we stopped at a small dhaaba to have lunch. The food was great and the tea was amazing. Brought back a lot of memories too...
Refueled by tandoori butter roti and shaahi paneer, the Seethis and two-fifths of the Fazal's clan got back on the road. Games of antaakshari and dumb charades were played. I am sure Col. Seethi was quickly overwhelmed, being the only man in the car, surrounded by four boisterous women and a girly girl. The group dynamic was heavily tilted AGAINST him since he is also the only Thrissur-kaaran amongst us (with remote support and prayers from my father, Fazal Mohamed, the fellow-thrissur-kaaran). 
Anyway, once back on the road, we had to gasp and look away more than once as dare devil men just shed their pants and squatted down on the side of the road to do their business. But, I'm not judging, people. Some play candy crush or read while answering nature's call, others watch cars whizz by. Whatever floats your bowels, oops, boat. 
And I understand why they would prefer the wide open land over "jhaadi ke peeche" (behind the bushes). Thorns prickling the derriere is not a pleasant feeling. Don't ask me how I know that. 
An interesting thing about today, other than public poopers, is that we saw more cows than people. We must have passed literally more than a thousand cows on our ride to Panna. A consequence of the beef ban is that we have thousands of cows just growing old and not being taken care of . These are "protected" at various "gowshaalas". We passed two such gowshaalas. Instead of being fed, these cows are just let outside everyday to fend for themselves. It's so sad to see their condition. Most of them are starved, as you can see from the pictures. Really depressing. 
I won't leave you on that note though. I want to tell you about the place we are staying at. Folks, I am writing this right in the middle of a jungle. We are in a tent like structure inside a compound. If I step outside now I can see a sky scattered with stars that now, unhindered by city lights, shine bright. There's no moon either to dim their light. 
It's on stepping away from the city that you realize how over-stimulated (?) You are. The billboards, the bright lights, the loud horns-the cacophony of city is exposed to so much throughout the day that we have no option but to block out the 'noise'. Here, under this starry sky , all your senses come alive. My eyes are so grateful for this wonderful sight spread out in front of me. And guess what I hear, crickets elephant! Yes, there's one just a hundred meters away.
The manager left us with a few words that I don't know what to feel about. He said "Kuch aawaz sunoge toh daro mat. Bas jaanwar hongay. Aap thoda awaaz kardo bas". Translated- "if you hear some sounds , don't get scared. It might be just some animals. You just have to make some noise."
Already spotted a wild boar. God knows what else is there....

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