With little time in Bhopal for the local sights I had planned to deviate from the Jabalpur route to visit the Bhojpur Temple, which is reported to have the tallest Lingam in the world, and the Bhimbetka Caves, which house prehistoric cave paintings that are believed to be as old as 12000 years. With these deviations in mind I left early and reached the vicinity of the Temple, where I was asked to park in an open ground. Vehicular restrictions were imposed anticipating heavy rush for the Makar Sankranthi worship. Since the people manning the parking area looked a bit dodgy and I was the lone visitor I decided to skip the visit. This brought me too early to the diversion for the Caves and I had to skip that too.
While the initial part of the NH12 was just about okay, the road turned bad at Badi. The situation obtained thus till Jabalpur. The condition was extremely bad in some stretches. It was indeed a concern that when the SH18 was maintained beautifully, the NHs in MP are in such poor condition. Later I learnt that it has more to do with politics than anything else. The Central Minister under whose charge the NHAI is seems to be out to prove a point in his home State – but what a way to do it. Who looks at India as one and who is really interested in the clichéd ‘Aam Aadmi’?
After successfully negotiating the rough NH12 I got in to the ORH of the West Central Railway near the Jabalpur railway station by 1400 hours. A short nap later I went to the WCR HQ to meet my batch mate, Vijayee Ram, who is posted here as Chief Transport Planning Manager. The DRM of Bhopal Division was in discussion with VR. The problems of the Railways seem to remain the same, irrespective of when they occur! After collecting the Testimony from VR we went to Indian Coffee House for a snack. I was taken in by the ambience, not the smokey, dim lit, coffee centre for self professed intellectuals. The interior was pleasantly modern and air conditioned. The popularity of the ICH is borne out by 5 busy outlets in Jabalpur. More than 95% of the members of the ICH Co-operative are from Kerala. Masala Dosa and a strong cup of filter coffee we decided on.
Sharat Chandra Jethi, my batch mate based in Mumbai, has been arranging my accommodation and other logistics needs in the Western and Central regions. SCJ is meticulous, painstaking and leaves nothing to chance. Dave told me in Jaipur of the incessant follow up SCJ had done to ensure my accommodation. Many of us unashamedly, and with a lot of gratitude, own up the fact that we got through many of our tests in the Foundation and Induction Courses at the Railway Staff College due to the coaching of SCJ. He was ever willing to take a ‘class’ and the manner in which he explained ‘interlocking’, ‘classes of stations’, features of wagons and coaches, made it look so ridiculously simple and straight forward. No he is not the conservative nerd. His sense of humor and is a tremendous raconteur of anecdotes. Whenever I visualize SCJ I do so with the tag MIT next to him. With his eye for detail and constant search for knowledge he would have been an invaluable asset in an institution like the MIT.
SCJ belongs to Jabalpur and his brother Dr. Shirish Chandra Jethi is a recognized paediatrician in Jabalpur. When we met up in the ORH to speak about the experiences we were joined by the local representative of Dainik Bhaskar, the leading vernacular daily in MP. In the next hour we discussed my journey, the challenges, the objectives, the learnings, etc. The ‘session’ ended with the photographer clicking a few pics.