Sunday, January 16, 2011

DAY 107 – In Jabalpur

Dr. Shirish and I agreed to meet after 7 am to visit the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat. Eager to be ready in time I woke up at when I thought it was 6 am. After I got ready I realized that I was an hour early even after being to the Railway Station for a cup of tea and the TOI. I informed Vijayee Ram later in the day that the absence of waste bins on Platform 1 forced people to throw them all over the place and requested him to suitably address this matter.
Dr. Shirish arrived as appointed and the drive to Bhedaghat went by quickly discussing tehcircumstances that led to my taking VRS from the Railways. We stopped at the ghat to enjoy the Marble Rocks by boat. While mulling over the options before us to get the best boating deal we decided on some Poha, Jalebi and Tea. Dinesh Barman and his team gave us a glorious guided tour through the magnesium-limestone rock formations that look like marble. The River Narmada is the Holy River of MP, akin to the Ganges. There are many bathing ghats around the area, where the devout come to worship and offer obeisance. The cruise on the River through the Marble Rocks to enjoy the colored marble like cliffs and the gorge is an unforgettable experience. Dinesh Barman kept up a steady commentary during the boating while pointing out many interesting features of the Marble Rocks, such as locations where famous movies were shot, peculiar  rock formations and the changing color of the Rocks from grey to white to pink to black. Raj Kapoor is known as Jabalpur’s damaad (son-in-law) for his wife is from Jabalpur. He picturised many famous sequences of his movies ‘Jish Desh Mein Ganga Bahati Hai’, ‘Aawara’, etc at the Marble Rocks. Dinesh explained how the water in the River was reduced for six days to facilitate the shooting of the SRK-Kareena Kapoor starrer Ashoka, when the public were not permitted into the area and the security forces had virtually sealed it. The boat ride goes up to the place where the Narmada comes gushing into the gorge. A small drive upstream brings one to the waterfall, a miniature Niagara. The height of the fall has reduced since the commissioning of the Bargi Dam. The droplets of water that rise from the Fall gives the impression of rising and cascading smoke and hence, the place is called Dhuandhar. Magnificent views of the Fall can be had from the overhanging platform built for the purpose. Boys offer to jump into the Fall for a fee of Rs.50! Between the Bhedaghat and the Dhuandhar is the Chounsath Yogini Temple, which is believed to have been built during the 10th century. The sculptures surrounding the Temple have been defaced, reportedly at the behest of Aurangzeb.
Standard Auto Motors is the Maruti dealership in Jabalpur. I was invited for an interaction with the CEO, Mr Deepak Arora, courtesy Dr. Shishir. After I shared the experiences with him I did so with a few journalists who had come to cover the journey for various newspapers. To the lournos I emphasized that the Maruthi experience was as similar across the country as its culture and traditions are different. BTV also took sound bytes for its evening news. The interview taken by Dainik Bhaskar yesterday was featured in its edition today.
VR and had lunch at the ICH outlet at Sadar. The three storey building belongs to the ICH Co-operative. The waiters in the ICH wear different colored bands around their waist and on the turban based on the number of years of service they have put in. The low overhead of the co-operative keeps the tariff low without compromising on the quantity and quality of food. The Biriyanis we ordered were quite good and the filter coffee every bit South Indian. The Madan Mahal Kila was a watch tower during the reign of Durgavati. The Kila is also supposed to lead to a 95 km underground secret passage to Mandla, the Palace of the rulers. The view of the city from the top of the watch tower is breathtaking. The city is reputed to have had 52 ponds/tanks/lakes in the past. Now only a handful survives as water bodies. The rest have fallen victim to the avarice of developers, many of them illegally. Works are in progress to spruce up the ruins of the Kila. The ‘Balancing Stone’ is an interesting sight at foot of the Kila. One gets the feeling that even the slightest breeze will tip the huge boulder over from its precarious perch.
Probably the most creatively named hair dressing salon is in Jabalpur. It is called the Men’s Head Quarters or MHQ, for short. I asked VR to drop me off at this fancy salon. At this L’Oreal franchise outlet the hair dressing is very traditional, no fancy strokes or equipment. After the hair cut the hair dresser tried to induce me to do a facial using the L’Oreal products. In the vicinity of MHQ is the Empire Theatre, now almost in ruins. The last owner of the Theatre was Premnath, the actor and brother-in-law of Raj Kapoor. The ancestral house of Mrs Raj Kapoor and her brothers is close to the imposing structure of the Empire Theatre. I understand that the properties are under litigation as they were taken over by the Army.
Dinner was at the Kalchuri Residency. The mixed veg, Chicken curry with crisp rotis were polished off during the course of interesting interchange of views with Dr. Shirish. His attention and assistance made my sojourn in Jabalpur thoroughly enjoyable.

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