Great company, fun adventures….
We were nine ladies – cutting across ages, cultures and cities but united in our determination to enjoy our little holiday together. We chose the night train to Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh for its convenience and by 8:30 we had set off.
Imagine a compartment full of enthusiastic strangers getting to know one another, snacking, assessing their sleeping arrangements and chatting up other travellers (hi Elisabeth and Antara) – all at the same time! I had been a little apprehensive at first about holidaying with strangers (I had never done that before) but was at ease very soon. Everyone was chatty and friendly.
By 9 the next morning we were packed into two Innovas. After some strategic jostling for the ‘best’ seats, we set off from Khajuraho for Panna. The easy camaraderie made way for colourful conversation on rurban India, lush mustard fields, milch cows and the quality of roads. After navigating an impossibly bumpy stretch, we reached our destination two hours after we set off from Khajuraho station.
Panna, Madhya Pradesh
The Ken River Lodge was a beauty. Think of a resort overlooking a river, tucked among a forest, boasting a tree which doubles up as a dining room and lounge bar. It was a stunning first exposure to nature for us city types.
We would go on to stay 2 nights in comfortable and large huts with noisy tin roofs, and pig out on impossibly delicious food – I still dream of the aloo puri breakfast. And I definitely https://www.viagrasansordonnancefr.com/ can’t forget my new friends singing and dancing on my birthday. But the show stopper in Panna had to be the tigress and her family the following morning. We watched in quiet wonder as she majestically emerged from the forest, ambled up to the river with her two cubs and then lazed in the sun by the river bank before walking away. Life was wonderful after that – the pre-dawn start was so worth it, the morning cold didn’t matter any more, and the packed sandwiches never tasted better!
The Chandela Rajput rulers clearly loved their temples because the dynasty kept contributing to this complex over a period of 250 years between the 10th and 12th centuries. Some 25 of the original 80 survive and they are dedicated to the Shaivite and Vaishnav schools of Hinduism and to Jainism.
The main (western) complex is easily explorable on foot with beautiful landscaped gardens. The temples themselves
are stunning examples of art, architecture, scientific prowess and local culture, depicting life as it was about a thousand years ago : We saw Gods, animals and human forms ; courtship and love making, war, music and dancing, wrestling and hunting.
Our extremely thorough guide informed us that only 10% of the carvings were erotic art. Yet, I was struck by the unabashed celebration of sex and womanhood. The kamasutra poses were prominently displayed at eye level on the main walls of the temples and panel after panel showed gorgeously proportioned female forms putting on makeup, doing their hair, playing games, tying and untying their girdles, playing musical instruments etc. Wish our self-styled guardians of Hindu culture could be equally chilled about the pursuit of pleasure and women’s role in society.
I should say that the temple town seems to relish its tourist appeal – there were plenty of souvenir shops, Internet cafes and restaurants, motels and hotels, guides and touts. The dance festival performances on our day in town were underwhelming as was the food at Raja Cafe. But what it lacked in food, it made up in ambience – we thoroughly enjoyed our evening under a neem tree in the courtyard.
Bandavgarh, Madhya Pradesh
Or Bandargarh as we may as well call it. We took two jungle safaris – in Magdhi and Tala zones – but lucked out both times and that too at a park where, they say, every visitor is guaranteed a sighting! We saw plenty of monkeys, and also deer (cheetal, chinkara and sambar) and birds, nilgai, sloth bear and wild boar. We dutifully followed the alarm calls of deer and monkeys and waited patiently (and silently) for the big cat to show up. We even sent up a few silent prayers but it wasn’t meant to be.
Yet, the safaris weren’t a total waste of time. Tala zone was very striking in its terrain and natural beauty: mostly plateaus and hills and copses of flaming palash trees. We saw the stunning ancient Shesh Shaiya statue of a reclining Vishnu and shivling, and the memorial to Charger – a legendary male tiger who earned his name after he charged at an elephant carrying tourists. He was fearless, apparently commanded the largest territory in the park and was quite the hit with the females. We booked our safaris through King’s Lodge where we stayed and the resort was perfect with luxurious rooms, very friendly staff, and delicious food.
Soon it was time to go home but each one us would have happily stayed on for a bit longer ….. in a Wonderful World of great company and fun adventures.
Blog Credits: Parul Malhotra0 Read More
I have to confess (sorry Shibani!) I was mildly apprehensive about the Amritsar trip. I have never travelled with a group of strangers before, mentally relegating it to the kind of thing that scarey cat people did, who were nervous about dealing with new things and places, whereas I liked to see myself as an intrepid traveller who ventured forth and did things.
However, I had always wanted to go to Amritsar and see the Waga border. And frolic amidst the mustard fields of the Punjab, which have always seemed a different country, known only through hearty images in films and ads. And the timing was perfect. And maybe I am a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to travelling with my son, so I signed up.
We all met at the station—four sets of mothers with accompanying children (the fifth set was flying in from Mumbai). And Shibani turned up—bulging minorly in front as she had Krishna, her one-plus son, in a sling and majorly at the back from a gigantic rucksack about four times the size of Krishna. The children, ranging in age from about six to twelve, eyed one another cautiously and decided that they would not be mortal enemies. The mothers sighed and put their feet up as the Shatabdi chugged out of early morning Delhi.
Many pretty mustard fields later, we reached Amritsar (the Shatabdi turns into a bit of a local train beyond Chandigarh) and hauled ourselves into taxis on the road to Punjabiyat, a drive punctuated by a fabulous meal at SK Dhaba. The butter naan had pools of butter; the alooparatha had pools of butter; the chholey had pools of butter—we knew we were in Punjab!
Punjabiyat is five quiet rooms—built as separate buildings—and a couple of common spaces, set amidst the farmland. It was almost eerily quiet for us city types, and almost equally beautiful in limpid green during the day and in the quiet pools of lamplight at night. There was a quick bullock cart ride for the kids after we reached, and a disco tractor to admire. And tea and pakoras. The rooms were gorgeous, with high beds, and the bathrooms were dreamy. The children bonded by the bonfire and in sessions of dark room, and the mothers drank quiet whiskies and wines and ate gargantuan meals. Yes, we were strangers but I guess women who go on holidays with their kids have a certain amount in common—financial independence and a disposition to travel on their own—and we bonded and laughed together after the kids went off to bed.
The following day was a buzz of activity. We went to the Golden Temple, ate at a dhaba and went to the Wagah border for the evening lowering of the flags, a bizarre and slightly disturbing ceremony.
The third day was a delightful slump of inactivity. We sat around, read, chatted. The children flew kites and made cow patties and ran through the fields. Desultory badminton was played. Random art happened. A few naps here and there. We luxuriated in doing nothing in the winter sun—surely, there is no greater pleasure!
And then a massive lunch in the woods later, it was sadly time to go back—on the Shatabdi with a bunch of very aggressive fellow passengers.
The trip was a perfect mix of activity and inactivity. Shibani organized enough stuff to keep us all entertained, but also left lots of time for us to hang around, which is surely the most delightful part of the holiday. The stay and food were gorgeous—and her impeccable handling of the red tape at the Wagah ceremony made our visit very smooth and trouble free. And I loved my fellow travelers—it was a great and entertaining group—and would love to go on holiday with them again!
Blog Credits: Sayoni Basu0 Read More