There is always a classification of everything that is a part of the world, be it people, animal, non-living things whether they are good or bad. Fortunately, I must say, I am the type of person who is not sure about anything, always in a state of perpetual confusion, contradictions and doubts. I was happy to see Sam.

Hanging out with Sam gave me a great sense of satisfaction and distress both at once, the distress lengthening furthermore almost to a point of eternity, where getting hold of it became difficult . But desire and want looked right at my face from afar yet so clear.

                                                                     

Sam and I decided to travel together – to Orchha. I was sure excited; the thought of moving having wanted to go there since always, this exotic place I had in my mind. I was all set for this, with feelings of delight and fear.

We set out with joy.

A draining train ride to Jhansi from Old Delhi, a journey of just about five hours yet seemed to be too stretched, perhaps because of the dreary look of the train or I didn’t like trains too much – or I never found out why. We reached Jhansi in the morning; I distinctly remember the picture when we got out of the station how a good number auto-rickshaws stood there with the drivers dispersed around looking for passengers, the color of the air, the drivers, some rugged faced, some clean shaved, some with a moustache, the color of their uniforms. After a little (obvious) bargain we hired an auto to Orchha. I knew it would not be easy. The en-route to Orchha was a bit frightening and uncomfortable because the place was laden with chaos, numbers of auto rickshaws everywhere, poor road, dust, pollution, harsh strokes of sunlight, people! – struggling to live. I sat in subtle amazement.

A while after, we reached a place which seemed a little cut-off from the hustle of the city I had just seen. A long stretch of road with bright greens by the sides. I felt the atmosphere turned cooler. ‘This is a nice stretch’, I thought.

Soon, we reached the hotel where we had pre-booked a room, which to a little dismay lied a little away from the sightseeing areas. Two to three kilometres of walk to there from the hotel was not a great idea because of the weather. The rays of the sun were unforgiving.

We let the taxi driver drop us at the sightseeing area before we went in the hotel because Sam and I decided to go there first that we were already in a taxi, see the place just briefly and go back to the hotel later.

The driver dropped us somewhere that looked like a market. We walked, I felt the eyes of the local people on me, us. I saw a few little guesthouses and restaurants, a small temple that looked newly built of unappealing colors: orange, white, green, red, pink, and what else. The temple seemed to be maintained very ‘holy and pure’-ly.  We then saw a lot of people walking opposite to us, and also along our way. We wondered, saying that the area seemed crowded, if that was usual. Road side stalls selling colors, little souvenirs and other things.

As we walked, we started to get a sight of the Betwa River, which was absolutely incredible. The river was vast, long, and the bank was dotted with a number of people bathing, washing clothes, a husband and wife taking dips probably cleansing their ill luck or sins, a man lathering up his body with soap and scrubbing with a piece of cloth, a group of young friends bathing together laughing, half naked saadus. And so on. The river was beautiful, serene and calm if the humans were removed in mind. As much as I felt the beauty of the place and saw the clearness of the water, I also felt River Betwa in total pollution in some years to come.

 

River Betwa

We walked on the concrete bridge over the river for a while. A line of gorgeous temples stood in the backdrop.

Then we went to a restaurant to eat that had a board mounted that said: Italian, continental, Chinese, Indian and Wi-Fi. Being a less touristic season, the caretaker said nothing much was available. We ordered some paranthas. They were treacherous.

We then went to the hotel having in mind the interesting plan to come back to the river in an hour or so.

The hotel was a beautiful property, apparently constructed in a way to make it look like a renovated ancient royal mansion. Charming and appealing as it was, it was yet identifiable that it was not authentic – from the artworks on the walls of the rooms, the corridors.

I had become quite tired, unexpectedly.

© Moriya Hanglam

 

Later, at the road we waited for a taxi but it took time; the eyes then became rather desperate. Not able to bear the heat, I stood under a tree nearby in the shade. Sam suggested that we start walking, we would find a taxi ahead. I wanted to wait. Ten minutes, we agreed, and then we move. As I stood there, I saw some women in traditional attire walking at the opposite side of the road. I gazed at them in admiration. The weather was unbelievably hot; I saw the road extending all the way afar; the orange of the sunlight, greens of the trees by the roadside, colorful dresses of the dusky women, and the grey of the road, I stood still. I thought it would be great to take walks on this road – but under this sun – you shouldn’t do that in a million years.

© Moriya Hanglam

Sam and I began to walk; it was dreadful for me. Adventure is great, but walking under 48 degrees…? I understood Sam still and he was not wrong. A while later, a taxi from behind slowly advanced towards us. We got in. On the way, a particular thing entered my mind and my blood froze. Our taxi continued to move.

This trip was by far one of the most hectic trips I’ve ever made; what remains are the mental pictures of distinct places, moments, people. …Do you see things around with a carefree, appreciating mind and body not worrying that you haven’t seen everything, taking one step at a time, or is it the other way around?

We first went to the main monument of Orchha – The Raja Mahal. The pavements by the side of the road, the central part, area around the monument, were covered with innumerable spots of excreta – whose? Cows, humans? Who knew? Sam said, ‘Why aren’t places like this looked after.’

There were aged women and men, begging for money, sitting by the side of the concrete bridge that led to the palace. I would say this again and again – it was forty eight degree Celsius.

The gates of the palace were huge doors with big iron spikes on them. As we entered we saw some men. One of them offered himself as a guide for money. Sam took it.

I looked around the place much by myself; the guide was with Sam most of the time.

© Moriya Hanglam

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

The hall in the courtyard: the ceilings were a wonder. Faded paintings of Gods and Goddesses, kings and rulers, men, women and animals covered the whole of the ceiling. There were some people sitting nearby in the hall having food; a man and a woman – husband and wife possibly among them. There were few foreign tourists around – a Japanese couple, with an Indian translator, speaking fluent Japanese.

© Moriya Hanglam

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

Rani Mahal Ceiling

Then gradually we reached a courtyard in the interior of another monument: Jehangir Mahal. There was a hall which used to be an area for taking leisure, only for women, an ancient toilet and bathroom which was almost completely dark, and deep inside was an area where when it was forty eight degrees outside, a soothing and cold breeze travelled through a mystical looking passage-like path where entry was restricted and blew around rapidly.

At the courtyard of the palace the sun rays struck as hard as possible on everyone, everything. There was a stage too, supposedly an area where performances were held to entertain the King.

© Moriya Hanglam

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

We climbed up the palace to the first floor. It overlooked a great part of the city through the intricate windows which was somewhat beautiful. The temples and other monuments nearby stood still, with tiny concrete buildings and houses just by – a sign of the new world slowly taking over the ancient world.

The palace was charming and captivating all over, with intricate window styles, balconies and pillars. I heard from time to time the guide’s inaudible voice narrating stories to Sam.

Tired, I sat and waited for Sam.

View of Raja Ram Temple (Centre) from Raja Mahal

 

Bundela Cenotaphs

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

 

At dusk, we walked to another monument; at the premise were shops selling flowers, garlands, food and other things. We climbed the stairs to the temple, there were teenage boys hanging out, laughing few of whom took a glance at us. We were then inside the temple, looked around for a while; then, when we thought should climb up the stairs inside. The caretaker then told us the door to terrace was closed at that time. But he said he could guide us, take us up there if we wished, meaning he could show around for some money.

We climbed up a series of complicated stairs; it had turned quite dark inside. At the first floor, the spot where we stood overlooked the hall downstairs. Then we climbed to the top of the monument which was truly beautiful; the giant spires with the warm hue of the sun in the backdrop were absolutely gorgeous. Eagles flew around nearby.

© Moriya Hanglam

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

We headed to the river quickly to catch a glimpse of the sunset; I really wished to see this one. And it was worth the effort.

We stayed there for a while; found out there was a light and sound show happening in the evening that we decided to see. I was a mix of exhaustion and excitement. The show happened at Raja Mahal, which started with the depiction of Orchha’s history. There was music, a pre-recorded voice telling the story, colorful dramatic lights – and a long power cut in between.

© Moriya Hanglam

 

We went back to room quite late after some difficulty to get a transport.

The good thing about the place where we stayed was it was just by the river. So the next morning I took a little stroll at the river bank. Sam had gotten up earlier.

I wasn’t too keen to see the ‘Raja Ram Mandir’ in detail because it had been renovated and was not appealing. The building had lost all its true characteristics, I know, and was now just a very bad-looking temple – washed yellow was the main color with a few orange lines. I did not go in, waited for Sam as he went in. Sam came out in about ten minutes.

We then walked to the garden which had four very beautiful monuments called Bir Singh Deo’s Cenotaph at the corners of the square shaped area. The top of the monuments overlooked the river.

Then a taxi to ‘Lakshmi Narayan Mandir’, in the killing heat. The temple was a beauty.

Bir Singh Deo’s Cenotaph

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

 

© Moriya Hanglam

 

 

Then again to the Raja Mahal; Sam felt we hadn’t seen the back of the palace. There was the ‘Rai Praveen Mahal’ that attracted me the most, it was enchanting. The half opened gate, the house which must have been empty for years, once occupied, now taken over by emptiness and dry summer grasses.

We went to the river one last time and sat by, talking, laughing, and looking around seeing what we had seen before: baths, saadus, laundry. We newly noticed fishes in the river.

Bundela Cenotaphs

Going back to the railway station for Delhi wasn’t pleasant. Now back at Jhansi, we sat at little food shop and got us some beer, with the crazy traffic around, smoky air and honks. The owner of the shop was a father of two sons, with one who happened to be there, of eleven or twelve years. The boy lit up a cigarette and smoked. ‘You shouldn’t really smoke at this age, boy’, we said. ‘You’re really young. How old are you?’ The boy talked to us, I couldn’t understand much of what he said although I got that he was talking about – family, money, dreams and so on. Sam remarked a ‘sigh’.