Friday, October 27, 2006

Diwali 2006, Thoughts and Images from Mhow (MP); India

From Dhan Teras to Bhai Dooj. October 19 to October 24 2006.
Photographs taken at Mhow Bazaar, Village Gawli Palasiya and the Brahmakumari Rajyog Kendra

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cycling down Elkington Road in Mhow (MP); India

Elkington Road in Mhow is one of few roads which still retains its original name. The only other road I can remember which hasn't been renamed is Gillespie Road near Swarg Mandir. A few years ago when a journalist friend from Pune was visiting Mhow and I was showing her the old British graves in Mhow we came upon Major General Gillespie's grave. Talking of roads, Dennis Road has become Shivaji Marg, Middlesex Road is Vikram Path, Plowden Road is Dr. Rajendra Singh Road, Peyton Road is Naurarang Path, Montieth Road is now Bhaya Road.... The British had named these roads after their generals and those who had helped make India the jewel in the crown. It is right that these names be gradually renamed. They are an embarrassment to the present day Britisher though many an Indian would like these names to remain. Elkington Road isn't very far from where I live and it connects General's Road to the AB Road. The AB Road is a national highway and connects Agra to Mumbai. The interesting thing about Elkington Road is that it isn't a road anymore, just a dirt track. But it has a history of its own.

The road marker on General's Road. You can read 'Elkington Road' written on the stone.

The other day I cycled down Elkington Road. Till 2001 a nullah used to run parallel to this road and after crossing the AB Road from under a small bridge it would merge with the Gambhir river not far from the Khadey Hanuman temple. The Gambhir is in infancy in Mhow as it is born in the hills near the temple of Janapao 15 kms from Mhow. It joins the Kshipra near Ujjain. Many a pilgrim who bathes in the Kshipra during the Kumbh Mela in Ujjain doesn't know that the waters are often of the Gambhir.

In 2001 the Indian Army dug up two lakes near this road. Overnight this area became a mini natural sanctuary with a drastic increase in the number of birds visiting it. I have seen lapwings, darters, egrets, partridge and peafowl in this area. I have also seen mongoose, cobras and wild hares. But along with the wildlife this area also started attracting visitors and the odd courting couple. At times the crowd here in the evenings does tend to be a bit noisy. It is interesting how a body of water can change a place from a dull to an interesting place or from a quiet place to a noisy one.

As I cycled down that day I saw an Army guard deflating the tyres of a cycle. A young man on a milk delivery round had decided to use the area as a public lavatory. The guard was livid and sought my psychological support. "Why did you have to use this area?" I asked the young man, "Consider yourself lucky that you haven't been arrested." He folded his hands and apologised to the guard and sped away. Had it not been for the guards this area could well have become a public toilet. Sad how we leave our mark in places of beauty.

In 1979 I and my classmate Gurdip Singh Chimni used to ycle down this road on the way to Government Degree College Mhow. Walking down this road was fun even before the lakes were created. In August 1995 I was walking in this area during heavy rains and I saw a snake getting into the water - my presence and the noise I made had disturbed it. The day I took these pictures I happened to see a peahen and its chick. But she had seen me before I had seen them so they vanished into the undergrowth before I could click a picture.

A few weeks ago a good friend had visited Mhow and I had walked with her down this road till the Khadey Hanuman temple. It was a lovely walk and it gave her an idea of the countryside around Mhow. I dedicate this blog entry to her.

Here are some of the pictures I clicked that day:

The view as we walk down from General's Road

A glimpse of the water as I get closer and go off the road a little to the left.

Wild plants growing by the roadside.

A profusion of grass and reeds.

Real close. The waters are calm as winter approaches.

Calm and quiet. I look back at the path I have travelled down.

My bicycle looks good if seen from far!

I can see some date palms as I near the end of the road.

The view from the Agra Bombay Road.

It should be interesting to see how the area changes as winter progresses. Will keep all of you out there posted.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jatra 2006 - the Marathi Festival held in Indore (MP); India

Jatra is an annual feature in the cultural calendar of Indore - the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh and the erstwhile capital of the Holkar Kingdom. A Marathi festival conducted by the Marathi Social Group Indoor (as Indore is traditionally known among the Maharashtrian community) it is usually held just after Dassera. I had attended it last year and savoured the ambience, the dances, the music, the snacks and also a traditional Marathi meal. But I had forgotten to take my camera. Something I regretted. This year Jatra 2006 was held at the Poddar Plaza, near Gandhi Hall from the 6th to the 8th of October. I visited it on the 8th. Driving down from Mhow, where I live took me about an hour. Iqbal, who happens to be one of the regulars cab drivers I hire, told me that he would be breaking his Ramzan fast at 6:15 pm or so and that he would definitely pick me up by 7 pm. He was true to his word and we were out of Mhow by 7 pm. I took my camera, a simple Yashica MF2, along and captured some images from the last day. Here they are. A beautiful evening. Something I have begun to look forward to every year.

The Lavani dances. These performances were watched by a packed audience:

Two of the many stalls in the food zone

The traditional Marathi meal. You can see the menu on the blackboard. A sitting in a traditional Marathi meal is known as a pangat. I had read this word in the program schedule but it wasn't till I received an email from my friend Mohan that I came to know of its meaning. Mohan has a strong Indore connection but thanks to his Army job is rarely able to visit Mhow and Indore. I look forward to attending a Jatra in his company if he can make it at the right time. It will be fascinating going around with him.

Time to say goodbye. People walking in as I make my way towards the parking lot. I would love to stay longer but I am 25 kms from my house and would like to reach home before it is too late. Till the next year and the next Jatra

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Images from Beircha Lake, Mhow (MP), India

Photographs taken on October 2 2006; Vijayadashmi day
The Bengali Samaj had brought the idol of Durga for immersion (visarjan) and I had accompanied them.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Durga Puja at the Narnouli Dharamshala, Mhow (MP), India

Durga Puja. Memories of the puja holidays in Shillong. Thoughts on my family deity the Goddess Shakti - the divine energy behind Shiva. For the third year in succession I went and spent time on the ashtami, navami and dashami (the 8th, 9th and tenth days of the puja) with a small group of families at the Narnouli Dharamshala in Mhow. I must thank my friend Soumitra Choudhary who had insisted two years ago that I must attend the puja celebrations. When I went there I realised that I knew most of the families. The Ghosh family, the Mohantys, the Bannerjees.... As the Bengali community does not have its own community hall this dharamshala built by the Marwari community is used by them. I try my best to make it to the pandal on the saptami (7th day), ashtami, navami and dashami

I remember attending the entertainment program put up by the Bengalis of Mhow during the late sixties and early seventies. The Bengali community associated with the Army continues to hold its puja celebrations in a ground near the Military Hospital Mhow. This is not surprising as the Army Medical Corps has a very old relationship with Bengal and it dotors. I wonder if there is any Military Hospital in India without a Bengali doctor posted there. At any given time there is at least one Bengali doctor posted in Military Hospital Mhow. I don't remember any time during my childhood when I didn't see a Bengali doctor in a military hospital.

The three days went by in a daze. A friend was visiting Mhow on the ashtami so we went for the pushpanjali together. Stayed back and had a very tasty lunch sitting on a mat. Began with brinjals and ended with payas.

Navami was a special day. The puja ended with the visarjan on dashami. Before that the married women bade farewell to the Goddess with vermilion and sweets. It was as if a small group were playing Holi. Very graceful indeed the Sindhur Khela. And before the idols were brought down there was also the ritual of trying to see the Goddess's feet in a mirror kept in a tray full of water. A friend sent me an sms that I must take a look at Durga's eyes. She had spent some years of her childhood in Kolkatta and her friends there had told her that Durga is sad on Dashami - the day she has to leave.

After taking the idols in a procession down Sanghi Street and Main Street we drove down to Beircha lake. The statues were immersed there. Ganesh, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kartikeya were immersed with Durga.

A small cultural fest was held after everybody had changed and come back. Barring one or two songs in Bengali the remaining songs, items and jokes were in Hindi. A quaint way of saluting the Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh where we live. Any non-Bengali would also have felt at home. It all ended with a tasty dinner of puris, aloo sabji, daal and mithai. I have taken a few photographs which I am uploading here. Till the next year's puja celebrations.