A tryst with Madhya Pradesh - 4

So, it was finally time to say goodbye to the land of musical gharanas. The last night at Landmark was spent in lazying around and watching the Xmas celebrations that the hotel had lined up for guests. I particularly liked the Santa guy, welcoming one and all at the reception. Thanks to Abhay, the CA friend, we got perfect advice. The Gwalior fog, I had presumed, would be worse in the wee hours (my favorite time for kicking off journeys) But it was Abhay who revealed that 4.00 am was in fact the best time to leave the city as the fog would be thickest during 6.00 to 8.00 am, by which time we would have crossed the city limits of Shivpuri.

So off we went, hopping into the car at sharp 4.00 (thankfully, the hotel was exceptionally quick about the check out formalities) Exactly as Abhay had predicted, we were at Shivpuri for our first tea break at 6.00. The next break was at Guna at 9.00. This one proved elaborate as the roadside stall was as good as a motel, thanks to some innovative space usage by the owner. The jalebi was divine and so were the samosas. Hotel Shiv Tirth is highly recommended for those who strive for cleanliness, to the extent they can find on Indian highways.

Continuing further on NH 3, we reached Biora by 11.00 am and stopped at the same motel that we had checked en route Gwalior, this time for some Dosas and sambar. Bad choice it turned out to be. The fermentation was at its peak and left a bad taste all throughout the journey. The same waiter greeted us with the same hospitality and was happy to note that we would be treading on the extended Biora - Bhopal route rather than the potholed Biora - Indore stretch. Bidding good bye, I was back at the wheel.

The Biora - Bhopal NH 12 through Narsinghgad was excellent, as smooth as Nasik - Dhule - Indore. We'll remain indebted to the Biora waiter for the tip and Abhay for the validation. We reached Bhopal by 3.00 pm.

At the first chouraha on arrival, it took considerable time to reach Maharana Pratap Nagar in the new city. Thanks to a smart traffic cop, we got the right advice in time. We drove in the parking lot of 'The Residency' at sharp 4.00 pm. The booking was telephonic but the reception recall was instant, something missing with many a Mumbai-Pune hotel. Watching the local TV channel was fun. A program called "Nadaniyaan" was especially amusing. We bought some Bhopal sweets and namkin from the local stores and called it a day. The room service was excellent and housekeeping prompt.

The next day, we were to leave at 4.00 sharp but the alarm failed to caution us. And it was not before 5.30 that we hit the road. The hotel staff had given elaborate instructions on the most optimal path to Indore. We had no trouble getting on the spacious NH 86 turned SH 18 through Sihor, Astha and Dewas. Beyond doubt, this is a model road for the country. We touched Indore NH 3 by 8.00 am and stopped at Rau (near Mhow) for roadside jalebi and kachori.

Resuming the now monotonous drive,we reached Dhule for lunch at 12.30 pm at Hotel Residency Park. It was here that I learnt Sachin Tendulkar had yet again missed his long awaited 100th ton. Recovering from the expected gloom with the help of an unprintable expletive, I got back to the car. I have passed several times through Dhule - Indore but the monotony of the journey is equally intense every single time, even with the new roads. Nasik arrived at 3.45 pm but the ever messy Nasik traffic consumed over an hour before we crossed Igatpuri. Some of India's worst drivers come from Nasik (as lethal as the Pune ones).

The final frontier through Bhiwandi-Kalyan-Thane was a seamless drive. We entered the premises of our housing society on Ghodbunder Road at 6.30 pm.

The tryst with M.P. was finally over in good time. Needless to say, memories will remain for life.

The End

A tryst with Madhya Pradesh - 3

The Gwalior morning was bright and sunny. The much acclaimed winter had surely set in but sans the cold chill that normally defines it. We left the hotel at 9.00 am after a sumptuous breakfast of fresh Idlis and sambar (just like any Mumbai Udupi). Post salutations at the adjacent Hanuman temple, we took a tam tam (the six seater rickshaw). I was unsure of the map, hence just mentioned Jiwaji Gang and Ratan Colony in the same breath. The driver declared "80 rupees" with a poker face - maybe the cold was responsible for the lack of expression.

After a brief merry-go-round through the bustling streets of the old city, he stopped at a place. "where in Jiwaji Ganj" was all he asked for. I don't know why but I stepped out at that very location. Destiny or destination, it turned out to be the exact point where the gate to Ratan Colony was positioned. But I didn't bother to read the signboard at the top of the high archway and walked further away. Luckily, we bothered to ask a shop keeper and he advised a reverse gear.

After entering the colony, (or kalony as they would say)I floated aimlessly in pursuit of the building that was my rented home years ago. I simply knew the landlord's name - there was hardly any other clue...but thanks to the old-style architecture, I stopped at one structure that was crowned with a spacious terrace. The parapet gave it away - Fond memories of me flying kites flooded my mind in a jiffy and I asked a passerby for the landlord's name. My hunch was right - this was it.

We spent over two hours chatting with the inhabitants with whom I share a slice of history, nostalgia writ all over the place. The landlady, now in her late sixties, seemed to remember every detail. I was overwhelmed by her hospitality and she hugged me out of genuine warmth. For a second, I saw my mom in her frame. That moment was worth all the time. I am not the one for senseless romanticism but that moment was real. Cent per cent real.

Abhay Deo, her son and my childhood chum, is now a practicing chartered accountant in Gwalior. He narrated quite a few interesting tales of his profession. One of them was about an accounting problem faced by the celebrated Gwalior Zoo.

It so happened that the zoo had donated two lion cubs to the New Zealand government. But the NZ government made an electronic transfer of a sizeable amount to the Gwalior Nagar Nigam in return. Since it was receipt of money all right and not a counter donation (as it didn't accompany a gift deed), the Nigam was unsure about its accounting - how to record it in the Nigam's books was the quandary. Abhay sought help from both his own ICAI institute as well as the one in England and Wales but to no avail. Finally, he advised the Nigam to consider the cubs as fixed assets (and not inventory) and show the funds as a capital receipt. Although he claimed this to be a rare case, there's a lot of literature available on tricky situations concerning live stock accounting worldwide but his moot point had a lot of merit. For a country with agricultural roots, Indian accountants have done little to enure commensurate accounting of livestock and food grains except for the blind adoption of international standards. He also expressed the grave need for worldwide discussion on such dark money matters like how to collect tax from tabooed professionals like prostitutes or the rampant sand and brick merchants (Reti providers)who earn handsome income in hard cash and coolly escape all taxation nets. Makes sense! Imagine a whore claiming depreciation on her body deemed as a fixed asset.

His experiences were amusing, enlightening too, but all the same, he didn't seem too keen on unfolding our shared past. I wanted to recount our childhood tales but his professional pride refused to leave the present. He seemed to have moved on for good.

After Ratan Colony, our final destination was the old haveli at Jiwaji Ganj. This was my maternal grandfather's residence for many years. Unfortunately, the place is now sold off and worse, completely demolished and converted into something else. But I remembered the lane from memory, as also the neighboring buildings and two unforgettable monuments - Gangaram ki dukan - the barber's shop and Babulal's home - the horse cart driver who dropped us to school everyday (unfortunately both are no more) I still remember Babulal and his mouthful of choicest Hindi abuses showered on passing vehicles and pedestrians, en route school and home.

With no one around to relive memories for old time's sake, we did the usual Gajak and Petha shopping. My mission was kind of over, yet an undefined ache remained. How time flies, what seemed paramount yesterday becomes insignificant today...priorities change over time, perspectives undergo a transformation, yet something remains that draws you to it, if not pulls you back. One can relish the past without dwelling in it, at least that's what I would like to believe.

Precisely why I planned a hurricane trip merely for two elusive landmarks in the whole city of Gwalior. Foolish it may have been, but I am very happy to be a fulfilled and fun filled fool.

To be concluded...