Dusted Off India

I am back! Refreshed and rejuvenated from my annual pilgrimage, this time, cleverly coincided with year-end revelry. Not much change was evidenced in the modus operandi of those serving up the customary celebratory rituals, or in those participating in them. In short, we arrived, we drank, we ate, we drank, made merry and then drank some more. Mostly, from fixed perches around large crackling bonfires till it was time for departure three days later.

A reunion of sorts, of friends who hadn’t seen each other in some years, there was a lot of catching up and dressing down to do. (You know, the stuff you don’t put on Facebook). Still, a few of us managed to salvage some time for exploration and drove to a place called Pinahaat.

On an earlier trip many years ago, as a marshal of the Chambal Rally, I recollect resenting that I could not take in at leisure the feral beauty of the terrain we bumped through and over. I recollected,too, that the dusty deep ravines covered in thorn forests as a backdrop to the yellow and green of mustard fields had presented an indelible study in contrast. It was time to go back for those pictures.

This historically rich region is located on the Uttar Pradesh side of the state border with Madhya Pradesh, and was once the largest trading point for pina (fodder supplement); a cake-like formation after oil is extracted from mustard seeds. Hence the name: a derivation of Pina-ka-haat.

First colonized by the Tomar Rajputs when they fled Delhi, this region was subsequently ruled by the Chauhans, the Badhawars, Marathas and finally the British. Today, the proud old fort at Pinahaat is completely over-run by encroachers, its crumbling remains increasingly neglected and ignored.

This is also the place where the last serving pontoon bridge connects the two states across the River Chambal. Controversy-ridden, it will soon disappear if the environmentalists have their way as bridges such as these have irreversibly disrupted the ecology of the river. Wherein the number of muggers, ghariyals and Gangetic dolphins has alarmingly diminished.

Another questionable presence is that of a waterworks facility which has no business being there now that the river has been declared a National Sanctuary. However, I confess, it was these very images that had brought me back for more.

The sight of all manner of traffic unhurriedly making its way to and fro.

The calming flow of the river.

The ubiquitous temples, one tilted and half submerged, the other watching over.

The towering steel and concrete structure an anachronism, almost, in a place where time seems to have stopped still.

And fields, glorious fields. They do make for a pretty picture, don’t you agree?

13 comments

  • very nice Puneeté!! the fields… glorious fields! how I miss it all ! 🙂

  • Indeed! Rugged and beautiful.

  • Lovely pictures! Lovely read too!

  • The days are not far when our next & next generation will only see all the beauty in pictures only

    • That is so true… sadly.

      • Maybe it will take longer than you expect for the village landscapes to disappear. Development is not filtering into the villages as rapidly as it could or should. Whether that is good or bad depends on whether you are the villager who is being deprived of the advances in the economy, or you are the politician or the corporate house or the city dwelling traveller who benefits if time stands still in these parts for this generation and the next and the next.

        Having just returned from a road trip from Bhopal to Gwalior through the interiors of central India, I was surprised to see when I stopped at Chanderi that not just the look of the town (large village, actually), but also the economy seemed to be frozen in the past. An average handloom worker there makes less than fifty rupees a day; lunch at the best dhaba I could find in the place cost a mere hundred and forty for three people. And this was the state of the economy despite the fact that the denizens of the place had a special skill: weaving the Chanderi fabric which is finds it way into the houses and hearts of the well-heeled.

        The point that I am making is that change in the interiors of India is not going to happen in any hurry.

        • I have mixed feelings on that. In no manner should rural India be deprived of economic benefits coming its way. Yet, development as we know it, in a sense, is a dirty word. The senseless construction and so-called peoples’ packages in no way suggest advancement in rural coffers, instead, an erosion of charm one has always associated with the countryside. Is it wishful thinking to want to retain that charm with good planning, I wonder?

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