Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dakshinayana Part Nine – Chhattisgarh and Raipur

MP-CG Border

I cursed myself for waking up so late and missing the first bus to Raipur. Around 10.30, I checked out from the hotel and walked towards the bus stand. One driver told “Bus will come soon”. As S K Pottekkad told, one of the best methods to explore a city is to walk through the roads. As there was not enough time, I simply roamed around the bus stand itself.

From a nearby store, I bought ‘Patrika’ – a widely available and popular newspaper here. By this time Raipur bus also arrived at the stand. After having a glass of sugarcane juice, I boarded that white bus to Raipur. It was a big bus with sleeper facility on upper deck. Fortunately, I got a window seat. After waiting for some more time, we started our legendry voyage to Raipur – ticket charge was 220 INR.

For bus conductor, everybody is a ‘savari’ - savari to Raipur, savari to Bicchiya etc. I got a co-passenger as well - a kid studying in 10th standard.

Bus stopped in between, to take some more passengers. Conductor becomes very cheerful whenever somebody tells him Raipur!!! During one of these stoppages, our conductor bought coconut and agarbati as well.

We finally reached on the banks of Narmada – a river widely respected and worshipped here. While crossing the river, we stopped again on top of the bridge. At first, I thought there may be some road block. Parallel to our bridge at a lower level, there was one more bridge on left side. A lot of people were walking through this bridge on foot. I just watched the slowly flowing calm waters of Narmada. Suddenly conductor came out through the front door, holding coconut in one hand and agarbati in other one. He did some pooja there and finally dropped the coconut to the river. Note that, all the time we were on the bridge.

After poojas we started again, travelled rest of the bridge and crossed city limits. My co-passenger was coming from Jabalpur after attending some cultural festivals there. We slowly started our communication – about villages, roads, his school etc. Contrary to my expectation, roads was not that much bad even in those uninhibited areas. He swiftly corrected me, “here roads are ok, but after some time roads will be bad. In Chhattisgarh roads are good.” What attracted me more was his comparison of MP and CG. Finally, he summarized in two sentences. “Ab tak yahan (MP border with CG) utna pragati nahi huva hei. CG ka road dekho, vahanka mukya Raman zhabardasth hei”.

Earlier also I heard about the improvements in Chhattisgarh - in infrastructure, stopping the leakages in Public distribution system (PDS) etc. Just like many other events in these faraway places (from Delhi and Mumbai studios of media), improvements stories may also end up somewhere in the inner pages of newspapers. After all there may not be any dedicated propaganda wing working non-stop to highlight it.

We crossed some more villages. Conductor was always aggressive in making sure that all have a seat. Interestingly, all this aggressiveness evaporated when a beautiful girl boarded the bus and sat next to him. She sat there because no other seat was empty. After that, he became as soft as lotus pedal. All of a sudden his voice become very soft and started a conversation with her. It didn’t surprise me, I saw many people roaring like lions suddenly start bleating like sheep in the presence of a beautiful girls.

Slowly road became very bad, so bad that I sincerely doubted whether our bus will reach Chhattisgarh border at all. Some more girls got in and remaining bus crews also engaged in conversation with them. Finally my co-passenger told good-bye and got down somewhere close or after Bicchiya.

After struggling through that road for some more time, we entered Chilpi range. Chilpi forest range is continuous to Kanha National Park (KNP) in the West, connected with Motinala Range in the north and Dongargath-Khaara forest range in the south.  MP-CG border is situated inside Chipli range. Both sides of the road were guarded by trees, which were getting a fresh coat of paint every time a bus/ heavy vehicle passing through that area.

Delhi Gang Rape Incident

An elderly person came and sat next to me. As he was sitting idle, I had to start the conversation. He also didn’t forget to add, his share of praise to CG (Chhattisgarh) roads. Suddenly, the issue of Delhi gang rape came up. His question was simple; according to me what should be the punishment for rapists? However answering it was not at all simple. Please note that, this conversation happened on 31st December - just two days after the victim died in a Singapore hospital.

“For rape they may get a maximum of 10 years according to law”. As she died, they would be prosecuted for murder as well. He was not satisfied with that answer; for him punishment is plain and simple - ‘shoot them’.

Well, I can understand his emotions; he may also have a daughter of same age. But what he proposed and what many other people suggested are not and should not be the choices of a modern society. We have to prosecute them, according to the law of the land and according to the process established by the law. Only the courts have the power to decide an apt sentence for them.
If we start shooting people accused of rape, then there won’t be any end. Justice should be swift, but due process has to be followed.

Rape – single or gang - was not started today or yesterday in India. Gang rapes and parading the victim naked throughout the village is happening every now and then. In all cases there will be some manufactured reasons - maybe she loved someone from higher caste, or some other gotra; may be her brother eloped with a girl from higher caste; may be social honchos want to enjoy her... reasons are always there. Which this tamasha went on unstopped in broad daylight in numerous Indian villages why the so called middle and upper class woke up to see the reality? If society liven up to its ideals at that time, probably that poor Delhi girl may live today as well.

According to the reports, none of the highly enlightened social members took them to hospital. Society can’t dump all accusations over government and simply wash their hands; they should take their share of blames. Even now, if you find an injured person bleeding on a roadside due to some accidents, will you take him/ her to hospital? Don’t say yes just to satisfy your moral consciousness.


At Night
Slowly he moved to Gujarat and Himachal elections. By this time we crossed MP-CG border and entered Chhattisgarh. Bus stopped in front of a small dhaba. Roads were indeed good in this side of border. Chilpi Ghats are located some 20- 30 minutes away from here. But, what we don’t know was - the bus wouldn’t start again!!!

Yes, people had their tea/ coffee and came back only to see a dead bus. It didn’t surprise me; any vehicle would create problems after passing through that horrible road. In the middle of the jungle, while sun was rushing towards western oceans we had to wait for the next bus to come. Fortunately, it came and I got a seat in the sleeper - next to a movable glass window.

At Night
Chilpi Ghats

Chilpi at night.
I had to wait for some more time in that not so comfortable seat to see the ghats. Scarcity of light indeed decreased the visibility of this lengthy ghat wearing green cap. I just tried to imagine the bottom of the ghat. In between, I slipped in to a deep sleep.

When I woke up, bus was approaching Pondi. One of the next main stop was Kawardha. To my surprise, there were two road rollers working in that night to tar a road near to bus stand. Slowly but steadily number of travellers came down. I slept again for some more time. Finally we reached Raipur. I got down close to Railway station and started walking through the empty roads of the city. Minute needle was about to touch twelve - last seconds of 2012!!! Some people were already exploding crackers and celebrating the arrival of New Year - 2013. Sky was lit with fire crackers spitting multiple colours and drawing patterns in an otherwise dark blanket.

Raipur Railway Junction

Raipur Railway Station
I walked further and reached Raipur railway station. Its modern building was flooded with white lights. Finally clock stuck 12, some more explosions in the sky. Ironically, people in railway station were too much worried about their trains to celebrate new-year. Here, among these multitudes – some sitting on the floor, some others sleeping there – this 12 ‘o’ clock also end up just like any other 12. I didn’t reserve any ticket for Nagpur – for which I had to regret for rest of the night. After a lot of thinking finally I bought a general ticket for Nagpur. Train came at 2.15am; there were hardly any space in general compartments.

I got only some inches to stand, just to put my two legs on floor. Just in front, three guys were sitting in the floor. On another side, one guy was sleeping on the floor. He kept his head below the seats; his legs were below the seats on opposite side. I don’t know how he was able to take breath. On other side one lady is sleeping in sitting mode, two other guys were sleeping in the two side lower seats. Berth was filled with a lot of bags and vacant spaces were occupied by human beings. One mid-aged couple were standing in the back, always asking others to go forward and gave them some space to sit, as if train bogies were made of rubber band.

Carrying a big bag and camera increased my problems. After struggling hard, I could only find some 10 inches of space in the berth. If I put my bag there, I have to support it with one of my hand for rest of the journey. There were no other options.

Most frightening was the length of journey. I have to stand in the same position for the next five hours - till 7.20 in the morning. My last journey in General compartment was equally horrible - Palakkad to Bangalore – 7 hours standing in the night!!! At that time I was travelling with a small bag and space was available to stand, but here it was not even possible to turn my legs. We crossed Bhilai, Durg etc and finally reached came out of that furnace at Nagpur!!!


For reading rest of the articles please visit,

Dakshinayana Part One – An Introduction
Dakshinayana Part Two – Bangalore to Bhopal
Dakshinayana Part Three – Sanchi
Dakshinayana Part Four – Bhopal: The city of lakes
Dakshinayana Part Five: Ujjain – The Holy City, hearing the sounds of forefathers
Dakshinayana Part Six: Indore – Trade hub of Central India
Dakshinayana Part Seven – Jabalpur: Kalchuris, Gonds and Narmada
Dakshinayana Part Eight – Kanha National Park and Mandla
Dakshinayana Part Nine – Chhattisgarh and Raipur
Dakshinayana Part Ten: Nagpur – The Orange City
Dakshinayana Part Eleven – Sevagram: Walking with Gandhi
Dakshinayana Part Twelve – Aurangabad: The City of Gates
Dakshinayana Part Thirteen – Ellora Memories
Dakshinayana Part Fourteen – U shaped Ajanta
Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland

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