On the 3rd, I finally got to see Orchha. Orchha is a town in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh state, India. The historic city consists of several famous temples, a river, a fort, and more. Orchha lies on the Betwa River about 15 km from Jhansi, in Uttar Pradesh.
I was ready to go, when Bodyguard and his best friend (now known as Raool) showed up. We sat for a few moments and waited for the third friend to arrive with the car. When he arrived, Raool left with him to fill the car up with fuel. 🙂 about five minutes later, they returned and we were on our way! We listened to music the whole way there, and that’s when I found out that Bodyguard’s brother was a singer! Awesome. 😀
The guys talked with each other, and I sat quietly, watching out the window. Raool looked back at me. “Are you feeling bored?” Bodyguard noted that I was quiet. I laughed. “No,” I began, “I’m just enjoying myself. Besides… I have no idea what you are saying.” They laughed. “Sorry, sorry,” Raool said with a smile.
As we slowed down in traffic, I looked around. Travelling is the best time to take in the scenery. I could see men working on a building. Piles of sticks, bricks and rubble surrounding them. Cows curled up in the shade. Women in colorful sarees balancing giant bags on their heads, and one carrying a baby. I made a mental note: I can never think of the term “working mother” the same again. These women gave the term its meaning.
We drove for a while…
Being in the company of friends, enjoying some time away from home… I was starting to really feel peaceful.
When we arrived, the scene was like something from a movie. We drove through an old arched stone gate, slowly. Shops lining each side of the road, selling food, sweets, flowers, trinkets and souvenirs. Colorful boxes decorated in jewels and small mirrors. Necklaces with deities hung from sticks and cord, reflecting the suns light as they clanked and tinked against each other in the gentle breeze. Old women were sitting against the walls, baskets of flowers and piles of coconuts sitting beside them.
We parked the car near the Orchha fort. When we got out of the car, two old women in sarees were sitting against the stone walls of the bridge. They saw me, put their hands together and said “Namaste! Hello!” They were smiling. I smiled back and said hello. Raool cracked a smile. “Clever beggars.” He said. I smiled as we began walking.
We headed to a sweets shop, where Bodyguard and the driver (dubbed ‘Yoshi’ from here on) climbed the platform and proceeded talking to the shop keeper. I waited beside Raool, informing him that he was my back-up bodyguard. He smiled, “Okay, sure.”
Yoshi beckoned me. Confused I looked to Raool who motioned for me to move forward. I climbed the platform and awaited instruction. It was at this time that we were removing our shoes, and storing them under the bench in the shop. The boys removed their belts as well. They gathered their boxes of sweets, purchased flowers and we were on our way.
The ground was hot, but the boys were convinced it was fire. They hopped around, mumbling and whining in Hindi and English. I giggled. I can guess that my tolerance comes from all the times I walked along the ‘beach’ (lake beaches don’t count as beaches, according to me) and my wild barefoot adventures growing up. I also had built a tolerance during my Florida vacation last year. We stopped to wash our hands and feet, and then made our way to the entrance of the temple, where we stood in line to pray. Everyone came with offerings. I did notice that other women were covering their heads with their pallu or with scarves. I brought a scarf in my purse for this exact reason. By the time we were standing in line, I forgot to ask the boys, and they didn’t mention anything, so I never did.
I followed Raool and Yoshi through the line, Bodyguard behind me. I usually just copy what they do, because I have no idea what to do or say myself. I know how to put my hands together and offer a sincere prayer, but no idea if I should be saying or doing something specifically. I also want to know why certain things are done. Like touching the monument or altar, and then touching your forehead. It’s fascinating to me, and I want to learn. Bodyguard kept forgetting to teach me, so I enlisted the help of Raool. 😀
We offered prayer several times in different locations, to different deities. At one shrine, we offered a prayer, walked around the shrine, and stood by while a man busted open coconuts. Raool and Yoshi collected their coconuts. As we stood watching, Bodyguard pointed out the scraps of cloth and ribbon tied to the lattice-like walls of the shrine. He said, “People used to come here and tie a knot, asking that their wish be granted.”
“So people make wishes here?” I asked. He nodded. At that moment, I closed my eyes, folded my hands and instead, made a powerful wish.
I kept my eyes down as we passed many people staring, and we made our way back to the sweets shop.
I slipped on my shoes and waited with Bodyguard as the other two readied themselves. We saw another foreign girl wandering around. She was wearing a T-Shirt, sweatpants and tennis shoes, with a backpack strapped to her back. She was smiling and talking to everyone, looking them in the eyes. It was nice to see another foreign girl. I could see that she was alone. She didn’t seem to have much knowledge of culture, or a safety code. I guess, if she did, it was VASTLY different from my own.
When the boys were ready, we left, and headed for the fort.
The whole time at the fort was amazing! The fort was beautiful with the most beautiful views! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!
During our visit to the fort, Yoshi surprisingly was willing to take pictures of me and everyone else. Let’s just say, he became the photographer. I even became a model! 😀
On the way out of the fort, I walked past an old painted man. As I kept walking, I thought… ‘I really want a picture with him… It would make my mom happy to see that picture, too… I’m going to get a picture with him.’ I turned to Yoshi suddenly, and asked him to take a picture of the old man. He was more than willing. “Do you want a picture with him?”
Safe to say, the answer was yes.
Our next adventure was the river. We stopped and got some cold drinks (soda / pop) and some chips and headed for the river! The boys let me decide where we would sit, near the river. One area was semi shaded, and the other was a bit farther and had no shade. I picked the shaded side! Though wearing flip-flops, I conquered the rocky terrain and we huddled up, next to the river. I wanted to go in the river. On such a hot day, it looked so welcoming! But I remembered DN’s warning about the river… And I don’t think the boys would have let me, anyway. I settled for sitting nearby and putting my legs in the icy water. So nice… I splashed my face with the cool water, and noticed the fish swimming around.
We sat there for some time, laughing and talking, eating and drinking. Just enjoying the river and each other’s company. A few other groups of people passed by, but there was something so undeniably freeing about the experience…
On the way back home, I sank into the back seat, weary from our adventures. Raool asked me if it was okay to turn the music up. I smiled. “Of course. I’m American.” 😀 I give this excuse only during strange and funny moments. He turned the music up and all three boys started singing to the songs. I felt like the luckiest girl alive. ‘I have the best friends here.’ I kept thinking, as I smiled, looking out the window. Some songs, I even sang with them… But only because the music was so loud, they couldn’t hear me anyway. 😀
I enjoyed the moment so much, but I admit that I kept having flashbacks of musical moments with DN. I began to feel thankful for the entire experience, so far.
When we arrived back at my room, we cooled down for a few minutes, before the boys left to get lunch. They brought back veg biryani. ^_^ While I do love the veg biryani, I do not love the chunks of nutrela. It’s like meat, but not meat… And I promise you… It’s disturbing. I have no desire to eat meat, so why would I want something that resembles meat? I get chills thinking about it…
Over all, it was an amazing experience, and I’m truly glad for the memories made. There’s so much I feel I left out, and way too much to fully describe. I had such an amazing experience, I started a painting! 😀