The dark train and a bottle of rum
“Let’s go to Pachmarhi. Yeay that would be fun”. So Shridhar, Bhaskar, Devu and Naveen agreed with me to travel to Pachmarhi. I don’t remember the exact year and the date, but we were in our engineering between 1992 and 1994.
I will book the PWD guest house that will save us money. Naveen volunteered. Let’s meet at station in the evening, there is a train leaving for Pipariya. (Travel is those days was on the spot, without planning or smart phones).
In the evening we met at the railway station, had few cigarettes and the tea. Waiting at the station in the middle of the night was the most promising time pass with the friends. There was lot to talk and share which was actually what probably the whole town used to do with the central place called station. That was the only place where you could get tea in the middle of the night.
As the passenger train arrived, it was overcrowded. Four of us except devu tried to board one of the coaches. Not this way, let me come back. Devu went somewhere towards the rear of the train and came back. He said I have never traveled in the II class. I spoke with the conductor, since there is no first class coach in this train, he has offered us conductor coach just behind the engine. Devu’s father was a doctor in railways and he had all the privileges of traveling by upper class.
The conductor cabin was just behind the steam engine, dark and with no seats. In the winterly night, the steam engine kept us warm. We were carrying bottle of rum, some water and packets of cigarettes. Old Monk used to be the only brand in rum which had some spirit inside it. Most of the classmates had started with beer and then graduated to Old Monk.
“Sutta laga bhai”, Devu said and we thanked him for a nice arrangement for the freedom on board the passenger train. No one to watch, no one to interfere in our overnight adventure to a hill station called Pachmarhi.
The journey was a bit bachelor adventure something which married men will never try. We spent the whole night talking like the flow of rum in the blood veins and I wish we could have recorded the conversations.
All the discussions had few repetitive words in between having roots in pure Hindi.That was probably the way for us to lose inhibition and be care free. Most of my friends still use that vocabulary when they are not with their spouse and old college company. I for some reason am holding back those words. But they do come out when I am in the peak of my expression.
Somehow the pocket money we used to get in those days was sufficient enough to cover for booze and cigarette. Probably that was the only expense we used to have along with some occasional movies.
The distance between Jabalpur and Pipariya by train was hardly 177 KMs. But it took us overnight journey to reach Pipariya as it was a passenger train and stopped at all small stations. We didn’t have a clue as to what other passengers were doing as we were aloof-ed in the special disconnected cabin. The only scene I remembered was the last similar cabin in the film “Sholey”.
As we reached Pipariya in the morning around 5 am we came to know that the first bus for Pachmarhi will leave only at 7 am. Devu again went to station master and got a staff waiting room for us. Let’s wait here for 2 hours. We waited for 2 hours in the staff room and then was the time to board the bus.
The bus had all kinds of passengers, some travelers, some villagers trying to reach the same destination. In those days there was no concept of private buses. These were all state roadways buses which used to ply between small destinations.
Bus journey was full of twist and turns. The next thing I remember was it stopping in a small village called “Matkuli”. There was a tea stall and few villagers laughing and getting down, boarding the bus. There was a woman laughing at the tea stall and I looked at her. As I turned around Shridhar smiled at me. I somehow remembered the name of this village.
Later when I had access to Internet, I did some research about this village on Internet. According to a post on Wikimapia Matkuli is “On road from Pipariya to Pachmarhi. Used as a place for the British in Pachmarhi to get “Maids and Coolies” hence the name- Maid-Coollie- to Matkuli.”
Pachmarhi was discovered by a british soldier James Forsyth and later became a cantonment and summer capital of the central province. It is a popular hill station in Central India.
On reaching Pachmarhi we alighted at Pachmarhi bus stand and walked to the PWD guest house where we kept our luggage. On inquiry we found out that the best way to discover Pachmarhi would be on Bicycles.
We hired 5 bicycles one for each. This was a pre-mobile era and to seek out directions to visit places one had to ask people. We inquired from few people about places to visit and checked out few spots. Pachmarhi is also know as “Satpura ki Rani”.tashankar and Dhupgarh. We cycled and visited few places like Pandava Caves, B-Falls, Ja
This picture was taken at Dhupgarh. We chose the trekking route to reach Dhupgarh rather than Jeeps. We parked our cycles near the foothill which was on the backside and climbed up. After seeing the sun set we realized that it would grow dark and ran down for half an hour as it was getting darker. On the way back Bhaskar had to cycle his bicycle which was puncture. No one stopped for him as all were rushing down scared from the darkness and the fauna which was to be around.
“Friends are the family you choose (~ Nin/Ithilnin, Elven rogue).” ― Jess C. Scott, The Other Side of Life