I am currently in India, visiting my extended family in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh [UP].
Bundelkhand is the region between UP and Madhya Pradesh [MP] in the southern part of UP. Prominent places in this area include Jhansi, Khajuraho, Banda, Mahoba, Kalinjar, Chitrakoot, Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Satna and of course, Maihar.
It is such a fun and pleasure to be with my mother, brothers, nephews, nieces and relatives.
Many things have changed here, and they have changed in the right direction.
Internet is fast and cheap. At 800 Rupees [$15] a month, you can get unlimited broadband internet access at home!
Mobile phone rates are dirt cheap. Connectivity and coverage are great. Almost everyone I know has a mobile phone!
Flash and flashier cars on the road these days!
Roads are better, but still, a lot of work is required.
The biggest bummer is the electricity supply. There is no electricity between 10AM to 4PM, forcing people to use inverters and generators!
Poverty is all too pervasive, with lack of industry everywhere except a few. It is basically a feudal society with farming as the backbone.
I travelled to Maihar, Madhya Pradesh to visit the famous temple of Goddess Sharda right on the top of the mountain. My nephews and nieces have been insisting on this visit for years.
We could have taken the train to Maihar but we chose the car for the convenience and control.
Mahindra and Mahindra’s Scorpio Four Wheel Drive on 30th Dec, 2012 was comfortable and right for the journey. 220 Km distance each way was no problem. We enjoyed songs from latest Bollywood movies. Children knew which song was from which movie. Amazing!
Banda to Maihar distance should have been about 160 Km but our driver took us via an alternate route due to bad road condition on the regular pathway.
Arriving at Maihar at about 1PM, we had two choices for going to the temple. Either we go via the Gondola or negotiate about 1000 steps. We chose the former, for both efforts and time. There was a big crowd for Gondola too, but I have the feeling that my brothers were able to impress the Police and security that we deserved some sort of special treatment, hence a special entry to Gondola platform. I wonder whether my background as a Sydney medico worked here or was it money to grease the palms of people who were managing the Gondola!
On the top of the mountain, and at the temple, there was another crowd but this time we stayed in the crowd, taking about 1 hour before entering the temple itself.
We prayed, offered flowers and other things including Coco nuts before exiting the temple. We certainly prayed for health, peace and wellbeing of our family and friends.
It was cold but pleasant. We were full of devotion, enjoying devotional songs.
After being there for about 1 hour, we set out on our drive back to our home.
The roads in Bundelkhand from Maihar [MP] to Satna [MP] to Panna [MP] to Ajay Garh [MP] to Kartal [UP] to Naraini [UP] to Banda was fine except about 3 km stretch where work on the road was in progress.
I was pleased that I was able to visit this famous and historical temple which counts Alha, the brave Bundelkhand warrior, as its devotee.
Dr Yadu Singh/Bundelkhand, India/2nd Jan, 2013