This time I touched upon a few parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. My route was Bangalore to Nagpur, Nagpur to Katni, Katni to Bandhavgarh, Bandhavgarh to Ajmer, Ajmer to Pushkar, Pushkar to Kumbhalgarh, Kumbhalgarh to Udaipur, and Udaipur to Kota. 15 days long tour and Mishra ji descended into our lives as our driver who picked us up from Ajmer.
As soon as I reached Ajmer, I asked Mishra Ji to take me to Ajmer Shareef Dargah without realizing that Mishra ji belonged to Allahabad (or is it Prayag Raj now?) and his Brahmin soul coupled with a Shiv Sena heart would be disappointed at my act.
Mishraji said, ‘We might get late, you really want to visit dargah’? I said, ‘Yes I want to visit Ajmer Dargah and Pushkar Brahma temple before we reach Kumbhalgarh.’
Mishraji, ’It’s difficult to take car near Dargah so will arrange for an auto (a 3-wheeler / tuk-tuk).’ I said, ‘fine’.
Now the Autowala enters the story. He too is a strict vegan but did take us till the Dargah entrance gate. That, is a confluence of narrow lanes with drainage on both sides leading to a comparatively thicker road, called the Dargah road. Definitely not a comfortable experience but the auto drivers sure have great skills.
It was a Friday (aka Jumme ka din) and I hadn’t realized what I was getting into. The road was overly crowded; everyone trying to jostle his/her way around to reach to the entrance. And in addition, there were plentiful beggars occupying their designated territories on the road.
Somehow and anyhow we entered. I bought a Chadar and some flowers. It was 3 pm and the main door was to open at 3.30pm so we waited as I wanted to really visit the main shrine that my hubby has often spoken to me about. Ajmer Shareef is the resting place of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a Persian Sufi who had come to India in the early 13th century from Herat and stayed here forever.
Like temples, here too we found some souls who consider themselves direct messengers of God. They usually position themselves near main gates, ready to bless you in return for the money you pay them. Below Rs 100 is not really respected, mind that.
My experience at the Dargah on a Jumma wasn’t great. I wasn’t able to pray peacefully for the same God send souls and my son had started crying inside due to the crowd almost at the verge of a stampede.
After we came out of Dargah, we called the Autowala to the same spot where he had left. We narrated our pain and spoke about the management in Dargah.
Autowala said, ’Madam even Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India didn’t go to the Dargah when he came to Ajmer, why did you go? You are a Brahmin. We Hindus bow down before everyone but others don’t. They don’t even take our prasad (religious offering). I am staying in Ajmer since long but not even once I have entered the Dargah.’
Anyway, we shifted ourselves back to the waiting car. Our conversation also shifted from religion to politics.
I asked Mishraji, ‘Have you visited this Dargah? ‘
Mishraji ‘Yes, just once when one of my clients from Hyderabad insisted on it. I don’t like the energy. People are different.’
‘Energy is not dependent on religion. It is the person’, I said.
Mishraji to me ‘Madam, have you seen the communal riots in India?’
I, drawing into the conversation, egged on, ‘on TV but never been part of the scene.’
Mishraji ‘I have and I know how people are. Problem is we Hindus are not united. When something happens to us, we don’t take revenge the way others join hands and come out on roads to kill us. We, on the other hand, visit their Dargahs and Pir Babas.’
I was quiet. Thought, let’s do Pushkar now to cool Mishra Ji down.
At Pushkar, life was peaceful, the crowd being less and manageable; however, we took more than the expected time and it was 6.30 pm already. By the time we came out, Mishraji said, ’I called many drivers and everyone suggested not to drive to Kumbhalgarh at this hour.
Mishraji suggested that we should halt for the night and drive in the morning. ‘It would take 6-7 hrs to reach Kumbhalgarh and roads are not good. There are wild animals. By the time we get out of Pushkar and then Ajmer to get to the highway, it would be 8-8.30 pm. Which means reaching Kumbhalgarh by 1.30 – 2 am. Very dangerous.’
I said, ‘It’s ok. We in fact keep visiting jungles to see wild animals but don’t get to find enough of them. If we have to go through the jungle road full of wild animals, it’s even better. And I checked google, it won’t take that long.’
‘One should be scared of humans these days and not animals. Other than animals, is there anything else that worries you Mishraji?’
Madam, ‘have you stayed in jungles? Not in hotels as in but in the interiors of jungles.’
‘In Bori jungle in Satpura with a family and friends group including a forest officer. But there were four walls to sleep in.’
‘Madamji, I have stayed in jungles and slept on top of my car. This was in jungles of Chhattisgarh. I was the driver who would take tribal workers in the jungle to collect stuff like Rubber, Mahua, wood etc. Everyday, at the gate they used to count people as not all were expected to come back.’
Mishra Ji continued, unabated, ‘Jungles has many things…’
‘You mean ghosts?’
‘Yeah…they are there on highways too. Have you experienced it madamji?’
‘I have many times.’ Thereafter, Mishraji proceeded to explain the difference between a Chudail (Witch) and Pretatma (Ghost). In between, Mishraji kept asking my mum questions on Geeta, Hindu Dharma, meditation, our purpose and about mythological characters assuming that she was an authentic Dadi Nani (Indian Granny) character straight from an ideal Hindu household.
As a result, both my mum and my son slept as soon as we hit the highway after Beawar leaving me and Mishraji to do the driving, navigation & figuring out part. My son was tired and my mom chose to snore rather than answering Mishraji’s mythological missiles.
It was getting late and Mishraji didn’t seem confident in the dark given his age (55+) so we both requested Sir Google to show us the route. I was on the back seat with my son in my lap. Since my phone battery was low I needed to use Mishraji’s charger which only worked when I would bend a little as the wire was short. You can imagine my plight!
By God’s grace, my phone didn’t ditch me for the first time. We drove past the highway, then couple of small villages and then Mishra Ji’s dreaded Jungle all in the dark with just one headlight in the car as the other one had stopped working since Beawar.
A little tension, a little discomfort, a little belief and a little prayer made this ordinary journey thrilling. We finally reached Kumbhalgarh at 12.30 midnight having learnt about all sorts of ghosts and how to identify them apart from seminal discourses on religion, Moksha and meditation, courtesy Mishra Ji from Allahabad. My two partners woke up only when we reached the hotel in Kumbhalgarh. They were oblivious of what they had missed.
Here are next day’s pictures on a bright sunny day, but obviously without Mishra Ji.