2006 #11: Moghuls and Moos

Have you ever had a cow wander up to you at a restaurant? This is only one of the delightful features of dining in Orchha, aside from the wonderful food. Another one is being guarded by street dogs, as you share their territory and dine whilst watching the traffic veer around you, nobody blinking an eye at the fact this might be a little unusual.

We arrived in Orchha at the reasonably civilised hour of 6.45am. As opposed to about 3am last time. Paul thought I should have a tempo experience from the train station, so we got into a tempo (sort of like a large auto rickshaw) and apparently we were lucky that there were only thirteen people in it rather than twenty or more. This is in a space about the size of your average hatchback car. Luckily we were in the front (three of us and driver) and I had the window seat – in other words, squashed into the outer seat with bits of me spilling over the edge – so I was able to see the drive into Orchha and take a bit of movie footage as well.

The first thing we did when we got there was walk up to Ram Raja restaurant, where our friends are, and there were the kids setting up for the day. When Mokesh, the eldest at 13, saw Paul, his eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Paul” he screamed, then more or less jumped into Paul’s arms. It was really sweet.

We appeared to have bought the monsoon to Orchha with us, so after we booked into our guesthouse, I went and stood on the balcony, smugly using my new umbrella as shelter, and watched the langur monkeys for a while. Three of them were perched on the rooftop and archway just across from us, spying on the people below and sheltering from the rain. There were also a bunch hanging out on the Chautabhuj, one of the big temples here which is a mixture of Moghul and Hindi architecture. Lizards abounded on the walls of our guesthouse also, which was nice. I didn’t see any monkeys or lizards up at Bharmour and I was starting to miss them.

We went for a bit of a wander across the river and took a few photos from an angle I’d not seen before, then had a late lunch at the corner restaurant, trying to spread our money around a bit amongst the business. While we were waiting for food, a little street puppy trotted happily past us with a mouse in its mouth. He had his lunch sorted!

Back to the Ram Raja for dinner. Yummy. Then we went through to the back to give the kids the presents we had brought with us. At first they were all asleep in a bundle on a woven cot in the corner, but within seconds one of them woke up and saw us, then next thing they all sprung out of bed in one lump and were all over us and wide awake. Mayhem proceeded to erupt. The knucklebones were cool, so were the diary, coloured pencils and train whistle, they had no idea what a yoyo was, so that took a bit of explaining, and they all knew how to use the bubble blowers. But the best present of all was a simple rubber toy, like half of a tennis ball. You turn it inside out, put it on the ground, then when the tension has loosened enough it goes “POP” and jumps way up in the air. They thought this was a great joke.So did the adults. And as it turned out, so did half the village. Might take two back next time. I can see this one’s going to get worn out in a hurry.

Next day we went up to the Laxmi Temple. Parbat borrowed a mate’s rickshaw to drive us up there, which was a bit of a giggle. Brand new rickshaw too – it felt very posh. The Laxmi Temple was built around about the 15th century or so (see the sign here) and has murals painted on the walls inside, really ancient wooden doors held together by some impressive-looking staples, and a 5 story high temple part in the center which has some really nice Ganesh carvings, etc on the outer surface. And a really nice view of the village too, as it’s set up on a hill. We perched up on the 3rd and 4th floors for a while enjoying the breeze and taking a few photos.

On the way back we saw a mama pig with her kids and a dog resting (rather wisely, we thought) in a puddle. We took a few random shots of this and that also, such as some men doing some building with bricks.

Back at the restaurant later, Mokesh was still trying to figure the yoyo out and Nilu (10) wrote her name and all the kids names in my notebook in Hindi, with her new green and gold pens. Ram (5) was blowing some great bubbles, and of course the rubber toy without a name was going off marvellously. It had now graduated to being set off on people’s heads.

Later on, we went out the back and were ambushed into a birthday party. A young man, now 17, ordered us to come and have some of his birthday cake, then stuffed it down our throats while the photographer took our photos. I felt like a baby pelican being fed by its mother at a zoo. We exited out of their as fast as was politely possible. I reckon the photos will be funny though, because Paul had been in on this particular custom before and so was prepared for it. He pretended to swallow the guy’s hand, so it was the birthday boy who had a shocked look on his face for that photo!

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