Our tourist guide was deaf and dumb.
Maggie and I landed in Orchha rather unexpectedly. We had no idea what lay in store for us there except that some parts of the movie, Raavan, were shot there. The auto driver stopped in the parking lot and pointed at an ancient structure and mumbled something. I asked him what it was and he said while pushing his auto into its parking corner, “Mandir (temple). There’s also a mahal (palace).” He did not look cooperative at all. He must have been irked by the cop who swindled Rs 50 out of him at the UP-MP border though he added that amount to our fare in the end. “What fault did you commit so that you had to bribe the cop?” I asked when he had returned from the cop. “It’s the routine...” he mumbled with palpable irritation.
We ascended the granite steps of the Chaturbhuj temple. A honeycomb lay hanging on the arch at the entrance. There was a priest conducting some rituals and a few devotees were attending them. We looked around, up and down, and then proceeded to the other side where another flight of concrete steps would take us down. As we were descending a boy made a gesture to us from below. He was asking us to wait. We did wait as he ran into a small door and came out with two things: a key and a sign board that he hung on his neck briskly asking us to read it. It said, “I am deaf and dumb, help me.” Then he dangled the key on our faces making another gesture that meant, “Follow me.”
“He has something to show us,” I said to Maggie. We followed him. He opened a small door which led to a very narrow path. He gave me a torch and made another gesture. We went in, climbed up many narrow and steep steps conquering the various levels of the temple until we reached the top from where the view looked quite charming. I did not understand most of what our guide was trying to communicate through his generous gestures.
|A view from the top|
When he brought us down some half an hour later, we rewarded him amply and proceeded to other sites of interest. On the way, we had our breakfast at Amar Mahal which looked palatial.
Orchha did not look neglected really. But there was something about the place that sapped its potential to be a tourist attraction. All along the way, the landscape looked like a desolate wilderness dotted with some thirsty bushes and trees.
There is a new temple adjacent to the ancient structure. There were hundreds of devotees standing in a queue with their holy offerings in hand. Perhaps, Orchha is a religious centre rather than a tourist attraction, I thought. In spite of all that crowd, the place looked very quiet without any rush or sound. Maybe, we had reached the place at a wrong time in a wrong season. Nevertheless, there was something dumb about the place.
|Amar Mahal where we relished a buffet breakfast|
As we made our way back after visiting the other places, our tourist guide came running to meet us again. He folded his hands with a beaming smile on his face. That smile sparkled against the grimness of all the granite around. In fact, that was the only smiling face I ever saw in Orchha.