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Hankering for Kanker

October 15

Up at 3:40 and off at 4:30 to the airport, with my boxed breakfast, for my 6:35 flight to Raipur. On the plane I met an orthopedic surgeon who has relatives in Chicago and come sit there with some frequency. He gave me his card and invited me to call him if I have any problems in Raipur, he seems to be a very adventuresome guy, camps out and goes to see tigers in Khana National Park, bikes around the US, etc. I hope that I will see him in Chicago sometime. Small world.

I am met at the surprisingly modern Raipur airport by somebody from our travel company. He presents me with a shawl and a lei of flowers as a gift and escorts me to my comfortable air conditioned van in which they have set up WiFi for me, so I have already sent several emails, posted to Facebook (9 “likes” in the first ten minutes) and am writing this blog. Pretty amazing,, huh

My van also has a basket with tins of various kinds of nuts and an assortment of drinks. There is a place to charge my iPad, and the driver has provided a cord that allows me to connect in order to do that. Much of the road is quite bumpy, but nowhere near as bumpy as the roads open counter and and some other places. Patches of paved highway appear in short stretches. It is impossible to know about the areas that I am passing through because my driver’ English is extremely limited. The two and a half hours of driving is harrowing, but somehow we managed to avoid crashing into oncoming traffic, at least so far, weather seemingly random honking of car horns, or otherwise. There is a lot of color in the dress of people we pass and unlike in Kolkata, we encounter some cows in the streets.

Arrive at Kanker Palace before 11AM. We are not at the Oberoi any more,

But it will do, fine, for a couple nights. My princely hosts were to have been Suyra Pratap Deo (known as Jolly) and younger brother Ashwini (known as Jai) of the Kanker royal family. Jolly, though, is in Delhi, so it’s just Jai who welcomes me warmly.

Kanker is in Bastar which was once a substantial State and for long India’s largest administrative district at well over 25,000 sq. miles.  The majority of its people are still tribal with a unique though rapidly disappearing lifestyle.  These in many ways are the “forgotten” people of India, who live on the edge and fight to preserve their traditional lifestyles, though one of the tribes, the Muria, has one of the most progressive systems of bringing up their children – with both boys and girls living in a mixed dormitory starting at puberty, trying out partners until settling on one to marry.

Our guide to visit the Muria, Babbu, is an interesting fellow. He grew up in a Muria village as his grandfather was a Muria chief. His family is of the high Brahmin caste and he is pretty much the tribal guide for the royal family, in whose palace I am staying. His self-taught English is quite adequate, if I remind him (as I do) that he must turn around to speak to be and speak loudly and slowly. Here’s a photo of Babbu and me with some young Muria tribespeople.

We are the first to arrive at the village, before a group of about eight French-speaking people, who are also staying at the Kanker Palace. Here are some of the Muria, including several of some dances that they performed for us.

After the dancing a rather good meal was prepared for us, served on plates and bowls made from leaves.

On the way back to Kanker, we miraculously avoided cows and oncoming traffic. The small figure on the dashboard is the elephant god, Ganesh, to bring us luck, which we badly needed.

We stopped to buy fruit from ladies who were selling by the side of the road.

when we get back to the palace, I rest up in my room and blog. I had about seven, we meet in the courtyard with all of the French guess. The family of Jai, and other palace people, including Babbui, have gathered and the children of these people do some energetic dance. Eventually, the rest of our enticed up to dance with them, and it is quite a lot of fun.

After the dancing, we are served a very good dinner in the Palace dining room. The French people communicate primarily French, but they are quite good about including me, at least from time to time, with English. One of them is a 30-year-old who lives in Vancouver Island. He and I wind up talking Hebrew together. Go figure.

Back to the room to shower and crash.

4 comments to Hankering for Kanker

  • Wendy

    Great pics, Dadz! I’d like an elephant God as Zo learns to drive, just for good measure. L, W.

  • Rick

    Orthopedic surgeons need to be active to keep up on the latest
    injuries.

    Know several who are runners and/or triathletes.

    Milwaukee is up 2-1.

  • jean.zunkel@bjadventures.com

    Arnie these are wonderful shots for your first day! Creature comforts may not be the Oberoi but the experiences will make up for that. Amazing how you keep running into interesting people all over the world.

  • Ahdina

    Love your photos!!!

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