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The King and I

October 17


A late breakfast allows me plenty of time to get frustrated at not being able to post to my blog. Grrrrrrrr.

At a little after ten, I meet Jaspreet Singh Bhatia, the owner of a Raipur travel agency and my guide for the next three days. Jaspreet is fabulous. Perfect, understandable English, flexible, expert on the area we’re going to and extremely thoughtful about travel, business, life, friendship, etc.

The drive to Jagdalpur is smooth and rather uneventful. Along the way, we stop at a couple places that make metal figures using a complex process involving clay molds wax models into which a substance is poured, then heated, then more clay placed around it, etc. as Jaspreet explains it I almost understand it, but not really. I doubt that I could produce the figures myself. I emerge thinking that the process is complex, involves a great deal of skill in making each unique figure, but that’s about it. I’d say this is what I’ve understood each time a complex artistic process of any kind is explained to me any place around the world.

We get to the Bastar Jungle Lodge in time to be greeted by Babbu, who has come up to the place several hours earlier than we did. He helps run the place, as Jay and a Jolly have an ownership interest in the lodge. Jaspreet and I have lunch at about two, and I rest up for awhile, then meet Jaspreet for coffee. The place is isolated, quiet and serene. My room is large, and air conditioned! I like this place.

We drive in to Jagdalpur and visit the main Bastar Palace, for what is sure to be a highlight of the trip. Jaspreet calls and arranges for us to meet the young, 30-year old King Kamal Chandra Bhanj Deo who is at the epicenter of every part of the festivities of Bastar Dushera, at which we’ll spend most of the next two days. The king and I both did graduate work at The London School of Economics, though I was there well before he was born, so we didn’t know one another well.

He is matter-of-fact about his privileged and exalted position and his connection to key royalty and politicians around the world (like our guide, Roger, in Botswana, the King attended Harry and Meghan’s wedding earlier this year). He talked about the arrival today of his prize racehorse from Mumbai, for which he paid 3.5 million Rupees.

The King discusses how everything done at the festival for the next three days must be done in his name, or with his blessing or consent. All of the tribal gods from around the area are brought to the palace for him to receive them, and he allows several thousand tribal people to stay on the palace grounds for the next three days. The King is very active and ambitious in Indian politics. Near the end of our more than half-hour meeting, he agrees with Monty Python’s assessment that, “It’s good to be King.” This meeting sets an amazing context for the next couple day’s events. Below the king, with a famous blogger and photos of the palace interior and exterior, with guests from the tribes and a long line of people waiting to pray at King’s temple.

Jaspreet and I have a quite good dinner together back at the lodge. It’s very pleasantly cool tonight. But I keep my air conditioning on anyway.

3 comments to The King and I


    Arnie this looks so wonderful. I am so glad that you have met the King and I am quite sure he was impressed with you! We need to get you an outfit like he has!

  • Bob

    Arnie, are you passing out GOAT caps? The king would have loved one! I agree with Jean, you need an outfit for your royal visits and dance judging gigs.

  • lauri pollack

    Fascinating. So glad you are enjoying.

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