I had read about the fort and the museum at Rewa. I had no idea if they were worth a visit but I arrived at Rewa yesterday out of necessity. I was considering a stay at Satna so that I could arrive at Khajuraho today but there were no direct buses, only multiple unsure connections to Satna. There was direct bus leaving Tala for Rewa at 11.30 am. Tala is a small town with few buses except for frequent connections to Umaria. I was restless and unwilling to wait for an hour. I paid the price of losing the entire day.
I took the first bus out of Tala. It was for Manpur. Someone told me Manpur has more buses. My mind quickly extrapolated this to a decent bus stand with buses leaving every ten minutes. When I arrived at Manpur, I found that there was no bus to Rewa or Satna. The best option is to wait for the 2.00 pm bus to Beohari, change there for the Rewa bus and arrive at Rewa just after sunset.
I had lunch at Manpur. I found the waiter wiping my plate with a rag that looked like it hadn’t been washed ever.
‘Can you wash the plate with water?’ I asked.
‘I have cleaned it,’ he replied showing me the steel plate with some smudges and dried stains.
‘Still, wash it with water and don’t wipe it.’
He relented and did as I wished. There is no telling of his water source. I may have merely substituted one evil with another.
The road to Rewa was surprisingly good. We sped past large flat plains that were mostly dry, a clear contrast from the watershed regions of Krishna and Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. Every time we stopped screechingly, a train of dust would rush past us and deposit one more layer of the countryside on our clothes. The chill air got to my bones as there were no glass shutters on this broken bus. The bus climbed a hill and then descended towards Rewa, the capital of the erstwhile Kingdom of Rewa.
After a good sleep last night, I headed out to see something, anything the town had in offer. No one here has much to say about places of interest in town. The fort and the museum within it seem to be the only places. I knew this would take the entire morning. I stopped for breakfast. I had taken a couple of apples and some muesli this morning but wanted to have something more.
‘What’s this?’ I asked ponting to a stack of fried stuff gleaming with oil.
‘Give me one daal paapad.’
It is somewhat like batura but a lot thinner and deep fried to golden crispness. It is served with a small platter of moong daal garnished with coriander leaves and ground pepper. The real taste comes from the daal. It makes a light meal and a rather unhealthy choice. The fact is that there is no choice when it comes to breakfast. South India, with its idlis, dosas, upmas, puttus and semiyas, has a much better variety.
I walked through narrow lanes lined with packed houses, shops and open drains. Modern day rubbish clogged many drains from which the stench was as revolting as the sight. I finally arrived at the fort. Its arched gateway is decorated in various colours. The arch is flanked by pannelled walls with vases in reliefs inset within the panels. I walked about within the fort, a place tiny in size compared to Golconda, Bidar or Warangal. What remains are buildings of the former palace. Today there is a temple, a boarding school, a restaurant and a museum in these buildings.
Entry to the museum is ten rupees but there was no one to issue me a ticket.
‘You will need to wait outside. The guide is showing other visitors around,’ said the young woman cleaning a carpet.
So I stepped outside and walked along a line of excavated stone sculptures that were on display on the balcony.
‘Ooi! Person with the white cap,’ someone shouted from below. I turned around to see a watchman pointing his stick at me.
‘You are not allowed to wander around,’ he shouted from the distance.
‘I was asked to wait here,’ I replied in defence.
‘You have to wait at the entrance.’ He continued to mutter something for a good minute.
When the earlier visitors left, I approached the guide for a ticket.
‘How many of you?’ he asked.
‘One person is not allowed. There has to be a group of three or four.’
‘Well, I don’t need a guide. I will just look around.’
‘We don’t allow that,’ he said, rather surprised at my demand.
‘Those are the rules around here. The exhibits are all open. We don’t want people touching them.’
‘Okay. I will wait till some others arrive.’ Sure enough, six boys arrived after ten minutes of waiting.
The guide took us through the exhibits as if he had a train to catch. Before I could appreciate the exhibit he just pointed out, he moved to the next one. This was clearly a guided tour in which you are meant to see through a narrow window which he opened.
‘What’s this?’ asked one of the boys inquisitively and pointed to a small cannon.
‘Don’t ask too many questions,’ the old guide sharply said as he touched the cannon with his hands. Meanwhile, the woman was cleaning a porcelain bowl with a dirty rag.
‘Just see what you are shown or you will be thrown out,’ added the guide.
I felt sorry for the kids. ‘There is nothing wrong in asking questions. How else will they learn?’ I rallied to their aid.
It didn’t have any affect on the guide. He was like a human tape recorder in playback mode. Once switched on, he ran through the museum exhibit after exhibit without pause.
It was a short tour of only ten minutes. I might have enjoyed the exhibits in leisure on my own. I did enjoy the architecture of the palace buildings, some stone reliefs and floral motifs painted on doorways. I even climbed a derelict tower next to the school. I took a handful of digital pictures too. All these had been accomplished only because the watchman had not yet arrived on the scene. Otherwise, there are no notices to inform that these are prohibited.