Days 20 & 21: From Gwalior to Morena, then across the river Chambal into Rajasthan

Day 20, Saturday March 11
We left Gwalior at sunrise and began walking the 18 kilometers to Banmore, an industrial town in which we had hoped to spend some time. Because we have to be in Agra early on the 14th (three days) and it was still over 100 km away, we decided to make Banmore our midday lunch stop instead.
Several days ago we ran into a man named Ramesh Sharma on the road. When he found out what the padyatra was about, he told us he was the personal assistant to Congress Party member Jyotiraditya Sindhia, Guna’s representative in Parliament. Mr. Sharma has offered us a lot of help, and it was he who provided our accommodations in Gwalior. He called ahead to Banmore and had local Congress Party people prepare to give us food and shelter. So, we were treated to a very nice lunch of poori, dal, and sweets on the lawn of a shaadi (wedding) hall they reserved for the afternoon — thanks to Rajender Singh Kushwaha, the president of the local Congress Party Unit.
As we left the shaadi hall we got into a discussion with several women who wanted to talk to us about the problems they’ve been having with water in Banmore. For the past five years, they said, they’ve had to walk at least 2-3 kilometers to get water because nearby industrial developments have usurped all the local well water. Among the industries most prevalent around Banmore are tire, plastic, and chemical manufacturing. As we walked through the outskirts of town we passed the plants of the following companies: J.K. Tyres, Farseen Rubber Industries, Ltd, Manoj Paints and Chemicals, Magnum Steels, Ltd, Jai Giriraj Plastics, Jepika Chemical Industries India Private, Ltd, and Deluxe Alloys, Ltd.
A giant centipede in a toilet in Banmore.
A roadside doctor tends to the walking wounded.
Irfan bhai’s shoes!
We continued walking all the way to Morena, almost 40 kilometers from Gwalior. The sun set while we were still very far away from Morena, and we ended up walking a couple of hours in the dark.
When we arrived in Morena there was no electricity in the whole city. After winding through a seemingly endless maze of narrow streets filled with crowds of faces we couldn’t see, we arrived where we would sleep — at a building in the end stages of construction, with about four empty rooms.
Our hosts had very little time to find us a place — we didn’t know ourselves until midday that we would be going all the way to Morena. Our hosts, Dhanraj Naagaar and Sanjay Sharma, were local representatives of Amnesty International who lived in Morena. In addition to sheltering us, they also cooked us dinner — poori, dal, and rice. Everyone fell asleep very quickly after eating.
Day 21, Sunday March 12
We were walking by sunrise Sunday morning, singing and chanting through the streets of Morena.
A roadside traveller offered us his full support>
We walked about 15 kilometers before stopping for lunch at a police station/camp that wanted to host us.
After lunch they escorted us all the way to the Madhya Pradesh border – the Chambal River.
The Chambal River is by far the largest river we have crossed. The bridge was a dilapidated, with large sections of railing missing, and it rippled heavily under our feet as trucks squeezed past us. The river lay far below, in a wide, green canyon, Rajasthan ahead of us as a wall of vertical rock.
We were met on the other side by Rajasthani police, who provided a jeep with about five armed men to accompany us to Dholpur.
The landscape completely transforms a few kilometers away from the river. We suddenly found ourselves staring out over what looked like an endless sea of strange, craggy landforms that formed a network of pockets and ravines. This difficult and obscuring terrain is a major factor in the wild lawlessness of this part of India.
Dholpur has abundant old and beautiful buildings. The sun set just as we arrived at the Aggarwal Dharmshala, accommodations provided by the Chief Collector of Dholpur.
We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow — probably about 35 km. Tomorrow night will be our first in Uttar Pradesh.
Older entries from beginning of the march
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