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Just 15kms outside of Bhopal lies a land that is yet to catch up with the times… A place that thrives and survives without the touch of urbanization or modernization. This is a place that is yet to receive the gift of electricity, where an all-weather road was constructed just last year, where network connectivity is still questionable. But for everything that this place lacks, it more than makes up for it with unparalleled natural beauty and hidden cultural treasures. This is the tale of Kathotiya – a little tribal hamlet that follows a unique way-of-life that refuses to catch up with the times. And every bit of their existence gives food for thought to us city dwellers for whom uninterrupted connectivity, social media, air-conditioning and the internet are part and parcel of everyday life. In this edition of Tales of Bhopal, here is the story of Kathotiya and its unfazed existence in a land beyond time.

Bhopal Tribal Practices
Tumbi that is dried and hollowed out to make a container with handle.

The all-natural kitchen

On one of our first visits to this wonderland a few years ago, we found that our our cutlery and reusable air-tight food containers seemed like alien objects to the people in the village. Imagine, a place where people had never even seen a plastic spoon before. Wondering how these people managed their kitchen without everyday utensils? They use spoons and ladles carved out of wood, earthen pots for cooking and, you wouldn’t believe it – utensils crafted from dried and hollowed-out vegetables like tumbi lauki(bottle gourd) and kaddu (pumpkin). No litter, no wastage, no harm caused to the environment – what an example of peaceful co-existence with nature!

Marbles Village Game
Kanche Wala Game – Best pass-time!

The no-digital entertainment

In a place that doesn’t have electricity or mobile network, local tribals have their own unique ways and means to keep themselves entertained. Remember the childhood games like langdi (hop scotch), ashthe change (a board game played using tamarind seeds) and kanche (using glass balls to hit a target with your fingers)? – they are very popular with the kids here to this day. Teens play gulam dandi (a complicated game of catching the opponent while swinging from one tree to the next). And the adults engage in community festivities where the young folk in the tribe, along with their in-laws and better halves, enjoy tribal dancing to beating drums and folk songs all night. Spend a night with these folks and you will forget all about Candy Crush, Netflix and YouTube!

Tree Climbing in Bhopal
More fun than any other game I’ve seen!

The off-the-land fitness routine

In an era where fitness is a conscious choice managed with gym memberships and yoga sessions, the people of this village have made physical activity a part of everyday life. They walk more than 20kms each day, whether to take their cattle for grazing or to get their millets ground into flour (for which they even carry kilograms of load on their head to cross the jungles of Bhopal and reach the city.) Children climb daunting rock surfaces like its nothing and teens learn how to swim against the current in the raging monsoon rivers. Think about it – Olympic level sports talent and better-than-professional rock climbers and adventurers exist here, still undiscovered.

Exploring Tribal Village
Tribal Shrine with wooden arms and legs

The unshakeable beliefs

Kathotiya’s tribals mostly consist of Bheels and Bhilalas – people who have maintained their unique set of lifestyle practices and beliefs to this day. Just outside their little hamlet lies a small shrine, reachable after crossing a dense jungle patch. To the uninitiated, the place seems unremarkable – a rock surface left pockmarked and carved by nature’s eroding elements. But to the tribals who live here, this happens to be a holy place of worship. It is believed by the village people that if one of their own gets injured or suffers a fracture, they must make the journey to this shrine and pray to the Van Devta (Forest God) for restored health and speedy healing. And once the ailment is healed, the mannat is completed by presenting a wood-carved replica of the injured body part to the deity at the shrine. Visit here to discover scores of wood-carved legs, arms, feet and more, left here by believers as a thank you to the Forest God for blessing them with good health.

Trek to Tribal Village in Bhopal
Simple Living… Simple Pleasures

For us city dwellers, most of these practices seem other-worldly and unimaginable. The old-school games and pass-times are actually unknown to the city-kids of today, who would rather spend time on their PlayStation and Tablet PCs. But the tribals of Kathotiya have learnt to live in peace and harmony with nature. Each aspect of their everyday life speaks of adaptability and resilience. They survive and thrive without any of the amenities that we consider as necessary for a comfortable life. And the happiness and contentment with which they lead their life will surely give you reason to evaluate yours. Food for thought, eh?

For the love of Trekking..

Last year’s friendship day arrived with a special honor.. a chance to celebrate the occasion with some amazing people, adventure style!

People from all walks of life.. some techies, some law experts, some students.. many seasoned businessmen.. but they all had one thing in common.. They were all there to enjoy Friendship Day in a format with a difference.. Night Camping and Trekking with Junoon Adventure..

So much to learn and so many fun experiences to share from the event.. but I guess you all have heard me all but too often! I’m thinking let’s do something different this time..

Allow me to introduce Ankita Menghwani, one of the fellow thrill seekers who had joined us for the Night Camping event. Big time lover of reading and literature, she is a student as well as a budding writer.. but inside she is an adventurist just like all of us!

So here is the Friendship Day Night Camping and Trekking Event.. in Ankita’s words..

            (NIGHT CAMPING and TREKKING in BHOPAL , August 3rd to 4th , 2013)

How does it feel when you get to experience something that you’ve wanted to do all your life ? Let me tell you , the feeling is beyond
Amazing. I got this great feeling when I went for my first trekking Expedition in the lush green forests of Daulatpur , Bhopal.

This adventure trip gave me a pleasant break from my boring , mediocre life. This trip was organised to celebrate Friendship’s Day in a unique way. There were different kinds of people from different walks of life. All of them were craving for some adventure.

After some quick introductions we were served pakodas , bhuttas & adrak wali chai.

Awesome , right !

This was an absolutely beautiful start to our amazing trip. We enjoyed high tea in that
scenic beauty. Not many people are lucky enough to do that. The theme of our trip was ‘Tribal’. All the tents were named after all the tribes in India.

Then came the time for some friendly games. The whole group was divided into two teams. There was a lot of cheering & applauding.

It was great fun. And our team won. Yippee!

That taste of success was really sweet.

After all the fun and entertainment , food was served for the famished souls. The food was delicious. It was finger-licking good.

Then at around 12 o’ clock our night trekkingstarted. We started our hike with torches in our hands. All the members of the Junoon Team were there to guide us through the forest. It was mind-blowing.

After coming back from the night trek we all retired to our respective tents. But then it was such a beautiful night . How could we waste it by sleeping inside our tents ? So we spent the night camping under the starry sky.

I guess, the best thing about our group was that all of them were extremely hilarious and fun-loving people. We had so many laughs.

We were strangers by day and we became friends by night.

In the morning , after breakfast , we started with our trek. Everybody was bursting with excitement.

There was greenery all around. It was quite a poetic scene. Everybody got to experience the nature’s magical touch. It was a rejuvenating experience. And there was a waterfall too. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Then wet , tired and thirsty we started our return journey. Everybody was exhausted but the spirits were still high. Finally, our trek came to an end. The feeling of completing my first ever trek is indescribable.

Now let’s talk about the people who made this possible. JUNOON TEAM is amazing ! They are immensely professional and dedicated and will go out of their way to cater for your every need. They ensured that every aspect of the trip ran smoothly and made sure that we were all safe and sound.

A gargantuan thanks to each and every one of them for making this trip memorable.

This one takes a special place in my heart because it was my first ADVENTURE TRIP. I cannot rave enough about how much I enjoyed this action-packed  trip. This experience gave me a great opportunity to explore my adventurous streak. It was an unforgettable experience for me.

What can I say.. It was an honor Ankita.. to have you and every single person of that group be a part of our “Junooni” Friendship Day celebration. It truly was an experience worth remembering..