There is a place on this planet which you probably would have never heard of, had you not been reading this post. Chances are, that after reading this post you will forget about it and get on with your lives again. But that is not the point, in fact there IS no point. It just so happens that it is there.
You probably won’t get see it on National Geographic because there are no big cats around here, neither is it home to any exotic flora or fauna. You probably would never read about it in the Lonely Planet as there is no German Bakery selling cinnamon bread, neither is the place a hit with backpackers looking for cheap drugs, sex and instant nirvana. There is virtually nothing there to see in Dharakhoh and yet I am writing about it ? I would perhaps be the first person to write about this place and I might be the last person to write about it.
So where on earth is Dharakhoh? Let me tell you for starters that you cant get there by road, the only way to get there is by rail or by foot. Take any 18 coach train (yes count the coaches to be sure, any less than 18 and you don’t get there… strange isn’t it?)from Bhopal going towards Nagpur and get ready to move towards the door after you cross Ghoradongri. Make sure you stay to the left hand doors and all of a sudden the train sweeps across a curve and slows down. You would find an engine or two waiting in the siding as you come to a halt. While you get off, you would see the engine move in slowly behind your train and attach itself to it.
A minute or two later, a loud horn will reverberate through the hills and your train will move on. You will find yourself at DHQ – as the Indian Railways likes calling this place, and still you won’t find it. Why? For the simple reason that it isn’t there !! Its just a spot on the Indian Railways map from where a Ghat (Hill) Section starts and special rules apply for train working. The name is derived from a brook (Dhara) that flows out of a small cave (Khoh) and down the hills, which as my good friend M informs me, are part of the Mahadeo hills.
As your trains makes its way up the steep incline, a sudden curtain of silence falls on the place. Suddenly, the chirping of crickets is the loudest sound you hear and you find yourself standing on a small ridge surrounded by all sides by thick forests covering virtually every inch in sight. Start walking in the same direction as your train and after about a kilometer or so, you would come across a small hut by the trackside and peering inside you may come across Shyam Saran. Shyam Saran is a keyman, one of the gazillions that the Indian Railways employs. His job, is to keep you alive.
Be it day or night, he walks the tracks from Dharakhoh to Maramjhiri – 13 kilometers uphill checking every nut, bolt and tie. He has been doing that for donkey’s years without a promotion. He doesn’t know what a multiplex is, nor does he give a damn about the Sensex crossing 10k. He cares two hoots for the Ambani brothers and is the least bit bothered about Sourav being dropped and the Lok Sabha being stalled.
He is happy where he is, because he gets to eat two square meals a day and gets a good night’s sleep after a long hard day at work. He is due to retire in a few years and he has no plans. He lives in a small hamlet a few hills away and wants to pass the rest of his days in peace there. And so do I, because there is no internet in Dharakhoh, neither is there any mobile phone signal. Glabal warming is yet to be an issue here and no one seems to know much about Bin Laden or Pravin Togadia.
All that is there in Dharakhoh is an eerie sense of quiet. There are close to 200 train movements here each day and yet not one can manage to spoil the tranquility of this place. There would be a million other places like this one around the world, but none quiet like Dharakhoh. One moonlit night I plan to go back to Dharakhoh and sit on a rock on the hill overlooking the tracks. I plan to smoke some weed and hear the rheostatic brakes of a descending set of bankers scream through the Mahadeo hills. There is no reason for me to do that, for Dharakhoh is virtually in the middle of nowhere, and that’s precisely why I want to go there…….