WOW ! MHOW!
There are some places in this world that are known for the name itself - the characteristics of that place such as MHOW. MHOW is a dreamy place that you would think does not exist. It is so ideal that you may have to pinch yourself to believe. MHOW is like a breathe of fresh air, like a whiff of golden sunshine in icy winter.
The plan to visit MHOW was conceived not to see the place but to visit someone. I really did not expect to encounter a place of such character that would make me forget the world. MHOW written Mahu in Hindi stands for Military headquarters of warfare. This is a place where young officers get trained to hone their skills in various fields. In fact this place is flooded with young officers full of energy and ready to take on this world and I was there to visit one!!!
The journey to MHOW is interesting in itself! Honestly I had never heard of this place before and when my young and energetic brother-in-law went there on training, I realized that this vast land has such places where officers could be trained! So, we elaborately planned our trip but getting there was quite intriguing. Incidentally, we happened to be in Mumbai and this gave us ample scope to get there easily.
After looking up the Internet and also after a lot of telephonic discussions with BIL, we booked tickets to Indore by Avantika Express. The train leaves Mumbai by 7.30pm to reach Indore by 10 am the next day. To top it, I immensely believed that Indian railways have improved and did not carry any food/water! We boarded the train on time and we took in the train journey. Time went by with no sign of any food! I then, found out that there was no pantry in that train. We doubted if we would get any food on the way! Our hunger grew and that was my first lesson on train journeys - not to travel on an empty stomach and also not to over estimate the Indian railways!! After nearly two hours or so, we found some sandwiches sold in some station that we bought for dinner!
Getting to Indore after that was not a problem. The train reached on time and that was when getting to MHOW was the question. Enquiries revealed that many trains and buses would take us there. We stood thinking and decided to take the passenger train to MHOW at 11.00 am. We settled for some good breakfast in the cafeteria and waited for the train to arrive.
Our train arrived a little later than 11.00am and sluggishly headed to its destination. For Rs. 5/- a ticket, this train was a treat. The rustic benches, the co-passengers seemed so simple that it was hard to believe such people existed. It was like a train full of simpletons who seemed so humble and modest. They enquired, spoke at length and offered help.
The 21 kms to MHOW took around 40 minutes to cover! The train stopped at many small stations where small vendors selling peanuts and fruits came eagerly to sell them. The train was half full but not very clean. The moment the train stopped at MHOW, our co-passengers announced our destination and we got off. The station seemed very small and unkempt. Two army officials sat in a bench as if to direct young officers reporting to their respective campuses.
An army truck stood outside the station that probably picks up army officials. We hailed an auto rickshaw and went to the Infantry school guesthouse. I noticed the quaintness of the place and wondered about the simplicity of the place. I like MHOW instantly. The place, I felt, was full of innocence - devoid of the bustling city life. It is a small town completely self contained and beautiful. Since the monsoons had hit MHOW, the place looked fresh with lush green trees and grass adding to the romance in MHOW.
Our guesthouse in MHOW was beautiful surrounded by vast green land and was a stone's throw away from the army Mess. After freshening up, we went to the local market. The market is just perhaps one single street. There are many shops on either side and was beautiful. It was unlike any tourist center. The shops were all neat and people sat leisurely and watched. The market has a lot of oil paintings and in such artistic abundance that anyone will want to buy it. MHOW is also famous for paper mash furniture. Artisans make many structures in paper mash and cover them in leather to give it an excellent finish. Interestingly they make many animal forms and with a glass top can be used as side table/center table!
Apart from this MHOW is also famous for smocking in clothes. This is available in many designs and styles and above all they are all inexpensive!!
MHOW's cantonment area is beautiful and very quiet. Each regiment has its own campus with accommodation, mess etc and fully self-sufficient. A short drive will take you to all these places. There is also an ammunition center, which has army personnel guarding round the clock. There is also a memorial saluting the heroes of war. This is an extraordinary place and maintained with such sanctity that even photography is prohibited. Then there is MHOW fort which though seeming to be beautiful is inaccessible. Visitors are not allowed except with special permission.
An army personnel's life is extraordinary. For them, there are two kinds of people - the one who belongs to the army and the one who does not belong to the army. In short - the faujis and the civilians! A peek into their lives reveal a decent mixture of struggle, hard work, discipline, fun-filling and pressure! It is unimaginable how an ordinary man becomes capable to handle all these with such ease and expertise.
Curiosity led us to the army mess! Here I was quite apprehensive as absolute discipline is observed! There is a proper dress code that is observed. This place is breathtaking and the interiors and décor match the standard of a five star hotel. Silence is maintained even in the TV room and rules of code and conduct are meticulously followed. We later went to the party hall where you can let your hair down. This is a place with loud music and masti. We could see young officers sweating it out by dancing to the tunes of the latest chartbusters.
When in MHOW, it is best to relax only if you have some relative in the army! There are not many eateries and also not many good hotels. There are many small joints where in you can get some good food. Try eating rabid and poha that the natives relish and swear by. There is also a lake nearby easily accessible by auto or if you want to trek! And above all, when in MHOW make sure you buy some good paintings and smocked clothes!!