After one and half hours of biking, he asks me “Are you sure we are on the right path”? I didn’t find any reason why we should lose the track. Then I looked at my watch – its 8.30 in the morning. I remember we left IIM Indore campus at 7 am. So, for last 90 minutes we are on the bike and we have not yet been able to cover 40 km. We lost track, indeed. “We” means I, Pramod, Anoop and Nirmal. We were so engrossed in talking about our B-school life and classes et al, we have not noticed that we have gone in a different direction. Finally, a local villager showed us the way – the way to Patalpani.
Patalpani is a waterfall near Mhow, Madhya Pradesh. It is not famous for its length or height or width. Instead it is infamous for claiming few lives every year. We went there in May, 2005………..
It was full summer and the fall was not even half of what it is otherwise. On the top of the fall, there is a slant. Water flows through this and dives 300 ft down. You can easily reach this slant, sit, take photos and come out. It did not appear that dangerous to me. But that’s the trick – this can be flooded any time with a giant splash before you even realize and you will be swept away directly to the hell. Very recently I read a news where a family of three got drowned – exactly the same way.
For people who are not conversant with Hindi, “Patal” is the underground hell and “Pani” means water. The name has been derived from the fact that the lake created by the waterfall is very deep and no one has ever been able to measure its depth. So it’s a belief that the water is flowing into the hell.
We wanted to reach the water. Nirmal had no interest to climb down (as there is no way otherwise) and Anoop didn’t have a choice as there was one bike for two. So, they went back. I and Pramod spent few more hours to crawl down and reach the lake. It is easier said than done as there is no defined way to get close to it. That was augmented by the scorching heat of the summer and the local people discouraging us vehemently. They don’t want more people to lose their lives. What I understood from them is there are lots of unknown curves and holes under the water. So, while swimming or even walking in, if your feet by accident fall into those traps, you will be in trouble. We promised them not to go into the water.
We didn’t keep our promise. I didn’t go much inside the water. But Pramod crossed the complete lake and reached the other side where the water is falling from 300 feet up. Well – that was risky I must say. Though I knew he was a good swimmer, but so were many other people who tried the same and did not come back. From my personal experience of visiting few waterfalls in India and outside, I think I have never seen any waterfall that is so scary by look. You look around – there are big walls of stones in all sides with no human beings anywhere. Even if you shout, no one will come for help. The holes in the stony pavement are the dens of poisonous snakes. It is beautiful – but it is dangerous. It’s like a magnet – keeps attracting you towards it and you can feel it even after you overcome its attraction and come back from there.
Well – we came back and came back alive. We had the courage and energy left to go into another deep jungle nearby. We lost the track again – but that’s a different story.