This post is a fictional tale set in Orchha, a city in India. I visited it during the off-peak season and tourists weren’t many. This sense of “owning” the ancient area gave me an acute, diverse, unreal perception of the places I visited. It inspired my imagination and this (crazy) fantasy story. All the narrated interactions with items, decorations, structures and animals never happened. All the photos are organized in a not particular order, just to fit the story sequences. But they’re all set in Orchha, anyway..
Insert your name: Stray Idler
Start Game ▶
One day, I found myself in an open space, surrounded by big ancient palaces. Where am I? Why am I here? Nobody I could ask these questions to, not a single human around me. All the doors seemed to be shut and not opened for a long time. But they didn’t look all the same, I got astonished by a wonderful wooden carved one and I told myself: “I can only start my adventure from here.” Yet, it was closed like the other ones surrounding me. No bell to ring, knocking would have been useless. I started examining the carvings: a few of them were just like holes with different shapes. “This is like the game I used to play when I was a toddler. For sure I need to find all the keys to open the door.”
Then I started wandering around the area to look for them. I didn’t find anything, but I believed I found a hint when I bumped into the three monkeys. Of course, they had to be three, perfect cliché. The monkeys were proposing to me a conundrum: the first one was indicating a rectangle, the second one a triangle and the last one a circled shaped container. Hmm, it looked a bit like the logical test you need to deal with when applying for college admission. “Circle, triangle, rectangle… The missing one should be a pentagon!” I thought “Maybe one with curve motifs like I’ve seen on the wooden door.”. Then I started looking for the missing piece close to the monkeys. I searched for a while, but couldn’t find anything.
Then the middle monkey started to talk to its friends: “What is this idiot looking for?”
A talking monkey? Well, this is a fantasy world, nothing to be surprised of. So, I thought it’d be a nice idea to ask for help. “I’m looking for the door key. I’m not asking you to give the solution of the enigma, I think I’ve figured it out myself already. But please tell me at least where to look at.”
“Another idler trying to save the princess.” commented the third monkey
“Princess? I’m only trying to get out of here. Who cares about the princess!?”
“But the princess is… Hmm. What?”
“The princess is pretty. Yes, it was pretty the word, I guess.” confirmed the middle monkey.
“Hmm, very convincing… And what about her personality? Is she a nice person? I mean, how can I get out of here, where is the door key?” I asked
“Well, the princess is… Pretty.” repeated the monkey
“I knew that already.”
“Anyway,” finally the first monkey started to speak “The only way to get out of here is to save the princess from the monster. I know it’s a two-bit story, but that’s all the author could think of.”
“Hmm, okay. And what about the key? Where do I find it?”
“Just push the door, idiot! It’s not locked! Just use a bit of strength, you puny thing.” I guess I was as cheap as the author of this game.
Finally, I got in. And I found myself inside this big courtyard: four sides to explore and three floors to climb. What the hell! Couldn’t this be a plain arcade game of the ’80s where you just needed to go straight ahead? I never liked the exploratory worlds of modern games.
Then I happened to notice a balcony, stunningly carved, which was probably painted a long time ago. Since the princess was busy escaping the monster, she couldn’t put her attention on maintenance. But my instinct told me I should get up to there to find her, after an epic fight against a dreadful monster.
Right or left to start? Both halls looked similar, maybe both leading to the balcony. But I noticed there was a dog in one of them. It was sleeping, but I was quite sure it could talk, exactly like the monkeys outside.
“Is it the right path to save the princess?” I asked ho chiesto
“Hey, you just woke me up, I was sleeping here. And no introduction!”
“Ok, sorry. I’m Stray Idler. Please tell me if it’s the right path, so you can go back to sleep.”
“Please mind your attitude. Do you think the life of NPC (non-player character) is an easy one? Every day thousands of people come here looking for Pretty. Now that fortunately It’s the off-peak season, I thought I could finally spend my days sleeping. And another pest comes!”
“Okay… NPC dog. But who is Pretty?”
“The princess, I’m Pretty’s dog! And now be gone, I’m on strike today.”
“If her name is Pretty, I don’t want to find out her family name!” I grumbled
“It’s Gupta. Pretty Gupta. A common Indian family name. Happy now? And now, please, let me sleep.”
“I need to make it quick!” I thought. “This game is not going to improve.” So, after climbing up some stairs, I had the crazy idea of taking a shortcut. Many games nowadays involve parkour sequences. Any character does it, even if their only past workout involved fingers on a keyboard or teeth on burgers. It must be easy, then. So, I thought, I could improvise a jumping from ledge to ledge and on other jetty elements. Easy? It wasn’t: I miserably fell to the bottom again.
While falling, I found the time to take another shot, with a different perspective. Just to make good use of upcoming death.
But this is quite an old-style game, so I didn’t completely die. I just had to start over from a saving point. And back again in the courtyard. I skipped the dog conversation this time and decided to take a much more careful, less hasty approach.
So, I started to look for hints on the marvelous painted walls. And I finally found one. Look here, all the kings are going left, even the knight in the bottom is taking the same way. For some reason, he’s not riding his horse. I deduced that I was right to be cautious.
The left path, then. And no dog this time. It must be the right one; its presence was quite deceitful before. So, I went through corridors, halls and stairs again, but didn’t try to do take any risk this time. I only had to face an easy ledge walk at the end of my ride. Step by step I passed the mesmerizing remaining blueish decorations and eventually got to the final vaulted room.
No princess there, but an unmistakable clue: the princess would be locked in that far far away building.
Then I needed to take a refreshing walk under 40°C in an Indian sunny day, in May. The good thing was I arrived completely dried to the other building, as the heat was quicker than my sweating. Not exactly fragrant, anyway. Well, it’d be another weapon to use against the evil monster. And even a better one to get rid of the princess afterward.
As soon as I got into the palace, I noticed another painting. I thought it must be another hint on how to beat the boss there. Very clear: the boss is a half-bird, with a human head. But, have you noticed the guy sitting at his back? The one surrounded by other minions. That must be the magician keeping recharging his health bar and special skills. The first one to knock out must be him, of course. Then everything will be easy.
But, just like I cannot parkour, I also don’t have any fighting skills. It was already a miracle getting to that point for me. So, I needed to think for a while on how to handle that. And eventually developed a great idea: what about starting writing this post and reading it loudly when I have to face the monster? They must fall asleep in no time. Or beg me to stop, in the best case.
It worked like a charm! The alleged magician promptly cast a spell to become temporarily deaf. This way it could not follow orders by the monster. And the monster could not go beyond three hundred words, then surrendered. I threatened him saying that if he dared to bother princess Pretty again, I’d read to him also my previous posts. He fled in a jiffy.
And finally, I had access to the exit.
After that, my reward was waiting for me. The princess’s love? Of course not, just the small building as accommodation at a very discounted rate, if I wanted to spend a few nights. Low-season promotion only. The big palace is the one where the new hotel manager Pretty Gupta will live from now on.
Was she truly pretty? I don’t know, I only talked with the receptionist, not to her. And I didn’t even bother to ask to meet her in person. Wasn’t it better to finally soak myself in the colorful city?
Some additional information about Orchha:
Orchha is a small city (less of 10.000 people) located in Northern India, in the Madhya Pradesh state. Its closest airport is in Gwalior, another interesting site. Many tourists reach it from Khajuraho (which is a much more popular tourist destination) by train, getting off at Jhansi station. I got there on a road trip, with a hired driver. And that was an interesting experience too, as you can taste a bit of real India by road.
Orchha has several fascinating buildings: for example, the Fort complex with its palaces, Chaturbhuj Temple and the Chhatris. The most important ones are close to the town center or by the Betwa River. It’s not difficult to walk around and visit most of them.