Coastal calm : Odisha

The four-day trip to coastal India this winter is a way of saying “Time please” to 2019.

Life did not become hectic, no big changes happened, did not need time for myself, or wanted to get any new perspective from a distance. Still travel is always a refreshing challenge to the mind that spirals into monotony.

Odisha is not a goal like Himalayas, forests or beaches of this country’s landscape. It’s on the list like every other state in India. So no expectations. The only preconceived notion was it to be like any other state in India in terms of poverty, filthiness, levels of disparities, struggling faces with some refreshing art, culture and history and togetherness. That it did.

This “time please” activity was not to hop from memory to making memory but to weave, assume, bias about people other than me for a change.

Here are some observations I gathered on this trip:

  • Railways changed drastically over the years. From food to hygiene, management to efficiency. Though there are some hits and misses, I could sustain 21 hours’ journey to Bhubaneswar.
  • Everything about trains and railway stations remain middle class forever. Everything here overflows. people, luggage, sounds, chaos. But as like anywhere, middle-class people adapt to coexistence with whatever available.
  • The aluminum chairs in the waiting room were slippery. Wondered what’s the intention behind that making. Well, caffeine helped to wait.
  • Wooden spoon in the coffee cup is fancy. Napkin vending machine is a cool idea.
  • Winter crops getting ready for their life purpose along the coastline before Pongal is a treat to watch.
  • The first sight in Bhubaneswar is the mixed influence of Bengali and Telugu cultures on Odisha. Nameplates, signboards are in all three languages.
  • The tallness of the temples in the old city is so high that it makes you feel small. Even the gods inside are also too small for the houses they live in.
  • Everyone loves Vishnu and Shiva forms equally and incorporates them in daily life intentionally through arts, sweets, and unwavering faith.
  • Priests wait at the signals on road to put tilak randomly on people’s faces for the day’s good luck.
  • Got to know that a series of bumps (Speed-breaker like structures) on the road is called a Rumble strip. It is used to reduce speed and avoid collisions. Saw a signboard on the way to Dhauli, a Buddhist site.
  • Saw people eating panipuri/chaat for breakfast multiple times.This is a state of sweet lovers. Sweets are the main street food here.Then obsession for aloo. They eat sweets at every meal. Also, rice and roti with equal fervor. The list of streets usually brown colored Rosh Gulla (found Rosh Gulla origins from Odisha), Chennapod, khajas, Jalebi and Dahi bhara aloo dum. The Maha Prasad comes out of the temple kitchen in Jagannath Puri in pots is quite famous.
  • The long drive along the seaside between Konark and Puri still reflects the dark remnants of huge damage caused by Cyclone Fani.
  • Puri beach is wide and long which was also hosting an early morning wedding. On the beach, the size of the total wedding party seemed small.
  • Jagannath temple in Puri is a major pilgrim center. A group of workers carries thousands of fresh earthenware in and out of the temple every day. The spectacle of the whole faith and efforts to feed a lot of mouths every day is worth to watch!
  • Sun is the constant underlying theme of Odisha. Waiting in the fog to see the sunrise and give him deepdaan, coming back in the evening to experience golden early sunsets, they built Sun Temple at Konark to catch the sun rays always. On the whole, it’s a sun-drenched state. So we got the motif of his chariot wheel with ourselves.
  • The Konark sun temple has several legends associated with it. The sound and light show narrated them beautifully. That level of magnificent structure kind of felt empty with no god or regular offerings. It made me wonder how much of ancient knowledge is also drowned in time.
  • The two things I heard about Odisha in school days: A place where the Kalinga war took place and Chilka lake. Both were spectacular. Seeing hills around the Daya river, tried to imagine the battlefield it was once, and the mental state of Ashoka reading his rock edict in his handwriting.
  • Chilka Lake is so big. It extends in three districts. It’s like a river. We explored from Satapada side. The sight of nature exploitation is clear everywhere as usual but the state on whole is not tourist savvy yet. Pushing Dolphins to perform for viewing pleasure seemed too much. Migratory birds started coming in. Flamingos have not arrived yet but others were quite fascinating too.
  • Pipli applique market is a colorful kaleidoscope. The magic with fabrics is hereditary and like all the cultures and traditional arts of Odisha, this handicraft is also originated with the traditions associated with Jagannath temple.
  • Artists, craftsmen making art on both sides of the road in their row houses, entered Raghunathpur, a heritage village. Every house is a museum, we see each family practicing their art or creating some. Got introduced to the art Pattachitra – painting on cloth using natural colors.
  • Among many, sand art is another point of interest in Odisha. Saw the stalls full of sand on Chandrabhaga beach, preparing for the upcoming Konark dance and sand art festival.
  • Handicrafts, tribal arts, paintings, sculptures, architecture everything reflects the observation of what simplicity Odia people have and faith in the unknown. Heritage and nature go hand in hand.
  • The driver told me they don’t like, and try to refrain from interacting with North Indian people as they are aggressive. Hockey is promoted here.

Odisha is a simple, introverted state. People are calm, simple and soft-spoken. Traffic is very less and people do not hurry for anything. Everyone seems to have a unique way to express, through art or a craft if not anything they are content with their rich history.

There’s always a lot more to see than what it seems. I hope there will be another chance to catch up with this serene space once again, this time apart from temple marvels and historical imprints. As unexpected as it was, this trip turned fascinating enough to expand more in the head and heart.

I read somewhere, –

We must travel before we lose ourselves completely.”

But I feel, maybe we travel to resist that, to hang on.

See you next time.

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