Follow by Email

Thursday, 8 March 2018

What's in a Day?

The paper in her hand trembles, matching the tremor in her voice. Neither deters her from singing a hymn to Lord Ganesha in her ringing voice....

For just a little while, the burden of their loneliness is lifted by the chatter of a child who hugs and talks to them like the grandchild they don't get to see....

Stoic minds in fragile bodies and yet, they enthusiastically shuffle to a yesteryear hit.....

It matters not to them what today's special occasion is. What does matter is that in the name of celebrating this day, volunteers from Youth For Seva have chosen to spend a few hours talking, laughing, singing and dancing with them.....

#Women's Day celebrations at Ashraya Seva Trust

As for me, I'm just happy I could be there to see the joy on their faces .....

Friday, 16 February 2018

Journey of a Girl to a Woman

A few days after my November blogathon, a WhatsApp message popped up from an unknown number. A lady introduced herself as Dheepak Narasimhan's cousin's wife and said that inspired by what he had written for my blog, she too wanted to share something. 

Intrigued, I asked her to send it across, and she promptly did so. It turned out to be an amazing account of, as she titled it herself, the journey of a girl to a woman. In today's times, when we find relationships heading for a split at the tiniest disagreement, it is worth pondering over and adopting what Gayathri Srivathsan spells out as her life lessons....

I was a very normal girl with lots of dreams and ambitions, from a pakka middle class family traditional in outlook but modern in their thoughts. Life started changing for me when I began working part time in the evening during my college days. I was a HR trainee in a hospital and those years helped me gain a lot of experience.

After college, I got an IT job and life was happier. I was supporting my parents and was doing well professionally too. But all this was short lived… one day, while returning home from work at midnight, my cab met with an accident and I got a spinal fracture. When I finally recovered, I couldn't sit for more than an hour and so, had to resign my job. I took a break and was checking higher studies options.

At this time, a matrimonial alliance came from a close family friend of almost two generations. My family was enthusiastic, but with a lot of hesitation, I said ok because a thousand questions were ringing in my mind, with the predominant one being, “I m only 21, if I get married now what about my ambitions, my career?”

We had a chat on Facebook before meeting each other. He says he was sure I would be his wife - maybe he had some strong intuitions. For me, he was good and nice and fit my category of being tall (silly, right?) but there was one other thing that made me love him. My husband was working in IT Industry in Chennai then and making a huge amount of money but later, cleared the bank exams and now we live in a village called Ariyakudi near Karaikudi and he earns very less, but he wanted to take care of his parents and not leave them alone ....

I made the move from Chennai to an agrahaaram where people are more conservative but also genuine and trustworthy. I began working as a teacher but had to leave the job when I got pregnant. That happiness was short lived and we lost the child and that was the biggest nightmare. Through all of this, my husband was my pillar of support along with both my families...Everytime I felt hurt by what people said, he helped me discriminate between good and bad, just like one teaches a child.

When I conceived again, I came to Chennai because the medical facilities in Ariyakudi were minimal. We were away from each other, and my pregnancy hormones were taking a toll on me. My mom-in-law was the very serious kind and so, talking to my husband for even a few minutes was a very tough job. Things started getting so bad and I was so frustrated that I even thought of separating from my husband.

That was when we sat down together and spoke and I understood that breaking a relationship was not a solution. We started to change ourselves in small ways. Since then, we are really a happy family. I live with my in-laws under the same roof. We fight, we have misunderstandings but we can't stay without each other. It's wonderful to be in a joint family.

My father in law is such a wonderful and the most affectionate person I have ever seen. He starts crying if I have pain. It’s been two years since my mom in law passed away and there’s this huge vacuum because she was truly another mother to me.

Athai (my father in law’s sister) who lives with us is one strong woman and I want to be as determined as her. She guides me about how to do things right.

My husband has been there always for me, and I’ll be there for him no matter what. Rithvik, my son, our bundle of joy and happiness, is teaching us to be more responsible and enjoy life.

Finally my mom, dad, sis and brother – whatever I am today is because of them. They are my rocks with their teachings and guidance.

To all couples who say, “We never have fights,” please understand that there is nothing wrong in a fight or having a misunderstanding provided you use it to understand the other person better . It's not a big deal to hold your hands while walking a path of roses but if you can survive a storm without letting go of each other, then your relationship is worth it.

Adjusting to something or someone doesn't really mean you are losing; instead, you’re gaining a lot of things. Marriage or a kid can never stop you from achieving things if you really have the determination and will power.

If we like a person, even the bad things they do look good to us. At the same time, when we don't like a person, even the genuine things they do sound wrong. Let us stop being judgmental and our lives will improve. Nobody is perfect. Look at people beyond their imperfections and just see how happy your life turns.

Seriously, my life turned upside down after I realized these truths.

Life is how you perceive – it is like a mirror. You show happiness and it gives you back the same and vice versa. So enjoy life and have fun!

Gayathri Srivathsan

Friday, 9 February 2018

Face your fear to overcome it

At the end of my November blogathon, I intended to continue sharing the stories of real-life heroes who had written to me about their life experiences. However, there were other things that took precedence and so, I had put this feature on hold.

Here’s one such story from my husband’s cousin Hema Venkatesh. Before I share what she wrote to me, a small glossary for those who don’t get Tamil

Manni : Sister-in-law…brother’s wife
Akka: Elder sister
Kannu: Term of say “dear” in English
Chithi: Aunt … in this case, father’s younger brother’s wife
Anna: Elder brother

Over to Hema....

Hello, Manni...

I am going to describe about a decision which changed my life. I studied in Tamil medium till my 12th standard. I and my twin sister Usha had decided to study, but my twin sister wanted to continue in Tamil medium. I was a little bit confused whether to change medium or not. If I changed, maybe my percentage would become low. After my 12th standard, I got a job because I took Secretarial group as my course in 12th standard.

A day before my 12th standard result, Geetha Akka, my cousin who lives in Bangalore, came to Salem and told me to take in English medium. She also told me, “No matter how much you score in your degree, you will get knowledge. And I am sure you will get marks, Kannu. If, for some reason, you don’t get this time, next time you will surely get.”

That became my inspiration and I took B.Com. English medium.

Geetha Akka also told me that when she was in 10th standard, my father had told her to take English medium. So, she was giving same advice now to me. I am proud to say my father became her inspiration and Geetha Akka became my inspiration....

And to the astonishment of all, I passed B.Com. in my first attempt itself with 78%. Some days later, Indrani Chithi and Suresh Anna came to Salem. That time Suresh Anna very proudly said to me, "Great, took English medium confidently and along with your job, you also passed ... Really great!" Geetha Akka had also accompanied them and she told me, “Superb Hema! You overcame your inferiority and scored very good marks.”

I was really happy that day. I considered this as my achievement and I was very glad that I had overcome my inferiority complex. From that day till now I have never felt low about myself. Thanks to Geetha Akka, I learned this important lesson that is still helping in my life.

Now, Hema is a dynamic, go-getter who dabbles in many things. She is a great networker, the admin of our family WhatsApp group (and around 7 other groups, too I believe), plays matchmaker for the young men and women of marriageable age in the family, is the life of any family get-together and also finds time to spend on creating beautiful Tanjore paintings and writing Tamil poetry and participating in her area temple activities regularly.

This story that she has shared reveals the secret behind her chutzpah.

If you understand the spirit in which she’s written this, you will realize that it’s not about the fact that she succeeded in English medium…rather, it’s the attitude of accepting advice, taking challenges head-on and persevering for long enough to win over her fears.

Even as I prepared to post this on the blog, I felt, yet again, a sense of immense gratitude, to have been parachuted (by marriage) into a family like this where the members stand by each other, with love and affection, always encouraging and helping each other …

Saturday, 3 February 2018

When age is more than a number....

I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve never done this before. Will I be able to say the right things? Will we be able to connect or wait in unspoken misery for the hour to be up?

15 elderly women in front of me. Curious? Impassive?

I begin tentatively, “Namaskaraa.” They chorus the same back. Good. I continue, telling them my name, and how I’ve come there through the organization called Youth for Seva. I ask them to tell me their names, and anything else they want to share.

They begin, saying their names. When I say, “What else,” they say, “Nothing.” Have I blown it, I wonder.

“Tell me your age and where you’re from,” I say.

Some of them do. Suddenly, I wonder if it will be hurtful asking them that question, and consult the warden. She’s surprisingly ambiguous, saying she doesn’t know….later, I realize the reason – she’s relatively new to them, too…

Next I ask about their daily routine. Some go for a walk, everyone does some little exercise, some read, some recite stotras, a lot of time is spent lying down because of weak backs that have given up after years of serving husbands and kids… unspoken sentiment hovers in the air, but I tiptoe around it because I don’t want to bring up hurt so early into the interaction.

At my urging, one lady sings. “Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam.” Then they say the warden sings well, and she obliges with a song on Lord Manjunatha. Someone reminisces and remembers it’s from a movie, and was sung by Pandhri Bai. They don’t make songs like them anymore, the women sigh. Another woman and her friend sing “Krishna nee beganey baaro…”

We talk of many things – how gadgets have made life easier for women today, how they struggled in their times with large joint families and having to do all housework manually, how they didn’t get much of an education, how it’s good that girls are getting more educated today, but also, getting more difficult to please and unwilling to adjust………..

On the verge of tears, one lady makes a comment about how they’re now just waiting for their time on earth to come to an end without causing trouble to anyone…..

Now they want me to sing. I sing a bhajan, and get them to repeat after me. They tell me it’s taught by their yoga teacher too, who hadn’t come today….one lady says it’s good they didn’t miss it.

One lady asks me questions about my family. Her neighbor tries to hush her up, but I say it’s ok…and satisfy her curiosity…

In the middle, we’re joined by a young girl who cooks for everyone, and a staff member who takes care of everyone’s needs. Their camaraderie is quite obvious.

The one hour I promised is almost up. I ask them what we should do for next time. They say, “You’re the one who knows more than us. You decide.” I say, “No…this time is for YOU, so tell me what YOU would like to do.”

Finally, we agree that each one of them will present something – jokes, or songs, or bhajans, or a story. The discussion veers to what story, and I ask oh-so-gently, if they would like to share their life story. NO!! comes the strong, almost unanimous response. We find that thinking back to it makes us hurt, they explain. We struggle to try not to think of it…so…NO!! Sounds fair to me….

To pull them away from that emotion, I talk of cooking, and how they must have done a lot of cooking. They nod happily. So I ask if next time, all of them would be willing to share their recipes for the dish they cooked best. YES!! They chorus…

Once again, we go over the ‘Homework’ they have to do. Then, all too soon, it’s time for me to say goodbye. With a promise to come again after 15 days, I turn to leave. The warden smiles at me and says, “Thank you so much, Madam. See, they’re so happy now…in this one hour, they’ve been engrossed in something outside of their routine and their pain…..”

I almost tell her I’ll come in a week itself, but sanity prevails….my time is not yet entirely my own…I have other commitments to fulfill, too….

As I walk to my home from Aashraya Old Age Home, I’m filled with a bitter-sweet emotion I can’t really describe…

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Kalinga Diaries – Part XI: The Last Leg

It’s the 31st of December. Our last day in Odisha. The last minute sightseeing is to the Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves which are close to where we’re staying. The two are on opposite sides of a road. When we arrive at the entrance, we notice there are steps to be climbed to the Khandagiri side, where there’s a temple looming in the distance. The Udayagiri side is more of a free walk zone, so we choose to go there first, paying the Rs.5/- per head entry fee.

Turns out to be the right decision, for the Udayagiri caves are about 2200 years old, and showcase the rock-cut shelters of Jain monks whereas the Khandagiri caves (where entry is free) is more of a cluster of human-built temples, with fewer natural caves.

Most of the cells have very little head space and are austere; but some of them have intricate carvings on the outer walls. 
Cave with 2 elephants at the entrance

Bagh Gumpha - tiger-face shaped 

No worries...I got this!

 We traipse around the place for about an hour or so. Of course, as my brother-in-law had mentioned, the caves are not an architectural marvel and pale in comparison to the grandeur of the Ajanta Ellora caves. But they serve to give a glimpse into the lives of Jain ascetics in those ages.

Because we’re short of time, we skip going up the Khandagiri side and instead, move to the Tribal museum that comes highly recommended.
Odia tribal art - looks very similar to Worli paintings of Maharashtra
Photography isn’t allowed inside the museum; so I have no pictures to show you the painstaking level of detail and effort that has gone to depict tribal lifestyles. Different tribes, their clothing, ornaments, musical instruments, weapons and art forms have been displayed in different rooms spaced around a central courtyard. In each of the rooms, there’s a touch-screen information system that gives an audiovisual experience of all that’s displayed in the room. The courtyard itself has replicas of the different deities worshipped by the different tribes.

Outside, there’s an area where replicas of the huts of these tribes have been created, complete with appliances, shrines etc to give a feel of how the tribals live.
Huts of one tribe
Huts of another tribe

We look around the souvenir shop and by now, hubby and son are ready to leave, but I’ve noticed there’s a board saying “Herbal Garden” and my professional instincts perk up…I want to take a look at what herbs they’re growing, so I walk to the garden alone. There sure are a lot of herbs, but unfortunately, there are no name boards or labels.

Somehow, despite all the planning, it’s still a rush at the end. To know the value of 5 minutes, you must sit in a restaurant that has quick service, drumming your fingers and gawking at every server who exits the kitchen door, to see if you can spot the thali you ordered because you thought that would arrive fastest.

After a quick drive through the light traffic on Bhubaneshwar’s streets, and handing over a small parting gift to A, who again almost sweeps the ground bowing goodbye to us, we walk into the airport to see that it’s been transformed. The sleepy place we saw when we arrived now resembles a bustling hub with hundreds of travellers. But there’s one thing that still reveals the small town-feel: many groups of people have thronged to see off their loved ones – a sight that is not so common now in bigger cities.

Even as I’m beginning to relax at the smooth departure, hubby provides the mandatory last minute panic – he’s forgotten to pick up his wallet and mobile from the tray at the security check…!!
Bidding goodbye to Kalinga Desha....

An uneventful flight to Chennai, and we land by 4.20 pm and because there’s a stopover of 5 hours, the plan is to visit Marina beach and Parthasarathy temple to round off the trip. This turns out to be the most adrenaline-filled part of the trip –

A small holdup in the airport, a dash to the Tirusulam station….

Rushing to “Beach” station by electric train only to find that to go to the actual beach, you need to get off at Central station ...2 or 3 stops before...

An auto driver who drops us off outside the Anna Memorial that’s away from the beach and running around saying “where’s the water?” like nomads in the desert ...

Rushing into what we later realize is a no entry area and a small run-in with Chennai police after doing this…then bluffing our way out thanks to the skills of hubby’s years in marketing ...

Walking 15 minutes in the sand to finally reach the water that’s so ferocious that no one’s venturing too far into it……

Saying a mental “sorry” to Lord Parthasarathy for not dropping in….

Crossing platforms not by the over-bridge but over the tracks…..

Finally, we’re at the airport, as usual, just in time. Just 45 minutes after taking off, we’re already landing at Bengaluru.

The drive home takes longer to complete than the flight from Chennai because of a long-drawn quarrel by the staff at the toll plaza and the fact that parts of the flyover have been blocked, apparently to prevent drunken youth from speeding on them in the “New Year” frenzy….

Sleep doesn’t come easy on half-filled stomachs; so I rustle up something at 11.45 pm and finally, even as youngsters go screaming around on their bikes, we fall into deep sleep, filled with a quiet joy, closing the pages on the Kalinga diaries.

A well-wisher had expressed her blessings a few days before, saying, “Next time, you plan a trip to Singapore.” I appreciate the sentiment and maybe God-willing I will go there, too. Left to myself, though, I’d rather spend the remaining travels discovering and experiencing all that this divine land we call Bharat Mata, has to offer.

Thanks to the merits from previous births, I’ve been born here in this janma….who knows where the next birth will be? While I’m here, let me try and gain as much saatvikata as possible from this punya bhumi…..

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Kalinga Diaries – Part X: Rocking our way to peace

En route to Chilka Lake, because it’s lunch time, S stops at a restaurant called ‘Narayani.’ Nice, saatvik tone to the name, no? We ask for what’s on the menu, and order the North Indian meal. Just a little after the order is taken, something registers….there’s a peculiar odor all around, and a cursory glance at adjacent tables tells us something.

S, who has gone to wash his hands, comes back, and one question to him confirms our suspicion – that this is a place that serves non-vegetarian food, too. We say we’re not comfortable eating here, inform the server, and leave, deciding to push lunch till we can find the right place.

We’re sorry that we’ve deprived S of his lunch. He brushes it off saying he wasn’t anyway likely to eat while we went hungry!

While on the topic of food and drivers, there’s another arrangement that local restaurants have. S has told us about it yesterday. When a taxi driver takes his customers to an eatery, the driver’s food comes as a complimentary gift – out of goodwill for having brought the customers there! Like the toll fee being lesser for a ‘local,’ I feel this too is a good example of the camaraderie of a supportive ecosystem.

Of course the system can work against you, too. Like when we stopped for lunch at Puri, there were 2 eateries next to each other. A guy standing guard outside one indicated our driver should park in front of his hotel, and S began to do so. When it looked like we were ignoring this guy’s sales pitch and heading towards the second place, he immediately indicated to S to remove the taxi from there and move on!

As we drive on, it strikes me that ever since we came to Odisha, I’m yet to see any defense-related buildings, unlike our visit to Delhi in 2015 where it seemed like we passed some or the other such entity very often. Almost as if in answer to my thought, we speed past a board pointing to a diversion in the road that leads to INS Chilka which is a sailor training unit of the Indian Navy.

We reach Chilka lake, and S comes along to help us get the tickets for the boat ride. There are several options of islands to visit, and places like the Sea Mouth (a channel that connects the lake to the Bay of Bengal) boast the sightings of dolphins. It’s already 2.45 pm, and S is probably worried that we shouldn’t choose a boat ride that takes us too far away.

We took a boat like this
After some discussion with the guy in the boating booth, S gets us tickets to go to the closest island called Kaalijai, after the temple of Maa Kaali located here. We’ll be able to see the migratory birds too, we’re told. A one-way ride to this place will itself take about 45 minutes.

It turns out that a trip takes off only when there are at least 8 to 10 people. Someone has booked 8 tickets, and we’re supposed to go with this group, but they’re nowhere to be seen. The boatmen around the booth fiddle with a mike and loudspeaker which I guess is to make an announcement, calling the passengers; but guess what? Right – the system is not working, so all we can do is wait.

Luckily, in about 5 minutes, the group (with gutkha-chewing men, brightly dressed women, an old lady and a few excited kids) troops in and our two boatmen are quite vocal expressing their displeasure at the delay.

We’re made to sit in such a way that the load gets balanced out…me, hubby and son get ringside views – we’re right at the front of the boat. Only flip side is the noise of the motor, but after a while, I kind of get used to it. I notice that they don’t give us any life jackets and for a moment, my mind drifts to what will happen if there’s a mishap…..a tiny voice from within pips up, “Isn't it the jacket of the Lord’s grace that you need….??”

There’s a little tension off and on during the ride because our co-passengers are not listening to the boatmen’s instructions about how to sit and the kids too are sometimes trying to lean over the boat edge. How selfish we are, I think…we want to have our way, not listening to these guys who are the experts here and who know the risks better than us and who will face a bigger backlash should there be an accident.

One of the boatmen sits right at the front tip; one tiny miscalculated move, and he’ll be inside the lake. The other guy stands at the left edge, one leg propped up at a 90-degree angle, providing support on his thigh to a rudder he’s holding, guiding the boat for the entire journey back and forth. Somehow, watching these hardy men toiling silently for what must be their fourth ride of the day in an endless saga of days, I feel embarrassed about my fears of not having a life jacket….

All in a day's work for this boatman 
Once we’ve left our bank in the distance, there’s no land showing on the horizon towards which we’re headed. Without any instruments to guide them, our boatmen cut expertly through the waters as we drink in the sights – the waves lapping against the sides of the boat, dangerously close….the graceful flight, the dipping and rising of the migratory birds that fly past and around our boat. 

Birds circling a nearby boat

One bird gets close to us

Finally, after what seems like an endless time but is about 45 minutes after we’ve left, we finally set foot on the island.

Literally, we set our naked feet on land because we’ve been told to leave our slippers back in the boat. Hubby surmises that this is the boatmen’s counting tool to ensure that all who came on their boat get back on for the return ride and no one gets left behind.

A little walk from the pier leads us to an area where the Kaalijai temple is located, surrounded by tightly packed stalls selling a wide variety of articles right from food to trinkets. We walk around, visit the temple, finally find something to fill our growling stomachs, watch the birds circling the island and almost too soon, our boatmen appear in the crowd, identifying their group out of the hundreds of tourists around, and tell us to head back to the boat, for our 30 minutes are up, and it’s time to go back.

And out there, in the middle of water all around, with no sign of land on any side, my phone suddenly rings. The signal that was occasionally patchy on solid land is surprisingly strong on water. It’s hubby’s assistant from back home, with a query about some elevator project, and we laugh about how the guy won’t leave him alone even on a holiday…no picking the call though, because the boat’s motor is making too much of a racket for anyone to be audible over the phone.

The sun sets as we’re halfway through. 

By the time we reach back, the moon has risen.

Moved by the obvious efforts of the boatmen to earn an honest living, hubby hands over a small tip to each of them, and they’re visibly happy.
After that long boat ride, I feel a rocking to-and-fro sensation even after getting back to firm land. But the moving sensation is of the body alone – that ride over the waters of Chilka lake seems to have cast a kind of calm over my mind.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Kalinga Diaries – Part IX: Longer Journeys

The driver has been asked to come by 7.30 am; but he turns up only an hour later. Then, another 40 minutes for breakfast at another Venus outlet, so it’s around 9.30 when we finally set out. On our driver S’s recommendation, we’ve experimented with one of the state’s unique sweets – no, not the rasgulla (over which Odisha fought with West Bengal for the GI tag and lost). This is another dish – it’s called Chenna Poda and is made out of fresh paneer and caramelized sugar. 
Forgot to take a photo while eating it. So this pic courtesy:
Sampling this, the taste and texture reminds me of a sweet I’ve eaten long, long ago in my mother’s native village. In our language – that’s a peculiar mix of Kannada, Tamil and sounds a wee bit like Tulu – the dish is called “Eenacchi”– and its prepared by using jaggery along with colostrum milk (the milk obtained from a cow that’s just given birth).

Getting back to our journey, today we’re headed to a few places located farther from Bhubaneshwar, and closer to Brahmapur (which was previously called Berhampur, because that’s how the Odia people pronounced it!).

I’m the unofficial tour organizer; so I’ve searched for information and found that there are 4 places of interest to us –

One, the Maa Taratarini temple which is a Shaktipeeth, located high on a hill, and accessible by a ropeway.

Two – a natural hot spring called Taptapaani, the waters of which are reputed to be having medicinal value

Three – Gopalpur beach 

Four – Chilka lake, which is famous as Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon, and it hosts a hundred odd species of migratory birds that arrive from Russia, Mongolia and the Himalayas.

First, we head for the Maa Taratarini temple. One interesting thing I notice – there is a toll to be paid at one point. The one-way fare is Rs. 70/- and two-way fare is Rs. 120/- but S mentions he’s a local, and so, we get charged only Rs. 40/- one way. S explains this is an internal arrangement; hubby says it’s possible because the payment is not yet automated/digitalized. I have mixed feelings – is it cheating the government, or is it a supportive measure designed to help taxi operators like S save on their meager incomes?
We pass through such green, isolated places en route 
 After driving for what seems like ages, we finally reach the point from where the ropeway goes up. There are steps to climb up the Kumari hill on which the temple is located. There’s a motorable road and one can drive up too, but we want to experience the ropeway – we’ve only done this once before at Haridwar, while going up to the Mansa Devi temple. 
The contraption that controls the ropeway
Note the two cable cars at the top left of the pic - they travel in opposite directions

It’s an exhilarating ride, with a lovely 360-degree view of the fields, the houses, the forest, and a river.
Beyond the green, note the blue line cutting horizontally across the centre of the pic - that's the Rushikulya river, which Google tells me, is considered to be the elder sister of the river Ganga.

My son’s commentary in colloquial Tamil, imitating his favourite comedian, pretending to be terrified by the ride, keeps us amused.

                                                                                      Hubby with S
S who seemed reluctant to come (out of fear of riding the ropeway, or heights, or both!) has accompanied us at our urging; now he’s sitting with us in the “Udankhatola” with a look that’s a mixture of mild apprehension turning into awe at the experience. He tells us he’s come here about 10 – 12 years ago when he was a kid, and there was no ropeway then.
One heart stopping moment when the two cable cars stop suddenly as they pass each other...maybe it's for some load balancing or something??
We reach up the hill, and get tickets to go into the temple that has an architectural beauty of its own.

Inside the shrine, there are two statues of stone, covered with ornaments and in between them, there are two heads made of brass that are placed – these are called the living image of the goddesses Tara and Tarini.

The temple is not so crowded although a steady stream of devotees is passing through. I can sense some kind of an undercurrent of energy, although it doesn’t hit very hard. S warns us not to give any money to the Pandas there; instead, he offers some into the pooja plate. It’s time for the afternoon worship and the temple will close, so we’re ushered out through a side gate.

As usual at most such powerful Devi temples, there’s a space where people have tied ribbons of red and yellow cloth, to signify some desire expressed to the deity, asking for their wish(es) to be fulfilled.

One lady bows down to pray and yes - that's one of the
vivid patterned dhotis that the Pandas wear
and I rued not having a picture of in an earlier post
If only there had to be some hooded vigilante like Vikram in the Tamil movie Kandhasamy to understand and execute those wishes, maybe our people would have been a happier lot! Or maybe it’s just that Naveen Patnaik has to win the next two or three elections to set systems in better shape? But knowing human nature, there’s always going to be something or the other that causes dissatisfaction; Devi Maas have Their work cut out for millennia to come!

By now it’s already 12.30 pm and S warns us it will take another two hours to get to Chilka lake; once we reach there, we’re to travel by boat to an island that’s home to a Kali temple, and also host to the migratory birds. The boat trip to and fro, and the time on the island will take close to another two hours. The boat trips stop around 3 pm or so; so we must hurry there. Which means the other two places – the beach, and the hot spring, must be struck off our list. And which leaves our teenager a little grumpy because the beach got left out. For a while, we try to work out other options but nothing else is feasible, so on to Chilka it is.

Now we realize that places that seemed close by when researched on Google, are actually hundreds of kilometers apart. It’s like if someone from Odisha had to come to see Karnataka, they couldn’t visit all of Bengaluru, Mysore, Hampi, Badami, Jog falls, Udupi, Belur & Halebid, Nagarahole and Coorg within 3 days, could they?