Read again, Odissi. Yes, I hope one gets the point I wish to make. After several encounters in the past and a recent one that triggered this emotion again I thought let me clear this air with Odissi, Odiya and Odisha. Complicated? …..nah not really.
Just like any other individual, I have always been asked during social interactions about my hometown. Being from a lesser known state and living in Pune, I did have a standard answer, “I am from Puri, Orissa (Read Odisha now)”…“Orissa? You know besides West Bengal”, I quickly add. What was interesting to hear were the conversations afterward ranging from asking its exact location, to its similarities to Bengal but the most unforgiving & amusing one saying, “You speak your mother tongues, Odissi then?” Now, that till date never digests in.
I don’t speak Odissi! It’s the dance of my state. I don’t speak Bengali, it is similar but belongs to the state beside me. It may sound alike but they are not the same! The language I speak is Odiya and well no, my state is not always associated with a cyclone, we have an own identity. Period.
Who am I? Practically a non-resident Odiya, brought up in Pune since childhood and calling it home now for twenty something years. To read and write Odiya has not been my forte nor do I even consider myself well versed with the culture. However, when people associate your hometown where your strong roots lie with half-baked facts in full confidence, it irks and charges you up.
Situated in East India along the Bay of Bengal, there is a lot more to Odisha than that meets the eye. So say my fond memories. Limited to the long, lazy summer holidays but those that I always looked forward to.
From reaching my ancestral home in cycle rickshaws crossing the tiny vibrant lanes with decorated verandahs with chita (read rangoli) to making the first visit of the trip to the Jagannath temple just walking distance from our house. My memories with Odisha drive to that place called Pipli where we stopped by to pick beautiful handicrafts or applique work that its known for and getting its recognition finally in most exhibit stores I see today and alike. My memories extend to my visits to the magnificent Konark Sun temple and deep inside the Chilka Lake, that’s home to several migratory birds and dolphins. Yes, magnificeint Dolphins! Let me slip in the lip smacking food as well be it simple vegetarian like chaats, pani-puris, singadas (read samsosa) or sea food picks such as fried lobsters, prawns from my village lake or fish. Yet, Odisha over the years to me will be synonymous for none other than the beaches, along the shoreline of Puri in particular. Where these empty pristine beaches close to my granny’s house felt were entirely for me. Where I could laze with crabs for company scurrying into their tiny holes in sand. Where I saw the fishermen community scan through their daily catch.
Meanwhile at other times, days here felt just like a day out of kid’s story from one the many timeless Tinkle short stories I have been influenced by during childhood. From spending time at both my set of grandparents taking turns at each’s house to frolicking with cousins and extended family assembled for the summer days. When the only thing on mind was to listen to bed time stories besides my grandfathers, accompany them to market on Grand Trunk road Puri, eat delicious food prepared at home or absolutely laze around keeping track of only stories to complete. These memories more than as expressed are a life’s treasure.
Far away from this place it’s interesting how attached you feel to a place home, but away from home. My connection to this place, its culture, the language has been kept well alive back here. Modern as much as I am and calling Pune my first home always, Odisha attracts me to the unharnessed potential it holds. The people, its simplicity quite similar to here. A state that is growing at large ready to unfurl. However wherever life takes me, if I do get questioned with half-baked facts, I will yet again have a witty reply for sure!