Well, I don’t speak Odissi!

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!

Odisha Images for Blog2-COLLAGE

(Pic credits: Google. From top Left to bottom right – Konark Sun Temple, Jagannath Temple, Puri, Fisherwoman at beach, Flamingoes at Chilka Lake, Evening at Puri Beach, Applique Work at Pipli)

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The sea side stories-from Alibaug to Puri through Bombay

The sea has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.” ~Robert Henri

My fixation for the sea goes a long way back, first owing to my innate summer memories travelling to our native beach town Puri, Odisha and second and more exuberant, to the first time absorbing in person the angst of this sea. The sight of high tides gorging towards me and the low tides receding slowly away. This tranquilizing effect struck at Kihim beach, Alibaug in 2007 and dented a feeling deep enough to linger on.

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First Sight at Kihim beach in 2006

The feeling regurgitated, once again. This time a few years later, at an upscale apartment at Nariman Point, Bombay with a sea-side view. Coming from Pune where you expect only greenery as balcony view, this visual my heart could not accept. Window to window, eight in all, all pointed to the roaring sea. Waves splashed against the compound wall of the apartment by the night just feets away from my first floor view. Wide eyed, my thoughts scrambled for space, “The residents of this side had a view like this for an entire lifetime, thrilling!” With the beginner’s memory of the tide waves at Kihim beach still crystal clear in mind and this photographic image of the white windows bordering around the sea, I confirmed my fascination for this blue glory.

For years I knew the sea as a gigantic beautiful thing. This pull of nature where I could go and wet my feet and wait to see the sand slither away from beneath my feet. Where beach time was about making sand castles and mischievously bury your kin’s shoes in sand. That’s what my memories from Puri tell me, and it was the exciting part of visiting it from Pune for most summer holidays. Also come aligned with those memories by default was my introduction to juicy sumptuous egg rolls priced then at a whopping Rs 12. It formed the highlight for a trip to the ‘sea beach’ (as fondly called in Puri). Sold at this ‘chhatta’ (read umbrella in Odiya) by this guy who I thought was the best multi-tasker frying 10 rolls and breaking 10 eggs all in the same time frame. I as a child gaped at this guy and eagerly waited for my turn to be handed my treat. Sadly, the place has perished now but memories stayed back.

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Dry Fish sellers en route Murud beach

 

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Now these are footprints of the bird that flew away on seeing humans coming

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Hooves- signs that yes I did take a horse ride 🙂

From meek thoughts about loving the sea for its roaring waves age did twist my perspective to keep up with time, here comes philosophy! Watching the waves today is as if they are whispering to you. Telling you things that that opens your mind and lays bare all the emotions inside. Smile, laugh or go still. From riding kilometers once looking for the end of the sea to gazing today towards the horizon where the sky meets the sea and wondering where does it all begin.

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Picture Perfect view at Murud beach

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Bats in hundreds decorating the afternoon sky. In the daytime? Found it weird

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Geese loving the bucket of water placed in front of them

But why am I being nostalgic today? For here I was once again, watching the high tides and low at Murud beach near Alibaug with the same excite. Sitting in a resort by a pristine private beach like none other. With the geese for company chattering in the gardens, with bats hanging in numbers on tree- top and a green canvass all around, the picture felt complete with a horse ride along these shores.

Now with such an apt setting could I blame my thoughts for triggering my mind?

Seas Side Stories Blog Collage