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!

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(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)

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

 

My white escapade to Jammu

Disclaimer:  My excitement expressed will be a tad overwhelming for a seasoned traveller! This three minute read is best approached with a naïve mind 🙂

If you have been a witness to the magnificence of Kashmir, then Jammu’s splendour will come as a tiny speck. But if you are home to one of the urban, concrete cities of India and gasp at the sight of stunning snowcapped Himalayas, gigantic conifer trees and mountains everywhere, then Jammu is beauty in galore. Yes, I was in India’s disputed border state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) for a trip that couldn’t get shorter. I warn you of making the most here. It’s a visual delight!

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Snowcapped Himalayas glistening white enroute Srinagar

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You know you are in the most combative states of India, J&K where the Army is omnipresent. They try not to miss a frame with you till the very end. Normally, on the streets, seeing uniformed men atop a few houses with guns and prying eyes would call for raised eyebrows, but here it ensures a condescending ring of safety, a way of life.

“Fulka khaane jaa raha hun, aap ke naam ka kha lunga, ye dus rupaye ka amrut kharid lo”. Talk about being witty in sales! As I paved my way into the city, I find such conversations around me come alive. The sheer grace with which they talk defines the essence of the people here. Uff, I was smitten! You are bound to revel in the purity of this language, Hindi and drift away from the uber English speaking urban youth that we have become. Infused with the Kashmiri dialect, this Hindi refuses to be associated with any of the UP-Bihari or Delhiwalla Hindi. No matter how polished your language is, the politeness with which they talk makes you feel embarrassed even to bargain with the vendor, lest you lower your speaking standards.  

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Watch carefully and one can discern beauty openly roaming the streets here;  at times in nature but most times in the gorgeous people. There was a rhyme in kindergarten that spoke daintily about ‘Chubby Cheeks, rosy lips and blue eyes’, and here I subconsciously & amusingly found the rhyme come alive. Dressed in traditional Dogri kurta and suthan, men and women demand a second glance. Oh yes, they age too with beauty intact 🙂 

Let me not forget the food! Beware, gorging on rajma chawal, chole bhatura, alu paranthas only, can make one forget their hard core non veggie side for a while! Alas, this is all the variety I had in food on this trip.

A trip to Jammu is incomplete without a visit (my first) to Vaishno Devi. This place truly has a power of its own. The sanctity & calm felt here can engulf even a non-believer of the Supreme Being. The moment after paying a visit to the shrine, sitting beside a cave at an altitude of 5,200 ft with a chill breeze blowing, the cold marble flooring beneath making your feet numb, the touch of water sending a chill within you; your mind transgresses to a different level of thought. The background fades into animation and you can’t escape the peace that envelops you. Is it the winter month doing the trick or sheer power of the shrine? Another 2 km up and the view of Bhairon Nath temple at an altitude of 6619 ft is mesmerizing. It’s heavenly as a blanket of clouds appears below you.  It’s celestial  as if nothing else can look more hypnotizing! Advices, if you are hale and hearty walk the 16 km up and back the visit.

 

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View from Bhairon Nath temple at an altitude of 6619 ft

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Vaishno devi resides in a Holy cave in the folds of the three-peaked mountain named Trikuta

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Feeling gleeful amongst these colourful mules

Kashmir & Jammu – never the same thing. Oh yes, comes from my own experience of tagging everyone coming from this state as, “You belong to Kashmir?” “No, I am from Jammu”.  “Isn’t that the same thing? And a politely stern reply as no! For as my Uncle, a retired Army officer, recollects his Jammu postings with gleaming eyes, “The moment you cross over the Jawahar tunnel in the Pir Panjal Range, the entire map changes- the religion, the soil, the climate, the people, and the mood”. You enter the valley of Kashmir and this is where paradise resides. This is where beauty and bloodshed are spoken of in the same breath.

Till another time I chance upon visit Kashmir, they say the better half of J&K, I satiate myself with the endless snowcapped Himalayas I see at Srinagar, white and surreal.

White escapade to Jammu_02Feb2016

 

 

My Bombay Diaries – Saga 2

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If you plan to visit the nooks and corners of Bombay and not the usual hangouts, then choose your company well. Good company as in who are ready to hop on to an auto or catch a local train for any distance at any odd hour and travel across the hot sun. For the luxury of a cab lets you to enjoy err only the traffic.

Wait, don’t miss this fun part!

Speaking of company takes me back to my travel time company from Pune where we shared a cab with two loud blonde girls. Blonde, you know what I mean.  For the first time I met price-tag talking individuals just like Kareena’s fiance in 3 Idiots. Gosh, such blondes exist!  I knew their entire life doings in the short span, but of course only those involving a price tag. I knew one’s bf gifted her an iPhone6, her entire family changed phones to match up, the exact monies the other spent on her birthday treat (a whopping 11k), the exact quantity of drinks that had knocked her down to this and much more. All this live action in 3 hours sure had me by the stomach. Who talks this way! The icing came after they got off and the cabwala when we were thanking him at the end mockingly told us, “Tum log acche the, who dono toh pakaa rahe the”! S and I were rolling with laughter thereafter.

Coming back to my Day 2 of visit!

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Thebroma English breakfast- Avoid the closed plate click:P

It started on a high calorie note, sans any regrets! 😛 A Theobroma English breakfast. Theobroma, Powai I knew had the best brownies, before I had a sumptuous taste into this too. It’s the perfect Sunday breakfast recommended to all (see pic below). They have a variety of cakes and is packed on most days. What also got my attention was their nicely written Menu card that invited you to try their delicacies. Inviting enough that I couldn’t stop googling who their brand agency was!

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Tea-sets and beautiful brass crockery

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Mumtaz adorned the walls of some fan perhaps:)

Stomachs sorted, we were next looking for furniture shopping and headed to Jogeshwari. Now Pune has some good places but Bombay I discover is known for its antique furniture market- the Oshiwara market at Jogeswari being one of them. That was our next stop shop.

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These show-pieces ranged across centuries and was fabulous to be seeing them in real

I came across rows of second hand best of quality wooden furniture. This furniture is usually sourced from old Mumbai mansions, h avelis or palaces. What surprised me was to see some amazing antique shops that housed artifacts like picturesque paintings, brass & bronze crockery, pendulum clocks, colourful lamp-shades and much more. Curiosity to ask the owner let me know that some dated as old as 15th century and could be priced to almost up to a lac! I ain’t any collector but was already mesmerized by its presence.

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Lights and chandeliers

Morning came to an end and the evening was savoured for the best, a play at NCPA, Nariman Point. Theatre scene in Mumbai is huge. You will find a variety of theater artists including quite many side actors from movies portraying some fine acting in these plays some running full house till date.

NCPA Experimental theatre (Pic Courtesy - website)

NCPA Experimental theatre (Pic Courtesy – website)

I discovered my love for theatre after seeing my first one called Hamlet (a funny adaptation of Shakepeares play) at Prithvi theatre, Mumbai. Prithvi café inside, I have heard is famous and an adda for artists discussing art over a cuppa coffee. This NCPA play at the experimental theatre was ok and featured the Nescafe ad guy who stammers. (P.S-These actors are real short in real-life) But NCPA has amazing cold coffee and sandwiches. Don’t miss that. If art & architecture enamor you, then this place creates that aura and will have you looking around its British architecture and admiring its maganmity.

Mumbai trip is incomplete without a trip to Causeway at Colaba and a stroll near Gateway of India. Go past Bade-Miyan that is crowded as ever and walk over for some lip-smacking chicken rolls outside Gokuls a shadier but jam-packed hangout of Toons in Mumbai. That was my last and final pit-stop.

Till the next time, I had a last look at the enticing sea waters at the Gateway of India that have this magical power to enchant you saying come visit me once more will you!

My Bombay Diaries- Saga 1

Bombay Trip Jan 2015

Bombay is the beat that never loses its rhythm, resonating through memories, creating a vibe of its own.

Here I was visiting Bombay once again, the Maximum City that never fails to enthrall me. Yes, Bombay is what I choose to call it basking in the old city charm, than calling it Mumbai and bringing along a detached feeling by and large. Perhaps I love this city so much for I visit & explore it once in months not having to feel the struggle for life here. Perhaps those who really struggle their way up here feel that there would be no other city that embraces you with wider arms. I choose to be convinced with the latter.

A weekend getaway so perfect that my chaste mention of wanting to see the real Bombay stood more than fulfilled in the time spent cavorting here. This time around it was a mix of monuments, theater & food of course. Considering the far stretched areas in Bombay & with 4 destinations decided, the city was canvassed one place at a time.

Day 1

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Bandra Sea Link view from Bandra Fort

Bandra Fort is one of the picturesque locales here with a breath-taking view of the sea, not to forget the Bandra Sea link anchored grandly amidst the sea. For all the Bollywood fans including me the song ‘Kabhi Kabhi Aditi’ has been shot here. Flanked by a garden on one side and close to Taj Lands Hotel on the other this place has quite a many visitors. As a first time sightseer, I couldn’t stop being hilariously amazed at the nonchalant, indiscreet love sagas unfolding behind every rock. Ignore as you may but your view is sure to be pricked by these boundless love bubbles. Nonetheless this place still is one my trip highlights for my unabashed love for the sea. Walking ahead you will stroll upon Band Stand, a Portuguese style fort and a popular hangout. Don’t be surprised if you spot an actor in the early morning jogging hours. As you walk ahead you will see majestic gates in front of most houses here signifying the presence of a certain hot shot. Bandra is known to be home to famous celebrities like SRK, Salman and I did see a Mercedes brisk past us from SRK’s bungalow Mannat. As you walk on, there is a feeling of vintage to this place depicting this places’ 200 year old history. The area around is like a scene from an old era with the old-fashioned feel seen in the traditional houses, architecture and charm. You will see a variety of people, amongst whom I see a young couple posing away charmingly for an on-going photo shoot, maybe for some magazine works perhaps.

Mount Marcy Church view inside

Mount Mary Church view inside

And we as we walked on, there at the next turning stood Mount Mary Church– Mumbai’s best known basilica and one of the most beautiful churches I have visited. What attracted me to this even more were the colorful candles that adorned the stalls there. As I go closer to buy them my eyes catch a variety of figures shaped into candles and sold. Now that is something interesting. Mount Mary Church I find out is known for granting wishes and people come here and offer these figures to fulfill their wishes. Alas, if I knew it then I would have a few wishes fulfilled too:). I give the candles and capture photographs of the majestic interiors. Having visited temples I am used to being told to put cameras away. So here the moment an in-charge saw me I ducked to put to my camera inside while he remarkably asked me to continue clicking. Such are our contrasting traditions in India. Aah not to forget, I see the young couple photo shoot couple here again, this time realizing they are doing a pre-nupitals photo shoot. Just then a woman tells them to leave as they aren’t allowed to do it here. I smile and think yes church or temple, traditional mentality is still intact.

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Mount Mary Church view from outside

Our next stop was Hill Road, a shopping place that you can’t miss if you are in Mumbai. Clothes, bags, shoes, accessories, name any find all. This place makes girls happy and their purses go empty. I also come across a crockery seller right on the footpath. S mentions that many of her crockery is from this guy. I am amazed. I stoop down to look at his range of cutlery but get over my temptation to buy since it’s a territory best left for mums to choose.

My evening was spent in a popular hangout place at Versova. Crazy as it may sound I was expecting to bump into a few small time actors here from what I’ve heard. As much my company was rolling their eyes at the idea, I was positive. Amusingly my positivity could attract only two stars long done and gone. Anyways a nice and cozy place with drinks and food gave Day 1 a perfect end.

Hold your attention, my second blog continues my excavates on Day 2 left from here…..Look out for the next one coming up soon!