Journey called life

Living in Kashmir

Dear readers,

I am feeling nervous. May be  goosebumps have decorated my frontal visage. Actually , I do not remember when I wrote a blog last time. Archives on this website tells me that it was way back on 24th May 2014. So, writing after nearly 11 months is a herculean task.

The reason is that my  bread & butter is not sponsored by this activity. May be, I need to change the direction of my life and follow the CB example. CB, the writer, philosopher , movie-maker and a banker who resigned from banking and now lectures people/politicians to behave properly. English fiction/non-fiction writing is a hot profession these days. But, in CB’s case, low-priced books by publisher was a master-stroke. Purchasing books at Rs. 70 is a nice experience. Otherwise older writers used to sell books at a premium price of not below Rs. 500. So, very few copies were sold and concept of blockbuster was alien for Indian book industry. CB regularly sells few million copies. Though, quality of writing is pretty bad  but emotions remain pretty strong in his stories somewhat similar to early 90s movies of Mithun da and Govinda.

I  feel that Ved Prakash Sharma was far better writer.Young men/boys who have grown up in Government Hindi Medium schools in Bihar/UP/Delhi/Haryana must have heard his name   But, he wrote in Hindi and his books were printed on cheap paper. That’s why we call them “Lugdi Sahitya”. CB is master story-teller who packaged  “Lugdi Sahitya” in designer cover and has become a ne0-millionaire.

But, my reason of writing now is a little bit different. I am sitting idly in front of my 08-year old laptop and has no work to do. So, why not write some musings for future generations. I believe in  wise words of Benjamin Franklin ” If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” So, here I believe in my potential and writing something for a benign reader.

You must be thinking that if title talks about Kashmir then where is it till now ?

Since, last few months I am living in Kashmir. In bygone era, Kashmir was basically a huge  lake – an island sea DSC07085 called Kashyap Sar surrounded by lofty mountain peaks. Now Kas means channels and Mir denotes mountains. So, we get plenty of water in Kashmir. I drink fresh spring water.

Above-mentioned paragraph is incomplete. I am just testing the waters again to verify the fact that my readers have not forgotten me. They still believe in my writing acumen. So, this was just a glimpse of my  musings on Kashmir. My bird like story is yet to grow its wings. But, I promise to write about Kashmir. This region is virtual minefield of untold stories. I will pick one gem and show it to you.

Till the time is appropriate. Bye for now.

My tryst with King Cobra …..


Snakes have always fascinated me since my childhood days in mid-90s……they are a fascinating creature whose slithering movement sends a chill down the spine of most brave-heart man or woman.Even while watching snakes on Discovery Channel can be quite a daunting task for some people.Imagine watching snakes on TV and realizing that one of their brethren is slithering in your bedroom can be a horrifying experience.

So, Yesterday a naughty Common Cobra visited my home ….It was planning to have a dinner time chat with me in my kitchen garden. But, actually a desi dog played spoilsport.It discovered it slithering near some trees on water-soaked soil in my backyard. Kalu is  a one year old pet dog guarding my home within a defined boundary wall during my absence round-the-clock. He hasn’t asked for any benefits or salary from me till date…….he gets his yearly dose of injections  and lives happily with me …eating my leftover food and barks on my command.

DSC00635I live in a leafy neighbourhood  called Simhadri and summer seasons bring various species of  snakes/frogs/insects near my home. Till date, Kalu has killed 03-04 frogs and now all species of frogs are terrified by him and gone to other houses leaving the fertile soil of my kitchen garden.

But, before talking about this Cobra, it is my duty to enhance your knowledge about Indian snakes in general as there are various superstitions floating around in our society.

There are more than 270 species of snakes found in India and only a few of them are venomous enough to cause harm to Indians. We can classify the snakes as venomous (can cause probable death to a human being if bitten) mildly venomous (their venom is potent only to kill small prey animals) and non – venomous (they don’t have any venom or even venom glands).The Common Rat snake or Dhaman is most abundant snake found in India which is non-venomous.

There are four common venomous snakes found in India. They are Common Cobra, Common Krait,Russel’s Viper and Saw scaled Viper. If bitten by these snakes, immediate medical help and doses of anti-venoms is required or else your soul is supposed to leave this planet within minutes. These are collectively called Big Four and they are spread all around the country from Bhuj  to Kanyakumari.

But the problem is correctly identifying this slithering demon as they don’t carry name tags with them. So, whenever I see a snake, 02 F’s come to my mind , Fear and Flight….3rd F i.e. Fight is out of the question.

So, coming back to incident.

Around 1830 hrs. yesterday, Kalu started barking on a walking rope which turned out to be King Cobra.

Cobra means snake with hood. It is a Portuguese word.When disturbed, most of these snakes rear up and spread their necks (or hoods) in a characteristic threat display, making them a favorite of  Naagin movies in Indian Cinema because of the dramatic effect.

We realized this fact when Mr. Cobra felt threatened by unnecessary barking of a small dog and decided to teach him a lesson by hissing and showing his long  tongue to Kalu. But kalu knew his own limitations as well as that of Mr. Cobra.He kept  barking continuously and drummed the earth with his 02 front legs.He cornered Mr. Cobra near the wall and didn’t allowed to move from that stretched hooded position for  nearly 45 minutes.Fortunately, this particular snake didn’t knew the technique of spitting venom long distances otherwise  my beloved Kalu would have certainly received some poison from this angry snake. As, I realized from the facial expression of Mr. Cobra that he was pissed off on Kalu.

This dog is certainly braver than me as I was way behind my dog. But, both of them realized that there is no benefit in hand-to-hand fight  and so remained grounded to their position.Mr. Cobra was more pissed off because Kalu was much junior to him in age just a small dog basically a 01-year old puppy, whereas Mr. Cobra must be living in Andhra Pradesh since last 5-10 years. I say so because normally Cobras live up to 20 years and his length was around 6 ft. So, may be he was in middle age or mid-40s when compared to humans as normally  length of cobras go up to 8-10 ft.

May be this was the primary reason for the anger and fury of Mr. Cobra. This was terrifying to me as watching the act of hissing live Cobra is far more dangerous than watching it on idiot box.

Then, some of my friends brought a  Carbon-dioxide filled fire extinguisher along with large sticks to kill Mr. Cobra.

I was happy to see some well-wishers as watching hissing Cobra for 45 minutes without advertisement break had sapped my morale.It was also torturing for  Kalu as he looked to me for helping defuse the tense situation.He was also thinking on lines of junior/senior concept in animal kingdom.

But, I realized the futility of killing this beautiful and magnificent creature.It had not entered my drawing-room.It was may be just passing through bushes/leaves in my kitchen garden still thinking that this jungle area was his home. May be, he was right, Simhadri was a jungle when this bungalow was constructed on this land. This land was the ancestral property  of Mr. Cobra since generations,whereas this home was built just 10-15 years back. I have no idea about evolution of snakes or humans but guess that snakes must have evolved before the birth of Adam & Eve as snakes were roaming in their garden.

So, why kill it ? Why not let it slither away to nearby jungle.Fortunately there were no children/ladies in my house as I am living the life of a forced bachelor nowadays.So, even if he comes to my drawing room in future, me & Kalu can deal with it.Kalu nodded his head and gave his barking assent to my decent proposal.

So, ignoring the plea of neighbours ,I decided to give him a free passage. I controlled Kalu which was the only option as being my pet he was indebted to me which Mr. Cobra was not. My friends made the noise and Mr. Cobra went out slithering carefully and a dignified manner  through a hole in my boundary wall.

But, he entered into a drain in front of my Gate and decided to take rest after exhausting his energy in stretching  such a wide hood for 45 minutes.

This was dangerous as it can pose a threat to passersby and neighbours. I telephoned a world-record holder snake catcher Mr. Kiran from Gajuwaka, Visakhapatnam. Gentleman arrived on the scene in 30-minutes and started probing the drain using bamboo stick but failed to get a response from Mr. Cobra.

We tried to smoke him out but no response. We used phenyl-mixed water to drain him out but failed.We used streams of Carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher but no response. Mr. Cobra seemed to enjoy our collective anxiety and may be was smiling with his open mouth.

This continued for nearly 02 hours as Mr. Cobra must be sleeping in a hole inside drain.Now, I was thinking  that may be Mr. Cobra made fool of us and slithered away to a safe location. But, one of my neighbours suggested  that water must be pumped in drain so that Mr. Cobra get a bath as well as comes out.

A water tanker was summoned and sharp jets of water were pumped in the drain.

Mr. Kiran waited on other side and bingo here comes the slightly grey/black beauty simmering brightly in torch-light,swimming in streams of white water.Watching a snake swimming in clear water is an ethereal experience.They just glide in butterfly or breast-stroke required.

DSC00632Mr. Kiran captured him by tail first and gave few strokes of massage on Mr. Cobra’s head by using a stick.He rotated it quickly in a clockwise manner using his hand.Now, the brain of Mr. Cobra was feeling like he was on a roller-coaster ride and his resistance was gone.Mr. Kiran pressed his mouth/head and gave us opportunity to touch his soft skin and a lengthy photo-session followed.We took this opportunity to irritate Mr. Cobra as we knew that his powers were in control mode  and so  took the risk of messing with a King Cobra.But, Kalu was still apprehensive.

Mr. Cobra was safely stored in a cloth bag and taken to his resting place in Vizag Zoo.DSC00638

Kalu started barking happily.He sniffed out the whole surroundings and made sure that no other reptiles were roaming in his territory. He was celebrating  the combined success of dogs and humans.In fact, his level of happiness was more than mine. I realized that even dogs are happier than we humans.

That’s it for today

A commentary upon Election 2014 by a Mango Man

I am a happy soul these days……..feeling eternal bliss after eating delicious Alphonso mangoes.

I will share a secret with you…even after spending 33 years in Aryavarta, I had not tasted the great Alphonso …the primary reason was that our farmers with generous help from politicians used to dispatch 25,000 tonnes of top-quality mangoes to European Union countries as well as Gulf countries. So, the prices of remaining 2nd-quality Alphonsos were always in the range of Rs. 180-300 per Kg. in markets of metropolitan cities of India.

This is even true of our own ubiquitous Tea also as most of us drink third-quality cheap Tea dust while delicious Tea leaves are exported for earning precious US dollars.

Coming to mango again…

Though, I could have afforded to eat some slices of costly Alphonso being a salaried employee but my strictly desi middle-class upbringing prevented such extravagance. I will eat local Begumpalli/Maldah at an affordable rate of Rs. 30 – 40 per Kg.

I am not against farmers earning decent money for their produce but why keep the king of fruits out of reach for 80 % of our countrymen.

So, now I thank some fruit flies/insects who had infested the great Alphonso and European Union/ Angrezs banned it from importing to their sensitive country.

Now, the rate of Alphonso has come down to Rs. 70-110 in Madurai and I am loving it.


But, I planned to write a political blog by by mango man…so the mango story is the perfect beginning.

Since last nearly 03 months, when Model Code of Conduct has come into effect, the bureaucrats have started working sincerely in our country.Even Trains are running on time. I hope that this continues even after installation of new government in Delhi so that we have a permanent Class Monitor to watch over errant and crooked politicians of all hues.

I am sick of the propaganda unleashed by the Congress, BJP and AAP on the social media domain. Only these 03 parties are occupying nearly 95% of information media coverage.

What has happened to a country of 125 crores and counting , having more than 300 recognised parties ?

There is no space for independent thoughts on Internet as trollers/abusers are roaming freely on social media platforms. I was horrified by the news that a local level leader of a National Party…..I am not sure whether it was congress or BJP………had threatened a girl on Twitter for her free opinion….the gentleman had famously said “I know where you live Ruby”……….

To top it all…nothing happened to that rude chap for threatening a girl about consequences of expressing her opinion because he belonged to a powerful Political Party………while our Police is very fond of arresting mango men for slight deviance/outspokenness on the Internet.

Has our country become a Banana Republic on the lines of rogue North Korea where ideological opponents of ruling Gentleman called Kim Jong I…II…III etc. are fed to wild dogs.

Last time I checked we were still a democracy few minutes back , in middle of the greatest festival of democracy. But, the festivities are missing during General Parliamentary Election 2014.

This time all top guns and minions of Congress, BJP,AAP,Samajwadi Party, TMC,BSP,RJD,JD(U) ,Shiv Sena and its sibling MNS, Akali Dal,NCP,NC,DMK/AIDMK are firing blank rounds mixed with choicest expletives at each other. I am happy for my communist brothers as they are not part of this bandwagon.

It is like the Gali season in Benaras during Holi, but our conscience was clear during those days. In Benaras, you learn to abuse anyone without having malice in your heart. May be, these politicians need to undergo a crash course in Galishashtra while living in Acharya Narendra Dev Hostel of Benaras Hindu University. Abusing inmates of Rajaram Hostel, Birla Hostel as well as girls of Gangotri Hostel was sheer fun. I still remember the shrill voice of  my beloved Budhau who used to aesthetically abuse other hostellers during long hours of study in night.

In fact most of night owls of BHU were excellent Galli Masters who become very cordial with their seniors during day time. It was unadultered fun.

But, these politicians are really sick people who are using below the belt punches in such a derogatory manner.

Some people are threatening to cut others into pieces, others are sending opponents to Pakistan……….

what the ***k is happening?

Why these buggers are forgetting that mango man like me is more concerned with prices of mango in local market…. Education and job for youths are more important than taking revenge on the catastrophic events of 1947.Image

Good roads having a silky surface in my neighbourhood matters to me more than in knowing that a 67-year old or should I say young is having extra-marital affairs with a young and pretty journalist in Lutyens corridors of Indraprastha.

How does it concern a mango man ?

Why will I bother about a politician not recognising his legitimate wife for a considerable period of time, if the lady in question is comfortable in remaining so.

Yes, these are juicy gossips and bring a smile to my mango-smeared face but why the heck have they become the most happening topic of election debate.

I am more concerned about public money being looted by politician/bureaucrats and businessman nexus.

But, I am perplexed to know that Aditya Birla Group has donated 36 crores to Congress and 26 Crores to BJP at the same time……so whoever comes to power will help them in enriching their coffers. What an ideal distribution of money.

All big business houses are doing the same that is why Rahul or Modi jee are flying Business Jets and filling the tanks with costly Aviation Turbine Fuel while me as a mango man thinks 2 times about filling the petrol tanks of my Swift Dzire even for travelling to nearby multiplex.

They are talking one-way to gullible public at KanyaKumari in morning having lunch in Bhopal and dinner with Bodo tribes in Assam. All in a day’s work.

Even the convicted Lalu Yadav travels 8 hrs. a day in Helicopter.

The moot question is,who is footing the bill ?

Can any politician in this election will promise me that the income tax which I pay from my hard-earned money will not be looted by these jokers ?

I work 12 months a year and get paid for 11 months only as 01 month salary is reserved for Income Tax.

Who is responsible for this money ?

There are questions and more questions. They will remain so till the day I decide to become a politician.

Mango man Kejriwal tried to do this but he is having a horrid time in the field.I remember the immortal lines of an incorigible and volputous Bihari actress

“ Thappad se dar nahi lagta Saheb……..pyar se lagta hai “

I felt happy when a mango man in Hyderabad asked Superstar politician Chiranjeevi not to jump queue and fall in line. Sensing the presence of Canon SLR cameras in Election booth courtsey our ever-present TV cameraman…….the Gentleman Chiranjeevi became a part of disciplined line while everyone present cheered for the brave and young mango man.

I became happy and cheered for this fellow mango man.

But, I sincerely wish that this election season gets over sooner as I have to unfriend some of my Facebook friends due to their illogical wit.

This includes Modified friends, Rahul admirers,Manmohan brand dual politics and Kejriwal crusaders.

Though, I personally like some traits of politicians of these colours.

I like the Manmohan brand of silence which is far better than 56-inch chest people.

Basically I am like Panchali in this regard…….when God asked her that ‘ what type of husband she would like to have’…..she talked of 05 qualities which were not possible in one man so God gave 05 husbands to her.

May be we need a Panchali Prime Minister who is

i.            honest,

ii.            decisive,

iii.            wonderful orator,

iv.            popular, as well as

v.            commanding respect of fellow citizens of AryavartaImage

So, my dear readers, I suggest you vote for a Panchali Prime Minister having these 05 qualities enumerated by me.We need to perform some kind of divine Hawan/Yagya to get such a Gentleman.

To end today’s musing I will tell you a crass joke in the language of politicians whom I have criticized in my blog….

Someone said to Manmohan jee that Chinese people have entered 10 Kms. inside our territory.

The ever smiling Manmohan Jee said,

“I was not bothered when Italian people entered 10 Janapath why should I bother about 10 Km. territory intrusion “

You feel it was in a bad taste……..I am happy…I just wanted to have fun at the expanse of others.

This is my blog. It is either my way or Highway.

Bye for now.

Enjoy reading.

Godavari to Kosi Part – VI

Dear readers,

It is a fine Sunday morning in Vizag.Weather is sunny and there is soothingly pleasant  warmness in the sunlight. Such weather may be termed as  luxury in northern plains of India during this month of the year but we southerners i.e. people earning their bread and dal or sambhar in Deccan plateau are a blessed lot. Cold and dry winds from Himalayas lose their intensity after travelling a distance of 2500 Kms.

But we have or own demons to contend with in this coastal region. We live in the shadow of cyclonic storms that too with beautiful feminine names e.g. Aila,Lehar, Laila,…….but no Katrina for us.That beautiful name of cyclone or hurricane as they call it in America  had been  hijacked by U. S. of A  long back.

So, Sunday morning demands special food. I had Chhole Bhature drenched in pure home-made ghee. Next in the line for lunch today is spicy hot puri(again in pure home-made ghee ) along with large legs of a Desi chicken.

There is a huge difference in captivity-bred chicken which is reared only for food and home-grown roaming and brave chickens. The tender taste of soft and sweet meat can only be judged by a connoisseur.But, I can assure you, this taste is heavenly.

So, if you live in a village …go and catch a running chicken…it is fun and  will harass you endlessly…..I suggest that you try to catch a flying/running chicken for few minutes …get exhausted and leave it..tell the owner to catch it for you…pay him handsome amount of money and then take your revenge on poor chicken..kill eat…roast it…enjoy the wild pleasure of hunting.It is the only legal hunting which has been allowed by modern day governments.
Or else….go to Rajasthan..kill a black buck or deer and spend 7-10 years in jail and give bucketful of money to lawyers. But, if you are a celebrity….then it is OK.

Now,coming to the main purpose of this blog……

You must have forgotten my a little flashback is required.

I undertook a journey from Vizag to Patna during March, 2013.My first stop was in Berhampur, Odisha and 2nd stop was in Keonjhar…that also in Odisha as I have a soft corner for this eastern state having spent nearly 04 years of my youth in jungles of this region.

My last blog saw the sunlight on 28th September, 2013 and I had promised to write on weekends but laziness in the air forced me not to write anything during last 2 months. But, I am planning to end this journey today itself.

I will write something new during 2014.

So, on the morning of 23rd March around 0500 hrs, I drank a large cup of tea…stored some in Flask…got my Parathas ,curd,pickles and a hot glass of milk on the back seat of Dzire.

Before proceeding, sprayed some water on the shiny metallic surface of Dzire and revved up the engine.Cars are like horses, they both love spraying of water on their robust bodies. It is a cool way to recharge the body.

My next destination was Patna which was nearly 700 Kms. in northern direction. It looked like a straight line on the map in my Oxford Atlas. I knew, Geography s not the real way to measure distances in India. I had to cross nearly 25 rivers/streams and several mountains/hillocks to reach my destination.

I divided the journey in 02 phases…Keonjhar to Ranchi & Ranchi to Patna..a distance of nearly 375 Kms & 325 Kms.respectively divided by lunch and some sleep in Ranchi.

I took a little longer route to Ranchi via NH 6 and 33. This road passes through hilly terrain and dense forest and is home to several Naxalite groups. But as I started by 0500 hrs. in the morning, I was hopeful that bad elements will be sleeping at that time  and I won’t face any security threat. Though, I was a little bit apprehensive but I had immense faith in the lightning speed of  of my Car and my tough-terrain  driving skills. But, the threat of landmine and explosive was looming at the back of my mind. Blocking of road by cutting trees or putting up heavy boulders was a substantial threat in this area. My only handicap was that my Car was not equipped with  wings so in case I needed to jump and fly…I would be stuck in this godforsaken place.

You won’t believe the natural beauty of Keonjhar, East & West Singbhum, Saraikela Kharsawan, Khunti and Ranchi districts until you put your legs on this tribal land.Roads are so good and  shining in this part, you can eat butter on the outer black skin of the road. But, the tribals live in sub-saharan African condition.Poverty is written on the face of these people. All noise about so-called hype of Banglores and development of mega cities in  India is literally rubbish when you see the pathetic living conditions in villages in this area.

I crossed Similpal Tiger Reserve on the way…ate my breakfast here…tried to find some tigers but they didn’t responded. A chaiwalla told me, there are nearly 99 tigers in this Park…I took a short rest and literally fled away…what if tigers smell my Parathas and I know they possess better sniffing skills than my pet dog Kalu.

I stopped at various scenic locations …captured hills/streams/mountains…..put my face and car on top of sturdy rocks…..crossed the Steel City of Jamshedpur and reached Ranchi by 1300 hrs. Here rice and chicken curry was waiting………ate to my heart’s content…my back was feeling stiff…..slept on the hard floor ..did some stretching exercise and for next 02 hrs. were spent in a dreamland. I saw  flying angels. My Car developed bird-like  wings and  cruising through clouds at 280 Kms./hrs. Dreams are so good.

My first thought on waking up was to abandon the next leg of my journey. But, promises and commitments need to be honoured. So, going back  on it was not an option.

Started by 1500 hrs from Ranchi…the route was through Hazaribagh and Nawada/Biharshareef.

It got dark by 1800 hrs. and I felt the need of using goggles to avoid glares from incoming vehicles.

I encountered a driving hazard on this leg of my journey. Though, I had travelled nearly 1400 Kms. by this time during last 02 days but I either drove on 04/06 lane highways or 2-lane  highways with very less traffic.

But, Ranchi to Patna is one of the busiest route between 02 mid-level emerging cities. Traffic and rush of light vehicles  was OK but the heavy-duty 16-20 wheelers were a nuisance. Their headlight shone like bright stars as if seen from few Kms. distance and overpowered the mild and gentle head lamp of my humble car.

To say honestly, I literally became blind whenever these monsters hurtled towards me from opposite direction at 100 Kms./hr.So,every few minutes, I slowed down and tried hard not to ram my vehicle in roadside trees or worse fell off in roadside trenches.


One acute problem is that these truck drivers are always drunk while at the steering and never respond to any valid traffic signal.

I crossed Kodarma valley and again thought of  Naxalites came to haunt me. Here, I was always driving between 02 heavy trucks and there was real fear that brake of my front vehicle will fail and loded truck weighing several tonnes may crush my small car. Driving on Ghat roads is a tricky business.It needs some patience and lads of luck.

I drove in such trying circumstances and reached Patna by 0230 hrs.I took wrong turns several times as all local villagers were sleeping and no one was on the road to guide me through the cover of darkness.

Imagine the situation, you reach a 04-way traffic junction with no signboards and my google maps was dead.I chose roads based upon my inner voice……..if road was good and shiny and there were no rubbish strewn/no latrines on roadside, I chose it. Sometimes, I followed stray dogs…went in the direction of running dogs. If dogs were running on a straight road, they must be going to Patna so I followed them.

By, the time I reached Patna…I was mentally tired…this 325 Kms. journey was more tiring than earlier 1400Kms. combined.

So, my advice to fellow travellers is that do not travel in night time if you do not know the route thouroughly. Because, all routes look same in darkness and carry compass because losing your North is a real nightmare in unknown territory. For nearly 10 hrs. I drove in darkness without realizing the direction of the road beneath the tyres of my Dzire. Avoid it.

So, this was it for today.Image

I thank you for being with me for this 06-part series. I formally close my journey from Godavari to Kosi here in this paragraph. I crossed nearly 50 rivers/stream in between these 02 mighty rivers.They enriched me…..made me a better and improved version of myself. I convey my deep gratitude and love for beloved Kosi and Godavari. Hopefully, I will swim in these rivers some day.

Happy reading….

Godavari to Kosi Part V

Dear readers,

It is nice to be back to the story once again so soon…just the way I promised you last time.

I am willing to complete the story today itself…but you have to be with me for a considerable longer time. But, as the Sunday is approaching, I am sure that time won’t be a handicap.

Let’s begin the journey…..

I ended the day on 21st March 2013 by sleeping 09 hrs. and woke up next day as a brand new young man ready to fight demons in the hills of Odisha.

I started journey around 0900 hrs in my Dzire from Cuttack. Weather was pleasant and there were small traces of dark clouds lurking tentatively on the horizon. It was enhancing the ethereal beauty of NH 5. Highways are normally happy human souls.They learn the thesis of remaining calm since their inception.Hot and sturdy wheels of vehicle passing through it crushes the skeleton of highways ruthlessly time and again. But, the calmness of highways is magnetic.Have you heard any highway complaining about the speed of passing vehicles ! It also remains the same unlike we humans who change colours at the drop of a hat when opportunity arises. It stays at the same place and make sure that it leads to some destination for the users.

Such a selfless soul. Dear highway I salute your untiring spirit. Though, we the citizens of India loots loads of money in constructing you, that’s why sometimes in some long stretches your clothes get torn and you become nude …staring at us and mockingly saying that “search me among the maze of potholes”. You feel sad about your appearance in India. You wish that European or North American yardstick is applied  in the construction phase so that you can last longer covering vast swathes of hinterland in mountainous terrain of Odisha.

Today, my plan was to reach Keonjhar, a mysterious town in northern Odisha bordering naxal-infested region of Jharkhand. I call this town mysterious because before deciding to traverse through this town, it was off my radar and seemed like a tribal hamlet crowded with elephants. Even though, I was based in Odisha for a considerable period of time.Image

Keonjhar is nearly 165 Kms. through the shortest route via NH 5- NH 200 from Cuttack but I chose the slightly longer route of 210 Kms.  via NH 5 – NH 215 . The reason was Maa Tarini Temple ……..see It is actually the 2nd  most famous temple in Odisha after the mighty Jagannath Temple of Puri.

NH 5, on which I travelled nearly 60 Kms., offered me the princely 6-laned road where I zoomed past other vehicles in only 45 minutes but  next 150 Kms. took 04 more hrs.

I had a royal darshan at the serene temple.It is one of the cleanest temple premises ever visited by me. Mark my words, I have visited not less than few hundreds temples in all corners of our country spread from Kanyakumari to Baramulla in Kashmir.

I talked to a local priest. I chose a priest who looked the least glamorous and a little bit lost, may be of meditative nature. I always choose the spiritual ones for the precise reason that they are the cheapest as well as least bothersome.They let you do the pooja at your own pace and never hurry……but the icing on the cake is that they accept whatever you donate them in the end.He told me a local story about the establishment of this temple which is ripe now to be shared in this forum. My historical friends who teach or have read history needs to separate facts from fiction.

Nearly 500 years ago, Purushottam Deva was the ruler of Kalinga. On a trip to south India, he saw the princess Padmavati of Kanchi taking bath in a waterfall and fell in love with her. Nothing new here, anyone can fall in love to a girl bathing in waterfall anywhere in the world even in 2013 ! He proposed marriage and was accepted by the bride’s family. They sent a minister to Puri to finalize the nuptials.Rath Yatra was in full swing in Puri on the day minister from Kanchi arrived there.King Purushottam Deva  was sweeping the chariots of the deities.Even today floors of chariots is sweeped by Puri King himself. I have seen this procedure through my naked eyes i.e without goggles.

Marriage to a sweeper, even of God, was unacceptable to Kanchi kingdom.Marriage was called off and being aggrieved, King Purushottam Deva attacked Kanchi and lost the battle. Then, God Jagnnath  appeared in dreams of Purushottam Deva and ordered him to employ Govinda Bhanja, son of king of Keonjhar, who will fight on his behalf.

Bhanja led a huge army and marched towards Kanchi, somewhere in forest, horse of Bhanja refused to go ahead for some unknown reasons. He worshipped a Goddess and horse started running. Bhanja won the battle and both the princess as well  as  Goddess came to Puri. Bhanja decided to take Goddess with him to Keonjhar through the route of NH 215.Maa Tarini agreed to follow Bhanja on another horseback provided that he didn’t look back. But, after some time, Bhanja  didn’t heard the footsteps of another horse……..Bhanja looked back …….. Maa Tarini halted & that’s why she is located in Ghatgaon in Keonjhar.

So, after having royal darshan…I reached Keonjhar town after passing through some winding mountainous roads. Curves like Jalebi are very hard to negotiate.After doing the Jalebi routine 5-6 times continuously at 60-80 Km./hr. ………my head was spinning and I drank few litres of water to calm down my senses. Problem in hilly roads is that travelling at lower speed is dangerous as your vehicle feels like jumping the hills at slow speed.Higher speed in lower gear is the best way to avoid  deadly accidents in hills as normally accidents in hills always involves loss of life of occupants of the 4-wheelers.

Two of my bosom buddies live in Keonjhar. One is Oriya Debashish, a used-to-be Casanova but now has hit the ground & is looking for a suitable bride.He owns prime property in Keonjhar town and drives a Hyundai Verna around jungles of Keonjhar. Another is Chakri,who is representing the higher echeleons of Indian bureaucracy and symbolizes the steel structure devised by British people to govern India. I stayed in a Royal Palace with large bedrooms and   extra large bathrooms ,which is being utilized as Government Guest House. I wonder, why the bathrooms are so much larger in old colonial or royal Bunglows ?

In Keonjhar district, Odisha government  gives  compensation to victims of Elephant attacks. If the field of rice is damaged, compensation is paid according to land size. If injury or death of citizen occurs, compensation is paid accordingly.But , this system has become a den corruption due to collaboration between citizens and local employees.Image

One day, a man came to government office for compensation wearing a slightly torn shirt. On enquiry, he revealed that  while he was going out in the fields for early morning rituals i.e. shitting, one child elephant stopped him and ruined his shirt. On asking about any injury, the man replied that elephant was only interested in damaging/snatching his shirt and no external injury was caused to him. But, he wanted compensation to buy drinks and new shirt. So, Keonjhar boasts of disciplined child elephants who are interested in snatching shirts by using their trunks in a delicate manner. If you happen to drive in these landscaped roads, look out for such elephants.

My narration is getting longer, so I am planning to leave you with this much for today. I followed the same ritual as in earlier parts, ate chicken legs and slept in large bedroom on a tiny bed.

See you next week …till then…..bye bye

Happy reading.

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