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 story..so 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.
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.
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.
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 http://www.maatarini.nic.in/. 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.
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
Dear readers, ,
It has certainly been a hectic week. I have changed platforms to display my blog in a more organized way. This first entry is just meant to inform my friends…..friends of friends…and their friends about the brand new blog platform chosen by me. Though, I was using blogger since last 04 years but I was not happy about the fidelity factor and their loyalty towards my data. I was disgusted by the revelations of large scale snooping by powerful western governments. How they scan all the data circulated in online word.Though, this platform can also be sniffed by James Bond-like creatures but I am sure that Word Press people are certainly not as brazen as Google people. I can vouch that mandarins of the later organization collect each datum passed through their server in a very meticulous and organized manner. My blogs are just meant to entertain…to make fun of someone…….to hurt someone’s feelings…though these are not the primary motives.
So, I hope to continue to provide all my stories the same rhythm as displayed on earlier occasions.It is like turning Hero Honda into just Hero…….heartbeat is same but the body is different.This time I have decided to write something continuous …without long breaks…..may be some sort of weekly columns.Though, I can not promise anything as even I’m not sure that my determination will last for how many hours…..days or weeks.
But, let’s see…the journey of thousand miles begins with the first step. I am utilizing this blogging opportunity to officially declare that this may termed as my first step.
So, keep glued for my new posts…….be with me in my Journey Called Life……..