A few hours after returning from a memorable trip, I write this with my heart going back to the moments of peace and glee. So much so, that I prefer to write about this trip to Puri rather than any other trip taken in the holidays two months back.

Evening 7:30, plan confirmed for the trip, for the celebration of one of our friend’s birthday. Morning 5:00am, we were all lost at how unprecedented a day can be.


All in the mood to hit the highest enjoyment levels, we wake up to a nightmare of our friend falling to sickness, who we rush to the hospital in the very vehicle we had decided to head to the railway station. Our friend recovers in just a few hours, and his excitement to go on the trip even at this point can’t be contained. So, finally we head, only with some heart shaking visuals from the hospital–a realisation at our country’s poverty and poor medical facilities.

 

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We see families, the sufferings and the trauma they go through with the doubt if their patient, the eldest male and perhaps the only earning member of the family in this case, is alive or has been taken over by the mighty death in the night. Their desperation to wake him up can be seen in their efforts to make his eyes open, feel him breath and thus be satisfied with the ounce of life left inside him to keep their hopes high and let not it run over by tears of helplessness. This is a story which this write-up can’t hold, it has to be a narration on some other day, not here.

Afternoon 1:30, we are back in the spirit running at the railway station to catch the train, which we unfailingly do. Voila, the train begins and so the journey. As every train journey is, this one too comes with revelry of friendship and the crass comments by fellow passengers. But we moved on and kept the spirit alive.

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When we reached the the beach city, we headed directly to the Puri Beach Carnival. The carnival didn’t impress us much apart from a performance by the dance group MJ5 and the delicacies offered at the Rajasthan stall. We returned to the hotel only to hit the beach again in the morning. But before we came to the beach, we decided to take a spiritual trip to Lord Jagannath temple.

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Here too, a heart wrenching sight catches our attention–a man for whom the word elderly seems too light, climbs down the rickshaw he has been pulling and heads towards a lane with an empty glass. What troubles us is his left foot wrapped with a bandage up till his knee, and the tincture of the medicine underneath showing the intensity of the wound. We rush to him but in this time and in that crowd, we losey him, but perhaps he hasn’t lost his hope for survival.

In many of my school books I’ve read Gandhiji’s talisman, the one of thinking of a person when you are in distress. From now on, this man will be my inspiration and talisman at the times of gloom.

It is almost 11 now and the beach awaits us. At the beach we do what everyone does–hop, jump, play and take innumerable pictures. We get certain stares by people, but you are in India, and being a woman growing up here, you learn to either ignore them or to look them into their eye and laugh at their judgmental looks. The latter is effective and immensely satisfactory, as I realised when one of my friend does it not once but everytime I tell her we are being stared at with haughty looks.

 

Sun is at its mighty best at 1 when we decide to go for an adventurous mortar boat ride in the sea. We are promised a long journey deep in the sea, with a splendid view of the Jagmohan temple. We buy the promise, ride the boat and are disappointed by the view not living our expectation. Here, the best thing happens to us, a proposal of another adventure least expected, but with a price. We negotiate on the price and with fears clinching us, we agree. The proposal is to jump in the water–almost 100ft deep at the moment.

None of us knows how to swim, and the water scares us. But we win over all the fears and jump one by one, I being the second one to jump. I had realised my ‘philia’ for water two days back when I had come for a solo trip to the same place, just a different water sport–a water scooter ride. This time it was different. The rendezvous to fear and love was more close and intimate. As I jump, I see only water surrounding me and soon I rise back floating with the help of my life jacket. It is serenity, the water and peace. My experience varies drastically from that of my friends’ who are screaming their chords out with the encounter of the thrill and the fear of drowning, leaning towards each other for a strong holds which shouldn’t be done, while I float away in silence with conspiracy theories going on in my head. What if the boatmen leave us behind and in return to save us demand extra money? Fortunately they don’t. We rise back on the boat with little difficulty. The boat takes a brisk stroll and takes a quick jerky turn, which makes me slip off my seat and land on the base, in a sitting position, almost unhurt. This happens so quick that my friends wonder if I had by luck’s poor dhow, fallen off the boat. Drenched completely, we decide to remain in the water and perform some Bollywood water moves.

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At 3:00pm, we decide to return to the hotel and rinse off the sand and the tiredness. Done with this ritual, two of us head to Pentakota, the basti of the fishermen where a population of 15,000 families live. What we witness is a different side of the beach, far from the merriment two kilometres away. It is stink, waste and at times the garbage gives an idea of disrespect to the sea by the people who rever it the most and worship it as their bread provider. We talked to a few, though not sure of how effective we were in communicating as the linguistic barrier acted strongly against us. None of them wants their children in the same profession. They are a Telugu population living in Odisha, satiating their love for their culture in a community of their own. After a three day trip with seven or eight fellow men on one boat they return with a catch of 300-400kgs of fish in the best season which fetches them rates up to Rs.80- Rs.100 per kg. In seasons with poor catch, they suffer. And of all the struggles of life, a cyclone fears them the least. Their story is what can wait, our story of the trip cannot. Keeping this page of the story unopened, I move ahead to tell what happened next in our trip after we returned with mixed feelings from the basti.

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It was celebration time,6:00pm, a toast to good 30hours that we had spent here. We enjoy a good Chinese meal, though a little spicy. We reveled the birthday still on the eve and boarded our train back. By 12:30am, our beds have cradled us into the memories of the past days, yearning in the dreams for some more. From being excited on the surface to emotionally moved at the core, a journey with friends who are such a susctiate company is always refreshing and something that happens to the fortunates.

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