Travelogue to Kanhia (Tucked in Orissa)

#1 Oct 21st, 2007, 02:46
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#1
Date: 24th July 2007
Place: NTPC Kaniha (In Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/15548646@N04/)
In the midst of nowhere

The plan for visiting the place where my father has been posted recently was hatched much before I even arrived on the scene. The general supposition was that I would agree, as the travel-bug that I have is well known, and as expected I capitulated.

There was another requirement which would have been fulfilled by this travel. One of my dad’s scooter (we have two) had been lying defunct in Puri for more than 6 months, and given that physical communication around Kaniha leaves much to be desired, this scooter was to be “revived” and driven to this place.

The only way to travel to this place from Bhubaneshwar is via a bus, belonging to NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) Kaniha; a daily bus. My dad and I had a ticket booked in advance for this ride, but we were planning to ignore the ticket and go there on this pesky scooter.

The day before this could happen, the heavens opened up. Anyone who has lived in a coastal zone would tell you that rain is not the tame drizzly, infrequent event that gives a respite from the heat and dust, but a flush straight out of a dam, which drenches you to the bone and makes you shiver inside your still wet clothes. Furthermore, this was no simple rain but the Monsoon rain, which is a yearly climatic event and rejuvenates the Indian agriculture, especially in those areas where there is an absence of man-made irrigation systems, almost as religious as El-Nino in its inevitability. In a two hour period the godly shower inundated the streets, to the merry advantage of kids who like to “make a splash”, but even these kids came out of the woodwork after the rain Gods were done with there work, not during it. Imagine standing under a waterfall. This is the same annual rain which Alexander (and army) had to suffer for 6 days and 6 nights, reducing the strength of his army by a goodly number by fever and death.

Anyways, this fateful event threw our plans in disarray, as the weather was cloudy the next day, with the possibility of imminent rain, and we decided to go by the bus the next morning. Plan B.

There was another person who was to board the bus with us, a colleague of my dad, who had worked with him at another school (when I was a kid and a student in that school) some 13-15 years back. He is the vice-principal in the school where my dad has been posted as the principal. When we met him the next morning at the bus stop where we were all about to board the bus, he advocated going by the scooter to this place with me, while my dad can go by bus. I at that time was skeptical about his optimistic outlook, seeing that the sky looked no better, and vocally expressed my admiration about this streak of optimism, but then I was all for taking a risk, and despite knowing better, I don’t dislike an adventure.

I immediately ran off to my house to fetch the scooter while he turned over his baggage to my dad and waited for him to board the bus. I came back to meet him after picking the scooter from my house, and we started on the adventure.

For the technically minded let me state that the distance from Kaniha to Bhubaneshwar is about 200 Kilometers and the same distance from Kaniha to Bhubaneshwar (sorry couldn’t resist taking a humor shot).

We started at about 8:00 AM in the morning under a cloudy sky. The first city we were to cross was Cuttack, an old Orissa city. Before we actually crossed Bhubaneshwar, I stopped at a gas station and checked the scooter’s gas, filled it up and we started on the way. The road from BBSR (Bhubaneshwar) to Cuttack is new and smooth, and the scooter was behaving as expected, running smoothly. On the way, we talked about my former classmates and what they were doing and other such mundane thoughts. My GF’s had always reported that conversation is not very convenient when I am driving and they are riding pillion, but the conversation between me and my passenger was smooth and easy. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was driving a scooter, or it could have been the fact that my passenger was a guy. The point is, never try to think of women’s problem logically.

On account of the cloudy weather, there was no hint of a sun or of heat. The rain in the previous month and day had lent the landscape a deep green, the fields are sprouting grass and weeds in equal amount, the trees are running amok in there leaf-making division and every thing looks water drenched. It’s curious what a rain can do to ambience. The sweet smell of rain soaked earth is missing though, you can smell that only when the earth receives rain the first time, if you miss it, you miss it, there is no recreating that smell.

The city of Cuttack passed by on our left side as we cut a tangent through it, partially entering the city and taking the flyover which would take up away from the city towards other cities. For the record, I had stayed in Cuttack for 3 years (1994-1997) during my college, and used to love the city. This city is a food junkie’s paradise, only if you know where to find it. There are shops which specialize in certain dishes and still stand after a century. This city also has a nice price gradient, and can accommodate people of different budgets and food habits. The flyover we took to get out of the city had been built practically in front of my eyes. In fact, I remember a scene long ago of seeing one person working on a pillar of the flyover, there were a lot of rods coming out of the pillar and this person was in the middle of it, at that time, it looked like he was trapped in that pillar. I had even thought years back of a cute caption if I had taken a picture of that, something like “Caught in progress”.

Oops, I had diverged from the topic (as usual). We crossed Cuttack and came to a cross road called Jagatpur, we took a left from there towards a place called “Dhenkanal”. The going was smooth. About 17 Kilometers from Dhenkanal, we received a call from my dad that he had reached it and was having his breakfast there. The chartered bus he had taken generally stops there for the passengers to have their breakfast. I rode faster with the intent to catch him before he leaves that place for his onward journey, but we reached late. By our reckoning, the bus was 30 minutes ahead of us.

During our journey the landscape has been changing subtly, the coastal plains were gone now, being taken over by some bluffs, distant hills and forest-dwelling vegetation. The population density has also been decreasing; the architecture had been shifting towards sub-urban dwelling rather than multi-storey buildings. The change was welcome, in that the air was fresher, the demeanor of the people more relaxed. The road to my surprise remained nice and smooth. I deduced later on that on account of the number of industries established in this area, the roads are being maintained properly. There was one drawback though; the deeper you go into rural India, the more the people tend to regard the road as their private property. Road as a public property is a notion with not many takers, sometimes people use these clean roads as a nice place to dry things like the harvested rice, sometimes fish and what not. On the other hand, people in the south of my state, bordering Andhra Pradesh (south Indians), treat the road literally as shit, or more accurately as a place to shit, with the rural population baring their backsides to take a dump (yep, including women). I have no idea why or how they do it, but the rest of the whole rural India goes to the fields and other private places to answer the call of nature. In my experience I have found that the people of south India are singularly disgusting and need to be house trained. If you are driving at night, in the south of Orissa, the headlight of your vehicle will reveal a swatch of naked butts in the light, left side male, right side women, that’s just hearsay; I hadn’t stopped long enough to enquire. (By the way, we are going towards north-western Orissa, not the south, the previous paragraph was just my bile)

Anyways, after we passed Dhenkanal, about 40 Kilometers away from destination or an hour away from destination, the first mishap occurred.

My scooter suddenly started swerving towards the right-hand side. The first thought that came into my mind was, “WTF” (what else did you expect), then I started thinking “I think some nuts from the wheels have fallen off” and lastly “how the heck am I going to prevent colliding with the cyclist coming in front of me?”. All worthy thoughts in my humble opinion, had there been a truck or a bus on the other of the road, the author would not have been writing this. Finally I was successful in slowing down the meandering scooter, while keeping it on its two wheels.

What we discovered then was that the rear-wheel tire has blown. Thanking our lucky stars and a multitude of deities, that the event occurred in a crowded place and not on a lonely road, we started asking people around for a place to mend the tire.

[Note: There are generally a multitude of small shops lining ANY Indian city/town/village. All that you want to buy can be procured from there, including services, like hair saloon, service centers etc]

We were told that there is a shop hardly 200 meters from the place we busted our poor tire, so we pushed this deflated contraption to the shop. The shop was an interesting study. It was built in the classical hut-style. The door was low and there were a pile of tires near it, one on top of the other, to denote that vehicles were repaired here. The way to the door of this hut was paved with tires cut and placed on the ground in a straight line. But the most important aspect was that, it was placed directly under a tree and that everything around seemed to have streaks of white on them. On exploring the phenomenon further, I found that the tree under which it was built was a haven for cranes. The cranes once they declare affection for a tree, rarely desert it. So a whole generation of cranes had their home in the tree and the surrounding trees, so naturally the hut was their toilet. This piece of information had me scurrying to more “safer” grounds, either in the hut or away from it.

We asked the person sitting in the hut for the mechanic, to which he told us, he has gone out for a bath and would be in shortly. Knowing the punctuality of rural India, where a minute may mean 30, we were not naturally very encouraged. The person inside the hut was going out and saw the mechanic, and waved and shouted his information. On following his gaze I saw a person accompanying 4-5 kids in the age range of 3-10 and a woman, crossing the road towards a bus. He helped the kids and his wife into the bus, waved them goodbye and came to meet us. He has a stocky built on the lines of a tribal. The face too was that of a tribal, and when he opened his mouth, my deductions were confirmed. I had a college friend, who had the same facial structure, and the same built, though he was shorter, and he too harked from this same place or hereabout.

On recounting our mishap, he informed us that electricity supply has not been provided to this particular village for the last 2 days and hence the machine to pump air, was not functioning, so even if he mends the tire, we will still have to wait. Then we suddenly realized that we can have plan-B. Each scooter is equipped with a step-in tire for use in exactly this kind of dire situations. We asked him to change the tire. On taking out the tire, we discovered (to our fascination) that there were two shiny new nails embedded in the tire. My passenger, who happens to be a Mathematics teacher and has a quick mind, deduced that the nails look new and could not have been on the road for longer than a day, as it had rained and would have corroded the iron. So we brooded for a while about the singular probability of a nail awaiting our arrival at exactly the same point where our vehicle would dare to tread.

In all those instances of a punctured tire, I have found a garage shop within a kilometer. Sometimes the skeptic in me thinks whether the mechanics have been strewing the road with a few nails now and then to keep the customer line rolling. Oh, it’s just a thought.

After fixing the new tire, and refreshing ourselves with some betel-nut, we started again. Betel-nut reminds me, I saw a betel-nut shop which was advertising it’s presence with a small hoarding with the words “bitle nut”.

We started for the last leg of our journey with optimism that since we had already run into a problem once, we will not run into another again in the journey, since we can not be so unfortunate (the mathematics teacher calculated that the probability was too low).

He was wrong.

We entered a forest area, by now the density of people has dwindled to really few people and habitations. There is a straight 14 kilometer run from a cross road to our destination, there are no shops, nothing on this road. It borders an elephant infested forest. So if something goes wrong on this road, suffice it to say, it stays on this road.

Just before we reached this cross road, in front of a mechanic shop, the scooter spluttered and died. I merely thought that the vehicle has gone into the last reserve of gas and switched the reserve switch accordingly, but when the scooter didn’t start despite that, we knew something has gone wrong. We thanked the dear old scooter (16 years old, teenage) for choosing the mechanic shop to die on us and cheerfully hauled its ass to the shop. The mechanic was hardly older than the scooter. While he was looking at his contemporary, we took a break to drink some “Sprite”, yes, isn’t it amazing how coke and Pepsi can penetrate forests and villages. The kid (the mechanic I mean) understood the fact that he cant fix it, but being a smart kid, asked us to fetch a liter of gasoline from the nearby gas station (fatefully close to the place of second mishap). When we have done that, he filled up the tank and the scooter started. Let me tell you how smart he was. There are two fuel lines from the fuel tank to the engine. One of the fuel line starts at a certain height of the tank and the second at the bottom of the tank. At one time, only one fuel line is active. The functional utility of such an arrangement is that, you start with the fuel line at a certain height in the tank and use up the fuel till then, and the vehicle stop or splutters, letting you know that you should go for more fuel, you activate the fuel line running from the bottom of the tank and go on your merry way. The fuel line in our case that starts at the bottom of the tank was clogged, as the vehicle had been without fuel for a long time and had most probably rusted from inside, clogging the line. Though we had cured the tank previous to the journey, some of the rust might still have been sticking around. So this kid fills up the tank to allow the fuel line from the top to function, and obliviously the vehicle starts again. He was of course given 10 rupees (25 cents) for this effort.

So we started again, this time with prayer in our hearts, as we were not sure about God’s design on us anymore, and the area we were to enter was devoid of human presence.

This road to our destination is about 14 kilometers long and runs almost parallel to a train line. This train line is used to feed the thermal station (our destination) and is maintained by the thermal plant administration. On the left hand side of the road you would see some habitations and plowed fields and on the right-hand side, you see unfettered jungle, almost Rudyard Kipling style forest. Just near the train line (which was running at parallel to our right hand side), there was a huge trench, and a razor wired fence. The trench is to discourage the elephants from crossing over to the human habitations and the razor-wired fence to prevent the people from crossing over to jumbo-land. I somehow don’t think people needed that kind of discouragement, if the jumbos can’t keep them in line, nothing would. Maybe it was for the elephants after all. As we went along this picturesque (no I don’t mean trimmed and landscaped, it was wild, really wild) drive, I could hardly see the forest floor, for the vegetation was everywhere, not shrubs, but trees. The recent rain had given the forest a fresh washed look; the smell of rotten wet vegetation was pervading the air. If you have traveled through bog-infested land, you know this smell, you feel a little sleepy, and weary. The various insects in the forest make a kind of noise, which is like a blanket over the silence, more like the reverent silence of a church.

After driving for more than 10 kilometers, we could make out three huge chimneys spearing the sky. The forest started receding from the right hand side of the road and we entered a planned city. It was amazing how people would create something out of nothing in nowhere. I am still debating the relative merits of civilization; please don’t get me started on that.

Look at the picture named “ReasonForCivilization.jp g”

This place hosts a thermal power generation plant, and is a central government institution. It was built on the philosophy of socialistic endeavor and as such provides its employees with apartments, running water, hospital, school (where my dad is the principal) and electricity at a subsidy, more like a nominal fee. There are swimming pools, huge playgrounds, broad-band connectivity and markets (of course) in here. This plant generates about 3000 MW of electricity and is called a super-thermal plant. I still don’t know why it’s called super.

I got to the school, which is a huge building, in fact so big that some parts remain unused. I also found that this whole building was made to accommodate a hospital and as such the architecture reflects it, with wide enclosed places.

We finally hung our riding boots and sat down in my dad’s office.

There was another person already there; who I discovered to my amazement was a representative of Microsoft, and was there to dispense wisdom about software to the faculty members. I engaged him into a conversation and learnt that Microsoft in the guise of CSR (Corporate social responsibility) is sending people over to distant area to spread word about software (mostly Microsoft software); they are most probably engaged in social marketing. Letting the kids know about Microsoft before they are out of their cribs. But the funny thing is, in this central government created world, where people from diverse backgrounds reside, and are all educated, the kids know much more than their parents and teachers combined. In fact I detected in the computers in the computer lab, Java and C++ programs and software. I was reading in some magazine that India is a different ballgame in terms of marketing.
You bet your ass it is. With the diversity, comes different market conditions, and no one strategy can be designed to cover all cases. This will be a lesson the corporate world will one day learn from India (and if EU survives for a long time, implement the lesson learnt there).

Dad had arranged for us to have our lunch at a guest house and we all went there in a car to stock ourselves up. There were a multitude of dishes which I gulped and chewed down. Then I took a nap in one of the rooms of the guest house for a bit. This habit of taking a nap in the afternoon is really going to cost me when I get out of my vacation and go to work.

It so transpired that the scooter in the meanwhile had eaten up the fuel till the top fuel line and the problem had recurred. Someone took the vehicle to the garage, while my dad and I headed home.

We then finally headed to the apartment provided to us. The house is a 3 bedroom apartment and is a big affair. The people around here live well it seems. I bunked down for the night in a room and got out of my sweaty clothes after a long time. I of course forgot anything about taking a bath. I read a novel by Nora Roberts till I dropped dead in the bed.

The next day, I was woken up in the morning by my dad who starts for the school at 6:30 AM. The scooter, as usual did not start, dad had to walk to school.

Being woken up in the morning is no joy, but I suffered it and then took a small nap, but realized that I am not sleepy at all. Woke up and switched some channels to discover, I don’t like any, Discovery and Nat Geo were a disappointment this morning. In the news section, I found that no one had killed anybody, no politician died lately (a pity) and there had been one bomb explosion yesterday in Assam (a north-eastern state)…but it was stale news anyways.

I readied myself by taking a bath to go to school in the morning and reached there at about 10:00 AM. Went to the computer room and discovered that one of the machines had been infected by a virus. The stupid teacher had allowed kids smarter than him to allow the use of the server computer and they have done things they should not have done and the computer is doing things now it shouldn’t do. Found the name of the virus and tried to eradicate it, didn’t work, asked the faculty to reformat and recover the operating system. Browsed some internet, chatted and went to the library. I then went on to issue a book called “The Loss of El Dorado” (by V.S. Naipaul, a Trinidad-born Indian).

When I came back to the computer lab to chat, found that the machine was still occupied by the Microsoft affiliated people and they were preparing for a presentation to the faculty. Despite their best entreaties for me to attend such an idiotic exercise, I evaded them.
I had my lunch at the school. It appears that the security guard also doubles as a cook for the vice principal and the principal, as they stay alone without their families. The kid is a 22 year old kid from the region around here and has no awareness of the outside world. Most probably he belongs to a scheduled tribe (almost like red Indians) and does not question his station in life, with the mistaken belief that his fate most probably is the guiding force. On second thoughts, he is better off with this belief, since his education will not fetch him any good professional jobs and his family background will not allow him to pursue a career. Even if he does do that, he will be far from his family and running after his livelihood, staying at places he is not familiar with and eating food, he is not used to.

I went back to the apartment to take my (now) ritual afternoon nap. While I was resting my non-working bones, skies opened up. I missed the event, but from the haze of my sleepy memory, I only remember the noise, it was like a waterfall.

I was up and about at about 4:00PM when my dad came back and asked me to dress, as we were going outside to see some places. I dressed and we went to see the insides of this thermal plant. No better or worse than any I have seen, but they have a garden in there where lies a 13 meter and 3 meter wide rock carving of a deity from 9th century. It’s amazing how the strangest things crop up in the remotest places. I would not have thought that people even lived around here in 9th century. According to a placard in this garden, when the workers where working on this site when the thermal plant was first created, they discovered this rock carving. The Archeological Society of India has declared this as a protected heritage and the Administration has built a garden around it. Due to the fact that this area is not that well connected by road and getting inside the plant is not that freely allowed, people are not aware about this place. In fact it is one of the ONLY figurines of Vishnu in India which is this big and in this kind of pose.

Look at the picture titled “Vishnu1.jpg” and “Vishnu2.jpg”

We started to go to another nearby place, and discovered the road blocked by the procession of the rath-yatra (Juggernaut) in this village, where the deities are going back to their adobe. Actually people generally try to emulate what goes on in Puri out of their religion zeal. Most villages and cities make 3 wooden chariots and follow exactly the same proceeding as in Puri. The mania is worth seeing.

We couldn’t reach to a temple of “Bhairavi” a terrible goddess (who in the last century accepted scarifies, sometimes human-sacrifices). A women “gets” (is possessed) by the Goddess on weekends, on hearing which I remarked, “only on weekends?”

On the way we stopped over for eating potato and “besan” (used to make pakodas) and onion fries and other delicacies.

Came back home and finished the novel.

This concludes my travel till 24th July 2007.

The plans tomorrow are to go to a dam called “Rengali”. I will have more to report then.

Day-2
Date: 26th July 2007
Place: NTPC Kaniha

What a fresh new morning!!

It had been years since I had seen the sky at 7:00AM in the morning. I suppose myself to be a re-incarnation of a nocturnal animal, preferably the Tiger, but I can settle for Leopard too, anything below in the phylum list, I don’t believe in re-incarnation in that case. By the way, my propensity of avoiding the bath propels me to the side of Leopard than the Tiger anyways.

I wasn’t feeling that great in the morning and lingered over my tea and the new channels. By the time I realized my folly, it was already 8:30 AM and dad came back from the school and asked me to get ready for the trip. Rather than confessing that I had not had my shit/bath/teeth-brushed in that order, I put on my clothes and was ready for the trip.

On getting out of the house, I noticed the car and the driver. It was interesting. The make of the car is known as “Ambassador”, it’s one of its kinds for being “around” for the last 40-50 years on the Indian roads. Some people say that it’s the only car designed for the Indian road.

Look at the picture titled “Amby_Car.jpg”

The interiors are voluminous and make you think of the pre-WW-II cars. The car body is made of solid Iron and the average mileage is not worth writing here. This car is only manufactured in India and had been in the past been the vehicle of choice of Ministers and government officials. The driver who had been provided was no less interesting. Saying that he topped 4 feet 5 inches is to stretch the imagination a bit. His head hardly cleared the steering wheel and I was worried, if he was able to reach the brakes properly. If you invest your eyesight a bit in the above picture, maybe you will see him, if you are too tall, maybe you will miss him.

We started on your journey to Rengali dam, which has a hydro-electric power generation plant. Once outside the small township, we landed into nowhere, as I had described previously, I was at nowhere, so you have to cross nowhere to get somewhere.
The vista of rain cleaned forest was presented to us on both sides of the car, as we ran a straight line to Rengali. The road was surprisingly good but kind of narrow. In fact if two cars were to cross each other from opposing directions, than invariably one car had to get at least one set of wheels off the road to allow the other to pass.

Due to rain or natural depression, there were large water bodies in the distance.

Look at the image titled “River.jpg”

After taking in these beautiful monuments of nature, we hit the first roadblock. Let me elaborate, you might be familiar with the term toll-gate, where road taxes are demanded from all the passing vehicles (more like highway robbery), but I somehow doubt whether you are familiar with things like “Cow-gate”, “Buffalo-gate”, “Goat-gate” or “Sheep-gate” (not found in these parts). The only difference is that a lot of wheedling, cajoling and encouragements are required to be paid in the case of the latter to lift the gates, not to mention hollering.


Look at the picture titled “Cowgate1.jpg and Cowgate2.jpg”

In the first picture cowgate1.jpg, there are a couple of things you might notice. The herd of cows (of course), the view from the front seat of the ambassador car, the truck in front of the car waiting for the cow-gate to be lifted, the truck driver, the truck-assistant ready to get down (more like ogling the woman standing on the road side), the woman in an offensive posture, ready for a brawl kind, the dress she is wearing and the vegetation around. Maybe the truck assistant was hollering the cows to move faster, I am not sure.

In the second picture, you will see the cow-whisperers and their clothes, more like a sarong, but called a “lungi”, both in Oriya and Hindi. You will also notice a small hut like structure, enclosed within a boundary made of branches and similar malleable substitutes. This structure is to protect whatever is growing inside from similar bands of roving cows and their greedy tongues.

After the cow-gate was lifted, we proceeded along a serene nice road.

Look at picture titled “JungleRoad.jpg” and “Settlement.jpg”

The Jungle road shows a glimpse of the forest around the road and the settlement.jpg shows the architecture of the villages around that place. Before we could travel any great distance, we encountered “buffalo-gate”.

Look at picture titled “Buffalo-gate.jpg”

These buffalo-gates are trickier than the cow gates and a lot more encouragement and persistence is required here. Buffaloes around these parts are generally of temperate nature, but occasionally they lose their cool. There must be some very good reason for Lions and Tigers to keep out of their path. The bigger the herd, the more unpredictable they are. We encountered only a small family traveling placidly (too placidly in my opinion), and they were encouraged by a lot of horns and other desperate measures to let us proceed. While we are at it, let me also mention that we also encountered goat gates, but goats being goats, the going is easy.

While on our way, we saw a crowded bus crossing us from the opposite direction, and the fun started.

Look at the picture titled “OverloadedBus.jpg”

Hardly have we passed this filled-to-capacity bus that we saw a police jeep following it. We stopped over to let the police vehicle pass and saw just immediately behind the police jeep, a person on his motorcycle waving his hands at the bus. The reason was apparent almost immediately.

Taking more passengers than are seats is a punishable offence, though this rule must be the rule flouted most often. The cops were following this vehicle to stop it and charge it, and the person following the cop vehicle was the owner of the bus who was running after the bus to prevent it being taken into the pound. Generally the cops take a fat bribe and let these buses go, and the owner not surprisingly was in no mood to play. By waving his arms over, he was forewarning the bus driver. We had actually stopped there to see the fun, but the three vehicles giving chase to each other vanished from our sight and we again started on the journey.

We arrived at another village square and stopped to eat our breakfast or a little snack there before proceeding further, but we found out soon enough that they close their markets on 25th of each month. At Kaniha, the market takes a day off on the last Wednesday of the month. Different places, different rules. We finally found a place to eat, a roadside deli and stuffed ourselves with the goodies. While we were there, I saw a group of people sitting at a distance, as if waiting. The whole air was filled with a sense of expectation, a wait.

Look at the picture titled “The Wait.jpg”

The picture speaks a thousand words and highlights many things, the most notable being posture. The posture of the people waiting for the bus exudes infinite patience, finite self confidence and hard lives. The social collaboration is evident by the body language and the fact that men and women do talk to each other can be seen. The kid carrying the bucket of water show the life the children have around there, they all help the family in some way or the other. It’s just an illusion that men make all the decision around here. Make no mistakes; the lady in the house still retains a huge amount of power around here. Dad is just the provider. The kid sitting in front of the bike while the other kid is pedaling, shows why the kids are not plump around here, because they all do some kind of physical activity in their daily lives.

In a short while a bus came along and the very same people started a mad scramble for the bus.

Look at the picture titled “Boarding a Bus.jpg”

It was amazing how so many people could fit into that tin box. While I was at it, I saw a live in goat (Look at picture titled “Live in Goat.jpg”, just like a live in girl friend). The most preposterous of course is the sign-board that states “Dollar Club”, I have no idea in hell who dreamt it up, and can bet 5 dollars that the old women boarding the bus does not even know what a dollar is. A bus, when I was younger, was a pleasure especially when a lot of girls my age or equally younger used to board it in huge numbers. This meant a brush or two with them, which would not be generally possible outside this confined place. Some friends used to take a little more pleasure and a lucky fellow who got to fondle a girl was not that rare.


There were two things I noticed in general which gladdened my heart.
1. A score of kids coming back from school
2. The presence of a large contingent of police.

It seemed that all the kids around this part are enrolled in school and there was law and order to an extent. The next generations of Indians are more numerous than ever, I just wonder whether there would be as many jobs when they come out of their hamlets to search for their own destinies.
The second interesting thing that I noticed is more ribald in nature, but all the same an observation. I saw a number of women folk during this travel, and I couldn’t help noticing that the older women were not wearing a blouse, and were not very fastidious about covering their breasts, so much so that, before long I had seen one of the pairs (yeah I am a guy). The younger the women was, the more the chances were of wearing a blouse (and a bra most probably), and the teenage girls were in salwar-kameez (a muslim dress style). The younger girls were in skirts and tops. This dress variation alluded to the influence of a lot of factors, one of them being generation gap and the incursion of the new generation into the old systems.

Look at the picture “A-Generation.jpg” series of pictures.

After a while, we reached the dam.

Look at the picture “dam.jpg”, “dam-left.jpg” and “dam-right.jpg”

The dam-left shows a huge water reservoir of water which is channeled through the ‘dam.jpg’ containing turbines to generate electricity. There are about 5 turbines in this dam and the plant generates about 100 MW of electricity. We went inside the generation unit to look at the machines. The control room and everything surrounding the plant reeked of 1970’s technology, with big red lights on big iron boxes. The people working there looked very relaxed as if there was not much to do; they were sitting around and doing, when we got there, basically nothing. I am sure that there must have been nothing to do.

The government thinks that sites like this are sensitive places, and photography was prohibited. So at the risk of getting arrested on charge of going against the official secrecy act, I took a picture of the parking lot only.

Look at the picture “Parking lot.jpg”.

This parking lot is located at the base of the dam “dam.jpg”.

The interesting thing was that the people around here call the generation plant “pigeon house” or Para-house in the local lingo. Para = Pigeon in Oriya. There are in truth a lot of pigeons in the high vaulted ceiling of the generation plant, but I am not sure whether the word “power” was bastardized into “Para” or the Pigeons themselves were responsible for this naming convention.

We started back after seeing the dam; we had come 30 Kilometers to see this thing. Personally I was not impressed by it at all. I think the journey was more interesting than the destination. I took some pictures of the surrounding area when we were going back.

Look at the following pictures:

1. HillSide.jpg
2. Valley Floor.jpg


[Picture: Snack Counter.jpg, Wait.jpg, Siesta.jpg] On our way back, we stopped at one of the hut-food-place for a cup of tea.

While sipping a cup of tea, the “relative” solitude of our journey reminded my father of a poem by Alexander Pope, called Solitary Reaper. He had read this poem in his childhood, a translation and remembers it. The lines conveyed something like the below:

“Solitude is all around me and I am the owner of all that I purview.”

I have noticed that, in general, the older generation remembers most of what they had read in their childhood, but our generation is certainly lacking in that retention capabilities. Is that because of poor teachers, poor memory or too much to remember?

Throughout this travel, I noticed a siesta-kind of atmosphere, like everyone was waiting for something to happen, a sense of suspended animation. I never felt hurried, and it was nice, but at the same time, I can feel time and the world running at an ever faster pace, if we falter now, we may never catch up. At the other side of the debate stands the question of destination, do we all know where we are going, life is not a race, but a journey, should be stop in the wayside or should we get to the destination. For each one of us, the only thing that stands at the end of the road, our destination is Death, which is what we are all destined for. Should the quality of our halt at the wayside not matter, or should we loot and pillage every flower we come across our path, because we know that we are not going to pass the same way again, and a damn to whoever comes after us, hadn’t the people who preceded us done the same? Like a true Libran, I have now balanced the arguments on the scale of justice, while this ability is nice; it’s not good for decision making process. Maybe I should have been more bigoted than I already am; at least I will then be able to jump in the ditch without tethering on the verge.

I also noticed another curious thing, the villages and the entire population have been confined in a high density along the side of the road, whereas the whole untamed forest lies yonder over there. What made all those people stay so close to each other, was it the wild animals that threatened those centuries ago, or was it that started feeling comfortable in numbers?
In the last 5000 years, Indians have never attacked any other country for the sake of territory. Is this a sign of complacent nature? Have we stopped questioning our limits? The Indian subcontinent is so full of resources that you hardly need to go out of your way to get something, and for those things we could not get, we discovered philosophy, which espouses being content with what we have. These factors in conjunction have assured that the drive for entrepreneurship has been driven off, even genetically from the population. We as a population are too happy with ourselves to do something extra, it was exactly this mentality which created a vacuum for foreign powers to exploit, and this still exists. The general government lethargy and the air of siesta are the indicators of this same manifestation. Hardly any one wants to improve anything; they are all satisfied with what they have. What this means is that the platform for change has been already laid, something will have to give, but for this something to happen, something catastrophic will have to happen to make a mark, the diversity that is India can not be melded into one single sword, unless there is an external enemy. If in the most immediate future, some enemy attacks the country, it will be beneficial, in that it will change things, unite the people and make resources scarce. History has proven more than once that great achievements occur after great defeats. The Great Wall of China was built to prevent the hordes of Huns, Ghenzis Khan and Alexander the great, used battle to strengthen the people. It was Napoleon who established France in the eyes of the world. It was communist revolution which propelled China towards greatness. India has been progressing after the English yoke was thrown off, as has America after the World war-II. Let’s see who history shall choose to attack India, as a harbinger of change.

We returned back to the place of residence afterwards and after Lunch, I took a small nap. The vehicle which had been suffering from chocked fuel lines has been mended and I plan to roam around this place to see anything else I can find. The plan is that I will roam this place today and start for home tomorrow, but my younger brother has called tonight and exhorted me to come home earlier, as he (I like to think he misses me) has taken some days off to be with me. Only destiny will be the decider.


- Biswajit
I love plans which change
Last edited by biswajit_27; Oct 21st, 2007 at 03:06.. Reason: Adding Pics
#2 Oct 22nd, 2007, 02:06
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  • wonderwomanusa is offline
#2
Great story! I enjoyed your visit to Kanhia and hope to see it for myself, though maybe not by scooter!
#3 Oct 22nd, 2007, 15:53
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  • biswajit_27 is offline
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Thanks

Thanks, I enjoyed it myself :-)
#4 Jul 11th, 2014, 23:21
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  • kol2012 is offline
#4
nice report.
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
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