Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sweet taste of Saltwater

Asia's largest salt water lake- chilka lies over a large space in orissa state. The waters stretch from kalijai to the south where the lake opens up to the bay of bengal in satpada.
Think satpada and i think abstract natural beauty, every single time. It takes some 4-5 hours (or perhaps even more) to go from bhubaneshwar to this tip. But the journey is worth it. While i was staying in orissa, i visited satpada some 4 times, with friends, office colleagues and my parents as well. Where the sea meets the lake, many indian irrawada dolphins come and chill out at this special place. it is an awesome sight to see them jump around once in a while out of water. To reach there, one must head till puri i believe and then move from there along the river (which you can see next to the road all the way till where it meets up with the sea)- you can see naxal/local influence in many places- where people block roads with makeshift road blocks to demand money to use these roads- ask why to pay and you might just head neck deep into a fight to cost your life.
The place is nothing special to look at (if you forget to look at the sea that is ), its a non descript place like many present in india, where the people of this country itself wouldn't imagine it to be a part of itself. There is a small port with old rusted ships (the best a poor place like orissa can afford, sorry to say). a small government office which arranges boat trips in the sea-lake, and some eateries. Nothing much else. I have taken the boats into the chillika lake, they take you to the places where dolphins are most easily seen. There is a narayana temple at one end of the lake, which also you can enjoy- the temple is left alone-with no one to guard or take care of it especially-because not many pilgrims can come till this remote corner using a boat, but looking at the temple one can notice that it has old roots, perhaps formed by some king who might have seen the importance of the lake ending here into the sea.
There are many different boating packagaes one can take when in satapada. One of them entails boat travel for around 3 hours to set of islands (thick secluded and peaceful indeed). With my friends from bhubaneshwar (mostly manipal people), we headed to these islands and chilled out the whole way on the boat. The ride is so surreal, the water splashing -sans pollution except for from the motor of the boat. The boat drivers are very sweet, generous. They are such simple people, willing to embrace others without suspician or greed, even in their dire poverty- the only way i justified this in my head was that these people (and many others in orissa) have never seen what money actually is, their life is very very simple, and very very basic. They have no other sense of requirements- till their quota of food is met for the day. they don't have the usual city/town sense of greed for more. For they have for too too long seen too less in their life. Somehow my heart always went for the fisher folk of satpada every time i visited them.
We head from the islands where we spent very less time exploring cause of the limited boat time left as well as left over sunlight. We move to the place where satapada meets the ocean, there is a tiny split of sand in between the water bodies, where one can stop over, get some sea food by the make shift (small) stalls, as well as booze and a chilled out time with no interruptions by anyone. this small sand surface heads long as a divide between the salt water lake and the salt water ocean. My friends and i head out over the divide, seeing the small hillocks near by, we see some firangs had come to this unknown unknowable place to chill out as we had, inside thick forest cover on the hillock on this divide in the middle of nowhere. Somehow i feel very happy that there are people who still dont give a fuck how they reach where they reach as long as they reach a place which has soul.
Spending all my four evenings of satapada looking at the beautiful sunset (though not into the ocean) was my high point of travelling there. Something so serene, when i visit such places- which has nothing in common of the world i have lived, or seen is such a reprieve. Here people arent working towards fatter pay packages or a bigger diamond or more property, no i dont mean people here dont have their set of problems in their defined world, but their problems are somehow more basic- hence more real. I have never in my life complained of hunger- or excess exhaustion which i cannot avoid or things like this. Exploitation and no power. No water and floods and droughts. These are something which i dont understand. it is very good to see things which i cannot understand, and to be able to empathize with them.
I spent a lot of time on the boat listening to the boatsmen, during all the occasions which i visited this sacred natural place. The fisher folk tell many finer details about satapada- the ecosystem and also their simple life with their set of problems.
Sun tanning myself on the divide between the lake and the sea, i try out some sea food (though i am a strict vegetarian with stronger dispassion for sea food cause of mouth irritations which i have had in my previous experimentations) but the spicy spicy prawns were almost shoved in my mouth by my friends. We (harsh, krishna etc) see many skeletons of the turtles- which are famous for heading to the east coast of orissa for laying eggs, we see one full skeleton of a turtle- completely intact- we feel like taking it back. not for some morbid sense, but to show to the world- atleast the left over of something so beautiful. But we dont.
On the occasion when i went with my folks (who are way more adventurous about life and places than me~) they were thrilled/overjoyed to sit and chill on the boat and see the dolphins jump in their daily joy.
I was the immediate "dude" when i headed to this place with my infosys collegues - most of them oriya - who had lived their life in orissa yet had never ventured to this place- they were very (i guess) proud and intrigued that a stupid city folk had actually seen more of their state than themselves :-)
Orissa and satapada are amazing places to see. many other places like bhitar kanika (for the crocs), tara-tarini, kalijai, gopalpur are hubs of nature still. With the increasing nexus of exploitation in the name of power and land in orissa by corporations- these places and their beauty will be a thing of the past by the next decade. I wish that many more go and meet the fisher folk. enjoy, exchange and learn new ideas and ways of life.
Peace upon all

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