By Abhinita Mohanty:
Going to a place, nearly after 15 years, gives you mixed feelings of excessive excitement and unanticipated apprehensions, especially if it’s your village. Being born and brought up in the capital city of Bhubaneswar, I had almost no contact with my village. I can’t even call it ‘my village‘ as I had been there only twice. This time I went for a third visit. When my grandparents shifted to Bhubaneswar after my father’s service here, the contact with village was cut abruptly. That was before my birth. Yet, my father never really forgot the place where he was brought up and spent most of his childhood. He still remembers the straw house made up of country soil and thinks those days were heavenly. Since my childhood, I have been hearing the tales of Athmallick in the Anugul district of Odisha.
It’s mostly about the village folks, papa’s childhood friends, their mischief, the famous streams and ponds, the jungles, about its king Late Kishore Chandra Deo, his 4 queens, his harem, his grand palace and that my forefathers were working for the kings and attended the royal courts, though they weren’t quite rich. Now the palace wears a deserted look and is in ruins. It is covered with bat nests and grass on the walls. At night, people claim to see ghosts and say that the palace is haunted. My grandma narrated to me stories about the very famous goddess of Athmallick, Devi Maaheswari, and also stories of black magic. So, it was an enchanted land in my mind’s imagination. I couldn’t visit the temple as during the 15 days around Dusshera, ladies aren’t allowed but no such restrictions exist during other time of the year.
When I made the first visit, I was too young to remember, I remember nothing. Then I went for the second time and I have some faint, vague pictures, almost nothing. Again I went for the third time in October. It was a whole new world. As I entered the place it was already twilight. Deep woods with dense, tall trees, within 7hours, I was transported to a place which was not only averse to Bhubaneswar but also seemed to challenge its lifestyle in every way. We stayed at my father’s friend’s house, as our own house is not in a good shape, and we didn’t want to disturb the caretaker and his family. The climate was comparatively cool and dry, and very pleasant, a big relief from the sticky climate of Bhubaneswar. The 7hrs journey had fatigued my parents, sister and me; after the delicious dinner, the cool environment and the tiredness gently lulled us to the lap of sleep. The next morning, we all went to a very wonderful spot, called Binkay-e.Â I was surprised to see the Mahanadi so clean and transparent as it flowed from the mountains, but as one reaches the town, you will find it polluted and mostly dry, perhaps reflecting its people’s hearts. The area is surrounded by smooth mountain rocks and as I stood over it to glance at the Mahanadi below, I simply thought ‘beautiful‘. It was a magical moment. I climbed down with bare feet and slowly dipped my feet into the flowing water. The cold water, for some seconds, made my mind blank, empty and void of thoughts. The picture above says it all. We also visited a small temple nearby and after strolling aimlessly for some, time we went back for lunch.
After the lunch and a little rest, we all went to Belpunji, perhaps one of the most beautiful scenic spot in the world. It would have been a great spot for shooting a movie or for tourism, but people hardly know about it. But again, it’s good for a beautiful place to be secluded and virgin so it remains beautiful and unpolluted forever. There, the Mahanadi has a sandy beach very much like sea beaches. What attracted me was the presence of varying sizes of rocks lying in the river scattered here and there, just as I had seen in Bollywood movies. I again dipped my legs and stood there for some hours. It is all sand, setting twilight sun, shining rocks, clean water and in summers, I have heard, one can clearly see small fishes swimming and swarming around their legs. It was just wow! In the evening, we went to Deoljhari, a temple of Lord Shiva. Behind the temple, we saw natural hot springs with vapors coming up; it was so different all together. The next day, early morning, we went back to Bhubaneswar.
I went to the house where my father had spent his childhood and where my grandma came as a new bride. It is in a pathetic condition now, but my family plans to reconstruct it. I also saw our own farm lands that still feed me rice and dal which are clean and without fertilizers. I went home and narrated everything to my grandpa and grandma who went there 8 yrs back. They listened with joy and asked details to know what has changed during these years.
We all go to popular places mentioned in tourist brochures and endorsed commercially; such small, secluded places are the ones where you find the realÂ unspoiledÂ beauty of nature; which make you realize the difference between a well maintained, artificial garden and a wild garden with unknown flowers and huge trees. I will go back again when the chance comes and destiny beckons.