Friday, 26 December 2014

SAMBALPUR, THE SEAT OF GODDESS SAMALESWARI



The overnight bus journey from Bhubaneswar to Sambalpur was so comfortable that I could hardly feel that I had traveled over three hundred kilometers. My wife and children were also fresh and had a good night's sleep. We took a rickshaw to Hotel Panthanivas where we had our booking.

We hired a taxi for the sight seeing in and around the town. We got necessary information and assistance from the Tourist office in the hotel. We started with the darshan of Goddess Samaleswari after whom this small western Odisha town has been named. I was amazed to see the discipline in which people stood in a queue to get inside the temple. Such type of discipline is rarely seen in temples of Odisha. Our next destination was the Budharaja Temple on a hillock in the heart of the town. We had to climb more than a hundred steep steps to reach the top of the hill. The bird's eye view of the entire town was very nice. My children were ecstatic to see a train moving like a snake down below at the foot of the hill.

It took us about 45 minutes to reach Hirakud. We had to obtain a formal pass from the Security Office to visit the Dam. We were not allowed to drive on the dam. The five kms. long  dam connected two hills on the opposite sides thus creating a large reservoir. We climbed the Gandhi minar on the left dyke side. The top portion of the minar revolved  thus giving us an all round panoramic view of the dam site. My children were very happy. We felt as if we were amidst an ocean. The panoramic garden on the hill top was a good place to sit and relax. We then went to other side of the dam via the satellite township of Burla, popularly called the town of intellectuals. Barely within a radius of 2 kms. this township encompasses an Engineering College, a Medical college and an University. The literacy rate per square km will probably be the highest at this place. After spending about half an hour at the Nehru Minar we proceeded to the Ghanteswari Temple situated at Chipilima about 40 kms from Sambalpur. One has to walk on the narrow pavements of iron over vast expanse of water to reach the temple. It was a unique experience of fear and joy when we approached the temple. My children were very apprehensive and we had to hold their hands tight to give assurance.

Both my children were thrilled to see myriad of bells (Ghanti) of all sizes hung all around the temple. Hence the name Ghanteswari. The local priest explained to us that when people get their wishes fulfilled they tie bells in the temple. My wife also tied a ghanti for the well being of our family. We were feeling hungry and so we returned to the hotel.
In the afternoon session our first destination was the Deer Park on the Brookes hill. We thought it was a zoo sort of thing. But we were disappointed. A few deer and a leopard were what we could see there. I felt that if a beautiful garden were developed at the place it would be more attractive. Maneswar temple was our next destination. We were told that the deity in the temple was seen only on Sivaratri day and so it was called Patala Linga. My children enjoyed seeing the large turtles in the temple pond.

It was already 4.30 P.M. We proceeded to our last major destination, i.e. the leaning temple of Huma.(29 Km. from Sambalpur). The Shiva temple in the village was in an inclined state (about 20 degrees from the Vertical). I remembered the leaning tower of Pisa, Italy. Was this temple in any way less than that? Inside the temple all pillars and gates were also inclined. The local people told us that the temple was in that position since time immemorial. This was the most interesting and amazing spot of my entire Sambalpur trip. My children were in a spell of ecstasy to see hundreds of large and small fishes clamouring near the shore of the river adjacent to the temple. The fishes took eatables from our hands. People told us that those fishes belonged to the Lord and they always remain there. My children wanted to stay there for some more time but we had to return as it was getting dark. We could not also enjoy the boat ride in the river.

The next morning we went out for some shopping. I had heard about the famous handloom sarees of Sambalpur. My wife purchased two silk sarees from the Gole Bazaar area, the most famous market place of the town. They were not very cheap but at least the quality was guaranteed. A good bargainer can land up paying about 35 to 40% less on the quoted price of the sarees.

In course of our visit I talked to a lot of people. As I knew a bit of sambalpuri accent the local people felt that I belonged to their place and were very much free with me. They were very friendly and cooperative. However, the one thing about the town that tormented me was the poor drainage system, which resulted in flooding of roads after a good downpour thus making things unhygienic.

I and my family enjoyed every bit of time that we were at Sambalpur. If somebody is looking for a sleepy holiday away from the din and bustles of city life, Sambalpur will definitely be the right destination for him.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

CHILDHOOD



Gone are those rollicking days, when
I roamed freely and fearlessly
in the salubrious lap of nature
Climbing trees and plucking berries. 

The insatiable desire then entangled me
To soar into the unending blue of the sky
To catch up with the chirping birds
And to swim with the aquatics in the bay.

Criticism meant nothing to me
Society had no meaning either
Let alone life's obstacles and miseries
What to speak of fiendish human nature!!

I wondered how the sun shone so bright!
Why the moon not seen every night!!
Whenever I asked someone- I got the reply
Grow up my child; everything will come to your sight.

Now that I am grown up
Grown up enough to understand the mysteries of nature;
But one change in me I can never make out
How could I acquire such a selfish, jealous character?

I would like to be a child always, and stay
In that tiny world of enormous joys and queries;
Rather than becoming an adult and suffer
In this suffocating society of magnificent worries.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

TODAY'S POEM



An emotional me found the world
all beautiful and romantic.
I became Keats for a moment
and searched for the 'thing of beauty'.
The Wordsworth in me was overwhelmed by
the everlasting chant of the Highland lass.
And I found myself in the tranquility
Of mellifluent rustles of the casuarinas.
An idealist me imagined another world
Where people lived in ecstasy and bliss.

But alas! Can it be a "Paradise Lost"
If I become blind for a while and write?

The realist me shattered my dreams and I realised
That I am living in a world of woes and worries;
And the thing of beauty is nowhere to be seen.
Rich is becoming richer and might, not right
has become the order of the day.

Am I writing a poem just for poem's sake?

Oh! Sorry, my revered Worsworths', Miltons' and Keats',
For I want my poem to reflect the
Spirit of my times.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

WIFE

I had thought
In the bliss of that rare moment
In the pitch darkness of the locked room
On the flowery bed, amid the warmth of your breath
That I could submerge myself
In the ocean of your unfathomable love;
And drink the sweetness of your devotion to my heart's content.
And sail through life's voyage with ease.
As you had promised to render
Unconditional support for our
Peaceful coexistence,
In that first ever night of our sweet rendezvous.

And today,

Amidst the trials and tribulations of life
In the process of keeping pace with me
When you fling a trident like
"When is your salary?"
I feel as if I am getting drowned
In the turbulent sea of your conditional love
And my heart getting choked
In the saltiness of your blank devotion
And I really wonder whether
Your promise of unconditional support
Was meant for me, or
My pay packet?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Tolerating Injustice

It was 1971. I was a student of 5th Standard. I happened to go to  the Tehsil Office along with my grandfather  for sorting out some land related problem. My grandpa asked me ,"Do you have a two rupee note?"
"Yes" I said.
"Then give it to me. I will give you after going back", said  grandpa.
He took the note from me and handed over to a man in Khaki sitting near the Office entrance. We then reached inside a room where a fat man was sitting jotting down something on a piece of paper. Grandpa told him something in an accent as if he was begging something from God.  The man shouted at him and was talking in a loud voice as if he were the Emperor of the place. Although I could not make head and tail of the conversation between them I could sense that the man was insulting Grandpa. I was feeling irritated and felt like slapping the man but kept quiet more out of fear than anything else.
Grandpa was quite nervous and dejected when we started our return journey from the Tehsil office. He was deeply engrossed in some thought and hardly talked with me.When a usual jolly person keeps mum it is hard to tolerate. I could muster courage to ask "What happened? Why was that officer shouting at you? and what made you so sad??
Grandpa did not reply. When I repeated my question he could not hold back his tears. It was the first time I saw him weeping. I was really perturbed. My little mind could not gather strength to react to the situation. After sometime Grandpa became normal and told me: " You study hard and grow up. Be a bigger officer than this Tehsildar. Then we will teach him a lesson"
I could not make head or tail of this statement. Grandpa did not tell me anything else. After reaching our village I talked to a school mate who was elder to me by at least 4 years. He was more conversant with the village way of life and the behaviour of government officials with the illiterate village folks. He collected all informations about the incident and told me after a couple of days that the Tehsildar had asked my Grandpa a sum of Rs.100/-( a massive amount in those days in 1971) within a month to issue a new document (pataa)in place of the old worn out document as proof of ownership of our 2 acres of arable land. "But does those documents cost that much?" I asked innocently. "No it costs only 25 paisas per govt standards. The rest is the amount the  Tehsildar pockets?"
"But why? Does he not get paid by the govt?" My innocent query made my friend laugh aloud. He said, "You are a small child now. Grow up  a little more. You will understand"
The fact is I could not understand then (and I do not understand even now) why should any govt official demand money from innocent villagers to render a service which he is supposed to perform and for which he is handsomely paid by the govt?
That was my first experience of corruption in public life. More than forty years have passed since that day. I do not recollect where from my Grandpa got the money and how he could manage to pacify the hunger of that corrupt Tehsildar. But I remember from that very day I became too much conscious of corruption in public life and refused to give any TIPS to anybody. Even today I feel a sense of revolution in my soul while giving some tips to the hotel boy or the security guard while checking out of any Hotel. My friends and colleagues brand me as "miser" but some how I feel it is corruption at the grass roots level. Many a times I have preferred to travel in a over crowded general train compartment rather than paying a twenty rupee bribe to the TTE to get a berth. People feel I am a bit too much conscious about spending money. But I know that bribing is wastage of money and I am dead against wasting any resource.

We talk a lot about corruption in public life? But how many of us can refuse to pay bribe in a public place like a train compartment? The TTE should not demand money to allot vacant berths. It is his duty and he is being paid for performing his duty? But who is paying him? People like you and me. We  debate on corruption but cannot take the pains to travel in a general compartment. We scold the TTE at his back but do not curse ourselves for encouraging him to take money from us.

This is hypocrisy and all of us are hypocrites. How many of us can muster courage to accept this naked truth?? Come on friends. Stop bribing at the grass root level if you want to see a nation devoid of corruption. One Anna Hazare or Narendra Modi cannot do it. Each and every one of us has to contribute.

Do not forget: when you point a finger towards others there are three fingers pointed towards you. Please be the change you want to see in the society around you.