A visit to Maa Kalijai Temple

25.06.2017:

On completing our visit to Konark, we headed towards Berhampur. We were uncertain about our next destination as my friends started worrying about my condition. I was running a fever along with cough and cold and we set out from Konark only at around 18.00 hrs! Though I wanted to stop at Pipli on our way to Berhampur, I couldn’t, as I was fast asleep in the car and my friends didn’t dare to disturb my sleep 😉 Pipli is a place in Odisha which is famous for its applique work and artecrafts.  One can buy colorful umbrellas, bags, wall hangings and other decorative items.

I was woken up my friends only when we stopped at a restaurant for dinner and to my surprise, it was the same restaurant in which we dined the other day! 🙂 Even the owner and the waiters were able to recognize us quickly and were more happy to extend their services to us! 😀 I slept again for the rest of our journey and woke up only after reaching our hotel in Berhampur. Once checked-in, I called it a day!

26.06.2017:

I woke up around 07.00 hrs and was surprised to see my friends who were already up and got ready! They asked me how I were feeling and they relieved a sigh when I told them that I was much better after such a good sleep that night! I quickly freshened up and we checked-out from the hotel. As it was only 08.00 hrs in the morning and none of us felt like eating and didn’t think much about our breakfast and headed towards Chilika Lake. Yes, it’s the Chilika – Asia’s largest brackish water lake.

Chilika Lake is situated at a distance of about 50 kms from Berhampur and is one of the most visited places in Odisha. Chilika is also one of the famous eco tourist spots of the state. On reaching Chilika Lake, we checked for a ferry service and there are multiple options available here. We can either go on a ferry which would carry around 20 passengers, or a boat which would carry about 10 people or a speed boat which would be sufficient for 6 passengers. The fare depends on the number of places which we choose to visit!

We chose a speed boat visit to the nearby Kalijai island which costed us around Rs. 3,000/-. Chilika is a brackish water lagoon which extends over an area of 1,200 sq km in the monsoon season and shrinks to an area of about 800 sq km in summers! It was declared a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance in 1981 and is popular as a spot for both bird watching and finding Irrawady dolphins. As soon as we stepped into our speed boat, it sped off through a narrow channel which leads to the main lagoon! It’s a vast expanse of blue waters surrounded by low undulating hills. It wasn’t a sunny day and temperature was low which is perfect to soak in this magic! 🙂 🙂

This lake is dotted with numerous islands and the Nalabana Island which is at the center of the lake has a bird sanctuary and the best time to visit this island is in between October and March when a lot of migratory birds from Afghanisthan, Iran and Serbia comes here. And Satpada which is near to Puri is the place where concentration of Irrawady Dolphins is more and chances of us getting a glimpse of this endangered species are more! We came across the INS Chilika Headquarters on our way to the Kalijai island.

It took us around 30 minutes to reach this island. Our boat driver also acted as our guide through the ride and explained us different things about Chilika. He told us that the Kalijai island is the abode of goddess Kalijai, who is revered as the reigning deity of the lagoon. There is a legend behind this temple too 🙂 It is said that Jaai was a girl who was going to get married in Parikud Islan, and the boat on which they are travelling was capsized in the storm and while everyone else survived in this tragedy, the girl died. And in later days, the boatmen and fishermen were to hear her speaking to them and guiding them in troublesome situations and became to be worshiped as Maa Kali. Hence the name Kalijai!

He further added that no boatmen would venture out into the lake without offering prayers to Maa Kalijai. The temple of Maa Kalijai was built by Sri Jagannath Mansingh (king of Bankad) in the year 1717. This is a small rocky island and houses a temple and few shacks selling food, soft drinks and other puja items. We offered our prayers and went around the island which hardly took 15 minutes! Apart from the priest and some staff in the temple, no one else lives there.

Back on the shore, it’s time for us to head to our homes – our loving parents are waiting for us! 😉 Though we didn’t have our breakfast, we didn’t forget to make a stop at our now favorite eating spot – the Urvashi Paradise Restaurant in Palasa and this time we tried our hand at the lip-smacking Gongura as well as Avakai Biryanis! 🙂 Our next stop was at one of my favorite hang-out spots in Vizag – the coffee shop ‘Pasty, Coffee & Conversation‘, which is a 10 minute walk from my University in which I pursued my engineering 🙂 🙂 Good olden days and good olden memories 🙂

Having a recap of our trip in our conversation over cups of coffee and some pastries and mud-pies, we headed to Rajahmundry 🙂

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Let’s find our destination for the day….

24.06.2017:

I got a flight from Trivandrum to Vizag on the previous day, while Eshwar was already into Vizag. Bhojnadh too started from Nellore on 23rd to Vizag. By 22.00 hrs, each of us were into our respective places and decided to start our journey around 07.00 hrs the next day. Trust me, never ever would we make out on the exact time! 😮 I woke up around 06.00 in the morning and got ready by 07.00 and was waiting for these guys to pick me up from my uncle’s home. I tried to call them since 05.00 hrs in the morning, but none of them attended my calls and Eshwar called me only at 08.00 hrs!

He started with a sorry and told me that they would be there at my place by 09.30 hrs, but they turned up only at 11.00 hrs. Pappu (Krishna), a friend of Eshwar’s younger brother too tagged along them and I bid a bye to dad, mom and uncle, aunt. Once onto the road, Eshwar told me that as we are just 4, we would go till Srikakulam and return back. But, I told him that we will go atleast till Gopalpur on Sea – a good beach destination. All the four of us agreed upon this and the destination was decided thus – It’s Gopalpur on Sea! 🙂 🙂

Gopalpur on Sea can be reached easily from Berhampur in Odisha and is around 250 kms from Visakhapatnam. Vizag is connected to Berhampur by the National Highway 16 (NH16), previously NH5 and is a part of the Golden Quadrilateral Project. The weather was cloudy and cool. We took a 10 minutes break near Bhogapuram to sip the tender coconuts that were being sold on the roadside and got our bottles filled with sweet coconut water before we started our journey again. We reached Srikakulam within an hour and planned to have our lunch here. But then, none of us were hungry and so we continued with our journey.

In the meanwhile, Eshwar checked with couple of his friends about restaurants/dhabas where we can get some good food and few told him to have it in Srikakulam while few suggested to drive to Palasa. When checked online we found a restaurant in Palasa with some decent reviews on google. We decided to have our lunch there. Just after crossing Srikakulam, the weather changed drastically and it started raining heavily making the climate more cool and our drive a bit slow. The clock ticked 14.00 hrs! While Eshwar was driving, pappu was sleeping, Bhoje was busy answering his office calls and I busy in finding a gas station online.

Though we reached Palasa, we were not able to find the restaurant and after inquiring with few people, they asked us to take the Palasa – Kasibugga road to reach this restaurant. From this, we were able to conclude that the restaurant is famous in and around its surroundings perhaps! Wondering how could a restaurant could be so famous in such a remote place, we started driving on the narrow Palasa-Kasibugga road and reached there. To our surprise, the restaurant was jam-packed and we had to wait for almost 15 minutes to get a table 😦 While Eshwar, Pappu and I started going through the Menu Card, Bhoje went near to the ATM to do some business transactions!

A perfectly dressed gentlemen came to us and asked for our order and Eshwar inquired about the specialties of their restaurant. The answer came instantly – it’s Biryani! Ofcourse Biryani, especially the Hyderabadi Biryani is quite famous in the states of Andhra Pradesh and neighboring Telanaga, but this restaurant is famous of two unique variants of Biryani i.e Gongura Biryani and Aavakai Biryani! Gongura is a sour leafy vegetable that is available in Andhra Pradesh while Aavakai is a hot and spicy pickle Andhra Pradesh is famous for. Don’t think these two are as simple as they sound – they are the base of a small-scale industry in the state 🙂 😉

Without further discussion, Eshwar and I ended up ordering Gongura Vegetable Biryani for us while Pappu chose Aavakai Chicken Biryani for himself and Bhojnadh. We ordered Hot and Sour soup too along with Mushroom Tikka – a spicy stater of barbecued Button Mushrooms marinated with yogurt and spices. The food was served hot and truly it’s delicious. I never ever imagined that we could get such good food in this pocket of the state and Eshwar ended up ordering for Paneer Tikka too – a variant of Cottage Cheese, to munch on during our drive!

Once onto the Highway, we changed our driving turns! Clouds…Rain…Soothing Music…Childhood friends…A long drive.. What else could be an ideal therapy for a tired soul? 🙂 🙂 We made our way to Berhampur with a brief halt on the road-side just to stretch our legs and relish the cool weather. Ofcourse, munching some Paneer Tikka along with a hot cup of tea on the roadside while it’s drizzling is not such a bad idea. What would you say? 😉

 

A million dollar question – Who are going to join me on this trip?

Whomever made this is absolutely right 😉 😀 Because, group travels will be always like this! This time, I thought of exploring the east coast and asusual had put-forth the plan infront of my friends. My goodness, everyone was ready – Maithreyee, Bhojnadh, Meghna, Eshwar, Sharat, Naveen, Praveen, Divya, Shruti and ofcourse I was already there! Just 10 days before the trip, Praveen informed us that he won’t be able to make it as he had to attend some official work in Pune, Naveen can’t because his exams were around, Divya can’t coz she can’t skip her classes of Big Data, Shruti is going to Delhi to join her Civils Mains classes and Meghna is going on another trip with her other group of friends. There we go, the Toyota Innova became a Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire!! 😀 😀

5 days before the trip, Sharat called me only to say that his Section Officer didn’t sanction him leave and so he can’t join us on the trip. Still, we stuck to the Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire! 4th day while I was in the office, my phone beeped and when I unlocked it, the next obvious thing happened –  A photograph of Maithreyee with a huge Plaster of Paris bandage  around her left leg popped up on my WhatsApp. 😦 Therefore, the Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire became a Maruti Alto!! 😀 😀

Finally, it was Eshwar, Bhojnadh and I who were left to go on this trip if we are not to cancel it. I made up my mind and told them that we are going to Odisha anyways, no matter who else joins! There is no proper plan as such, but we made a point that we all will meet in Vizag (Visakhapatnam) and then decide what we gonna do.

Stay tuned to see what happened next 😉

How about a break???

Yeah, how about a break? A break from trekking? A break from the mountains? A break from the chilling winds and snowflakes? I think, it’s time for one.. for me; I think for you too 😉

What could be a better destination? Any place far away from this concrete jungle would be fine for me :p A place where there won’t be any hustle bustle. A place where I can go for a long walk all alone; If tired, can sit somewhere and watch the blue sky and get lost in my thoughts; have some good food or a drink, soft though 😉 under the moon light or on a candle-lit table, when I feel hungry… After this much of description, I know that everyone will vote for a beach 😉 . Isn’t it?

Let’s go to a beach then. A small correction… to beaches!  Yeah, to some of the finest beaches in the world. Don’t think that I am taking you to Mauritius or Maldives for those. As I mentioned earlier, India, our beautiful India has got all one wants. It might be the mighty mountains or the vast green meadows, beautiful beaches or splendid valleys, we can find everything here in this land of wonders 🙂 , my India!!

Having my roots in a coastal area, beaches are not new for me. Yes, though my mom is from a remote village in Vizianagaram, we had hardly been there. As far as I know, all my visits to my maternal grandparents are to the beautiful beach city “Visakhapatnam” (the city of destiny). And to my luck, I completed my graduation from a university in the same city, later worked in Chennai, which is yet another beach city, visited Pondicherry, the once French colony, still bearing the aroma of French culture and last but not the least Goa.

It’s quite a difficult thing for me to choose among these places, I mean for my next series 😉 . I was thinking about the travel tale which I should share with you people now.  After a lot of thinking, I decided my destination. Not from any of those mentioned above though! Guess what, Andaman and Nicobar Islands it is! Yes, thanks to one of my very close friends Swati for taking us all to this beautiful place. I will be thankful to her always 🙂

I would like to share all the memories which I bundled for a life-time during this trip by taking all of you down to my past. Welcome to my Andaman Diaries!!!

 

MOM – The strongest I have met

Articulating on the word “strongest” makes me realize that the only Woman I will have that word reverberate is when I associate it with my MOM. A little black and white shade as we rewind the journey to her childhood days and when her elder sister got married, it was in her seventh grade. Her brother remained with their grandparents when she and elder sister continued staying with parents. Time being the best teacher and trait, as years flung, my mom completed her tenth grade with the best of her abilities when her parents had to relocate to Vishakapatnam owing to her Father’s transfer.

Time brings with the ticking hands of pleasure and pain to balance the body, mind and soul. When my mom was in her Intermediate, she had to see her father succumb to a fatal lung infection. There was a hole in the family from the previous wholesomeness. They moved back to Vizianagaram where her father had constructed a home. With a son and two daughters the responsibilities grew Himalayan fold on my granny’s shoulders; my mom stood by her side and as a back bone to shoulder some of it equally. The act of juggling studies with animal husbandry along with agricultural and house hold chores has been best learnt and enacted upon by my mom.

Her father was 42 when he touched the land of his heaven. The reflection on others age will send a strong signal as to what mental stamina would have been prevailing. But, my mom discontinued her studies in order to support the household with the final settlement from grandpa’s service and an addition saved through such cuts reserved her elder sister’s marriage. Once the elder sister was married off, mom and granny still had the post-marriage cultural routine that had to be performed from a girl’s side in order to keep the balance of marriage under control.

The courage, bravery, responsibility and hope that was carried out and reflected in each and every quarter of the journey of her life by being herself and not letting her family down at any cost, had indeed united a thread of gene between me and my mom. The entire village had revered the services of my grand mom and mom to dedicate all that they had to their family, unitedly and with all the hope under the sun. As there is nothing called as a stopped clock, since it could be just the batteries, so is the ticking tong of my mom’s marriage …