An Unforgettable Journey to Odisha (Orissa)
That night too was not an exception. The Madras railway station was so crowded as usual. Arrival and departure of trains, hundreds of passengers, platform vendors, porters.....the typical scene of a busy Indian railway station were emerging there.
We, a five member gang, boarded our train "Coromandal Express" at 21.45 hrs. As we had confirmed tickets, we were in a relaxed mood and entered patiently into the coach S10. The train would start its journey from Madras to Howrah at 22.30 hrs. It covers Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Orissa and finally reaches West Bengal. Passengers to Calcutta mainly depended on this train.
Don't be confused why I say Madras, Calcutta, etc. During that time, these places were known so. Yes, the journey was made during a cold February in the year 1999. Now as you know Madras is Chennai and Calcutta is Kolkatta.
We are back in our sleeper coach. It is nearly 10 pm. The train is to start its 2 nights' long journey within 10 minutes. Kabeer Das and his cousin Lalu are engaged in arranging their berths (read bed). Sreejith and Sidharthan were the other guys part of the 5 member team. Our mission is to attend a 10 days long camp in Berhampur (now it is called Brahmapur) in the eastern state of Odisha (Orissa) organised by the National Youth Project (NYP).
Inside the coach, I noticed a passenger standing opposite to me. He had elegantly dressed in a safari suit. The lady sitting next to him seemed to be his wife also looked smart in her costly silk sarees. She had lavish gold ornaments on her body and a big red bindi on her forehead. The man is busily settling his luggage and arranging their berths to have a comfortable sleep. I noticed they are conversing in some languages very strange to us. We thought they must be a north Indian couple. What surprised us more was their conversation was in several different languages. Is it Oriya? Gujarathi? We had no clues. Soon he began asking me some questions, all in English. We just began exchanging some customary questions. The train is moving fast and time is nearing 11 pm. Slowly we occupied our berths and fell into sleep.
The next morning, while the train was passing through Andhra Pradesh, we had some surprise. These middle-aged couples speak Malayalam! Our very mother tongue. We felt extremely happy when came to know that they are Malayalees. Naturally our conversation progressed and we were engrossed in various discussion. The surprise rocked high when they informed that they too are going to Berhampur. They had settled there since the last 25 years and doing good business in the city.
As we are reaching two days ahead of the program scheduled date ignoring the organizers' direction, we were not sure of the accommodation availability. Moreover, it is our first journey to such a long distant place and we had no contacts either. So finding lodging was the main concern. A lot of questions like where, how, when were forming in our tensed mind. We felt a kind of relax on the God's grace for we have got a helping hand even before reaching the destination. The family consoled us not to worry anymore and offered us any assistance in case we need it.
At 7.25 evening, we got down at Berhampur station. Our first coming to the state of Odisha and the eastern region. The family took us in their car parked outside the railway station and dropped us at Berhampur town hall. The camp office was functioning there. The organizers were present in the office. We acquainted with them. Soon we got accommodation and food thanks to the help of our new friend- KGN Acharyar, that was his name. Fortunately, he was a well-known personality in the town and a member of many organizations in the area. The organizers too were his friends.
The next morning he phoned us to get ready immediately as he wishes to take us for some temple darshan (visit). Incidently, I may also inform you that in Odisha, you can find temples everywhere and its capital city Bhuvaneshwar is even known as "The land of 1000 temples"! As promised, he came on time and took us to show some famous temples in and around the town. He also invited us to his home and served us good food.
The camp lasted for 10 days. During the camp days, he often visited us and brought us good food made in his home. On his request, we also spent time in his hotel "Purnapriya", the famous eatery in the Berhampur city. The former Prime Minister of India Mr Narasimha Rao was a regular visitor in the hotel during his election campaign in Berhampur Loksabha election. Thus, the hotel and its guests had a VIP status too.
We had more surprise in store before the camp was concluded. The day after the camp was over, Acharyaji sent us his car along with the driver. His plan was to send us for a two days' sightseeing. During this trip, we visited major attractions in Odisha. The famous Chilka lake, Bhuvaneshwar city, Konark Sun Temple, Konark Beach, Puri Beach, Puri Jagannada Temple and many other known and unknown temples. Truly it was a wonderful experience to know and feel the rich heritage of Odisha. Our stay in Odisha was a different and unforgettable experience. KGN Acharyar, the man we acquainted in the train compartment made it so pleasurable. The two days' trip and sightseeing would have surely emptied our pocket but for his kindness and hospitality.
Who on the earth provides such a sincere love, spend money lavishly and do whatever possible to make his guests so comfortable and cheerful? It is very surprising to note that such a display of love was poured on a group just acquainted in a night and day long journey!
On the day of our return, he came to send off us at the railway station. He had some packets of Sweets in his hand, which he lovingly put into our bags. The pain of departure was well seen on his sparkling eyes. Our hearts too were sobbing. While the train was moving, we were learning a new lesson. The golden lesson of love, compassion and friendship in its purity!
My Other Hub Related to Odisha
- What Makes Odisha A Different Travel Destination in India
Odisha, a state on the eastern part of India attracts tourists from across the glob. The Golden Triangle of Puri-Bhubaneswar-Konark is its main point of fascination. Odisha pleases all travelers.
© 2012 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth