Friday, May 29, 2009

In the land of Lord Jagannath

The view of the sea from our hotel room on the first day.
On my first evening on the beach at Puri, with my flying umbrella.

That's one of the sand-built structures, the figure of a woman, which some people make on the beach everyday.

A sign on Swargodwar beach prohibits people from bathing there without a 'noliya's' help. And, Swargodwar is the place where people ignore this sign the most without any sort of hesitation!

A portion of the 'Natmandir' wall of the Sun Temple at Konark, showing the dance postures.

My parents and I in front of one of the wheels of the temple.

Raja Narashingha Deb, who had taken the initiative to build the Sun Temple, can be seen here with his queen.

One of the carvings at Konark shows Shravana carrying his blind old parents.

The slab at Konark showing that to preserve the structure, the interior was filled in by the order of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal in 1903 AD.

The sea at Chandrabhaga

That's supposed to be Lord Jagannath's paternal aunt's house. Anyway, whoever lives there sure has a lovely place to live in. Who doesn't want to have such a nice house?

My parents on 'New Marine Drive', the continuation of the Swargodwar beach.

A camel on the beach at Puri

Last Saturday, I went to Puri with my parents. We had decided that we would visit Puri once my mother’s work would be over and my summer vacation would begin. So, our train berths and hotel room had been reserved a lot earlier because loads of people go to Puri during this time of the year and it would have been very difficult to get places on the train and also in a hotel without advance reservations. Thus, according to our plans, we reached Puri on Sunday morning after catching the Saturday night Puri Express from Howrah Station. I had never been to Puri before and so, was very excited. I had been told that the kind of waves of the sea at Puri cannot be seen anywhere else in India. They are huge and majestic. Well, I first saw those waves this time and I have to admit that they really are more beautiful than those of the water bodies in other places. But, as it was raining when we reached Puri, I first saw the sea of Puri in its tumultuous form. It was only drizzling but that drizzle was enough to raise the waves higher than usual. And, the sea was beautiful!Our hotel was situated on ‘Swargodwar’, the beach road of Puri. So, the location was obviously fantastic and we were very lucky to get a sea-facing room. That helped us because we did not venture out on the first day owing to the rain and yet, we could watch the sea sitting in our room! I just went for a short walk along the beach with my father that evening and we had to hold on to our umbrellas tightly to prevent them from being blown away by the wind!
Next morning, we first paid a visit to the Jagannath Temple, which apart from the deity’s presence, is a pretty horrible place. Yet, my parents said that it had been twice more horrible when they had visited it some twenty years ago. According to them, the pandas at the temple had been more authoritative then. Well, whatever might have been the situation then, the situation now isn’t exactly pleasant. The pandas just wait there to trap you and make money.I thought that the weirdest of all the pandas was this one. Now, he was standing with two sticks in his hand ,beating everyone on the head with those sticks as they were leaving the temple and then, demanding money from them! Later on in the day, we took a bath in the sea. J It was a wonderful experience. The waves came splashing and washed us over and over again. All around us, people were shouting with delight . But, contrary to what I had heard, no one was taking the help of the ‘noliyas’ or guards to take a bath. People were confidently standing or sitting or lying down or performing all sorts of aerobatics as the waves were crashing in and submerging them completely. There are three watch-towers on the beach but it didn’t seem as though the three policemen were watching over anybody .They were simply sitting there all day. Poor fellows, their job must be boring!
During our five-day trip, we also visited the famous Sun Temple at Konark. An hour-and-a-half’s drive from Puri takes you to Konark. The temple boasts of great art and architecture, seeing which one must utter the word, ‘Wow’. The main structure consists of the temple, which is actually a chariot, all carved out of sandstone. The chariot has twenty four big wheels and on the spokes of each wheel, different stages of different activities of those times had been carved . The temple has three idols of the Sun God, representing childhood, youth and old age respectively. Other than the wheels, there are numerous carvings on the walls of the temple, the chariot and a hundred and twenty eight dance postures on the walls of the ‘Natmandir’. The Natmandir and the Conference Hall are separate structures, located just beside the temple. On the way to Konark, the sea disappears but reappears for a short distance at Chandrabhaga. The sea there is just like that at Puri, but the colour might just be a tad bit different and more like a river’s colour.
In the evening, Swargodwar becomes extremely lively with all types of stalls that are set up on the beach. They all use very bright lights and sell everything . Tea, sweets, chat, clothes, pearls, idols, conch shells, bags and what not! People also opt for rides on camels and ponies and there are merry-go-rounds for children. Besides these, there are some very talented people who build beautiful structures out of the sand on the beach. All these activities go on all over the long and sprawling beach.
But, the food at Puri was a huge disappointment. We tried different restaurants and different menus, but the quality of the food is just not upto the mark. The chicken is too spicy, they can’t cook the vegetables properly, they have only one type of curry for all fishes, the ‘puri-bhajji’ is always served cold and its best to not even talk about the idli-vada. Yes, we tried everything but were not satisfied. One can’t expect the food to be like that of ‘Mainland China’ everywhere but there has to be a minimum standard, which is terribly lacking at Puri.
We were lucky that Puri was not affected by Cyclone Aila. The rain of the first two days cleared up on the third day and the weather became quite pleasant, specially in the evening.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rabindra Jayanti celebrations

Last week, I was busy with the birthday celebration of that great, great man; the one and only Rabindranath Tagore. A function was held in our school yesterday on the occasion of his 149th birthday and some students from Class XII, including me, performed the 'Pancharghya', which consisted of three poems and five songs from five of Tagore's stages, namely Puja, Swadesh, Prem, Prakriti and Bichitro. So, from last Monday to Friday, we rehearsed a lot and tried to make sure that everything was perfect. After the first stage rehearsal on Thursday though, we were criticized like anything by three teachers for giving such a 'dull' performance. We were told that our singing quality was very very poor and that we would have to increase the pace of each song because we were taking up too much time. Earlier, when we had made them listen to our poem recitations and songs, they had not pointed out our mistakes. But, that day, with just a day to go for the function, they said that we would not be allowed to perform on Saturday if our condition did not improve. We obviously were very upset and very angry but we are from the seniormost class. This was the last time when we could have performed for our school. So, with a lot more determination, we corrected ourselves the next day and were successful. The same teachers could not point out any mistake anymore! What's more, we took only ten minutes for our performance. Its true that we could sing only the first two stanzas of each song and recite only two stanzas from only three poems instead of five, but we were happy.

And on Saturday,that is,the day of the function, we simply rocked on stage. Yes, the other performances by the junior classes were also good, but we were undoubtedly the best. From Class XII, we had Sukanya and Souvik to say a few words about each of the stages before we recited a poem or sang a song from them. We sat down on the stage in the form of a semi-circle, with Sukanya and Souvik forming one end of the semi-circle. Next to them, sat Debjyoti, Debasish, Asmita and Debarati, who recited the poems and after that sat Basav, playing the tabla. Basav thus divided the students who recited, from those who sang, that is, me, Samprita, Arpita, Sreshtha, Archisman and Arittra. We were praised a lot by the other teachers for our superb coordination, our performance and also our looks. Yes, our looks because all the girls had to wear saris on the occasion while the boys had to don kurtas and pyajamas. I was a bit nervous; no extremely nervous, after wearing the sari. It was probably the second or third time that I wore a sari yesterday. But, considering that, I managed my sari quite well although I had to do it only for a couple of hours.

I have never received formal singing lessons. But, I still agreed to sing yesterday because if I try, I can manage to sing certain Rabindrasangeets pretty neatly and in tune. The second and more important reason was, of course, the last opportunity to perform for the school. That was the reason which united us and a unique spirit of friendship prevailed. The memories associated with this function will be one of the sweetest of my school life. Among ourselves, there was an unsaid sense of cooperation right from the first day of the rehearsals. It didn't seem then that we study in different sections of Class XII or that we come from differerent schools and have known one another for just a year or so since our admission to Class XI. There was always this feeling that no matter what else we are, we are the seniormost students of this school, we are friends and we have to perform together; we have to give our best.

That's the 'Pancharghya' team in action on stage(left)
(above left to right): Basav, Arittra, Archisman, Souvik

(left, from left to right): Asmita, Sreshtha and Arpita

(above) Me and my mother :-)