Don’t be disheartened when you can’t visit a ‘must-see’ place or can’t do ‘things you should do in your life time’ as splashed in a plethora of articles (usually recycled) in print and online with filtered glossy pictures . I have done a few of such things and it usually has been a painful experience. Some were as close to being traumatic. From witnessing the F1 race when it happened for the first time in India some years ago to going up the historical towers in different countries- it has only been a time consuming, money wasting and mob-intimidating experience.
Very recently, in my quest to make the best of what could be my last ever visit to the lovely coastal state in the east of India, Odisha, I decided to visit the iconic holy temple of Lord Jagannath in the small town of Puri, some 50 km away from where my dad works and lives in the state’s capital, Bhubaneswar. I have visited Puri some 4-5 times in the last 2 years but have always headed towards the beach. This last trip was more like ticking an iconic place off my suddenly-erupting-from-nowhere checklist and letting everyone know, all those people who asked me earlier if I had been to the temple, that yes, I have! It is akin to going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower.
I am lucky I survived the very poorly-managed frenzied crowd that went berserk as soon as the gates to the sanctum opened. In a place where one should ideally display their best behaviour– after all, you are in the abode of God, one could see their worst coming out. They didn’t care if there were children (and a lady even got her one-month old baby!), ladies, old, sickly and frail people around them. They continually pushed one another till they reached the point where they could catch that one glimpse of the God’s idol. The mob was intimidating. I was one of them. I had to push along to survive. There was just one exit and the only way to it was by being carried away to it. I felt more awful for my mother who accompanied me as she is a quasi-claustrophobic. After a certain point I lost her in the throng. With phones being banned inside I could not contact her. Luckily, she had managed to reach the exit.
I have been to some amazing places in the state whch do not have the “must visit” tags attached to them. Starting from the Biodiversity park two minute away from my father’s accommodation where I jog every morning to visiting lovely beaches in the coastal towns of Konark, Puri, Gopalpur-on-Sea, and Chandipur-on-Sea. The Bay of Bengal looks so vast and beautiful. Not to forget the architecture of Konark’s Sun Temple which is breath taking.
I am better off visiting the temple across the road where my dad lives. I have not witnessed anywhere else the enthusiasm with which the priest performs the daily evening prayer. As he goes in trance, some devotees play the drum and ring the gongs in cadence. You can feel the passion, the vibrations, Goddess Kali being invoked. And most importantly, you can breathe and come and go as you like.
So if those ‘must’ visit places attract mob, then you are better off watching them – the games, the places, the people – in the magazines or on the television. You have not missed out much. You have rather been a wise person.
Explore unknown places. Uninhabited places. Unpopular places. Place that you will genuinely enjoy and not just go to a place ticked as mandatory by others.
Images from top (all clicked by me on iPhone):
1: Lord Jagannath Temple, Puri
2. Walkers in the biodiversity park, Bhubaneswar
3. The priest at the local Kali temple, Bhubaneswar
4. Papa takes a walk by the Konark beach