Pushpa, Sabita, Sikhya, and Pushpa's father
Since my time in Bhubaneswar would soon be coming to an end and I hadn't yet seen much of the area surrounding Bhubaneswar, my colleague Sabita very sweetly organized an overnight trip. And my NGO very generously paid for everything! It was Sabita, Pushpa, Sikhya (Pushpa's daughter), Pushpa's father, and me -- which meant the four women were squished in the back seat. One person always had to be sitting forward on the edge of the seat in order for us all to fit; we took turns, but they rarely let me do it so I could sit at the window and enjoy the view. So sweet! We had a driver who stayed with us the whole time, which is apparently quite affordable and common in India. I'm not clear on where he slept -- I think it was in the car, out in the heat.
A guy's gotta make a living, I guess. Ouch.
It was a little on the windy side
We had a plan in place to beat the heat: Leave on Saturday afternoon, return to Bhubaneswar on Sunday morning by 11, rest for a few hours, and then set out again at around 4pm. Saturday worked out beautifully, but on Sunday somehow everything moved a bit slowly, and we didn't return to Bhubaneswar until 3pm. Since the car had no a/c and it was about 100 degrees out, I desperately wanted to go straight to the office to get into the a/c; at about 1pm someone said we were heading there, but we kept making stops. When we reached Bhubaneswar I was so relieved... until we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. We tried two restaurants that were either too crowded or didn't have a/c; finally, nearly in tears, I told them I had to get inside somewhere.
It was difficult to complain or make demands because they were uncomfortable too, and we made all the stops and took the whole trip just for me. The heat definitely got to me, and I just couldn't fake it anymore. I got back to the office at 4pm and cranked up the a/c. I told Sabita that I wanted to partake in the evening's activities, but only if we could get a car with a/c. I'm trying so hard not to be such a princess about it -- and not to toot my own horn, but I think I've done pretty darn well tolerating the heat without too much complaint -- but I'd hit my limit. So at 5 we set out in a different car, blissfully cool in the a/c.
The view looking away from the temple
Highlights of the trip:
The Dhaula Temple, just outside Bhubaneswar. Sikhya happened to have done a research paper on this temple for school, so she explained everything to me.
It's amazing that this is just a few kilometers outside Bhubaneswar, where there's almost nothing green
A visit to an ashram, founded by a man with the most fascinating life story. He took us to a building under construction for the ashram, with a big sign that it's being funded by a group in... New Jersey.Getting up at 4am to watch the sunrise on the beach in Konark. Are my colleagues a group of good sports, or what?!
The Sun Temple in Konark (at 7am, in a futile attempt to beat the heat), a truly amazing place and one of India's highlights for me so far.
Pipli, a village that sells handicrafts in its own distinctive style.
The Dhaula Temple
Raghunath crafts collective, where artisans specialize in an amazing painting technique that is considered typical of Orissa. Sabita and Pushpa were very excited to take me here; I think they were proud to say that this beautiful artwork is part of their heritage. Unfortunately, we got here at noon -- with temperatures in the fry-an-egg-on-the-blacktop range -- and the electricity was out, so there weren’t even any fans. Oh. My. God.On Sunday evening, it was just Sabita and me from our original group; we picked up a friend of Sabita's family, Sudhansu, his wife Indira, and their nephew. All I knew is that we were going to a “farmhouse,” but that’s not at all what it turned out to be. We drove for over an hour into a very rural area, through villages and dusty dirt roads.
When we got out of the car and walked through a gate, I suddenly found myself in the midst of beautiful, manicured greenery -- quite a contrast. Turns out we were at the Orissa outpost of the Sri Aurobindo ashram -- as in the same ashram I went to in Pondicherry! We got the royal treatment, sitting down with the director, being fed amazing mangoes, and getting a personalized tour. It’s amazing that children from the poor villages that surround the ashram get to go to school here, free of charge.
I enjoyed going to the ashram, and I’m especially glad I met Sudhansu, but by the time I got home at 9:30 I was completely exhausted. A most pleasant surprise awaited me at the apartment: Tanushree got an air conditioner in her bedroom! Her sister and nephew were visiting and sleeping in her room, so I thought I’d stay in my room since four’s a crowd. But she insisted, saying I’m part of her family now. So sweet! At some point during the night I actually woke up cold. Woo hoo!