I was in Bhubaneshwar for a couple of days last week. This was one of those residential workshops where the participants are confined in a campus in the middle of nowhere. And that left me profoundly dissatisfied, because I had never been to Orissa before and I wanted to experience more than the inside of a sterile conference room.
Orissa is in my admittedly stereotyping mind, a land of stories. This is where Ashoka fought, killed and had his epiphany. He tended to use the land as a sort of personal journal, and this is where we can read his diary entries. Flying into Orissa, there is a long stretch of utter blackness. This, I realised, is where the last vestiges of the Dandakaranya, the great forest mentioned in many epics, still hold on.This land is which straddles several incomprehensible worlds. There are laidback tribal communities that launch highly visible and successful international campaigns when mining companies threaten them. There are bustling markets selling cane, plastic, and everything in between. There is sambalpuri fabric, architecture, and exquisite art.
And so I sneaked out. Once during the lunch hour, and once during the window after the main session but before the working group meeting.
Now these narrow time frames meant that I could not follow the 'soak in atmosphere' strategy. I needed to be ruthless and 'sightsee'. Very humdrum, but better than nothing.
Actually, not quite 'humdrum' as you can see from the photo .
I came across it near the temple complex. How could I resist? Actually, if Mian was with me, I would have gotten him a haircut. After all, it is the only gent's parlour we can trust!