Earlier this week, I was in Orissa for a couple of days. After landing in Bhubaneshwar, we traveled northwards towards the coast at Paradeep, back to Bhubaneshwar and then to Angul and Dhenkanal and then back to base.
Orissa has a reputation for being a very warm and humid region, the weather this time around was amazing. Despite the golden warmth of the Sun, the temperature barely touched 30 degrees Celsius. In fact, we were happier putting off the air conditioning in the car.
The route to Paradeep is very beautiful. Green paddy fields on either side of the road made the drive an intensely pleasurable experience, a treat for weary urban eyes gone sore by the sight of concrete all around.
Paradeep is lovely port town. Life in the town centers mainly around the port and a few mineral processing industries. The town itself is well managed by the port trust - wide neat roads and a lot of greenery. A self-contained town, Paradeep has all facilities, including schools, hospitals, markets, hotels and yes, a golf course!
We stopped by at a local hotel to grab some food before our return back - Empires Hotel, which belongs to a local Oriyan business group. The hotel caters to the shipping crew who stop by at Paradeep, and that shows in the tariffs. The hotel itself is very well located, has an inviting decor and is quite compact. The lunch buffet had an amazing variety of Oriyan delicacies. There were a number of local Oriyan delicacies on offer. There were a few vegetable preparations - greens etc., which were delectable. I attacked the Oriya style baingan bhartha, which was more like babaghanoush, aloo bhartha (spicy mashed potatoes) and tomato bhartha (to me that was a lot like Mexican salsa).
And then my Oriya friend pushed me to take bowls full of crab curry, mutton curry and fish curry. The crab was the best - extremely spicy with a generous helping of garlic. The crab was so fresh and succulent - the only hitch was the mess I was afraid of creating, cracking open the shells! Dessert followed - all typical Oriya delights!
On the way back, my friend (and colleague) got me a box of local pedas from Cuttack. Mildly sweet and fragrant, the pedas were too soft to dig into, alongwith a warm cup of Assam tea.
The next day, early in the morning, we set out for Angul in the interior of Orissa, passing through Dhenkanal. Unlike the route to Paradeep, this area is not cultivated. Instead, there are quite dense forests on the way, alongwith rolling hills, grasslands - a varied landscape. And the bright blue sky above, with a few clouds floating around in gay abandon. This reminded me of Zambia! It was almost like deja vu, as though I was back in Zambia!
Adding to the sense of deja vu, I came across a number of anthills and mud huts with thatched roofs! This was it! And as I was seeing all this, Miriam Makeba's song "Africa is Where My Heart Lies..." was ringing in my head!