Yesterday, I returned from a three day trip from Puri and needless to say that the trip was refreshing. Puri is one of the places I love a lot. It has the best beech I have seen till now (of course, I have to visit Mumbai and Goa first and only then, I will be in a position to declare the supremacy of Puri Beech over all the Indian beeches), you get nariyal paani (coconut water) at real cheap rates and the most important of all, being situated in a less developed area, the place still maintains its natural beauty and delicacy.
There are two things which make me deeply concerned after this trip. The first is the Naxalite problem which prevails in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and other Indian states. But how does the Naxalite problem come in between my trip? Actually, I had no idea that after the (suspected) Naxalite links in the Gyaneshwari Express train accident in May this year, all the traing running at night between Tata-Kharagpur section were stopped and train traffic would only start after 5 am in the morning. And because of this we had to stay at Tatanagar railway station throughout the night unnecessarily. The trip schedule got affected a bit and we had to face some difficulties as well. And when I think of it, it really scares me thinking of the people who live in the Naxal-affected area as when a big organization like Indian Railways can get helpless in front of the railways, what condition and fear must the people be living in the area!! On the other hand, I came to know that all the Naxalites in the region have some political contact and support and which prevents the police to act against them. Jai ho Indian Politics!! (Hail the Indian Politics!!)
The second concern is the sad state of the Indian temples which are more of a market place for the pandas or pundits (priests). And I came to know that the Jagannath Temple in Puri is the most affected by the tyranny of the pandas on the visitors. They don’t let you walk inside the temple premises peacefully unless you keep on throwing money wherever and whenever they suggest. And the worst of all is the fact that they stick to you like a fly on sugar until and unless you pay them off with some dakshina (money). This is despite the fact that the government has taken the temple under its control and fixed salary is given to all the priests. And the most surprising fact is that the pandas even used physical assault on visitors to get money from them. Use for abusive language is still prevalent, even we had to face it :-(. I know money is involved with most of the religions and almost all the temples in India but what I saw at Puri and Sakshi Gopal Temples could not be termed anything less than loot.
But who said one travels across to other places to see the places only? One travels to experience different cultures, people and lifestyle and a lot of other new things and the trip excelled in providing a very different experience of life. And the best of all was the awesome Puri Beech. Hope to visit the place again soon!! :-)