Saturday, January 08, 2005

Day 12 - Bhadrak to Baripada

After haggling with myself, I finally wake up at 5:50. The alarm initially was for 3:30.

Two cups of tea are enough to start me off. It is 7:00 AM by the time I start off from Bhadrak.

It is very cold. The cold is numbing my hands, and I am finding it increasingly difficult to grip the handlebar... I curse this earthquake, the resulting devastation at Chennai and of course, the tsunami. The tsunami has not only devastated a sea of humanity, but is affecting people as far as here! The locals tell me that the wind and the chilly weather started after the tsunami.

The cold and the opposing wind notwithstanding, I have succeeded in maintaining a steady pace till 9:00. The credit should partially go to a factory employee who is going to work on his cycle. I don't want to give him the bragging rights that he beat a shiny gear cycle. Sso I ensure that I stay consistently ahead of him.

The breakfast at the dhaba is the regular fare - peas subjee and dry roti - but the taste is good. It has also eaten an hour of my time. The cook is just too slow...

And as I anticipated, the proceedings are turning out to be dull. It is just the usual tea breaks and cycling till Balasore. Near Balasore, there is a route to Kharagpur which promises to cut short the distance to Kolkata by nearly 100 kms, but I am not interested in this route at all.

The wind is hindering my progress all the time and it I am feeling the chill even at noon. I enter Balasore town (known for steel production) - my intention is to post a short trip update on this site. The second browsing center that I enter has exactly 1 computer, a reliance connection and Win 98. Good enough for now, and I post a quick update. The meal at the local hotel is only so-so.

Baripada is 60-65 kms from Balasore and it is 2:00 PM - that will mean about an hour or more of night cycling. No need to hurry!

At 3:15, I stop by a dhaba, with the intention of sipping a quick tea. The way the dhaba guy tells me paani peeke aaraam keejiye, phir baat karenge is enough to convince me that this is just an invitation for a long chat! The dhaba is actually run by his father - and the aforementioned guy turns out to be Amar Khilar alias Bapy - nice guy.

A few glasses of water, a short rest, and a cup of tea, and it is talk mode all the time. What starts out as a routine talk about cycling soon turns into a full-blown discussion about Orissa. He says that Orissa may be a poor state (an estimated 60 people out of 100 have no slippers on their feet) - but they are certainly not thieves, or thugs or dacoits. And his observation is that it is generally the "outsiders" (read: Biharis) who do the things which bring a bad name to Orissa. The poor people are generally afraid, and my observation has been that the tribals are generally a shy lot - leave alone robbing you, they generally try to stay away...

So here is a petition from me! Everyone, please give Orissa a break! Let me assure you that Orissa is a safe state. It has no more thugs, theives, robbers and dacoits than anywhere else. Generally it is easy to get a bad name, and difficult to loose it - and this, I guess, is the case of Orissa. So if someone asks you - how is Orissa, please don't say that it is an unsafe place, but say that someone you know toured Orissa in a cycle (having flashy gizmos) - and he faced not a problem. You do that, and I assure you that you would have done your part in the upliftment of Orissa. Thanks!

We have chatted non-stop for atleast 40 minutes. One more cup of tea - and Bapy refuses to take any money. I take a few snaps and note down his address as well - he is surely the most cheerful person I have seen in this trip! Soon, Bapy fades into the background as I race towards Baripada...

I pedal till dark. At dark I reach a village - and Christmas celebrations are on. I stop for tea and snacks. I eat all available items at the small hotel - from singada to papad! The church is well decorated. The power goes - and surprise - the church remains illuminated. Must be a generator!

One guy tries to speak with me in english. What's the need, when I am already speaking in hindi?. I have seen through his little game of trying to impres the onlookers with his english - but I reply in english.

I turn on my headlight and am off for the final stretch. A motorcycle pulls up beside me - students from the Kalinga Institute of Technology and Sciences. They wish me well.

Near Baripada, I stop for tea. Strangely, the talk centers around Veerappan, and where he could have hidden the loads of money he supposedly got for the Rajkumar kidnap !!!

As it is becoming darker, it is freezing cold! I need gloves for tomorrow - must buy at Baripada.

It is late by the time I reach Baripada, and I have forgotten about the gloves! I enquire at Vishram hotel for a room - he quotes 100 rupees. I goto a nearby Ambica hotel also - no rooms there! I come back - the last room has been booked in Vishram as well. Ah!

Near Hotel Grand, a man accosts me - he turns out to be Kallol Mukherjee - an all India cyclist once upon a time! He tells me that he had gone, with two others, on an all India trip. They had travelled for an year! And the purpose of their trip - Peace and Goodwill ! Needless to say, they had their sponsors! He had also gone on a tour of Nepal! We chatted for sometime before Kallol left in a hurry.

Kallol found a decent Sri Krishna Lodge for me and arranged for free dinner at his friend's hotel - the Grand Hotel, reputedly the best hotel in Baripada!

After freshing up, I went to the hotel and had my fill (at whose expense??) and I thanked the owner Mr Jagadish Aggarwal.

There was one curious thing at the hotel, though! Apparently the well dressed (and well-off) people are served in porcelain plates whereas the common man is served in steel plates. It irked me, but I couldn't get an explanation for this apparent inequality from anyone.

Finally return back to the lodge and asleep at 10 PM!

So what started as a boring day warmed up by meeting Bapy and Kallol. And meeting these people was well worth the day!

Today at a glance:
Time Odometer Place/Purpose
7:00 11005.7 Bhadrak
9:00-9:50 11035.0 Breakfast @ Saurav Dhaba
10:55-11:00 11047.5 Begunia/Tea
11:55-12:00 11058.8 Tea
12:45-2:00 11065.8 Balasore/Browsing,Lunch
2:45-2:55 11078.0 Rest, bananas
3:15-4:00 11081.2 Tea, Chat at Dahaba
6:35-6:45 11115.8 Baripada/Tea
7:10 11119.5 Lodge

So what's for tomorrow ?? Kolkata is about 250 kms from here. Kharagpur is about 120 kms away and I still have 3 more days. One day is enough for sight-seeing at Kolkata, which means that I can aim for Kharagpur tomorrow!


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