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My Odyssey in Odisha and Magical Mangalajodi


Chakra
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"So, Dad, I hear you are leaving mum behind and going on a lone trip to India again", asked my budding lawyer daughter in her interrogatory voice, "Tell me where are you off to this time, huh ? "

"To Odisha.", I said meekly.

"Where is that? Near Rajasthan , Gujarat?" ( I'm ashamed of her knowledge of geography of India)

"Not really, more than two thousand miles away actually."

"What are you going to see there ? Lions, tigers ? "

" Lions : no chance. Tigers, yes possible but I've a better chance of winning the lottery.  Will see a few birds though."

" Oh yes ! Birds ! Your new found love, just a passing fad. How many ? Hundred, Two hundred ? "

"Go up a little more, I think I'll surely hit the thousand mark. "

"Two thousands, Five thousands, Ten thousands ?"

"A bit more."

" Twenty five, Fifty? "

"Double that and add a few more please."
"Hundred thousand plus? You are joking !!"
"Well, a bit more and I'm not lying. "
"Come on! Two Hundred thousand, Five Hundred Thousand ?"
"Keep going."
"No way !!!"
" Yes way, Missy !!! To be precise, I hope to be in the company of Nine Hundred and twenty five thousand birds at Mangalajodi, Odisha. You better look that up in Google !! "

That shut the budding lawyer up completely !!

 

Odisha ( formerly Orissa) is a medium size state in the east coast of India which shares a lot of similarities with my home state of West Bengal. For example the habit of the inhabitants of both states chewing beetle nut and spitting the red juice everywhere, enjoying a heavy lunch with rice and fish curry and then dozing off in your office chair, the extensive unexplored wilderness of mangroves of Sunderban (WB) and Bhitarkanika ( Odisha) and the omnipresent temples and religious relics.
Most of the foreign tourists are attracted towards the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri, one of the holiest in Hindu religion famous for its huge chariots pulled along the streets, which the British turned into "Juggernaut" and used the description for the all-conquering Nazi war machine across western Europe.  Nearby sun temple of Konark is also a big draw, although my heart bleeds to see the place literally crumbling down. Nowadays some foreigners are keen to interact with the indigenous Tribes in the western section around Koraput district. But beyond that the state remains relatively little explored and practically unknown to foreign tourists.  It's a relatively poor state and in my childhood it was synonymous with famines and drought. They do not have the power to hire the services of Bollywood Superstars like Amitabh Bachhan to promote tourism but I think they are heading in the right direction and they need our support.

But it suited my needs nicely. I was in search of peace and solitude to recharge my batteries. I love my India but my blood boils to see the disrespect average Indian tourists show to mother nature and how the whole country is slowly drowning under the weight of plastic.

So, here I am to educate my friends on my India which is far far away from the much trodden national parks, queuing behind the gypsies full of garrulous crowd waiting for a glimpse of the tiger, the hustle bustle of the Golden Triangle, the smog of Delhi and the " Princes Diana Bench" of Taj Mahal.

The story of Mangalajodi is a miracle to say the least.

The pic below gives you an idea of the places I visited.

 

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I travelled between 29th January and 7th February. The itinerary was two nights at an old Hunting Lodge called Kila Dalijoda near Cuttack, two nights at Mangalajodi, one night on the south side of the Satkosia Gorge by the banks of the great river Mahanadi, one night on the north side of the gorge and then two nights at the newly proclaimed Debrigarh NP, by the Hirakud dam and then catch the train back to Kolkata ( Calcutta).

I arranged my own bookings and hired the car/driver through my trusted travel agent Mira Rajaram. One advantage of travelling in Odisha is that it is much much cheaper than other popular touristy places.  Odisha government have last year opened a quasi-governmental department called Ecotour Odisha in the line of Madhya Pradesh ( who really know how to sell their tigers). They look after the government nature camps in remote places. The biggest advantage was that all the bookings had to be done on line with instant confirmation and  no more phone calls to lazy officials. There were a few problems as it was a new system. The portal was clearly not built to deal with an application from a UK resident and refused to accept my UK post code as it had letters. I had to give an Indian address but when I used my credit card it rejected that as fraud because my card was registered in UK but I was booking as an Indian.  

I decided to get in touch with Ecotour Odisha and the e-mails went unanswered. Then decided to call directly and thankfully spoke to a gentleman called Sri Swadesh Biswal who was helpful beyond expectations. Throughout my whole trip and whenever I had an issue with the booking/arrangements/direction he was there to help me. India need more forest officials like him.

So off I went from Birmingham to Kolkata via Dubai on A380 of Emirates. It had snowed on the day of my departure and as you know two snowflakes bring UK to a standstill !! The flight was delayed by more than 90 minutes and although it did make up some time on air but I almost missed my connection in Dubai. I'd have missed it most certainly but thankfully a ground crew was there who shepherded the transit passengers to Calcutta through fast track security and back doors and after sprinting like Mo Farah and Usain Bolt combined I made it with minutes to spare. The luggage of course did not make it but that was no big deal.

I was going to stay for some time in my ancestral home in a small town called Burdwan in Bengal. This old aristocratic town is now a faded version of its rich past. But thankfully the trees around my house still sheltered some birds and squirrels and Birding from Balcony is a great way to relax.

Some shots from around my house :

 


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A suspicious grumpy kingfisher

 


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These pied starlings woke me up every morning with their skirmishes 

 


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A family of spotted dove had built a nest above the A/C on top of my window.

 

 


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Nictating membrane in action

 


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Common bird Coppersmith barbet but difficult to capture as they don't come out very often

 

 

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Even a discarded plastic bag comes into use for this white breasted moorhen 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Chakra
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@Chakra Thanks for a wonderful start to one of the unknown places in India. It looks that you like to start to give me ideas for a list for a second visit to India. 

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@Chakra

I am very much looking forward to reading this report- lovely photos to start us off.

I traveled through Orissa about 40 years ago, leaving Calcutta (as was). Visited the Sun Temple, Puri and Bhubaneswar before going on to Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I didn't know about birds then, so now I would see things very differently.

( and I might have aged just slightly!)

 

I know from your previous reports that this will be a pleasure to read.

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Looking forward to this. It’s an area that I know nothing about. Thanks for the excellent start. Lovely shot of the kingfisher 

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5 hours ago, Botswanadreams said:

@Chakra Thanks for a wonderful start to one of the unknown places in India. It looks that you like to start to give me ideas for a list for a second visit to India. 

@Botswanadreams it'll be my pleasure to give you ideas to explore the riches of India. You've already done the part which is probably the biggest hurdle in truly enjoying India : seeing a Tiger. Now you can start relishing it.  For example you have been to Kaziranga with thousand other visitors, so next time skip that and go to Manas NP in Assam spanning across India and Bhutan : a paradise lost and partly regained. Why go on an elephant ride at Kaziranga, instead go to Nameri NP and walk in the dense jungle inhaling the smell of the jungle with each breath. I tell you walking is the best way to experience a jungle.  I'm not sure if I'm allowed to give external links like Facebook albums but I'll do it to entice you and if inappropriate Matt can tell me off.

You haven't seen Taj ? No worries. It's time to see Hampi in Karnataka : a vast ruin of a megacity, the capital of the last Hindu empire of India, Vijayanagaram,  which stood against the combined might of Muslim kingdoms for several centuries and the whole complex will leave you awestruck. 

The opportunities are endless my friend.

 

Links to the Facebook albums on Manas NP. These are public and I don't think there is anything inappropriate there other than my very dry sense of humour. 

 

I'll show you a pic from my travel to Kaziranga which puts me off in Indian national parks. I was sincerely hoping the rhino would charge and take some of the morons out of the gene pool. This rhino was distressed.  You can just about see a toilet there. One guy went inside that and tried to irritate the rhino by leaning out of the window. I had to tell them off. 

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1 hour ago, TonyQ said:

@Chakra

I am very much looking forward to reading this report- lovely photos to start us off.

I traveled through Orissa about 40 years ago, leaving Calcutta (as was). Visited the Sun Temple, Puri and Bhubaneswar before going on to Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I didn't know about birds then, so now I would see things very differently.

( and I might have aged just slightly!)

 

I know from your previous reports that this will be a pleasure to read.

@TonyQ thanks. You are putting me under pressure, must try hard to maintain the standard :huh:
Forty years is nothing, I'm sure you haven't lost your wanderlust at all ! Only the names of the places have changed but who cares about names ? 

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1 hour ago, lmSA84 said:

Looking forward to this. It’s an area that I know nothing about. Thanks for the excellent start. Lovely shot of the kingfisher 

Thanks for your interest. Honestly I myself did not know much about these till I started researching couple of years back. 

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Before I go into the actual report I just wanted to show how my India has changed over the last forty years and unless the government do some thing drastic it is going to suffocate the country. Not all is doom and gloom but this inept attitude and the incessant demand of an expanding population must stop. 

In 1975 my parents spent about five thousand rupees extra on top of average price to buy a piece of land to build our house. The reason : the big pond in front : Shuli Pukur (Shuli = a long pointy metal spike for transfixing a man and pukur =pond) : where the criminals were put to death under the rules of kings of Burdwan.
Despite its gruesome background the pond definitely had a cooling effect on summer evenings and prevented anyone from building a house breathing down our necks.
The water was clear, banks had Wavy walls built by Maharaja Bijoy Chand Mahatab, on the other side were the old stables for horses and elephants and fish were plentiful. I remember catching a few fish before being chased by the caretaker. A safe haven for birds.
My morning wake up alarm was the noise of washer men beating the clothes on the Dhobi Ghat.
Things changed slowly at first. Maharaja donated most of his properties after independence and left Burdwan, the boundary walls crumbled, new owners became less concerned about cleaning, fishermen stopped coming. Then about twenty years back the big house of an old aristocratic but bankrupt family was sold to be converted into a medical nursing home by a businessman. In India a nursing home with a few Doctors' clinics and a small operating room is almost a guaranteed money machine. 
The death of Shuli Pukur was hastened.
In front of my eyes the pond simply disappeared under the ocean of plastic, clinical waste, rubbles and household waste.
The great rulers of Bengal let people put up vending stalls everywhere not because they believed in the good of the proletariat but because they could fatten their own bourgeois pockets. The dreaded Kochuri Pana ( invasive water hyacinth) took over rapidly and the stagnant water became the breeding ground of mosquitoes. Rulers changed but nothing changed. Not surprising as most of the Communists quickly changed to Capitalists. 

Nature tries it's best to still cling on. In this wasteland I have still spotted a few creatures but it can be so much better.
In stead of "How green was my valley" , I feel like "How clean was my valley" !!
This was what it looked like in 1930 and even in my early years 

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And this is what it looks now.  Why oh why ? 

 

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@Chakra, we have waited patiently, and for a good reason. Now we will enjoy another beautiful saga from your motherland! 

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9 hours ago, xelas said:

@Chakra, we have waited patiently, and for a good reason. Now we will enjoy another beautiful saga from your motherland! 

My once beautiful mother is looking uglier and uglier with passage of each day but still retains her charms for me. 

 

Apologies for digressing but I do feel very passionate about current day India. Perhaps I do not have the moral wright to criticise as I had left India more than a quarter of century back, but you can take a boy out of India but can't take India out of the boy.

Rant over ! 

 

Thanks everyone for reading this "Un-Safari" report. 

 

So after spending a delightful evening with my old friends at Calcutta I crossed the river Ganges to board Chennai Mail at 11-45 am reaching Cuttack at 05-30 am. I have not travelled in Indian railways for a while. For people who are not familiar with Indian Railways let me just say one word : miracle. Huge number of trains ferrying millions of people every day. The complexity is enormous and the prices are ridiculously cheap.
One great thing is nowadays anyone can book rail ticket online in a seamless way, even from abroad. I was late to book so did not get the exclusive first class sleeper coupe of two/four but went for 2A which is more like an open plan arrangement, but you can isolate yourself by pulling the curtain. No problem with that.

The big problem was that the only western style toilet in the compartment was not functioning and the Indian style toilets were the old Long Drop Holes.  It's an art how to keep your aim steady in a moving rattling train and let that proverbial stuff hit the Bull's Eye without splattering all over the squatting area. I was dreading that. But certain skills once you learn you never forget, like cycling, swimming etc. It came back to me naturally. One thing still baffles me is why the length of the chain, which tethers the mug ( presumably to prevent it from getting stolen) for filling water and cleaning your bottom, falls just short of reaching your nether region. 

 

Hmmm !!! No scope for aimless wandering... 

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But there is a fan nowadays in the toilets in case one feels very stressed and sweaty while doing the "needful" ( do the needful : is an expression which you won't hear outside India : example of the Indinglish.  Another common one is "When did you pass out ?" The person asking was not enquiring when did you faint, but when did you graduate from your school/college/university ? ) 

 

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My tip for any intrepid Western traveller keen to travel on Indian Railways: No problem, go ahead and book 1A and go for more prestigious trains like Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express etc rather than Chennai Mail !! I did travel in couple of those trains during my travel this time and those trains were really good and clean.

 

Train was bang on time and reached Cuttack to start my journey towards Kila Dalijoda.

 

 

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Kila ( fort) Dalijoda : the name had a stately, imposing, grandiose ring to that. Much better to say that I stayed at a hundred year old hunting lodge called Kila Dalijoda than to stay that I stayed at Novotel or Hyatt. I'm always looking for an offbeat experience, so when a homestay at this place, about 20 km from Cuttack, came up on my radar I was intrigued.

Homestays can be tricky as one is expected to share the space, dining and other activities with the hosts. And if your host is an evangelical preacher, hell-bent on saving your soul from eternal damnation or a passionate Mediterranean man who kisses your wife at the end of each sentence, then you are most likely going to regret the decision of not staying at Novotel.
A bit of research in Tripadvisor showed five stars reviews galore and I felt reassured. But most of the reviews were from Non-Indians and I felt it'd be difficult for the hosts to impress me. As mentioned before you can take the boy out of India but you can't take India out of the boy.

Even after spending half of my life as Her Majesty's loyal subject I still prefer to eat with fingers at home and have no problem cleaning my bottom with water. So a few home cooked Indian dishes or some bog-standard touristy experience of visiting tribal villagers and praying yogis were not going to blow me away.

Rajasthan has mastered this art of opening up old aristocratic and princely homes to foreign travellers but I feel some of those have definitely become too artificial and lack the homely touch.

I also know that this family had an age honoured tradition of hunting and I was worried that as an avid anti-hunt person I may not gel with them.
Let's cut the chase and come to the point. I was indeed blown away by my experience at Kila Dalijoda.
Do you like mind-blowing authentic Indian food, fresh from the field/pond ?
Do you like staying in a house steeped in history ( lovingly restored from certain ruin) ?
Do you want to learn about the Raj ?
Do you like listening to anecdotes ? How about an insignificant Indian "King" ruling over one village, who fooled the British aristocracy on his visit to London? How about the excesses of another king who ate thirty scrambled eggs as taster for breakfast? How about the tale of another King who impressed the Viceroy by showing him only those subjects who had huge swelling of their whole legs from the Filarial infection and claiming that the legs had become muscular from extensive marching and saluting?
Do you like having conversations with like minded people passionate about nature and conservation ?
Do you want wake up listening to nothing but sound of silence ?
Do you want to walk in rusty-red forest paths listening to the sweet song of Shama while watching out for elephants ?
Do you want to have a real taste of tribal villages far removed from glitz of Mumbai ?
And you can do all these things without sacrificing the creature comfort of hot water and flush toilet.
If you answer "Yes" to any of my queries above then I'd recommend Kila Dalijoda to you without the slightest hesitation.
This is the hunting lodge built by Debjit's grandfather, King of Garpanchkot, Purulia,West Bengal, from the Singh Deo family. I was curious why the King who was from Bengal came all the way in Odisha to build a hunting lodge. This was built in retaliation to the disrespect shown to him by a local British official. I won't get into the details but Debjit kept me enthralled with stories for several hours.

My initial worries about the tradition of hunting in their family evaporated quickly. Once again I revert back to the example of Jim Corbett who started his life as a hunter but later turned out to be one of the most passionate men about conservation. Debjit has no interest in hunting like the members of certain safari club from deep south , but his previous knowledge acquired during travelling with his ancestors has been hugely beneficial for him to understand and conserve nature.

We connected instantly ( we shared our mother tongue Bengali, but Debjit was absolutely fluent in English as well)  and the conversation flowed like Mahanadi river moving from topic to topic.
How the old dynasties had petered out, Debjit's struggles to return the lodge to its former glory and offer a unique experience to travellers like me, his passion for angling, birding and generally everything to do with nature.  Debjit's wife Namrata also hails from a princely state of MP and she was no less able in keeping me equally interested in her anecdotes and fluent in English. Their seven year old daughter was just a bundle of energy and joy. She was initially very disappointed to learn a fat old man was staying with them but later we became good friends and she showed me all her special tricks and dance moves. The other staff were a joy to interact with, specially the chef Sri Sudeb Thakur who took special interest in my well-being when he heard the guest from UK was actually a Bengali Babu.
A little tweak goes a long way. Instead of serving the bog standard Upama for breakfast ( which you get in any hotel) they have decided to serve "Pitha" made of rice steamed in leaves, with fresh Gur ( Liquid Jaggery) and coconut chutney. I won't attempt to explain this to my non-Indian friends but the taste of that fresh Gur is still lingering on my palate. If you have not I wonder if food cooked over Bio-Gas tastes better ? Then I'm going to acquire a few cows like Debjit.
The house was full of interesting knick-knacks from a Telegraph machine to gramophone to rifle racks. In my room I found a "Tijory" : an iron safe : the type which you would see in old Western movies. I saw that chest was built by Chubb. This is the same company who had been providing security to our local hospitals and based in Midlands, UK. In early 20th Century they built thousands of these Iron safes for aristocratic families.
There were several paintings in the house, created by different family members, which could easily adorn a gallery wall.
Add to that several rides and hikes in the jungle looking for birds and animals and I can't complain. Even my unceremonious fall from my bike in the excitement of hearing a bird call could not dampen my spirit.
I watched the sun setting over the multi-coloured Eastern Ghat range, turning the sky pink, while the resident ducks, geese, a pied kingfisher and a stork gave me company. Then it was time to watch the blood red moon and the lunar eclipse.
I left with a heavy heart. Yes, this place was not luxurious, had no room service and of course some window panes and stain glasses were broken or missing, but this place had a pulsating heart, which you'd never find in a five star hotel.
I think Debjit and Namrta deserve every chance to keep this homestay going so that other people can also benefit from this experience.
My photos are just to give you guys an idea. Most of them were taken in unforgiving light and I wanted to have a break from my tripod, so they are not of the best quality but they do give you a flavour of the place.

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Enough of dry words. Time for some photos.

 


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The façade 

 


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To-Re-Tokka ,To-Re-Tokka : Telegraph machine used by Debjit's grandfather to keep in touch from his hunting lodge. The cups were won by Debjit's father in Tennis tournaments. The hand-fan is more modern. 

 

 


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My fabulous room 

 

 


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Follow the leader .... No, at least one is stubborn not to follow. Idiot does not understand the safety is in numbers. He just did not want to follow the Leader.

I call him James Dean : a Rebel without a cause. I am sure like Jimmy Dean he also died a premature death, not from motorcycle accident but from fox's mouth !!

 


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No Rebel in sight here

 


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Not just some plain fish curry, but fish wrapped in Saal leaves and steamed to perfection : known as Paat (leaf) Pora(burnt) 

 

 


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The "Pitha" gently peeled from the wrapping of leaves to be dipped in heavenly liquid gold of "Nalen" Gur and Tomato-Coconut chutney.

 

 


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An amazing contraption : shower cubicle built on top of bath tub. I wonder how much it cost in 1930 ?

 


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Creature comforts of toilet and a shower.

 


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The characteristic honey-combed pumice stones used in the lodge . These are Laterite stones,extensively used in the past for house building but now officially banned. 

 


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The "Tijori" ,  perhaps from the word Treasury : Iron safe built by Chubb from Wolverhampton UK. Once upon a time in the past Britannia did make solid products. 

 


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The place to carry on our chit-chat

 


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Beautifully decorated side panel of my bed

 


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A lovely painting by Debjit's uncle

 


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Debjit is also a gifted painter. One of his unfinished works.

 

 


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Stained glass windows: not easy to maintain or repair.

 


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A collection of hand fans 

 


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His Master's Voice. 

 


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The commemorative stone. The auspicious July Full Moon day of Bengali year 1338 or 1933 AD 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Now some photos from the beautiful surroundings.

 


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Eastern Ghat mountain range behind my room, with sunset colours.

 

 


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Like a pastel painting

 


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The Silhouette

 

 


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View from my roof top. 

 


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Road blocked !!

 


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Source of my fish curry !! 

 

 

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I believe this huge Mango tree is two hundred years old and is like a magnet to the elephants in the season. 

 

 


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Rusty Red jungle path with dense foliage on both sides

 

 

I was a lunar eclipse day with a rare combination of the Super Moon. I hugely regretted not having my tripod but here are couple of handheld ones. On these days one realises that despite sending men to space how superstitious India still is. Practically all the villagers had their kitchens closed as the scriptures said one could not cook during the day and not till the eclipse was over. I was due to visit the famous Joranda temple and see the yogis offering their prayers but being an auspicious day it was like a mini Kumbh Mela. 

 

There is nothing like looking at the Dark Side of the Moon and listening to Pink Floyd

 


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I also had the opportunity to have a close and genuine interaction with local artisans 

 


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A hand painted tribal scene

 


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This is known as Dhokara art : commonly seen in tribal villages of central India, made from recycled Brass.

 

 


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The traditional way of separating husk from paddy seeds buy repeatedly blowing in the wind so that the lighter husk gets blown away. 

 

 

 

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And here comes some birds at long last :D:D

One of the advantages of staying at Kila Dalijoda was to have a host who himself was a keen birder. I'm no birding expert, have an interest only, but I've always found birders fascinating.
These crazy folks really seem to enjoy every moment of birding : be it walking miles after miles in sun, or getting cuts and scratches crawling through thorny bushes or just patiently waiting for hours doing nothing.
Debjit fulfilled all the criteria. And he was not faking. His disappointment in not finding flycatchers in the "flycatcher country" was palpable. So was his unbridled joy, when we spotted a blue flash and the Verditer Flycatcher sat in front of us very obligingly. I had seen this one before but never had such good shooting opportunity.
He made me walk through the "Tunnel" running after a ground thrush who kept on running away from me. He wanted me to have a good photo, which was impossible in the shade and of a small fidgety bird. I felt sorry for him and at last I had to lie to him saying that I got a good photo to save him and me from more running.
Hope he'll forgive me after seeing the photo.
We spotted a fishing owl unexpectedly and his face lit up just like when I find my long lost school friends. He has not seen that owl for a while. But it was impossible to get nearer. Debjit contemplated swimming in the stream but at last even he had to give up.
The local golden orioles clearly liked him, so they came out and gave a nice display.
I thought he was about to cry when the Malkoha would not come out of the bush at all. And he was very disappointed with himself that his charm did not work on the White Rumped Shama who was happy to sing for us but was very prudish about showing me her white rump.
Debjit made me stand for so long in one spot that I almost grew roots on the spot. He firmly reminded me not to close the car door which would disturb the birds. Like a true birder the sightings were followed by cross checking in he guide book. I also liked his honesty that on couple of occasions he said that he could not identify the call or the glimpse of the bird. It was easy to fool me claiming that was another exotic bird like Vibgyor Sunbird1f609.png?1f609.png?
So you all crazy birder folks : go and enjoy.

 

 

Verditer flycatcher I have seen before but never managed to get a decent shot. Debjit told me that he had seen them regularly but after three hours of looking for it I had given up and we were about to come out of the jungle into the village when I saw a blue flash. I've never seen such an obliging bird in India who sat, preened and posed for me. Almost like Corcovado in Costa Rica. Saw him at the same spot next day as well. 

 


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Uncropped from second day 

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 I love green bee eaters. Common but still very photogenic 

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But I love much less common Chestnut Headed Bee Eaters even more. Spectacular bird.  600 mm was handy as he was far far away.

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The National Bird should always have some love

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Gallus gallus looked lost. I gave him the direction to the nearest KFC. 

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Flock of Black Headed Muniyas high up in the tall trees

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Common Iora was busy in nest building

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Debjit had promised me that Golden Orioles came out every morning and he was right. Black headed beauties bathed in the morning sun : a bit too far. 

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The prudish White Rumped Shama who will not show me her white rump but her song was too good. 

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Debjit's long lost friend. I guess it is a fishing owl. Could not come within 100 feet. A rediscovery after two years. 

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This crested serpent eagle would not budge from his branch at all. D^&* branches !!


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Oriental Magpie Robin

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This is the idiot who would not stop even for a second. A Thrush in a Rush.. Orange head. 

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Edited by Chakra
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Wonderful landscape, beautiful birds and your description of being out with a real birder remind me very much on our time with CB, our Guide in Rajasthan and Gujarat. I like birds too but I'm not willing to run behind a single important bird for hours. Many thanks @Chakra also for the Manas part.

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Good to see your birding skills developing nicely. Even hunting the "thrush in a rush"!

Indeed what a lovely trip you seem to be having. Love the lodge. My kind of place too.

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7 hours ago, Botswanadreams said:

Wonderful landscape, beautiful birds and your description of being out with a real birder remind me very much on our time with CB, our Guide in Rajasthan and Gujarat. I like birds too but I'm not willing to run behind a single important bird for hours. Many thanks @Chakra also for the Manas part.

Thanks @Botswanadreams. I sincerely hope you travel to Manas one day. I think everything is fine in moderation. Birds are lovely but so are the sunsets and sunrises. 

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Kila Dalijoda looks fantastic place to visit. You really have a great feeling to find interesting locations that are off the beaten path!

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A great place and some beautiful birds.

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@Chakra

Back to that lovely piece of Birmingham engineering.

I see that it is incomplete.

There originally was a brass plate, see the four holes, around the keyhole. This would have been fitted with a cover called an Escutcheon to prevent ingress of dirt or even insects and, depending on quality of manufacture, the Escutcheon may have also had a key to lock it in place. So two keys would have been needed to actually open the safe.

I know all this because as a fresh faced office junior way back in the last century I had been entrusted with the Escutcheon key in the Principals absence and I went and lost it.:(

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@Galana the number of beers that I owe you is now almost reaching three digits. Can't pay you in beers but perhaps in birds ? I'll be back with some more later in the weekend, but here is one to start with from Mangalajodi. 

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40 minutes ago, Chakra said:

Can't pay you in beers but perhaps in birds ?

Probably better for my health and waistline if you did.:(

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@Chakra as always, very much looking forward to more of your tongue-in-cheek, entertaining novella of regions unexplored and unknown.

Despite what you say of your Motherland, you've found a way to cast India's off-the-beaten-path regions in a romantic light and the wonderful photo-evidences you provide of your trip can only make more ST-ers put the areas on their exploration lists. 

that's a beautiful turquoise flycatcher!

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6 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

@Chakra as always, very much looking forward to more of your tongue-in-cheek, entertaining novella of regions unexplored and unknown.

Despite what you say of your Motherland, you've found a way to cast India's off-the-beaten-path regions in a romantic light and the wonderful photo-evidences you provide of your trip can only make more ST-ers put the areas on their exploration lists. 

that's a beautiful turquoise flycatcher!

@Kitsafari. Thanks friend and I'm genuinely pleased to hear that my rambling has generated some curiosity in your mind. So what's stopping you ? Book the plane tickets to India tonight :P

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