Going back – after almost 12 years – to the state (Orissa – on the Eastern coast of India) where I was born, was much more than just a routine vacation. I can't begin to tell you all how much of an emotional and spiritual experience it was. The intensity was as strong as one's reuniting with her parents after a long period of alienation.
[/caption] via Manish Jaju ———————————————————————————————— In Orissa, Puri was one place where my parents often took me and my younger brother for holidays. We loved everything about that place. And today as I write this post, I fondly remember my bro and I being enthralled by the fervour of this place! The tagging along with mom and dad to the legendary and historic world famous Jagannath (an avatar of Krishna) temple; spending hours playing at the majestic sea beach of 'Swargadwar'; sending messages in bottles across the waves hoping it will reach some far off country; contemplating the skillful hands of the sand artists as they would magically mold the sand into massive sculptures – of mermaids, Gods and famous figures. And the best part – shopping in those hundreds of tiny street-side shops selling handmade wooden chariots, shell crafts, shell jewellery, Konark chakra (wheel) replicas in marble, granite and slate! My father was a passionate devotee of Lord Jagannath. Though he wasn't much into temple hopping and idol worshiping, he had an unwavering spiritual kind of faith in Lord Jagganath, who he fondly called "baba" (father/holy man). If anything would go amiss, he would do his bit and take comfort in the fact that his "baba" is there for him – just like the 'guardian angel'. via Manish Jaju —————————————————————————————————- The huge, colourfully decorated chariots, are drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees. (via Wikipedia) In the past one year before I finally went there with my family, my desire to go to Puri had peaked. It was as though my heart and mind would not rest in peace till the time I set my foot on that land. It was as though I could hear the Lord saying "enough is enough, now come and see me.."! I was stunned at what was going on inside me. Yeah, stunned, because – I am non-religious. So, I am convinced that this was a spiritual connection with the Divine, with the land where I was born, and with the times that I spent there… No wonder going back to that place rekindled so many emotional ties, stories and memories. That said, Puri hadn't changed much in the last 12 years. Getting into the temple was as chaotic as ever. The streets remain half constructed, the traffic utterly unorganized, littering all over the place, the bylanes are mostly potholes. Traveling in rickshaws through these bylanes is back breaking to say the least. Via Manish Jaju —————————————————————————————————– But, well, despite all these sad sights, there's a flavour to the place that tugs at your heart. Particularly, when you move away from the main town – toward the rural areas, you will be spellbound with the scenes of typical rural Orissa. Swaying coconut trees, paddy fields, grazing cattle, simple folks, innocent kids pulling water from the well for a bath, ducks moving in a rhythmic side to side motion in flocks. Thousands of such scenes of lives uncluttered, rooted to the earth and organic in nature – will attract you without needing so much as a word. Forget banners and advertising campaigns. When deciding upon the place to stay, I instantly wanted to check out "Toshali Sands' on the net. I had read about this place some time back in Club Mahindra's in-house magazine. The tourist (author) had very good feedback about that place. Being Club Mahindra members, we could book Toshali Sands (it's an RCI affiliate) at discounted rates. But after speaking with the RCI help desk, I figured out that there were a few caveats. First, one still has to pay a size-able weekly maintenance fee on top of the discounted price for a week; secondly one can only book from a Sunday (check-in) to Sunday (check-out). We had booked our flight tickets in advance with the check-in day as Wednesday. But, I just went ahead and booked the resort hoping that the Toshali management would be graceful enough to consider this odd situation. And they did. They let us stay for the week starting Wednesday. Which means we would check out on Wednesday instead of the Sunday. But then, please don't go by my story and take it for granted that they can always make adjustments. Because, for us, the peak season was nearing end and hence the resort was not full capacity. The road journey from Bhubaneswar (Orissa's capital) airport to Puri on the Konark Marine drive was really a treat for the eyes for most part of the drive. The last leg, when we had to go through the narrow, bumpy, potholed Puri by-lanes, was exhausting and tested our patience. But, once we reached the resort, our woes took a back seat. We hadn't seen such dense, green coverage in the best of resorts or even in wilderness! It was like being in the middle of rain forests. Yes, the day we reached, the heavens opened up their hearts. It was poetic justice, it seems. Going from Delhi, utterly rain starved that we were, it was nothing but divine intervention to drench our souls with rapturous music of the rains playing on the thick foliage. Unflinching rains for two days and the resort seemed to be floating on water! And we enjoying our boat ride sitting in the balconies. ) In the next part of this Puri post, I am going to write a review of the Toshali Sands resort in a little more detailed manner. Meanwhile, here are a few more pictures that I clicked that will bring Puri and Toshali Sands alive to you… At Toshali Sands, you will bump into a butterfly at every turn, every step! ———————————————————————————————– All images and content in this post are copyright Rashmie Jaaju. Please do not copy and use these pictures in any media format – print or digital, without my exclusive permission. Thanks for understanding.