Other side of Odisha

Odisha was a result of universe’s endless signals in unexpected forms.

First, the seed was planted – I had a dream. Stormy coastline of the east side. Then the seed was watered – By someone I know who was working with a discovery channel series and was mesmerised by Odisha’s raw beauty. Then, it was further intensified when I met a cancer survivor in a yoga retreat, an old and charismaic corporate man that works in Economic Times, a native of Odisha and couldn’t stop admiring Odisha’s ancient architecture and it’s influence on other south – east asian countries. Next, an ex-colleague who used to often wear Odisha’s handloom – Ikat kurtas to work. Her mother is a native of Odisha. A senior employee who’s parental house in near a lake in Odisha and would always tell fishing stories. Then I stumbled upon the India Surf Festival website from a UI/UX forum while I was researching about some work. And then finally someone I don’t know from the same floor as my office who stumbled upon my Manipal blog about surfing recommended that I find an opportunity to work in the festival. Co-incidentally, the festival dates were around my birthday. Keeping the traveling birthday tradition alive, I contacted the ISF team and got a very positive response, they took a couple of days to find a profile for me. They called me and asked me to teach Yoga in the festival.. Ohh wait, “Yoga on water” they said… 

What does that even mean?? I asked.

“It means you will teach yoga on a surfboard” they explained.

And why do you presume that I know that?

“We’ll teach you to dance on the board. You’ll be fine.”

But what if I have hydrophobia or something ?

“Then you wouldn’t be calling a surf festival team would you?”

Fair.

“So that settles it right?”

Right!

“See you soon..”

Can’t wait.

“Also you can help with the production if you wish.”

Sure!! I’d love that.

Odisha : Part 1 : India Surf Festival

I had joined a new job and was getting difficulty in getting leaves. Turns out I had already exhausted my annual leaves balance in less than 6 months.  Although it was just a three day festival, I had to be there 3-4 days in advance to be able to learn balancing on the board to do Yoga. After rounds of pleading, crying, threatening I got my leave but there was one problem. I had to go to office on the day of my birthday. That would be first in last 7 years. I’m never in the city on my birthday. I’m never in an area where there is phone connectivity on my birthday. Not that I plan the no-phone-connectivity bit but that’s how it has been. But my boss will let me go the same day. So I carried my bags to office and sneaked out from there for the airport at about 3pm, escaping the birthday cake. My flight was supposed to land in Bhubaneswar at around 7 and from there it’s another hour and a half drive till Puri-Konark highway where I’m supposed to meet the team at Rangers, Surfing Yogis. A car had come to pick me up and take me there. A smooth drive till the destination, we reached Surfing Yogi’s at around 10pm. I had been coordinating with a couple of people (now friends) all this while and for the directions as well, who came out at the entrance to sort of welcome me. It was my first meeting with them and they introduced themselves to me. We had a little chat and these guys had a silly grin on their face. I felt a little weird since they insisted me on carrying my bags for me which I was already carrying. “Fine” I thought. We walked in silence while they both kept giggling and whispering behind me. And as I entered, I saw around 60 strangers looking at me and singing Happy Birthday in chorus. They handed me a beer and took me to a table where a cake with a few funky candles waited for me. Man, I couldn’t believe what was happening. The place was like a jungle camp with a little bit of a porch and small house at one side, and camps on the other. The entire area was decorated by handmade flowy hangings that swayed with the wind. I took no pictures. November is cold, so cold. There were thick trees clad with fairy lights. A slack line on one side and all that surfer toys lay across the area. A big fire in the center. A jungle with a few large tents and some personal tents. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. A few hours ago I was in my office, cursing, sulking and here I am now celebrating with 60 strangers what had turned out to be my best birthday ever. What a surprise and I hate surprises. I was so happy, I drank and I drank and I laughed and I cried, sang, jumped, rolled on the ground, hugged every person, had that sticky birthday cake that these guys got from the local market, 60 people couldn’t finish it. Went to see the jungle outside the camp, in the marsh, in the moonlight, in the chill, saw a fox or a hyena from very close. Came back and danced and danced and dropped. Woke up to in a green coloured tent only to wonder where the f**k am I and how did I get here. I opened the zipper and saw the view outside me. A fresh dew covered jungle, a dying fire and about 10 tents around me and I thought to myself “Who cares where I am as long as it looks like this.”

  • Pictures to be searched: tent, fire. Will update soon.

Following days in Rangers were about getting to know everybody, and learning to stand-up-paddle in a nearby lagoon.

This is me having fun in the lagoon early morning.

Like promised. It was a three day non-stop surf, skate and rock & roll.
More than 30 surfers and 30 long-boarders & skate-boarders have gathered here to participate, compete and spread the sport.

Glimpses of the festival.

Snippets from the India Surf Festival

India Surf Festival – Short videos reel from Rashi Kalra on Vimeo.

Yoga on water turned out great too. I got very comfortable by the end of it but couldn’t really hold the standing postures for long. Failed and feeble attempts of doing a headstand on water left me unsatisfied. Stand-up-paddle is fun! A didn’t realise that I had spent more time in water than on the ground. But I refrained myself from the sea which was the first time ever. The sea was rough as hell, the waves crashing on the shore at anytime of the day. A few days before the festival, a surfer got stung by a deadly jelly fish, he survived but couldn’t participate. I confined myself to fresh water bodies and a stand-up-paddle board.

The art installation “ORIFICE” by our in-house artist Dibyush Jena.

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Odisha : Part 2 : Odisha Tourism

Now so long after, Odisha summons me again. This time by the co-organiser of the festival who now works with the government for their tourism marketing on digital. They were making a film and wanted me to be a part of it. The film was part of their venture Detour Odisha for Odisha tourism.

Another round of pleading, screaming, begging, threatening for leaves at office landed me again to Odisha in peak summers.

Here is the film.

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