Odisha, a state tucked away in the tropical coast of India, has only been a marking on the political map for me until I arrived to be here for good six months. After a week and a half and a few field visits later, a few collectives from the sojourns.
A Place to Worship
Every house I visit, be it an urban household or a rural one, no matter how small or large the dimensions of the house be, one thing that holds common for each of them is a place for worship and mogra flowers adorning the setting.
Even at the entrance of a house, there will always be a collectible of these flowers and a planted tulsi.
One thing that never discriminates across social structures is the figurine and the blossoms.
The women I meet on field trips are much alike the women I meet in my daily life otherwise. The women who get thrilled like a child at a drop of hat. The women who will drag you along your bag to make you visit their houses individually.
They smile so easily, so affably, so warmly to even the lamest of the jokes, without any reason. In a smile, they will make you all yours. Yet one thing that remains consistent across all these women is a sense of consciousness that overcomes them as soon as I pull out the camera.
The more I ask them to smile for a click, the more restrained they become. This one woman, she laughed beautifully but did not want her projecting teeth to be captured in the photograph. She looks beautiful nonetheless, as do all of them.
A field trip to meet women borrowers is planned during the time of the day when the men of the house are away at work and children are off to school. It is the time when women get together, talk, share, and are at their jovial best. Though a few times during visits, I do get to meet the children, some too young to go to school, some on a leave, or some for a home visit during lunch time. Meeting each of these kids is a wondrous story in itself.
In Bhubaneswar, I met siblings, geli and gelu, who loved getting themselves clicked. After a few photographs, geli decided to pull out a routine of poems in Hindi, English and Oriya, one after another.
In Durgapali, I met Sujata who was home for the lunch break. A little shy at first, eventually, she let me see her collection of drawings and posed for me as well.
During another visit, as I was about to leave, I saw the niece of the woman I was visiting, working in the kitchen. As soon as I asked the woman if can click a photo, the niece abruptly stood up and hid behind the curtain.
Pets and Cattle
Most of the houses in the rural parts are involved in agriculture and cattle rearing. Many times they would have taken loans to buy cows or goats or enterprise loans to advance cattle rearing.
So many houses will welcome you with a shed of cows, chickens and their little chicks running amok and sometimes cats stealthily passing behind you while you try to manage a sane conversation. Odisha is a wonder, waiting to be explored.