Why Milaap- The chronicle of a Traveler ! | Milaap

Why Milaap- The chronicle of a Traveler !

There are many reasons why I wanted to become a fellow under Milaap. Something we all refer to as expectations! This piece however will be about the reality of being a fellow from my end of the grass. Odisha, the state where I was swiftly deported to is a known land for my feet. I have been to many sanctuaries, beaches, villages, falls before. I write for a living and I travel for my own knowledge. Gram Utthan, is nowhere close to Bhubaneshwar. It is located at some dusty lane from Hanspal which itself is 12 kms away from the main city. My words will fail to express the happiness as I geared the road from the airport to the location. Slowly the buildings, cars, people all became less in number and I could see ponds, trees, narrow lanes, cows (huge ones!). I immediately knew that I would have to look for a residence at the very area not because of travelling ease but the peace. To my Neptune, I found a perfect home on the terrace which was also mine. Nearly all my blogs were marveled on the terrace under the moonlight and the sway of warm wind.

 A Pretty home!

Since the very first day I received a very welcoming and warm gesture from every worker in Gram Utthan. Initially, Dilip Ji was mandatorily nice to me as that was his role. Similarly, the coordinator and the manager were filled with smiles and morning wishes every single day. But what I will flounder  the most is my late lunch munching and talking with the two people who had no reason whatsoever to spend time with me.  Bittu, is the Master Chef of the house and Toofan can be more or less coined as the caretaker. We three would sit for lunch at the last batch and talk about their families and mine, their work and mine. Like children surrounding the granny, they would give me all ears to hear my fables on travelling, as though they saw the diversity of India through me. I, on the other hand, would enjoy their childhood experiences and the joys of meeting families at every second festival.  Bittu never failed to ask  me for one extra “Roti” and Toofan, like a father, would ask lay down the precautions  every time I went out for a field visit. The first accidental late lunch at Gram Utthan became perpetual till the day I left the premises. Worthy to recollect perhaps is the small packet of “pan” (4 of them) I received every evening from Dilip Ji.

Gram Utthan, Hanspal, Odisha

Bittu, Toofaan, Manoj- My chitchat mates, Gram Utthan

The word “borrowers” will be etched in the mind of any fellow because it becomes a part of your 6 months curriculum in one way or the other. Since Gram Utthan lends loan only to the female borrowers I had a personal interest vested less because I was a woman and more because they have been my sample respondents for about 4 years. It is through these women I got to know about Odisha from a different set of eyes. The struggle of mothers to make their children study for a better future was a constant factor. “Better”, varied from house to house. For some it was a high paying job, for some it was their old-age investment, for some it was a symbol of higher status in the village and for few it was the rely race of their own dreams. The sight that women bear to the world is much different when it comes to the condition under which they thrive. I started taking notice of their household, the clothes they wear, the utensils they use to cook, the mud and dung oven, their mode of earning, everything gave me ideas to write about them. After my first visit, I stopped preparing any metal questionnaire; I realized I can just banter with them as another woman struggling to survive in this world.

 First field visit, Athgarh, Odisha 

 Fodder for cows!

 Field officer, Field Partner and lots of bangles!

 A cookery show!

 The trick of grain from hash!

How can a visit be complete without hopping around the greenery that Odisha has in abundance. After every visit I would loiter around the scanty villages to just see the fields where cattle lazily grazed without the worries that we humans bear and the mud houses bearing the experiences the fortuneless natives. It reminded me of the black and white images I had in some standard’s literature book.  Asseverating the sun set in the horizon of the yellow-green field is like nature kissing every ounce of carbon in the aura. My field officers got a hint of my enthusiasm and they always had time to take me around after all my work was wrapped up. Tenting at the Branch Offices was fun for it ended up in late night discussions. Sometimes I cooked for the men who stayed there and with gratitude I received information about the local and infamous places I could sneak into.

 To graze away and gaze away!

Milaap became my favourite thing because the work is collaborated in such a manner that you do not have to give up on your other to-do lists. I appreciate the Manager, Mouli Chatterjee’s ease of communication and understanding for she channelized the work schedule in a manner which was neither hectic nor lethargic. Travelling is like my oxygen and trekking is the mode of transport. One has to live in Odisha to set foot on every pinnacle of the mountains, cover all the adjoining sanctuaries and linger around the sandy beaches. My six months were not enough for it even though I have not spent any weekend in the residence. Nevertheless this loophole was of time not because I was working as a fellow under Milaap. I did not have to sacrifice an inch of travelling. In fact I became a better traveller. I not only covered wildlife, but also the about 70 villages all of which had its own peculiarities. It would be the saddest thing if people started asking me “How are you?” instead of “Where are you?”

 The children of Mahanadi, the saviors of tomorrow !

 Trip to Bhitarkanika after Pattamundai field visit. 

 Kalrapat Sanctuary, Odisha 

 Daringbari, Kashmir of Odisha

 The tribal and warriors of Daringbari, Odisha

After six long months it is still, "Where are you?"