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TO CROCS, WITH LOVE FROM ODISHA

Happy new year, my dear followers and my fellow bloggers!
We writers are fierce, brave and bold. We believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. Nothing deters us from exercising our freedom of expression. With Bangladeshi bloggers being killed, the Charlie Hebdo incident and Indian writers returning their awards, 2015 has been a tough year for the writer community. Nevertheless, we shall continue doing what we do the best: Writing. Let us promise to inspire people through our painstakingly handwritten texts. Let us bring out the brighter side of humanity. Let us spread happiness and awareness.
I have been reading your blogs religiously and I must say that everyone of you had something good to offer to the big World Wide Web. Well, here’s my share: my second travel journal.

Animals have always been associated with religion. Nature has inspired different faiths. Hence, my parents believed that there couldn’t be a better time than Durga Puja to visit Odisha’s very own biodiversity hotspot: Bhitarkanika. (thanks to my class mass bunk actually :p)
Bhitarkanika is a national park located at Rajnagar in Kendrapada district. What makes it special from other parks are its mangrove forests, spread across the Brahmani-Baitarini estuarial region. It is the second largest mangrove forest of India, just after the Sundarbans. Housing the saltwater crocodile, water monitor lizard, deer, migratory birds, turtles, and dozens of aquatic species, amongst others, Bhitarkanika is a treat for all the wildlife lovers.

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We started our journey at about 11.30 a.m. by road and reached at about 5.30 p.m. The long journey had tired us out. Sitting in the car the whole day with my cousin on my lap was fun, but exhausting as well. The countryside scenery was excellent. We crossed small ponds, gardens, paddy fields, rivers and saw the lovely sunset. After entering Rajkanika, we noticed fisheries on either side of the road, along with small huts surrounded by vegetation: the homes and the businesses of the local fishermen. We saw aerators in the pond to supply oxygen to the prawns.

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Our resort had a striking resemblance to that of a village: each cottage had been made in such a way so as to blend with the forest. Our rooms had all the basic facilities, though. There was a small pond, paddy cultivation, a small orchard and a flower garden inside our resort. No T.V, no internet. Most of the networks wouldn’t receive any signal except BSNL, so be ready to spend a day without social networking sites.

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The food tasted great, with sea food being obtained fresh. Most of the other food stuff, including packaged drinking water, is procured from outside, from a nearby village which is accessible only through boat. Every day, the staff resort toil hard and take dangers to ensure the perfect vacation for you. You can dine on big fish, crabs and prawns. Other veg and non veg delicacies are also available at special request.
The next day, we were up by 6 a.m. After taking bath and breakfast, we were ready to plunge into the wilderness. Our fellow tourists were mostly Bengalis, a few Odia people and two ladies from the Netherlands!
We hired a motor boat from Khola. The one room office was just next to the entry gate of Bhitarkanika, hence was being guarded. We had to give all our personal details which was necessary for the officials to initiate a search if we don’t come back (well that sounds terrifying :p)

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We saw what we were craving for: the mangrove forests. During the morning time, the water from the Bay of Bengal had pushed itself into the rivers, hence resulting in a high tide. When we returned back, the excess of water had already resided back into the sea.

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Our journey to see the crocodiles began. We had been warned not to dip our hands into the waters, as a hungry croc might be waiting inside to gobble you up. If your boat suddenly capsizes (not to worry as this usually never happens until and unless done on purpose), then you can see the heaven within minutes of touching the water surface. We had stretched our necks out in anticipation, to spot the oldest living reptiles on earth. I spotted a plastic water bottle as well. Trust the humans to dump plastic inside a national park!
And then, our motor boat suddenly stopped. As I was looking around in confusion, there it was! A saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus parosus) basking out! There was no turning back after that. We passed through various creeks and saw a lot of crocs: some big, some small. The scenery was pretty new, not of a regular kind. The mangrove forests are stretched across miles, with nothing but mud colored brackish water in between. The eerie silence of the vicinity can give you freaks, with occasional sounds of a bird or a croc diving underwater.

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Our excitement reached at a whole new level when we spotted deer! There were lots of deer by the riverside. But they weren’t drinking water. Perhaps they knew about the presence and timing of the crocodiles hence were taking precaution and waiting for the right moment to quench their thirst. We also saw a water monitor lizard and a white crocodile.
The riverside was muddy. So we could see fresh foot and body prints of crocodiles and the monitors, sliding into the water, which indicated their recent presence.
We reached a stop called as the Heronry. Migratory birds from foreign countries come during winter to breed here. We took a short walk in the forest. We reached a high tower and climbed on it so see the unseen: thousands of herons perched atop the tree canopies. The canopies looked white, with the birds building their nests on them.
While getting down from our boat, we noticed some small strange looking fishes on land. They were feeding outside water! Later I came to know that they are called mudskippers a kind of amphibious fish which can live both on land as well as water. Some have been reported to climb onto the mangrove trees as well!

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There was a board warning us to walk on the concrete path only, and not on bare land, as crocs might have sneaked into the small clearings present throughout the forest. Our walk was exhilarating, mostly mine as I spotted pneumatophores in large numbers, about which I had studied in Biology. They are also called as breathing roots and go deep into the soil before coming out of them and standing erect. Mangrove forests are present in brackish areas, which always have a lack of oxygen. Hence, to fulfil this need, the plants have devised this method of respiration. We also spotted tiny red crabs and eccentric looking insects on the mud.

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Our next stop was at Dangamal. Here too, we had to take a walk in the forest. We saw large tracts of ponds filled with algal bloom, with cacti along the concrete paths. We spotted two more towers, which were in use by the King of Kanika, during the Zamindari period, for hunting purposes. After independence, the Zamindari system was abolished and the responsibility of the sanctuary fell on the shoulders of the Odisha Govt. The towers have been repaired for the benefit of the tourists. There are two small temples, dating back to the time during the reign of kingdoms, where the deities are still being worshipped by the villagers. Walking on the plain grass spread out on the clearings, just below the blue sky made our trip all more enchanting.

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Our last stop was at the museum. Here, we saw fruit orchards and medicinal gardens being maintained by the forest officials. The collection of eggs, skin, embryos and skeletons of crocodiles, wild boar, deer, snake, turtles and other lizard species housed at the museum is fascinating. We saw the skeletons of 18-19 feet long crocodiles! Contrary to what I had seen in the zoo, I had thought that the length of the crocs must be about 10-12 feet at max, but this was shocking! Bhitarakanika has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest crocodile spotted of length 23 feet! That’s scary. It gets more scary: according to the 2015 census, Bhitarkanika has 1665 crocodiles teeming underwater. Hence, it comes as no surprise that during rainy seasons these crocs often wander into paddy fields and drag unsuspecting farmers to death. Some temporarily reside in the village ponds, killing cattle and sometimes humans.

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The singular attraction of this stop was:

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Gori tere pyaar main :p

The mangrove forest cover has increased, so has the number of crocodiles due to adequate protection towards the species, thanks to the tireless efforts of the State govt. towards the conservation of wildlife. The population estimation of the crocs takes place every January. The work being done towards the preservation of the biodiversity is remarkable, but the plight of the nearby villagers during rainy season is depressing as well. We educated people always preach to save wildlife but end up in killing the most indirectly. But the villagers are the true heroes who share their lives with these frightening creatures, without complain. They are dependent on fishing, agriculture and tourism to eke out a living. For this reason, the govt. needs to enhance their security so that it is possible to live harmoniously with nature.
FAST FACTS:
Where: Rajnagar, Kendrapada, Odisha
How: By road: Route: Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Nischintkoili-Kendrapada-Salepur-a lot of the countryside-Kendrapada town area-Rajnagar. Can travel by bus/take help of Odisha Tourism
When: Can go starting from the month of Oct, but preferably during Dec-Feb to see the highest number of crocodiles and birds
What not to pack: Any kind of plastic/polythene which needs to be disposed off. There is no proper waste disposal unit out there, and the rules are even stricter as it is a national park. Therefore the waste is either dumped into the ground/burnt. So try to avoid polythene.
Travelling time: About five and a half hours by road, have lots of petrol saved up
Road condition: Fairly stable, some countryside roads need urgent government attention
Food: Local dhabas spread erratically across the region during travelling and resort buffets during the stay.
P.S. Kendrapada is famous for its sweets and if you are visiting during DP, do make a point to enjoy the Gajalakshmi Puja 🙂
People: Since you are a visitor and you are travelling by car(which is a luxury for most of the Indian people), some villagers might stop your vehicle from time to time, asking money on the occasion of the puja. Otherwise, the forest guards, the guides, the boat drivers and the staff at your resort are great folks, who shall make you feel at home with their warm hospitality.
Accommodation: Panthanivas, owned by the Odisha Govt. or private organizations offering cottages and food at expensive (read reasonable) prices, owing to the location of the park. Booking should be done in advance before 3-6 months, due to high demand of wildlife tourism.
Total cost of the trip (including stay, food, car travel and boat ride for 6 people for 24 hours): Nearly Rs 15000/-
During the trip: Do’s and don’ts
• Keep sufficient amount of drinking water
• The water might call you out to take a little feel of it, but you dare not to
• Stay close to people, specially your boatman and your guide
• Do not litter the forest
• Do not walk on bare mud
• Do not touch the trees as snakes and insects are abundant in that region

So this winter, come home to wilderness. Come home to nature!

P.S. For best results, do watch the Australian movie Black water :p

Debashrita 🙂

 

BEING AN ANONYMOUS FRIEND

 

 

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I TRIED MY HANDS ON A SONNET. HERE IT GOES……………………………

Triumphing to silence over shrieking is not that easy

Its one job that drove me crazy.

From dear it went on to become a mere hi

I knew it was bound to happen as the days pass by

Bitter days & sorrowful  nights

Remembering those friendly fights

Feeling the wrath of a social networking site

I had an unborn Spark: it made me ignite.

Being unknown pals for so long

Believing till date that i might be wrong

Pursuing me may be just a meeting out of the blue

How the bond began which strengthens us

I still have no clue.

MY FIRST ONE HOUR ON FACEBOOK

20th of June 2013 shall always be a red letter day for me of my so called life. Today I was allowed to open my first ever Facebook account; or to be precise, a social networking account.

Since class 10, I had seen my friends put up about their daily mundane lives on Orkut, Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. I was like a dumb. I had none. My parents forbade it. I was not sad, but somewhere deep in my heart it always struck me that I could get more site views on my blog if I had an account on Facebook.

My parents never approved of this. They knew that I was worse than a drug addict. I can sit glued on my laptop monitor for hours, without a single blink. And Facebook is nothing other than addiction. [Sorry if I hurt anyone] but this is true. Even I admit it and I know it is hard to admit this when you are a mere 17 year old ‘kid’.

I had permission to access Gmail, WordPress.com, and other websites where I could post some of my writings so that I could be called as a Content Writer or a Freelance Writer [you can call me an Unwanted writer or whatever]; but never to Facebook. “These sites kill your zeal for studies, provide you fun in the virtual world; keeping you miles away from the real thing, an internet zombie, a whiny kid, you kill your own privacy, time waste and what not.[sorry, no offence]”: mom said right. I got the taste when I sat down thinking it as a treat for my stranded, stagnant living.

I rushed into my mom’s bedroom with great excitement in the air. “Mummy!” I screamed. I need my FB account! Now!”

Mummy had no excitement on her face, though. So in her plain old voice, she told NO.

“Please, you had promised to me that you would allow me to open my account once I finish my Class 12!”

Why I used this cause I don’t seem to understand, because I feel that it was better to study with big headaches of home works, practical and tests rather than that of results, questions on capability, and admissions to good colleges. [I mean, moving into the big league].

“If you don’t allow me then I’ll use your account to create a page to popularize my blog.”

This was the real reason why I was pestering my mom during her afternoon nap. Since June 1, I’ve been an all time blogger [translated, I’ve nothing better to do], and I am trying helplessly to get at least one freelance writing project. Everything starts off smoothly- I send my email id to the person who needs the work to be done, he/she takes my CV- and then does not reply back. They check out my blog as well, but perhaps they don’t think me as much capable to handle out big responsibilities like part time jobs. Or perhaps, I’m a downright stupid. A jump in the site statistics would soon change all that.

So I was inclined towards the all time favorite FB.

Perhaps Mummy’s heart melted. She smiled.

“Go and open your own account.”

Yippee!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was just going mad. I mean, I have a reputation among the people who know me that I am a great guy. I can never manage Facebook and all that stuff.

I took my seat and in no time filled out the details that FB demanded. It’s free & cool. So what’s wrong in that?

Sonali rang me up the moment I sent her the friend request. Nilofar too added me on her friend list. In one hour itself, I had acquired over 15 friends [I was going on sending friend requests to friends, relatives and seniors; OMG! It’s absolutely amazing! Others recommended me]. FB even warned me: SLOW DOWN! But did that damn know that I had been never so happy in my life?  Many commented on my profile photo and my first post. It read:

I’M SO HAPPY THAT I’M ON FB! I’VE GOT BACK ALL MY SENIORS!!!

With a solace in my heart, I came out of the website, thinking what would be my first step to enhance my blog’s statistics. I went out for a short walk. Just then daddy called me up.

 He asked me to DELETE my FB account.

“You can have a Linkedin profile but not a FB account.”

“But I had taken mummy’s permission!”

“No, no, it’s not good for you. Delete it now. And why have you put your photo? Take it off at once.”

I was not sad. It was okay. He must have said it for my well being. But what was he doing on FB? He couldn’t have seen my mail request as today morning itself he had called up to say that his mails have some problems in the office premises.

Aha! So he was on FB as well!

After much pestering from my uncles and aunts, my mom decided to give FB a chance in her life. But since our internet is very slow and she remains very busy, after a week she stopped checking.

“Bah! Hogwash!” She would say.

I returned home drenched.  2 hours later, I sat down to delete my account. When I opened my page, I had 56 friends!

Voila!

From 0 to 56 in a day. What a transformation. My eyes misted, my heart felt heavy, and I started crying. I got a big splitting headache. My body was a big ache. I thought I was an eyesore.

I started crying. Nothing could console me now. The thought that I would lose contact again with all the friends like Sambedana, Subhasis and many others with whom I was with till Class 10 and after that we were separated due to change in courses and institutions. My senior Arti didi had loved me a lot. She was my House Leader when I was in Class 6. She was smart, affectionate and cool. She had accepted my friend request too.

I started to miss her too.

Today’s generation solely depends upon FB, only old fashioned guys like me demand an email from the friends every day.  At FB, every thing’s updated frequently. You get lost contacts. You can make your old friend groups again. You can say publicly sorry.

You can also increase your site traffic.

The addiction had hung me up in an hour. Now I really think this FB is not for me……..Daddy’s right. I would not be able to concentrate in my studies………………he knows me better than me……………..I’d go zany again………………….

So this is my first and last appeal to you, my friends. Thank you for your tremendous support. Thanks for being my friends on FB and in real life. I love you all. I shall remember you always, no matter what. You have filled my life with warmth. If you really think I’m worth it, please pen me down a line or two on my blog. I’d be more than elated.

See you next time on my blog’s comment page!

Take care.

Regards,

@Debashrita

BEYOND THE KEYBOARD LETTERS………….

Since 2010, I’ve been blogging with wordpress.com. Within 1 year, I’ve noticed that this place is a great site for expressing our views and ideas with other fellow bloggers with the same thinking: LIVE TO WRITE, AND WRITE TO LIVE. I feel that it’s better than social networking sites. Sorry, Facebook and Twitter lovers, I didn’t want to hurt you all, but these sites have shortcuts for everything. Nowadays, people have forgotten to write letters and instead send “‘scraps’ to each other, “like” the “tweets” and don’t feel like writing sentences. But here, we bloggers can write on almost all topics and seek comments for it. Take me, for example. I like to read books and magazines, so I’m learning how to write like you all. Frankly to speak the truth, my blog gets the least traffic. So you might be thinking, my writings are a waste? Not at all!  That’s the main advantage of blogging.  We learn writing ourselves. Here are my 6 points why blogging is the best thing to do once you are online:

  • IMPROVING WRITING SKILLS: Blogging is a great way to express yourself. If you are a prolific writer, you can use the same QWERTY keyboard that others use for chit chat, but still, you’ll be ahead of them. Writing is the best thing you can do when you get bored. If someone’s birthday’s round the corner, why don’t you send a poem written by yourself? Remember, originality is the most important thing that we have to maintain while blogging.
  • SAVING MEMORIES: Often people write their experiences in their old faithful diaries. But once you get them on the web, people get to read them. Diaries get moth eaten and torn, but your webpages don’t.
  • MAKING NEW FRIENDS: Who said that only Facebook and Twitter get friends? While blogging, if you are really a cool writer, then compliments will pour in, making you more able to write. And with so many people coming online everyday, you’ll surely find yourself a friend. No scams at all. I guarantee.
  • A NEW WAY TO LOOK AT THE WORLD: When you blog,  you create an identity of your own self, without any makeovers. A liitle place is made for you in this world of Internet, so you no longer remain Sam185 of Twitter, where we don’t get to know the original identities.
  • UNDERSTAND YOURSELF: When you write, try writing about your daily experiences so that you can relieve all your pressures out of your mind and get relaxed. The thoughts should come out of your heart, not forcibly written, just for the sake of writing. Haste makes waste. So take your own time to get away with your write ups.
  • STRIVING THROUGH COMPETITION: Competition, as we know, follows our life. So it is not astonishing that here also you’d have to compete with millions of bloggers around the world, to make a special place for yourself. This is a good thing, because your writing improves once you start competiting. Remember, billions use internet, but millions provide the writings to them. So whatever you write, take it up proudly.

You want to get into the FEATURED POSTS list, don’t you? So do I. So just stop bragging and start blogging. Good luck!!!!!!