Most of you who have read my last VanaYatra post know what it is about. It’s a trip where we go and meet the Vanavasis/Girijanas [Forest dwellers/ mountain inhabitants] and try to fill in the gaps in their daily lives, their basic necessities etc..

ETA: Pics from the trip posted here.

If you are staying in Andhra Pradesh, its anybody’s guess that you would have visited Vishakapatnam [Vizag] and Araku Valley already.  But in the 3+ yrs that we have been here, we had never made it to these places before.  The plan used to die down before even being shortlisted and we would go backpacking elsewhere.

I sometimes wonder if its true that the right time has to come for  things to happen. Because , I do not think a trip to this place anytime before would have been as fruitful and as heart-warming as this one. Yes! We were in different villages in Araku valley for the last 3 days and what a time we had.  And the place is simply beautiful!  Truly blessed by Nature Gods.

18/11/2010

The initial hiccups almost made sure we missed it this time too. Su got almost caught in the web of a P1 task the day we had to board the train and my thoughts swinging between that of a dutiful wife 😉 and a travel enthusiast.  Thankfully, he did make it!

Not once in all these years in my life have I ever been late in catching a train or anything for that matter.  But the traffic ensured we were stuck at the same place for more than 20 min and I had already started calculating where we would take a bus from, when we would meet the rest of our gang etc…  Thankfully, we made it JUST IN TIME, when the words ‘Train No.2740 is ready to depart from Platform No.9’  fell on our ears.  Thanks for friends who were running up without paying heed to the fact that they could miss the train too with us, to take some load of our shoulders.  I spotted them and ran down with them from one side while Su missed and ran down from the other side. Some more drama occurred when he thought I did not make it to the flight of stairs and ran up again in search of me 😉  God’s grace that we saw him immediately and off went one of them to get him back and FINALLY we did board the train YAY!  What a rocking start that was!  How times flies when  u have nice company.  A group of 27 people chatting,  eating and exhausting the entire list of songs – be it Bhajans, Patriotic Songs, BollyWood or whatever – Genre no bar, language no bar. Oh and time too – because it was about 2:00 a.m when we went to bed.

19/11/2010

The next day began our real VanaYatra. After getting fresh and having a sumptuous breakfast at Vizag, we started to Borra Caves – Huge caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations adorning the length and breadth of the structure.  On the way was our first interaction with the Vanavasis of this region – we stopped for lunch at one of their homes in a village called Bagamaravalasa and the love that they shower on you sometimes make me think whether we go there to do something or get it done? Because I always come back learning something from them.  All the Vanavasis that we visited in the last 3 days literally live by ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ [The guest is God]. They wash your feet, garland you and that one smile of theirs tells u they don’t do this because its written in their books. They love doing it.  All the while, I was feeling so guilty to get this done. Here are the people who are actually living life in unison with the nature, not causing any harm.  Do we even deserve such a reception? But they will have none of it. They believe they will invoke the blessings of God by serving him in Man.  And come to think of it, we even had language differences because most of them spoke Oriya and not one of our volunteers knew the language. Not once did than hinder our communication though! Of-course, it helped that few local people who knew Oriya accompanied us, but still they were happy telling us things in Oriya and bursting into innocent peels of laughter with the questioning look on our faces.  We stayed in one such village Arama that night and that’s one night I will never forget in my life. They had decorated the entire village, organized a special Pooja for us, sang bhajans.  We then got to witness a very beautiful dance form called Dhimsa and got to perform it with them too. We danced till late in the night, then had dinner, again sang and danced and made merry. Again, they get a basin and get you to wash your hands where you are seated, with hot water at that!  What struck me most was that when we girls from our team joined them in their dance, they were telling us to invite the boys too as it would be great if all of us could do it together. Absolutely no kind of  sexual inequalities. Men and women served us, all of them cleaned. I think we need to take a leaf or two out of their book and vice-versa.

After we were done with our dine-n-dance routine by about 00:30, a few of us decided to be awake all night by a campfire and 3 of us did make it!  We did not sleep all night long and did not allow the others to sleep beyond 4:00 a.m too 😛 😛   I took a power nap for about 20 min that night. Close to full-moon day, star-lit sky, serenity, pleasant breeze, the  cool ground below, the bonfire – that is what is called blissful sleep I think.

For people like us who first steal a peak into the restroom before booking a room in any of the poshest hotels, going 2 kms away in the early hours of the morning for morning rituals did not even feel like a task. Most of us surprised ourselves with this. We then had our bath in one of the waterfalls nearby – absolutely milky white!  The Vanavasis are so grateful for everything in life that a prayer preludes their bath routine too and all of them from the village take part in it together.  And while we were taking bath, some villagers were leaving flowers into the water which was flowing on our side. What a spa effect that was – freely at that!

It was soon time to leave this village and we had already connected so much that neither did they nor did we feel like leaving each other. We knew the village like our backyard by now.  One lady came and asked me ‘You did not come to my house at all. Can you please come today?’   Aww what can I even tell you about the strings that played in my heart? On the way to her house, I saw another lady washing radish for the day’s cooking and just casually told her that they look so fresh that I feel like cooking them right there and eating them. And when we all boarded the vehicle to leave, I see someone calling out to me from near my window. And what do I get – a bunch of radish!  I so wanted to hug all these sweet memories and preserve them somewhere, such that they never get lost. Forgive me if this post is long, but I want these to be here.  It is this place I want to get back to, to realize that the world is a great place to live in and there is still something called humanity, very much A.L.I.V.E!  The way all of them got together to prepare breakfast in the entrance of the village, how they got together to serve us without competing or calculating who is working/ who is not – Sigh! How many things can I learn at once? Even if we are able to imbibe a part of what they are, we will be far better humans probably.

And ya, we even met a girl who is doing her second year degree in computers! Amazing isn’t it 🙂

20/11/2010

Our next stop during the trip was Matsyagundam. Matyagundam is known for its centuries old Sri Matyalingeswera Swamy Temple. The Mythological story is that a fight between the snakes and fishes  took place. The Mother fish brought all the fishes here from a place called “Gemmili” for safety from the snakes and ever since the fishes have lived here giving it the name Matsya Gundam [Matsya means fish in Sanskrit].  The temple has a river flowing behind and we had a gala time playing in the clear water. The hills around, the gushing sound of the river, the age-old temple evoking devotion – just perfect! There is a Sivalinga behind the Sanctum Sanctorum [Garbagriha] of the temple – a Linga shaped stone inside a groove actually and it’s believed that if you pray for something and lift it three times successfully, your wish will be granted.

From this place, we went to a residential home for boys at Matam where we had lunch and then departed to visit another temple in Paderu Sri Modakondamma Talli [again a Goddess in whom the local people believe a lot ] while we waited to meet the boys to be back from school. We got back to see them neatly dressed and seated in a line.  They greeted each one of us as we entered the room, recited prayers and sang songs for us.  We distributed school kits to them and were making preparations to leave for Guchhari – a nearby village where we were supposed to spend that night.  By that time, some people from that village had already come here to find out why we had not yet reached their place.  We first visited a  Single Teacher School where like I had said in the last post on VanaYatra, children come after school hours to learn singing, dancing etc.. and play and study. This is a place for kids to mainly get assistance with their notes, homework etc.. as their parents may not be educated enough to help them.  It was pitch dark at 6 in the evening with the cloud and the moon playing hide and seek and with no power in the school. But nothing could stop these children from entertaining us with songs, dance, jokes, riddles, stories and their affection for someone who had met them only minutes before.

The icing on the cake was that each family in this villages hosted two of us – we ate with them, slept at their place, chatted for a long time sharing our ways of life, understanding their problems etc.. And again what struck me what these people are just not of the complaining or brooding nature. They are so contented with what they have. Since I had a bad throat that day with all the chatting and singing, they gave me a medicine of rice mixed with turmeric and looked after me so well.  One girl Monika was telling me my Mother will scold me after going home for drinking bad water and catching an infection  😉 She  also gave gyaan on how I should not wear shoes after marriage because boys may not see my toe-ring and roam behind me 😉 and also not to address ‘Su’ by his name. The funniest thing was a different house was allotted for Su and when we were returning home at night, she said ‘Papa Anna [How sad of Anna], you are leaving him alone and coming’

Again, we had a campfire and Dhimsa session that night followed by a few games and then happily retired to sleep.

21/11/2010

When I got up in the morning,  one of the neighbours came and asked me to accompany her. I asked her to where and she said for morning rituals.  A neighbour -our hostess owner had not told her anything – she just saw me awake, carried some water and offered to take me there.  What simple life they lead!  Why is not so easy to be so good?

The girls of the village were literally crying when we left and did not leave my hand till the last minute.  Monika was dragging me by the arm when I was trying to climb the vehicle.  We departed with a promise to visit the village again. Our host’s son also took our numbers to invite us for his marriage in January.  His would- be is a degree holder in computer and so is he 🙂  This village had many degree holders actually and I even spotted CFL lamps and DVD players in certain homes 🙂

Before getting on to the train on our way back home, we visited two places in Vizag – the famous Simhachalam temple [on the auspicious occasion of Karthik Poornima at that] and had a gala time at the R.K beach. Full moon day and high tides!   Had some nice chats on the shore too. Bajjis/Pakodas are something I never used to like if they are not hot. But this is one place I found where they are so delicious even when they are not. The Bajjis are seasoned with onions/coriander and lemon juice and they taste heavenly. And the Mirchi Bajjis were so so so spicy that I can proudly say I was the only one who had them 😉 😉

The return journey back home was as fun as the onward one with people still having fun, not bothered about going to office the next day 😉 2:00 a.m had almost become our standard sleeping time :mrgreen:

22/11/2010

Back in office and blogging coding 8)

All in all, a great trip and I am sooo waiting for the next one already. Someone listening 😉

Err, has anybody even come till this point 😛

P.S: Pics of the trip coming up in the next post 😀
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