After a certain point on Grand road cars are not allowed. This is more than made up for by million cycles, motorbikes and scooters who drive around to some pre-programmed manic circuit. Cows lolled in the middle of the road, oblivious, chewing cud while the bulls stood immobile, impassive, as if they owned the world, which they quite possibly did. Those mad cyclists and bikers might run over an unsuspecting passer by, but never a cow or bull!
I savoured the cool air stopping occasionally at a road side stalls, often no more than wares spread on a plastic sheet selling local knick knacks or religious parapharnelia, to look at the wares
women rolling out endless cotton wicks for votive diyas at the temple
or take a photo, or admire an old building which suddenly would appear from among the usual ugly decrepit ones...
or asking a policeman to shoo away a calf trying to eat the leather seat of parked bike or help out a gujrati to explain that batata was aloo and sweet potato was Kandamul in Oriya (With the help of my Oriya colleague ofcourse)!
The man in bright orange reading (ramayan I imagine) adjusted his specs to pose for my photo
Mandirar Prasado, said the man pulling a van laden with earthern pots of khichdi, steaming rice and their aroma wafting...
I would often stop, savour the scenn around me....and don't quite know why, feel very happy. There I was among a million - none of whom I knew, but I felt not lonely at all! As the day faded into dusk and then into night, the wide Grant Road became, if possible, even more magical.
The crowds swelled all along the road right upto the the Singhadooar where the crowd at any time is impossible. Impossibly crowded that is.
People from all over India and abroad .... all milling around with vendors, a few locals, police men.
We chatted with our usual chai wallah who told us about another owner who was making Rs. 10,000 per day and had three houses and yet lived in a rented accomodation of 500/-!!
As the night set in marriage parties joined in. We counted 4 of them. The procession of two parties had a brief clash - both sets of brass bands playing loudly made unique cacophony and the women (yes all of them) carrying the obligatory ornate lamps alongside the groom's bedecked car, got their wires entangled (which are wired to a generator on usually the last van in the procession) - after which, one got the right of way while the other patiently waited. Soon two more queued up with entire regalia behind this one. Sundry people stopped to watch the marriage parties file past. As I stopped to take a photo (at the absurdity) a groom obligingly popped his head out of the car - the photo alas was too dark.
Here was Lord Jagannath's lila in full swing. Pilgrims from all parts of India and infact the world, vendors, policemen, bikers and cyclist, cows and bulls, marriage party and police station ... every one on their own trip but somehow all united in some cosmic dance to an unheard beat. All swirling around the looming Puri temple of Lord Jagganath infusing everything and everyone with this otherworldly bliss.