Sometimes the journey becomes more important and significant than the actual destination. The road to Paradeep viewed so many years later after the Supercyclone was a revelation . The road was a disaster - 4 hours from Bhubaneswar and riddled with potholes just after Cuttack and it appeared that the administration had made no repairs since then . . Balancing the car appeared to be a remarkable feat for the driver.
But the landscape was rural India at its very best ; washed clean and a soft green after the monsoons - green paddy fields stretching on either side of the road , little impromptu canals fed by the monsoon, little roadside shrines to Hanuman decked with orange rangan flowers and white jasmine; Tulsi shrines and small temples with busy roofs , bustling with deities ,holy cows and demons . One recurrent theme was a rampant snarling lion, its foreleg raised , with a cow by its side guarding the small temples -
Cows and bulls are predominant – mean eyed , well muscled bulls rather like the short haired muscly bully boys in round neck short sleeved t shirts just so you can admire those rock hard bulging biceps and tight jeans one that one sees lounging around . The cows are scrawny , self effacing and extremely apologetic with disarming long snarls of horns . the women are typically very feminine and fair , in their printed sarees , one end draped over their heads , with armloads of red bangles and alta on their soles .
Just before the road branches towards Jagatsinghpur , there is a massive statue of Hanuman at the crossroads . During the super cyclone , an adjoining pillar supporting the high tension wire was knotted like a rope by the force of the wind which had also driven a boat roughly 65 km inland from the sea ,at Paradeep to fall on the paddy field across the road . Strange to believe ,the statue of Hanuman remained untouched and unscathed .
The names of the places one crosses are beautiful- Tirtol,Kujang ,Jagatsinghpur , repeating the same soft tranquility of the landscape . As one nears Paradeep , the first thing one sees in the distance is the bridge spanning the estuary into Paradeep and a long line of trucks which visually appear suspended in space . Closer , the estuarine water creeps in and creates backwaters between ridges filled with grazing cows and children - bathing in the muddy water . The current in the water is strong . As you enter Paradeep , you pass under a fort like gate . Just outside are 2 huge sculptures of ancient boats putting out to sea . The port area is well planned with wide roads and flowe beds along the sides of the roads , white walled bungalows sitting amidst lush green lawns . It is difficult to believe that mayhem and disaster lashed this area – it is o peaceful and tranquil . But in 1999 , the waves lashed over 4 storeyed houses in the Paradeep Port trust quarters burying entire families in water - some houses stand , their windows black like eyeless sockets , the dirty yellow walls weeping trails of moss and dereliction . All is quiet now. Green and lovely - clean , washed , tranquil , serene – one can go on and on . The sea in the distance a steely blue grey, reflecting the skies above , the port is bustling .
The DGM asked Vallabh Khanna how he felt in Paradeep in the monsoons . For Khanna , a hardcore Punjabi born and brought up in Jalandhar ,having worked in the landlocked North - who had never seen the sea before his punishment posting, it is a difficult question . In his very thick Punjabi accent he tells me DGM saab has a sense of humour but eyes the sky outside his window uneasily . One can never be sure .