A Bouquet of Fragrant Memories: Familiar Land and Beloved Faces (Part 2)

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”- Peter Hoeg


The overcast morning had settled into a beautiful afternoon, high clouds rolling across the blue sky. Leaning on the back seat of the van, Emma was looking at the busy streets, congested with crawling traffic and honking, screeching vehicles.  At the same time she was enjoying the beautiful tropical flowering trees on both the sides of the road and the roadside stores stocked with rich, vibrant, colorful dresses. Emma and her husband Aiden were pleasantly surprised to see that how a virgin land has boomed into a popular town with new lavish malls, westernized apartments, beautiful fancy hotels, new office buildings, and colleges.

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That night after arriving from Houston, they stayed in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa which is situated at the eastern coastal plane of India. It is popularly known as the Temple City, with more than 700 temples displaying wonderful Kalinga architecture. This city is very dear to Emma’s heart as she was brought up here and enjoyed her adventures from elementary school to the university. Emma stayed with her younger brother’s family. They chatted until late night and made detailed plans for the next day. A sleepy Emma walked into the bedroom; she saw that it was an oversized room with pale white walls and big glass windows. Each window was decorated with lacey white curtains. In one part of the room there was a king size wooden framed bed with decorated wooden posts, a peach linen bed spread, and a blue floral duvet cover with white flowers at the foot of it. On the windowsill there was a vase of fresh flowers tied in a yellow ribbon. Emma’s family was so tired from the long flight that as soon as they were in bed they fall sleep.

The rising sun emerged from behind the tall mango and banyan trees. Around 5.30 in the morning, Emma woke up to the sounds of the sparrows and pigeons chirping. Their constant whistling and chatter made her feel as though the house had been air lifted in the middle of the night and transported up to the trees. It was noisy, but Emma was enjoying the different sounds of the birds. She opened her eyes, stretched and smiled. She could even hear the hum of the traffic from the street outside through the window, the screech of a big truck backing up across the street, and the clanging of metal pans from the kitchen. She got ready and went to the kitchen to help her sister-in law.

‘Good morning! Emma said and walked in to the kitchen. ‘Good morning!’ someone replied back. Emma was walking straight to the pantry but the familiar voice forced her to stop and turn back. She could not belief her eyes. There was her mother standing with her sister-in-law. She looked so pretty with her hair was pinned back neatly in a braid. She was wearing an apricot color silk saree. There was a sweet smile playing on her face. Emma was too excited to see her mother. She walked in quick step towards her mother.

‘Mom! When did you come?  Our plan was to surprise you in cuttack,’ saying that Emma hugged her mother. Her mother smiled and said, ‘I want to surprise all of you. And I could not wait any longer to meet my granddaughter.’ On the breakfast table Emma’s mom reminded her that she has to make time to visit all her uncles and few aunts who live in that city. Emma was also eager to see all her of mom’s nine brothers and four sisters.

But first Emma wanted to visit Puri, her birth place, her maternal grandmother’s house and the famous Jagannath temple, an important pilgrim destination at the coast of Bay of Bengal. It is famous for the temple of Lord Jagannath, Chariot festival, and the beautiful beach. In one and half hour they reached at Puri. On the way in the van Aiden was busy giving a brief description of the temple to his daughter Autumn. The temple was constructed in the 12th century. The huge complex covers an area of over 400,000 sq. feet and is surrounded by a 20 feet wall. As they walked to the front of the temple they cross a monolithic pillar about 10 meters high and then took twenty- two steps to go to the temple. Emma’s daughter Autumn was surprised to see 120 small shrines and small temples inside the complex. Emma and Autumn walked around to see the beautiful stone statues on the pillars of the temple.   Emma recollects the fun memories that she had with her grandfather. They used to come every month from Bhubaneswar to Puri just to visit the temple. Emma ‘s grandfather was very devoted to Lord Jagannath and would sit and do his prayer, while Emma used  to have fun running  around the temple compound and watching the crowd. Emma climbed up slowly on the stairs to have a glimpse of the Lord Jagannath. In the crowd she found a small area to stand. She leaned on the pillar, and watched keenly and listened to all the prayers and chanting that was going on inside there in the temple. Suddenly her emotions overflowed, her eyes began to glisten and the tears streamed down on her cheeks. Emma could not understand the rising emotions, which she thought may be her devotion or may be from being in the temple after so many years. She wiped her eyes gently with a white cotton hanker-chief, and walked down the steps.  By the time they left the temple, Autumn was ready and eager to meet all the uncles at Emma’s maternal grandmother’s house.

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From Puri, Emma’s family drove down to Konark’, the Sun temple, at the shore of Chandrabhaga River. It was built in 13th century from Khondalite rocks. The entire complex follows the design pattern of a huge chariot with twelve pairs of stone carved wheels and drawn by a team of seven galloping horses. The temple was oriented in such a way that the first rays of sun directly fall on the main entrance. Aiden was explaining to Autumn, that “The seven horses who pull the chariot symbolize the days of the week, and the twelve pairs of the wheels represent the twelve month”. Autumn was amazed at the beautiful stone carvings and sculptures of different deities, dancers, musicians, lovers, warriors, and scenes of life at a court on the temple walls. It was almost evening. Emma and her family decided to take a stroll on the bank of the Chandrabhaga to see the sunset. The sky was mesmerizing. The fiery red orb of light slowly sank beneath the horizon as bright orange, then turned crimson, and lightened into soft pink before turning into majestic purple and then just dark. Emma, Autumn and Aiden walked down on the beach close to the water. The playful waves splashed gently over their feet. The sea- breeze was pleasant with the sweet smell of salty water mixed and sand. The driver was ready to return, so Emma and her family walked back to the van with tired legs and hearts full of memories.

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Emma slowly opened her eyes at the chirping of the morning birds. She was waiting to see the sunrise. Emma climbed down from the bed, stretched, and walked softly to the balcony. The fresh, gentle breeze caressed her face. She was mesmerized as the ribbons of golden sunlight spilled. The bright streaks of red, pink and orange slowly overcame the dark blue and purple of the twilight sky. The sky resembled a prism; all the colors blended perfectly into each other. Emma finished her sun-salutation there to start her exciting day. Emma wanted her daughter to visit the 1000 years old, famous Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar. After breakfast Emma  walked in to the guest room where Autumn was sitting on a white sofa with her cell phone and catching up with her grandmother. When they finally reached the famous 11th century temple, built of red Sandstone and Laterite, Autumn’s awe was evident. The Lingaraj Temple is located in a spacious courtyard covering 25000 sq. feet and the total height of the temple is 180 feet. The courtyard comprises 108 small temples inside. This time Emma‘s mother accompanied them to the temple. She was real happy to show Autumn all the beautiful sculptures of God, Goddess and dancers and architecture on the temple wall. Pictures are not allowed inside the temple, but Emma’s family had a wonderful time in looking at the beautiful stone carvings and touring the compound.

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After the temple they drove to all the uncles’ houses and spent a   wonderful time with them. There were lots of hugs, sweets, masala chai, laughter and joy.

“Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future.”- Gail Lumet Buckley.


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