Odisha Through the Eyes of a European – 1

by Ute Eisinger

bhubaneswar airport

One bright afternoon I found myself stepping out of the old airport of Bhubaneswar, assuming the organizers would pick me up. When no one had come to meet me, I started to worry. How could I have come to the other end of the world with so much confidence without knowing anyone? For the first time ever in my life, I found myself in a very strange situation as I was the only European among the local Indian crowd.

This was when I first came to Odisha in January 2016, to join an international programme for artists run by a Canadian, Jennyfer, together with an Indian, Baba. I did not know anyone of them, I just had exchanged a few emails with Jenny the days before. I had rather applied to the adventure during my Sabbatical year off duty, in order to take every opportunity to get my nose and feet out of home. My secured home of downtown Vienna, the capital town of my native middle European Austria. I must admit, I had seen most of our neighboring countries and some more, but had never visited India before, neither did I have the desire to do so. Actually, I was quite unprepared for the experience. Joining RECSIM, Residential Experience of Cultural Secrets in Mayurbhanj district in Odisha state, was a spontaneous decision.

Odisha Park

I became aware of my itchy dry skin as I was wearing too much textile for the summerly heat. But when in the next moment I caught the sight of a monkey on the wall at the opposite side of the street, my naked curiosity came back to me. Away with my doubts I became more curious to know things now! Sometime later came the residency organisers, and later in the day everybody was picked up, some guys from the US and another couple of Canadians, among them one of Mexican and one of Chinese origin.

Before the night trip up to Jashipur, Mayurbhanj, where we should stay for a month to experience tribal customs to translate them in our arts, we were taken to Baba’s place in Nayapalli to relax. His residence was in a relaxed neighbourhood nearby a park and sports ground, relating to a school, with 2-storeyed houses around.

While the others were taken out to an amazing huge temple to have food at, I stayed back to have a nap. Later, looking out of the window I smelled the lush green of a tree with astonishing big leaves, and saw how children rode their bicycles during sunset when their daddies returned home from work.

The calm everyday evening did not differ much from how I experienced the hour before dinner in my childhood town. But without doubts, it was in India.

[The author is a Vienna based Poet and Educationist]