By Abhishek Behera

With the temperatures soaring as high as 42 degree Celsius it was really unbearable for me to resist the temptation to search for an escape plan from this heat-struck city to some pleasant and calm place and I finally chalked out a plan to take asylum in and the place happened to be northern Odisha’s land of mountains and exemplary scenery, ‘Keonjhar‘.

With the bags packed, I left for Keonjhar early in the morning to have a glimpse of the early morning beauty. The shutters of the shops were still closed, the tea shops had just started the gas stoves, morning joggers had already started their daily routines of being fit, the birds had started fluttering their wings on the air depicting their freedom of soaring high in the naked sky, the roads didn’t had any vehicles accompanying them, I realized that the morning environment was still virgin and it was yet to see the usual hustle and bustle.

After a long 4 hours journey, I was welcomed by a beautiful and stunning glimpse of the mountains that appeared to be racing by my side, the mountains were really an amazing sight, the lush greenery atop it gave them a stunning look. I was really mesmerized to gaze at the hills without any intention of blinking my eyes. As I lowered the glass of the window the pleasant air gushed into the window touching my face softly as if someone was touching my face and caressing it with utmost love and affection. The air was cold and pleasant with a touch of moisture in it; the pleasant air was accompanied by an unknown fragrance that was oozing out of the fresh lands and trees that were sprinting beside my car.

I reached Keonjhar in the afternoon and trust me that was one of the best afternoons that I had ever experienced all this summer. The city of Keonjhar had a mixed appearance of a developed city and a traditional tribal culture. I loved the city at first sight. The markets were peaceful unlike the markets back in my home city which seldom remained calm and pleasant. The traffic wasn’t that terrible like the city from which I had just come from. The journey of more than 3 long hours that I undertook to reach this destination proved to be worth it.

Gazing out of the window of the house in which I was staying was really one of the most memorable ones so far of that journey. The running lines of majestic mountains covering from all the sides with the vast open lands with a barren patch of greenery at occasional spots were really mesmerizing. The calm and serene atmosphere added more charm to my 6 days of exemplary experience. The early mornings were lovely and so were the evenings. The atmosphere was serene and beautiful in every aspect. The fresh fragrance that was oozing out of the green patches and the moist air that used to bring an unknown smile every time I used to experience it was really one of the best I had ever had.

To explore more about the city I used to go on short walks to the nearby markets and public squares which usually saw a moderate crowd. Every evening I used to set out on a journey to understand more about the city and the rich culture associated with it. I witnessed mixed public activities at the market, rickshaws waiting for their customers, a daily market which we usually refer as “haat” was on a full pace while the omfed booth saw a beeline of people sipping a cup of tea to get an extraordinary boost to their peaceful evening, it was completely a destination full of activities.

I was really enthralled to witness such a lively atmosphere which though was crowded but it had a sense of peace and calmness, the usual rush like a metropolitan city was absent. The street down my house to the market was full of street hawkers who used to sell some rarely found local delicacies and pieces of articles. Starting from glittering pieces of cheap jewellery to some beautiful household products which had designer carvings on them, these hawkers were a complete mall package.

I happened to stop by one such hawker who was selling some rarely found berries which were looking absolutely delicious. I asked if I could taste one and the old lady willingly gave me 2 berries, trust me it was one of the most juiciest berry I ever had, my taste buds were full of sweet flavors bursting from each bite that I took from that berry, it was really delicious. I further enquired about its origin and I was really amazed to know that these hawkers bring these rare delicacies from deep jungles that were running down from almost all the mountains. I was really amazed to find the journey of these berries starting from their place of origin to their place in the market. I thanked the old lady for allowing me to taste a few more berries without charging me anything and returned home.

I left for my return journey after a stay of almost a week. The weeks stay at the city was something that I won’t forget in the years to come in my life. The serenity and the beauty of the place that I experienced at that place was no less than heaven. I won’t forget the divine mix of tribalism which is vividly seen in every aspect of the city with the ever-changing development that is taking place in every sphere of the city. This mixture is what makes this place a must-visit. I was completely enthralled to involve myself in a place which was life in every aspect of the atmosphere. The city of Keonjhar was as lively as its atmosphere.