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A DAY OF FREEDOM IN NATURE'S CAGE

Give me a break – was the outrage of two over-stressed souls for a long time. And finally, a serene break brought the sunshine of relief and solace to their lives. As if a long cherished dream of being with each other at a place of ultimate beauty and tranquility came true with this short but sweet trip.

Our voyage to Anshupa lake… one of those most memorable journeys in four years of our togetherness…gave a new dimension to our love, for each other and also for the things we both love. A great on-road experience, beautiful natural landscape, peaceful ambience, star-lit night and some great moments of undisturbed and uninterrupted love made our day. And more memorable in this trip was the long-cherished bunk from official chores.

It was Independence Day, when we both were craving for freedom from a stressful and monotonous life as the last few weeks had been really hectic and tiresome. We were in desperate need for some moments of rest. And as it is rightly said, "Rest is no idleness," being amidst pure natural beauty with your love definitely cannot be termed as a waste of time. It becomes the most precious time of life. It gives a new reason to fall in love with self and with each other. And, so did it happen. Our short stay at Saranda Hills, on bank of Asia's largest fresh water lake, was so rejuvenating for us that it still fills us with a strange energy and its memories soothe us with like a fresh blow of gentle air.

We started from home at around 11am. Done with our Independence Day celebrations, we both were set to enjoy our freedom. The climate was awesome owing to the perfection of the journey. We took the road to Athagarh via Barang along Saptasajya route.

We witnessed loads of fresh vegetables, including mouth-watering karamangas (goose-berries) on our way. I was very excited to buy them, but saved a task for our return. However, fresh coconut water was a delightful relief. It seemed our loving Ford Figo was also missing such outings and enjoying the trip to the fullest. We crossed the Munduli, Peacock Hill, Megha, Athagarh and reached near Saranda Hills.

The view of the recently established park was really beautiful. We moved to the top of the Saranda Hill and when we reached on the top the view was serene… like a dream. Though the lake was almost in a dried state at that time, the location offered so many things to enjoy and be happy about.

The story would be incomplete if we don't share the facts of Anshupa Lake. Anshupa is a fresh water lake in Odisha and spreads over 141-hectare. The uniqueness of this lake is not only that it is the largest fresh water lake of the continent but also its shape. It is shaped like the horseshoe on the banks of River Mahanadi. Anshupa Lake in Banki is about 35 km from Bhubaneswar and 70 km from the city of Cuttack.
This place is also an attraction for migratory birds in the winters. Those who belong to Odisha, must have read about Anshupa Lake in their Geography books at schools.

The place has been developed by the local forest department for tourism purpose and maintained by VSS (Van Surakshya Samiti), special kudos to Arun Mishra, DFO, Athagarh. Three neat and nice bamboo huts with cozy lawns and flowers on the front have added to the beauty of the place. The view of the lake from this place is awesome, which we missed unfortunately, as already stated, the water level was very low at that time. But the charm of the Saranda Hills, with its renovations was overwhelming and enchanting, giving a perfect ambiance of solitude.

Saranda Hills also has a history of its own. Originally known as the Saranda Garh, it was the palace of the king of Saranda, one of the gadajat kings of Odisha. There are still some reminiscences of the old heritage. The gate of the palace, the perennial well, the Armory… all has the reflections of some great history. But we were more interested in the natural aesthetics of the place though. The place gave us a great reason to be completely with each other; as there was nobody to disturb us, not even the mobile network! A great relief from the mundane life…some time with nature and with each other made our day.

After freshening up in one of the bamboo huts we had booked, we sat on the grass lawns and walked around barefoot enjoying nature's acupressure. For lunch, we moved down to Athagarh for food. Though food could have been ordered at the dining of the Saranda Hills, we preferred to explore the nearby areas and had our favourite rice and fish curry.

When we reached our hut, a strange calmness and peaceful tiredness covered us and we slept such a sound sleep as if we had been sleepless for nights together. And when we woke up, a strange energy and tranquility filled in us. We sat outside our hut, on the grass lawns, enjoying like teenage tourists. It seemed as if time had come to a halt, and we were in some other world.

Each moment, with the slight blow of breeze, each movement of the trees brought in a great delight. Everything was picture perfect, beautifully preserved by nature and not to forget, carefully conserved by the local caretakers. Time passed unfolding new meanings of life to us. The darkness of the evening approached with its own calm and quiet way, without disturbing us, rather adding on beauty to the romantic set up.

Giving a break to our solitude, Arun Mishra, the then DFO, along with some colleagues, arrived to meet us. A nice and enlightening conversation on different issues pertaining to eco-tourism, environment protection and wildlife conservation went over cups of tea and pakoda. Spending some time with us, they left the place, leaving us to the lap of nature, where solace and love could play hide and seek.

Imagine a night without the moon – the stars and the streak of the Milky Way were clearly visible, without any annoying city lights. It was great fun clicking photographs of the wonderfully starry night. After a tasty and simple dinner we headed on to a sound slumber.

The next morning had some more stories of calmness for us to explore. We moved to the watch tower and wandered about in the palace area. Mornings had never been so enchanting ever in the last few days. We felt the rising sun touching us with warmth and vibrancy, energising us to get ready for future challenges.

At around 9 in the morning, we gathered our memories and travelled back home, this time, via Naraj Bridge. We bought fresh pumpkin flowers from the local market. Returned happily with some more fresh vegetables and not to forget, karamangas – all set for a great Sunday lunch.
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