Jan 9, 2013

Happiness in Puri is a bowl of muesli.

Just after dawn, dressed in splendid saris, the women stroll into the ocean.

They walk a few feet in, turn around, sit down and laugh. Their religious experience lies elsewhere. Puri’s Jagannath temple is ranked the 4th most holy site in India. What makes it unique is that a pilgrimage here can be a package deal that includes a stay at a beach resort. As a result of this unique circumstance Hindi pilgrim/vacationers outnumber us westerners by about a thousand to one, and this crazy over-built pilgrimage/resort town seems strangely unspoiled. 

Away from most of the resort hotels, but right where the handful of backpackers stay is a fishing village. The beach is their public toilet, but it is also where they change their fish into money. Here the fishermen bring their catch in. They drop their fish into the wet sand.

A huddle forms around the catch. The two men with their arms on each other’s shoulders are fishermen watching to see what profit their labors will earn. The fisherman in the light blue shirt has been calling out prices for the fish starting with the higher prices he would like to receive for his catch but he has to keep naming lower prices until one of the buyers shouts “Ha!” (yes) and the sale is made. The buyer with the light orange sleeved arm on the left is pointing towards the caller of prices and and has just shouted, “Ha!”

The man in the trousers and white shirt is another buyer. The fish he has bought will go to fine restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi. The fisherman wearing the traditional lungi is expressing his anger about the low sale price.

A village woman moves the fish to her metal bowl.

With a little assistance the bowl is lifted onto the coil of cloth on a woman’s head.

The purchased fish starts its journey to a plate in Mumbai.

The men who have been fishing from the darkness before dawn bring their net into the village.

In this typically narrow village lane a fisherman brushes his teeth in the back (one of the village pumps is out of sight just to his left). In the middle ground a young man makes chai and in the foreground children play while their mother fixes their hair.  

A fisherman’s wife and son pose on their porch. All of these pictures of the sale of the fish and the village were taken on the same morning walk and I’m thinking it’s time I head to the Peace Cafe for breakfast.

This is where the backpackers in Puri gather. As my guidebook states, “the muesli fruit curd is the biggest you’ll ever see and this alone attracts a keen following.” That is what this young woman, her two friends  and I, at my table, ordered.

Watermelon, grapes, pomegranates, nuts, orange sections and yogurt along with just a few bran flakes-- enjoying it while thinking about my morning’s catch is enough to make me happy.

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