A date with the beach is always a welcome break from the mundane lives that we lead. So on a cloudy Sunday morning, I and four of my colleagues set out for a joyride to the Ramchandi beach from Bhubaneswar, the Capital City of Odisha. Adding a magical touch to our journey was the overcast sky. There is something extremely romantic about beaches during monsoon, I believe.
Our car passed through a narrow diversion road, potholed at some places, from the Bhubaneswar-Puri National Highway towards Konark that houses one of the 25 cultural World Heritage sites in the country, the ornate Sun Temple. From Konark, the Ramchandi beach was just 9.8 km away through the Puri-Konark Marine Drive road. En route to Ramchandi, we stopped at a small town, Nimapara, for a quick breakfast. It had started drizzling by then.
Odisha is home to several mouth-watering sweets and Nimapara holds the reputation of making the soft and sweet ‘Chenna Jhili’, prepared by kneading Chenna (cottage cheese) into small round balls which are then deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup of thin consistency. It is believed that Aarta Sahoo of Shyam Sundarpur village near Nimapara had first come up with the recipe of this cheese delight. Passing through small roadside eateries, we decided to stop at one – a single room shop with two benches in the centre and one at the right. Its kitchen was a small cabin located just behind and food was being prepared right in front of our eyes. The shop owner-cum-cook offered us idlis with an extremely watery version of Matar Tarkari (peas curry) and one piece of Chenna Jhili each. The idlis weren’t fluffy but the curry was piping hot, something that we needed to beat the monsoon chill. The winner on the plate, however, was the extremely soft and mildly sweet Jihili that melted in the mouth. No wonder food historians and critics say, none can match Nimapara confectioners when it comes to making Chenna Jhilis.
Behind us in the kitchen, Aloo Chops (boiled potato balls dipped in spiced gram flour batter and deep fried) were just taken out of the frying pan. An irresistible aroma of fried besan and aloo filled the air. After sipping a glass of tea, we quickly packed some of these deep-fried potato balls and proceeded towards Ramchandi. This time, there were villages on both sides of the road with eye-soothing greenery all-around. The drizzle stopped but the clouds stayed put.
After an hour of drive through the Puri-Konark Marive Drive, we reached the Lotus Resort at Ramchandi. The resort boasts of owing a private beach, although I fail to understand the concept. (I mean how can a beach be a private property? And in this case, it wasn’t even well maintained). The resort was environed by flowering plants of all varieties with a small kitchen garden at one corner. Ducks occasionally made their way through the garden. There were wooden planks strategically placed throughout the landscape, which had notes on nature. One read: Live Green, Love Green, Think Green. After a stroll on the ‘private beach’, which hosts the annual India Surf Festival, we travelled a little further to another beach. Surrounded by swaying Casurina trees on one side, this one was comparatively clean, unpretentious and secluded.
Soon, happy screams prevailed. We ran towards the green sea and let the waves come closer to us. The water touched my feet and coaxed me to come even closer to the ocean. It was a quiet moment of contentment with life. We sat on the beach making sand castles and even our driver joined us in the sandy endeavour. (I do not remember his name but we called him Mr Shahrukh Khan. He constantly gave us tips on photography!).
Unlike other beaches in the State, the closest being at Chandrabhaga and Puri, this one had no vendors on the shore to hound visitors. Far from the hustle bustle of the city, the beach turned out to be an ideal place for harried souls like us seeking recluse.