Autumn Resilience

Those were the Autumn days, about two decades back,
Was out and about with family, had festivities to make.

Was on my way back home, when the warning was issued,
The Cyclone was approaching, we tried to rush all we could.

Efforts were not enough, and we got stuck in a bad traffic jam,
With huge trucks around us, ours was a tiny car in the open.

The hours passed, a veil of darkness descended upon us,
We heard big roars, as if the devil’s lung was about to burst.

The Cyclone went about its business for the whole night long,
Destroying vehicles, houses, as if licked with its thorny tongue.

Twisted trees and power poles alike with all its might,
Wiping out years of mankind and civility in just one night.

We stayed in that car for the whole time, huddled and scared,
The winds tried to toss us, and we thought we won’t be spared.

That was one scary Autumn night, like none I had seen before,
With everything else destroyed, as if we were left to tell the lore.

It was long before, when cyclones were without any names,
Less powerful, and may be a slightly less in fearsomeness.

Rising temperatures have made them more common than ever,
Autumn is synonymous with cyclones now, and will be in future.

When the world prepares for festivities at the arrival of Autumn.
My tribe is either preparing for a cyclone or is recovering from one.

As mankind “progresses” towards a better “future” elsewhere,
There will be people here who pay more than their fair share.

Not paying for the “progresses” they haven’t made, not a choice,
Autumn and its cyclones are now a story of my tribe’s resilience.

Having stood steadfast in the face of the cyclone of this year,
They pick up pieces, preparing for the next without any fear.

Autumn Resilience
An old man looks at the restless sea under black clouds as he prays using prayer beads, at Puri in Odisha, India.

My first encounter with a cyclone was way back in 1999, when me and my family were caught unawares while coming back from a roadtrip during Dussehra. We spent a night inside the car, stuck in a traffic jam on the then infamous Andhra-Odisha border. The storm raged on outside, and tried hard to toss and turn our car as the eye of the storm passed right over us. When the storm passed and dawn broke, almost everything around us was destroyed. The super cyclone of 1999 followed it, and became one of the worst natural disasters of the Indian subcontinent.

Over the years we moved to naming cyclones in the Indian ocean region, but the cyclones didn’t relent. On the east coast, Odisha became their primary target, and they came back every year during Autumn, the festive season in India. As global temperatures have risen, Odisha has been gearing up for cyclones, every year since, that is, after facing its annual bout of floods.

And for the people of coastal Odisha and the adjoining hills inland, they don’t understand what on Earth is worth the price they pay for every Autumn, year after year. The industrialisation that doesn’t exist in their backyard, the infrastructure that is just beginning to show up, the vehicles that don’t ply on their roads, or the over-consumption of resources that they are not party to? Or is it that they pay the price for someone else’s luxury?

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

In search of “Nothingness”

Bira (pronounced as Bee-raw, meaning brave in Odia) was born into a Brahmin family, in a Brahman Sasan. In Odisha, a Brahman Sasan is a village where every family is Brahmin. He grew up witnessing the monster called Brahmin supremacy and the twisted, distorted Hindu Sanatan religion. Tired of it, he and few of his friends went to Joranda and embraced Mahima Dharma. That was seven decades ago.

The allegation that was levelled against Bira was that he had converted and was no more a Hindu, so he and his family need to pay a fine to continue to stay in the village, to which Bira sternly refused. As a result, his family was banished from their ancestral village. One of main reasons was, even after being a Brahmin himself, Bira had challenged their supremacy. All other families of the village were asked to not keep any kind transaction with his family.

In the meantime, a letter was written to the high seat of Hindus in Jagannath temple, in Puri, asking them to advise a future course of action in Bira’s case. To which, they replied that it was settled long back and Mahima Dharma was very much a part of the Sanatan Hindu fold. After the ban on Bira’s family was lifted, having his point proven he chose to stay back in his ancestral village fighting further religious atrocities and intolerance, till he left for a city close by for his children’s education few decades later.

Bira Panigrahy was my grandfather. Of the group of people who embraced Mahima Dharma on that day, more than seven decades ago, only my grandfather continued to be a follower till his death. Any history of my association with Mahima Dharma would be incomplete without mentioning the brave man who was much ahead of his time. As I sat down to write this post, devotional songs written by the blind poet Bhim Bhoi and sang by Mahima devotees rang in the background. The devotees, even though having full time professions, accompany the monks  wherever they go. They were at our home as we were conducting something known as a “Balyaleela”, a yagna of sorts. The occasion this time was my grandfather’s death anniversary.

As per the teachings of Mahima Swamy (as the Master of Mahima Dharma is called), a human doesn’t need any intermediaries to reach the Supreme. All humans are born equals despite caste, creed, color, race, gender and religion. That there is only one God, the Supreme, who is shapeless and colorless, the nothingness in other words. The Supreme resides in every living and non-living being and everything resides in the Supreme. Mahima Dharma is a form of Vishisht Advaita, where every living being is respected equally. Followers of Mahima Dharma worship the nature and the universe, the nothingness within and without, and pray for well being of every living being of the universe.

The Offering
A Mahima monk accepting a coconut being offered by a follower of Mahima Dharma at “Dhuni Mandir”, the temple of fire in Mahimagadi, at Joranda, Dhenkanal, Odisha. The offered coconut will be burned in the holy fire.

The monks of Mahima Dharma as directed by Mahima Swamy himself follow an extremely ascetic lifestyle. For example, when they visit the houses of devotees, they not allowed to stay for more than a night, and are not supposed to go inside the house. They eat under the open skies, and are not allowed to sleep on beds for the rest of their lives. Giving up basically everything that would even remotely qualify as modern comfort. They have only one task at hand, spread the message of the Master, and in the process move ahead in their spiritual journey.

When I was on a road trip with parents in Odisha few months back, something strange had happened. After having spent few minutes in the Indralath temple, in Ranipur-Jharial, we came out and were getting ready to get inside the car. A drunk shepherd approached my father from nowhere, and told him “A Mahima monk had come here many many years ago when I was a kid. And he hosted a “Balyaleela” (a ritual done on special occasions), and there were lakhs of people.” There were no identifications either on my father or on our car which suggested that any of us were a follower of Mahima Dharma. The followers of Mahima Dharma are a very very small fraction of the total population.

Before that, when I had gone to see Puri during Rathyatra last year, I received a call from an unknown number. On the other side was a Mahima monk who visits our family very often. “Have you become a Jagannath devotee?”, he asked me, when on being asked I told him that I was in Puri. Worshiping deities, shapes or  forms is forbidden in Mahima Dharma.That the monk had called me for the first time ever, when I had come to see Lord Jagannath had to mean something; also, what the drunk shepherd was mumbling in front of the Indralath temple.

The celestial message was clear to me. I had to go visit the Mahimagadi, the seat of Mahima Dharma at Joranda, in Dhenkanal, Odisha. And what better time than the annual Maghmela, on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Magh.

On 31 January, 2018, Joranda was a mission accomplished!

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

I was there…. Waiting for you!

I waited there, under our pine tree,
And I went there for many more days,
Hoping you would come one day.

It was futile, I was told,
And that you would never be back.
But, I wanted to give it a try.

I wanted to give it a try,
Just so when my time comes,
I won’t feel that I did not wait enough.

And when I realized many springs later,
That you would never come,
I left there the scarf you had given me.

The scarf, my only piece of memory of you,
For it had your scent, as fresh as dew,
It was the only thing that I had of you.

As I wanted to let you know,
Just in case you showed up..

I was there…. Waiting for you!


DISCLAIMER: Penned by yours truly, this poem is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: A ritualistic scarf tied to a pine tree in the Himalayas, on the way from Naitala to Guptakashi, in Uttarakhand, India. I found small temples dedicated to local Gods as well as such ritualistic things, common place in the Himalayas.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

She’s the only one I got

Ours is a unique “love” story, as one-sided as it gets. She is so good, all she has ever known is giving. And she gives without expecting anything in return. She gives without asking. She gives more than what I need. She gives more than what I deserve. She gives even if I hurt her, beat her up, or bruise her. She gives in joy. She gives in pain. She gives me whatever she has. She loves me!

Having used her mindlessly for all these years, having bruised her in unimaginable ways, having hurt her in worse ways than worst of my nightmares, I still found her by my side. And then, I realized that she is very very special. And… She’s the only one I got!

She’s the only one you got. And, she’s the only one we got.

Earth, yours, mine and each one of ours. Our “love” for her has been so cruel, we have done unimaginable things to her. We have always taken from her, more than our fair share, and without ever giving anything back, or giving back too little. In simple terms, we have raped her in every worst way possible.

There is no “humane” way of destroying our beloved little blue marble. Other lives on this once beautiful planet are suffering the repercussions of our actions. Ever imagined why we are acting the way we are? Because, we humans have a very wrong notion of “Oh, we are so entitled”. Because, we believe everything that exists on this planet belongs to us, and it exists to serve us. We can do anything we want to anything that exists on this planet.

We were capable of learning, we were capable of improvising. We learned, and we improvised. We also CHEATED! As intended, we did not use our learning and improvisation for betterment of other lives and that of our planet. Instead, we used them to take advantage of other lives, and to screw up our planet. And with time we have become so greedy, we do everything in excess. We eat more than needed, we use more than required and naturally, we waste more than we can have.

Do you remember those Hollywood sci-fi movies, in which an alien species invades Earth because it has exhausted the “resources” on its own planet? Do you like those aliens? No? Well, those alien characters are based on our greed! Having almost screwed up our planet successfully, we are now looking at other planets in the solar system and beyond, to implement our scheme of things and screw them up too.

All those cyclones, floods, unseasonal rains, droughts, rising temperatures and missing seasons of the recent times are a grim reminder that though she loves us unconditionally, our Earth can fall sick too. And when she does, all hell breaks lose! So, hoping that it is not too late, let’s do our bit to prevent her from falling sick. However small it may seem, but let’s start for once. Be it closing that tap, or switching off the engine at the traffic signal, or not using polythene, or reusing/recycling, or planting that one tree sapling. Let’s us do how much ever we can do. And let it not be restricted to mere symbolism.

As far as I am concerned, I do not use the AC in my car when I am travelling alone, not even in this hot summer. I had turned a vegetarian for some other reason, but I intend to stay a vegetarian for the rest of my life, because recently I came to know that animal agriculture for meat production generates more harmful greenhouse gases than all cars put together (read here). And with time, I intend to do more. Pitch in with my small little efforts, even if it sometimes results in discomfort for me.

Why am I doing this? For everything that I have put her through, I have realized that I can not live without her, quite literally! And I have fallen in love with her. Because, she’s the only one I got. She’s the only one you got. She’s the only one we got.

For her! Happy Earth Day, my love..

In frame: Sun rise at Naitala village, in Uttarakhand, India. This was the first morning I woke up in the laps of the Himalayas. The river in the bottom of the frame is Bhagirathi, “who” is called Ganga after Dev Prayag (Use of “who” is deliberate, because Ganga is now legally a living person. Read more about it here). All this serenity and tranquility in my mind were shattered, when I imagined the havoc floods of 2013 must have caused, scars of which were visible throughout my journey in the Himalayas.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.