Stand-up comedians love talking about how much they get to travel during the job. And it is true! The glamour, the travel, the recycled air, the amount of alone time spent in hotels must be the brick and mortar of childhood dreams. But being a budding stand-up comedian means grabbing a chance to perform at any venue you get hold of. Even if it means Orissa! Even if it means the original purpose of visit was a wedding. Even if it means performing at a Children’s Library!
Orissa, for me, had been a soft target to generate easy laughs from the crowd. Why not Bihar? It’s so 90s! *roll eyes with the confidence of a girl whose eyebrows are shaped like inverse Nike symbols* My expectations were low because the happiest thing I had heard about Orissa since childhood was Nandita Das. So I think it’s understandable when the standard of my Orissa jokes were “Orissa is so poor that all tourist expenditure goes directly to the CM Relief fund”.
Chugging past the Chilika Lake, in a sleeper class coach that justified its name, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer size of the “lake”. I tried to imagine the disappointment people would have felt when the Chilika Lake was found to be a lake and not a sea. At some point in time, thousands of adults must have been overcome with profound sorrow when their childhood memories and myths about the Chilika Sea were wiped away in one instant, because a bespectacled researcher writing for a journal with lesser number of readers than Golf Digest, wanted to be technically correct. And I realized, had I skipped three more Geography classes in 10th standard, I would have thought science was a lunatic’s paradise to think that the Chilika was a lake. I was enjoying this train of thought when a tea seller, who had a voice that would give Rani Mukherjee a superiority complex, tried to sell me what was essentially a tea bag in hot bile. I resisted the urge to say something rude because who knows what can become of a chaiwala.
But it wasn’t until I reached Bhubaneshwar that I realized that my thoughts weren’t the results of non-coriander green leaves. The city is basically the best kept secret in the world! What can one say; the air is breathable during peak hours of traffic, the roads don’t have too many potholes that look like God stubbed cigarettes, the city has enough greenery for children to know that trees aren’t wooden stumps in parks and it is cleaner than most boys hostels in the country.
Maybe Orissa needs a good marketing agent, I thought. But then again, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe all the citizens of Bhubaneshwar are underselling the city. Because who wants pesky tourists and an increase in the number of Lays and Kurkure packets in the garbage? I can sympathize if the people of Bhubaneshwar feel that way because I got possessive about the city in two days and didn’t want to tell anyone about it. So those of you reading this, yes the two of you, you are special to me.
I am certain Orissa has its poverty and related problems and that my experience is another drop in Chilika Lake. But if anything, I learnt that being wrong can be a poetic experience. It is one thing to realize that you are insignificant compared to the size of the Chilika Lake universe, but it’s another thing to realize how fragile all the opinions I currently hold are. It was a profoundly humbling moment wherein I realized everything I currently believe in including LGBT rights, secularism, __________ (the blank shouldn’t be too hard to fill) could be outrageous thoughts. And thus ended my subsidized version of Eat Pray Love!
So this meant that I don’t have the heart to crack too many Orissa jokes during my stand up acts. Well, what else is Haryana for anyway? I’ve been there, and it was more Gangs of Wasseypur than Eat Pray Love. And where am I going to go next? I have some opinions on Africa that need to be dealt with.