Monday, July 6, 2009

A sleepy hamlet wakes up...

Beach towns are believed to be beautiful, laidback, and lethargic. Aren't they just supposed to be there - for tourists to spend, and the goverment(s) to make money?

And Gopalpur-on-sea is no different. It's a lazy man's haven with an amazing lethargic feel hanging in the air. Not much gets done here. Nothing progresses. The flyover under construction on the NH-5 road (on the Berhampur-Gopalpur road) has been in the same state for the past 4 years. Last week, on my way to Berhampur, I noticed that a few more stones were added to the make-shift divider in the middle of the road to stop commuters from using the muddy road under the flyover. Great! That's some progress from what I've seen during my jaunt the week before.

I must admit though that I've noticed a few major changes in the past 10 years during my yearly visits to this place. There are more top-less but undergarment-clad children who are out on the street playing cricket (which now is a popular sport than playing gilli-danda or swimming in the backwaters).

There are very few naked children, and fewer Siamese cats. However, the number of dogs has quadrupled - especially on the beach. These four-legged ones dare you, look you straight in the eye, and attack you if you don't want to part with a snack or two. But yes, they have to compete with the crows for the food thrown by tourists. Yeah, I have actually seen crows after ages!

I could also spot a handful of foreigners tasting vegetable chowmein and chicken roll at one or the other eateries on the beach. There are quite a few of those eating joints just like lodges and hotels.

And there are Tropicana Orange, Apple and Grape juice varieties available in 1-litre tetra packs now. You can also pick up a packet of the latest flavor launched by Lays - the Lemon and Masala Masti variant - from the local kirana store! And there are 4 Internet cafes within 100 metres of each other.

Villagers living here for centuries without much contact with the outside world now talk about their sons working in Australia, daughters getting married and moving to Abu Dhabi, and grandchildren joining a university abroad for further studies as naturally as talking about the current rate of fish, prawns, coconuts, mangoes, cashew, and flowers!

So, does that mean Gopalpur is slowly ceasing to be a fisherfolk hamlet and is taking its baby steps to embrace modernity? Only time will tell...

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