Need to finish this travel story real quickly. There are too many things that are close to completion but then the end seems no where in sight...
In the last leg of the tour, I would take you'll through, Pedanna, Machilipatnam, Kuchipudi, Ghantasala and Vijayawada. I would be very proud of myself if I can say all that I want to say about these places in one eloquent blog but then eloquence is bit beyond me right now. So would have to be bore and tell you'll everything.
After making a quick get away from Kaikalur, we were in no mood to stop and look. What was there to look in West Godavari (WG) anyway? While on the way, RJ was in pain due to his cramps and we did not engage in any small talk. I was looking forward to reaching Machilipatnam and so was he. The driver after few trial and errors found the right route to get there. We went past through Narsapur, Palakol, Amalapuram (perhaps) and onto Pedanna. Though we were supposed to visit this village the next day, since it pleasantly appeared on our radar we decided to stop and finish our work here.
Pedana is a town famous for Kalamkari. Actually block type Kalamkari. The other version is free hand Kalamkari, an art that is still thriving in Kalahasti. Unlike the block printing of Rajasthan, artisan here use natural colours. This was my first trip here. Unlike many craft villages, P is large and could almost be a town. However, it was not difficult for us to find out where the block maker we wanted to visit lived. He apparently is the only block maker in the village which made our job easy. Most of the large merchants in Pedana in the past had their blocks made in Gujarat. Our man is from Telangana and so is careful not to step on local merchants’ feet by starting his own block printing unit even though he was tempted. He mostly makes blocks and trains people in block making. As he was given the 'master craftsmen' award from the centre, the handicraft department supports training about 20 local youth in block making.
Youth being trained in block making
Block printing in progress
In the last 5-6 years there has been a great setback to the Kalamkari industry due to markets drying up but this year export orders have started picking up and the demand for blocks is going up. With this rather positive news, he shows us how blocks are made and also shows us the block that clinched him the award. It was an exquisitely carved piece that would print a paisley design. However, what caught my eye was a print on his wall that resembled an Escher mosaic. The work was not as intricate as an Escher but then the patterns were the same: various pictures that gel into one and another. The blocks for that print were sent to some client long ago but before he sent them, he printed them on a sheet of paper, framed it and put it up on his wall.
Anyway, in short he is doing well and would like to have more local youth joining him as he has large number of orders. To finish them he hired help from Rajasthan but then he says they pack up and leave the minute they feel homesick and hence the look out for the local youth.
One of the block maker from Rajasthan at work
Contended that something went well that afternoon, we set out to Machilipatnam. I have always wanted to go to this town as it is brimming with history. British, French and Dutch had their establishments here and for years, this town was one of the main ports on the East coast. I was expecting a lot of heritage buildings, narrow streets full of character, old restaurants but then I was disappointed on all fronts. This place was just like any small town. However, unlike the rest of small towns, the roads were very wide. Also, Machilipatnam is where Andhra Bank was founded but then founder branch was no great shakes. It seemed like any other branch only exception is that it has a statue of Pattabi Seetaramayya, the man who started it and a set of steps in iron grill right next to it.
There were hardly any decent hotels in this town to add to it we could not find any good restaurants close by. Instead of hunting for one, we decided to eat early at a tiffin joint not far away. While we were eating, one of the local chaps in the next table came up to RJ and said ‘I know some lines in your language’. RJ looked up and said, tell me... and this person rattled some lines that did seem like any European language. RJ asked him to repeat them. Still no idea what it was. So I asked him about what the lines meant. He said, these lines were in some Telugu novel he read many year ago which the protagonist says to a European woman meaning 'I want to kiss you' (or something in similar lines). He memorised the words and waited for a day when he could put them to use or at least surprise some European woman. Although I told him that I appreciated the effort he took to keep these lines in his memory for years, his friends however had a good laugh at his expense.
After dinner, we went for a walk along the main road to hunt for a cyber cafe. We were directed to one close to a cinema hall. It was place where one had to enter after removing one's footwear. There were many such places during the early days of cyber cafes but then the establishment of this venture likes to uphold traditional values. On our way back, we had a long chat with few local at a Tea centre to find out if there were any forts in the neighbourhood. We were told that there aren’t any in this town but there is one in a village not far away. We immediately decided to stop there the first thing in the morning.