If you Googled western Odisha's KBK districts – Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput – you will find a plethora of articles about how poor and backward they are. What goes unmentioned is how beautiful these districts are. In July, I travelled to Kalahandi and its adjoining Rayagada district. The rains had arrived. Farmers were working in their fields. Young paddy was being transplanted in water-filled fields. In the distance, one could see the gentle, forested hills of Niyamgiri. Later, in that trip, travelling down to Rayagada, the road kept rising and falling along the gentle contours of the land. On both sides, there were fields and the odd clump of forests.
Bolangir was even more gorgeous. The hills here are part-forest, part-exposed rock. That day, as it rained intermittently, moving along the narrow roads that link one village to another, I kept seeing these beautiful hills, standing lush and green, their granite freshly washed in the rain, reflected in the water standing in the paddy fields.
Travelling through Bolangir, it was easy to get lulled into seeing the land as an agricultural arcadia where modernity had not intruded. But this is far from the case. As a forthcoming story on labour markets explains, the district sees distress migration every winter with people heading to the brick kilns of South India. But this poverty exists in the midst of an exceptional beauty. If not to see the gritty lives of people, travel here to enjoy the rains.