Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pondicherry Paradise

It was boredom and a life as dull as dish water that propelled the trip. Yep, boredom of a massive kind coupled with work , business travel and the TRAFFIC of Bangalore .

Yes ! I am talking about the Pondicherry trip!!! Bored with meetings and pressurized with deadlines and deliverables, 5 of my friends & I decided to let our hair down at Tamil Nadu’s greatest asset ( ahem after Rajnikanth of course !). Though it’s a union territory, Pondicherry or Puducherry to the locals is very much a part of Tamil Naidu including the language and culture.
So, we decided on a trip to this ‘heaven on earth’ and set out in a Qualis on a Friday night. The idea was to travel in the night, cover ground and be ready for 2 days of sight seeing. What we did not account for was something as natural as sleep. Anyways, after fidgeting for the 100th time for a comfortable position, we along with the dawn finally arrived in Pondicherry.
We were booked in Auroville, and we landed at the Arubindo Ashram assuming that was the place, but after some clarifications, we realized Auroville is not the same as Aurbindo Ashram and off we went hunting for the bed and breakfast place booked . A couple of us were still struggling to open both eyes ,while some were grumpy about an almost sleepless night.
Anyways, all sleepiness & grumpiness soon disappeared when we reached Auro village- the place is so fresh and beautiful ! It’s a few kilometers away from the main city and is a world of its own. The road leading to the village is paved with thick bushes and trees, with a couple of very European bakeries and eating joints thrown in here and there. True to its word , it is a lovely small village – Auroville.
The place where we stayed was beautiful, with brick red walls and lovely pottery all around the place and amazing freshness! The rooms were clean and reasonably priced , and with a lovely green campus sourounding it , it was more that what we could ask for.
One of the places we visited in Pondicherry and one which is worth seeing is the Aurbindo Ashram. Now, I am not too inclined towards spirituality and might just not expound too much on what is it all about. All I know and what I researched on the internet on the ashram is that, it was founded by Sri Aurobindo who was one of the leaders of the early freedom movement who later turned to development of a new spiritual path called ‘internal yoga’. Not that I am a follower of yoga , but the place does has some sort of mystery surrounding it and is enveloped by silence. A whisper would be like a yoodle in that place- such is the silence prevailing there.
There are quite a few articles on display like a sofa set (which I presume was used by Sri Aurobindo) with life sized portraits of Aurbindo and ‘ The Mother ‘ ( who was Shri Aurbindo’s companion) all across the ashram there are a couple of photos of the couple with impressive names like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi too , with the usual fare of books and triklets. A place you might want to visit out of curiosity even if you don’t favour the spiritual aspect of it.
Then there is the Promenade, which is again a long stretch about 1.5 km along the beach which kind of resembles the Marine Drive of Mumbai. To be very honest there is nothing to see there and you may want to go there just to relax in the evening and watch the sunset. There is a huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi, which is hugely photographed, probable because there is nothing else to snap. When we went, there was some interview of a dancer being conducted by one of the star TV network channels which conjured a lot of excitement. Too bad they didn’t seem interested in a bunch of females ogling at everything in sight .
It would be unfair to this blog if I don’t mention about the streets surrounding Promenade, and that’s when I realize how Pondicherry got its punchline ” Very French. Very Pondicherry” Standing there, it is impossible it distinguish India from France. The street you are standing on could easily be one in Allevard .With its large French windows and French signposts and names. It’s almost like being transported to France minus the flight cost . And we had a ball clicking snaps in all sort of dramatic poses , after all what’s France without a little romance and drama huh ?
But it was a museum, the name of which I don’t quite remember near the Promenade that caught my fancy. I must confess, I am total sucker for museums, art galleries, forts, and palaces and stuff like that and I had a field day checking out things there. There was this huge mirror, so ancient looking and I wondered how many generations of royalty must have preened into it before it came to be admired by the hoi polloi.

There was also an ancient carriage at display with lantern stands and space that could accommodate only two people and as I gazed into it, I could almost visualize an English Memsahib being escorted back home after a bridge party or two Sahibs on their way to a place for business. It’s fascinating how these things of art and history can play with your imagination and give you a fleeting glimpse of the world that once was.
Anyways , coming back to the present , one of the favourite destination of generation next is the Paradise Beach at Auroville . It’s a private beach and is only open to the residents of Auroville. Since we were staying at Auoville, we thought we qualified for it and boy did the gang have fun. I am not really a beach person. If you ask me to choose between beaches and mountains, mountains would be a clear winner. But that was one beach where I did have lotsa fun. We snapped away to glory, and the gang had a rollicking time in the sea. I being the hydrophobic that I am, stayed put on the sand and enjoyed seeing the tiny crab like creatures, squirm back into the sand every time the waves washed them away. I did a lot of shell picking too, knowing very well that these shell would be in the trash can the moment I reach Bangalore. But what the heck, I am in Pondicherry !
But what is sad about places like the Paradise Beach is that these beautiful places are taken for granted and there is so much damage done to them that after a while they cease to be what they once were. For example ,a lovely beach like the Paradise beach is so beautiful on one side but go a little further and you will find human faeces, beer cans , plastic bags and all sort of garbage strewed all across . Even the narrow path that leads to the beach is so dirty. It saddens the heart that a place of wonder becomes a trash can for some. I do hope that there is something done about it. Once can’t afford to waste away a place like Paradise Beach.
Anyways , Now that we were in Pondicherry it was obvious that we could not go without souvenirs for our friends and much to our delight , there was a paper mill right on our way back to the village which made and sold hand made paper . And believe it or not , I have never seen so many beautiful things created out of paper. Apart from the hand made and printed sheets of paper, there were beautiful envelopes, small and big boxes to keep jewellery and what not, folders , pen holders, paper bags, and even paper jewellery. Gosh ! I don’t even remember all that was there but it was real fun checking things out.
With our souvenirs in place we were ready for another day of sight seeing during with we covered a few temples and on our way back we visited Mahaballipuram and its famous cave temples. The cutest thing there was this huge round stone which was labelled "Krishna’s butter ball" cute na …Anyways, the place is great to explore with carvings and all . We also visited Kanchipuram, where I indulged myself and bought a Kanchivaram Silk Sari, not that I am into saris but it seemed like a shame to go all the way to Kanchi and not buy a sari.
With that silk sari shopping our weekend getaway came to an end and we headed back for the hustle and bustle of the city of Bangalore, but feeling blessed for the opportunity to take a peek into a beautiful laid back land .


steve said...

Hi Neha...

I had bn to pondi a few years back.. Was read your post..it just reminded me of pondicherry agn.
You have been added on my blog!

Anurag said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anurag said...

Hi Neha,

Indeed Pondicherry is a lovely place.

All your posts have been fantabulous.. loved reading them!

Neha said...

Thanks Steve & Anurag :)


Chanced upon your blog while surfing ... and boy did I not spend the last coupla hours enjoying some of the posts :-D. So until the next time, as it's said in "Kanglish" please dont "Chill Maadi", write something instead.

bles said...

njoyed reading ur post!:)i can imagine ur animated face speaking these wrds!!:) lol