My cousins and I whisked off on a spontaneous road trip to Pondicherry for 4 days to start off this new year. Needless to say, I have fallen in love with this tiny city; its french quarter, the beaches, the auto-rickshaws and their big bums (bangalore autos seem to have smaller ones!) the auto driver's lingo and everything in between.
We drove down from Bangalore for about 7 hours on really bad roads filled with a number of motels and restaurants like krishna inn, Sukh Sagar and 'pure veg' punjabi dhabas. I don't see how that's possible but apparently it is! My cousins even got their labrador, Bubbles along. She was rather cooperative and we mostly just felt bad for her cause of the little space we squeezed her into in the car. Bubbles loved the trip though, we took her to the beach and she played in the sand and barked at other street dogs. She is however, afraid of the water. The sound of the waves seemed to frighten her !
After two pit stops for coconut water while interacting with some kids in the village and food refills, we reached Pondicherry at 4 pm in the afternoon. We stayed in a serviced apartment in Netaji Nagar, very close to the city's White Town (French Quarter). The roads are really tiny and easy to navigate through.
Spending just 4 days in Pondi made me feel like I had lived there for ages because I knew the streets like the back of my hand! (a phrase I stole from my friend David). We walked around Jawaharlal Nehru street and did a little bit of shopping. The streets were bustling with busy shoppers, toursits, neon signboards, chaos and SO MANY BICYCLES!
The French quarter has some really nice cafes, gorgeous french architecture, pretty foliage overgrowing on blue and white walls and broad french windows. I had some little time alone on a Tuesday morning just walking around the White Town, taking photos and enjoying the silence in the streets at 8:30 am in the morning.
Apart from Pondi being a small beach town, the air feels fresh to breathe probably because everyone cycles. After the 2011 Cyclone Thane, the coastal villages are still trying to cope with the tragedy that struck them on that unfortunate day. We drove past some incredibly slim roads barely making it through, with the help of Google Maps' american pronunciation of indian streets like "Thiyagaraja Street" and "Muthu Mariamman Kovil Street" which was a bit of a fail.
I have this clear, distinct image in my head of a horse mannequin that we passed by on our way to Auroville. It was probably a part of some carousel that got displaced and landed there. Its saddle was colored with intricate designs in pretty red, blue and green colors. There were plastic bags and slippers strewn under its feet. The beauty about the picture was so vivid specially because of the waves thrashing the shore right behind it. It was one of those moments when your eyes become a camera lens, capturing the raw essence of the breathtaking view presenting itself infront of you.
The sky was a clear blue as we listened to the radio and drove towards Auroville on a beautiful Monday morning after our breakfast at Adyar Anand Bhavan. The onion rava dosa there is to die for. My cousin's little son - Ben, enjoyed the idlis (cause well, its not spicy) and the jalebis while we had Poli (sweet chappati) and filter coffee (pronounced: kapi) to end our meal.
The drive on ECR was endless with a dozen million slanting palm trees aligned in rows. It was strangely calming and wonderful and I'm intrigued as to what causes that to happen. I have an obsession with palm trees and banyan trees. I think they're the prettiest!
Auroville was quite magical. The documentary about the Matrimandir, the open spaces and lush green lawns, a beautiful amphitheater with double stone arches, the typical Auroville resident's TVS bike, a huge wind chime hanging from a tree that made a beautiful dreamy sound every time the wind kissed it, some boutiques and a pretty cafe - there was nothing not to love about this place. We walked about a km to the see the view of Matrimandir. What I was most amazed by was the banyan tree, which is the centre of the auroville campus. It is about a 100 years old. It's branches have swooped down over the years and formed strong roots in the ground. A beautiful and silent reminder of how wonderful nature is.
I met two lovely women - amrutha and amudha. They had been cleaning the benches and were sitting near the water pump having a long chat, maybe about their families and children or maybe about the troubles in their village. When I approached them to ask their names, they blushed like little girls and shyly agreed to take a photo with me. My cousin introduced herself and me, they smiled and continued talking like nothing happened.
The matrimandir is a beautiful golden sphere where people with higher conscience levels are allowed to mediate and practice yoga in its meditation hall. The matrimandir took 37 years to build and its foundation has soil from all the countries in the world (Interesting Fact).
Apart from spending time at the beach, we went to the Aurobindo Ashram, prayed and got blessed by the beautiful elephant Lakshmi at the Tiravannamalai temple, checked out the Pondicherry Museum, walked along the coast near the Gandhi Statue and spent a good 3 hours at Le Cafe. Le Cafe is a scenic and pleasant cafe right by the sea, flocked by many tourists. It was previously the old port house used when Pondicherry was once a french colonial enclave. This cafe is quite popular because of its view of the sea, the million fruit, cotton candy and ice cream vendors that pass by and the cafe's amazing variety of food.
Ben spent so much time on the rocks with my cousins Vijay and Nithya anticipating which wave was going to splash the highest, "That one! Nooo, THAT ONE!!!" and chuckle, while white foamy salt water would land on his golden skin. He loved being by the sea. When we went to the beach, his favorite thing to do was go really close to the waves and run back as they hit the shore without letting it get him!
Pondicherry has one of the prettiest sunsets i've ever seen. The beautiful pink sky with a tinge of orange while palm trees peak into this colorful canvas - truly a breathtaking moment. My cousins stopped the car on the ECR highway to look at some of the incredible handicrafts made by very talented artisans along the ECR highway while my other cousin Nithya and I enjoyed this view. This piece does little justice to all the other things we encountered on the trip but I'm glad I had the opportunity to go experience Pondicherry and I have my cousins to thank for letting me tag along on their family trip.
I know I'll be going back there, I hope this makes you want to go too.