Friday, February 19

Pondi trip - Day 2

(View my vacation snaps on Facebook and Picasa :

Bon Jour!!

So let’s figure out the geography, shall we? There’s basically this main street called M. G. Road (there’s an M. G. Road in every city/town/village in India, and Pondi is no exception), and the entire civilization is based around it. So, on one side of M.G. Road you have the Aurobindo Ashram, Rock Beach, French War Memorial, French Institute, Bharatidasan Park, Rolland library, etc and on the other side there’s the Botanical Garden, Churches of Immaculate Conception and Sacred Heart of Jesus and Grand Bazaar. So, if you hire a bicycle (as I did on Day 2), then you can cover all of these places within a day. The entire commute would be no greater than 7-8 kilometers if planned well (which I obviously did, aadat se majboor!) And at 30 bucks per day, it’s an awesome idea. However, do take note of the timings of different places – quite a few shut at 5 pm, and some are closed on Mondays, so you better plan well.

But before that I had a sumptuous breakfast at Le Café near Rock Beach. The view from the 24 hour restaurant is grand, and the place is frequented by foreigners from everywhere, so the food and service is also pretty good. I dug into my Continental breakfast with gusto and savored the sight of the waves dashing on the rocks.

A short walk away lies the Aurobindo Ashram (click here for more info) and I was stunned by the numerous flowers adorning the villa. There’s vibrant purples, fiery reds, pale beige, pretty pinks and gorgeous greens. There’s cacti and gladiolas, marigolds and so many more. The ashrama attracts people from across the globe, and the silence and peace there is mesmerizing. Visitors are allowed inside during specified hours, and they can only view the Samadhis of Aurobindo and the Mother. There is a publication department that sells hundreds of postcards and books on various subjects in a range of languages. I got one on physical exercise – yoga and all. Need to get rid of this paunch, man!

I noticed a wonderful thing at the ashram – whenever people start making some noise (which they clearly do), they are not told to shut up by placing a finger on the lips. Instead, the ashram folks place all their fingers on their mouth. I found this action remarkably humble and so much better than the usual “keep quiet” gesture. The latter reeks of ego, superiority complex and admonishment while the former is a meek request that touches the heart. Try it!

I pedaled away from Manonmani Cycle Mart on a BSA, smiling as if I’d won a million dollars. It had been ages since I’d cycled – 9 years to be precise; the last time was when I was in standard 10th. The roads were quite congested and the auto and bus drivers were a little rash, but having rode around Pune for a decade, I really didn’t find it too challenging to maneuver my way. My enthusiasm coupled with a city map and my keen sense of direction made a terrific package and I thoroughly enjoyed my sightseeing.

The French Institute was as novel to localites as it was to me; nobody knew where it was. It is a disappointing place, with not much to see – just a pretty backyard, some posters and manuscripts. I don’t even think it is a tourist attraction, but somehow it landed up on my places-to-visit list.

After that, I checked out the Church of Immaculate Conception and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The former remains dear to me because the gong started ringing there when I was praying. It was an extremely optimistic and symbolic event to me. Even at the second church, the service began when I entered the premises; I AM God’s favorite child after all!!

I cycled on to Botanical Garden but it had shut at 5 pm, so I set my bum at rest at on Mission Street - a snacks and internet services joint. The Iced Mocha was as shitty as the baguettes (sandwiches) were amazing, and I noticed a few French-ies ;-) all glued to Facebook. I was tempted to follow suit, but I had promised myself that I would avoid any connection with the familiar, except for an occasional call back home to let folks know I’m fine.

I decided to reward my will power by splurging on some delicious chocolate delicacies at Choco-La. This place guarantees pure orgasm to all chocolate lovers. So, there’s a variety of pastries and candies for you to gorge on – tiramisu, dark chocolate, white chocolate, dry fruit chocolate, you name it. I had the Moksha cake, and it was yummmm… A must visit for sure!

Some souvenir hunting later, I trudged back to Ginger. The vending machine had caught my eye when I’d checked in, and I planned to use it today. That it held Milkybars was fantastic, and in my excitement at using a real vending machine, I bought a packet of Kurkure as well. (Ya, I know it’s cancerous, but what the hell, I don’t always eat and act right, so it’s just one more addition to the poison in me.)

It was a Monday well spent, and there were still 5 days to go. I thought I’d take it easy and relax in my room, munch on some junk and watch TV till late. I was on vacation - no waking up early to the commotion at home, no getting ready for work, no need to look at the time and follow a structured routine! Blissss… And to sleep on a king-size bed with fairy-white sheets and pillows…

The magic of Puducherry unfolds…

Sweet dreams!


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