PONDICHERRY

After almost 4 months in Chennai, I thought it was high time now to visit Pondi.It would be a shame otherwise. People may say” 4 months in Chennai and you have not been to Pondicherry yet, chi shame on u “.Even my roommates cum friends cum colleagues agreed. Thus, we set out one Saturday morning to a place called Pondicherry, about which we had heard a lot in text books and from other colleagues. This was the first time and after this we have been there two more times making it a total of 3 times in just one year.. You can just imagine what kind of an impact this small town had on us.

The first time, only 3 of us had set out. But the second time we were a total of 6. We planned to leave by 5 30 in the morning. This was a Sunday. One of my roommates said “I ll put on the alarm and wake you all up by 5 “. I doubt whether he has ever seen 5 am in his life. Nevertheless, we all agreed, after all a trip can bring in excitement and the fellow was visibly excited. The next day all were up by 6, except of course the guy who had set the alarm! After much hara kiri finally we got into a bus at 7. We guys don’t believe in planning things. It keeps your plan very flexible and there is no one to blame also.

It’s a 2 to 2 and half hour bus journey from Chennai. And as usual we dint get a seat, so had to stand. But were we ready for the 2 n half hour ordeal??  Never!! Even though we had not planned the trip properly, we certainly had thoughts and plans as how to pass time on the beach. The three of us, who had been there before were all praises and this certainly had a full positive impact on the other 3 first timers. But we had no other option, but stand. We did not want ourselves to be tired before even reaching Pondicherry.

Tulu was in full force in the bus. (Even though I am not that fluent in Tulu, I speak and at times times get stuck in between and my friends obviously never really let go off a chance to pull my legs. Who cares!!!? Tulu has got its own style which I think no other language has. Certain jokes are funny only when said in Tulu. Isn’t it?).

The route to Pondi itself is a beauty. The ECR (East Coast Road) according to me, is one of the most scenic and well constructed roads in the country. I still consider the Mumbai – Pune Express Highway the best. ECR comes close next. But for scenery, ECR is way ahead. Bikers from in and around Chennai usually put their bikes on full throttle on the ECR. Such is the beauty of the road. I consider it a very good option for Honeymooners. Instead of shelling out lots of money for a cruise in Bangkok, why not ride along the ECR and spend time in Pondi.Give it a thought. Getting back to our trip, gradually all of us got seats along the way, but the last ones to get a seat was of course me and that too just before we reached Pondi bus stand. 🙂

The first thing we did after we got down is breakfast. There were all kinds of sounds coming out from our stomachs. Hectic Planning was going on during breakfast. What to do next?  Which hotel shall we book the room? Should we hire Bikes or cycles? When we came out of breakfast, we left whatever we had planned as tips to the waiter and set out to hire bikes. Last time, we had hired cycles. The cycle seats were so hard that we found it difficult to sit down in office even though the seats at work were cushioned. Our mistake last time had made us wise. Just thinking about cycles made me sick. Our plight was like Saif Ali Khans in Dil chahtha Hai.His dialogue is still ringing in my ears “Kya mein roz thakhiye par baittha hoon”. Since the other 3 had no time to learn from their own mistakes, they depended on our mistakes. This is what Life is all about rite? Learn from other people’s mistakes. Who has time to commit all mistakes and learn from them.

We got three two wheelers, two bikes and one Activa. Getting bikes is really very simple. Just give your identity card (Passport, Pan Card or your Company ID card) and the bike is yours for a day. The rent is about 150 rupees per day. I advise not to give your Passport or Pan card. The bikes will not be in a great condition, but manageable. There are many dealers around. Everyone knows about these shops. So getting there is not a problem.

The excitement of all of us was sky high. Now that we had bikes, we could go anywhere in Pondi. So what next??? The most responsible in our group replied” First let us fill fuel, who will roam around later in search of a Petrol pump””. Everyone agreed. I was riding the Activa since I was not all that comfortable in riding geared vehicles. But I was nursing a desire to ride one.

There are many lodges in Pondi. Many on the beachfront and many more in the city close to the bus stand. But we preferred a nice hotel just on the shore. It’s an amazing experience to spend a night next to the sea even though it’s a bit expensive. We were given a 4 bed room with AC and two separate beds. We freshened up and hit the roads. This time I was really happy to know that at least now there was a cushion under me. Comfort can really make a lot of difference.

Adrenaline was pumping high and we dint know were we were going. Three bikes were in three different directions. After about 5 or 10 minutes of riding, we all came to know this will not do any good. Something has to be done so that we all will be together. After 2 or 3 phone calls we all were again in front of our Hotel. I insisted that I want to ride the bike now. One of my roommates, who knows me well was not in a mood to give me the bike and how right he was proved later on. I insisted and others had no choice but to give in.

Everything went fine and we went to the beach front. I too was happy that I was comfortable riding the bike. Pondi beach front is amazing. There is a ramp which extends to about half Km into the sea. There are huge boulders on both sides and just the feel of the salty sea water splashing on your face will make your day. But Pondi has many more things to offer. The section of the city built by French is awesome. Its kept very clean.

T junctions everywhere- All roads lead to the beach

Next, we planned to go to the Aurobindo Ashram. The Ashram was built by Aurobindo Ghosh, a freedom fighter, scholar, writer, poet, literary critic, philosopher, social thinker, revolutionary, patriot and visionary. The ashram is a peaceful place filled with flowers and greenery. But I and my pillion rider did not reach there. Guess what happened? No, we didn’t meet with an accident. (I am not that bad a rider). The bike which we were riding was an old one and the way I was shifting gears was as if I was kicking someone. We had taken a so-called short cut and had already reached some unknown place. Suddenly I was not able to shift gears. I was wondering why and then I could hear my partner saying “Arre Yar, The chain is cut and lying on the road behind us”. I could visualize my arguments with the others when I insisted them to hand me the bike. What to do now? We called up the other riders and asked them to come to the beach. In the meantime, we pushed the bike towards the beach. The best part of this small town is that, the roads are so very well planned that, by taking any road you can get to the beach. All roads are laid in cross shape and they all lead to the beach. By sheer luck we found the guy who rented us the bike right there and he had it repaired for us. After this incident I was handed over the active and I did not even bother to put forth my arguments.

We had lunch at a small hotel. Food in Pondi is excellent and cheap too. Liquor too is cheap. After a nap in our air conditioned room we hit the road again, this time to Auroville-the French colony. It was about 20 km from our hotel.  Auroville is a township near Pondicherry inspired by Aurobindo. The inspiration for Auroville arose in India, stemming from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. This inspiration led to the Sri Aurobindo Society, based in Pondicherry, persuading the Government of India in 1966 to accept and support the project, which was then put before UNESCO for its endorsement. Aurobindo called for spiritual regeneration of India as the path for rebirth of India. He started as a spiritual leader in Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. Auroville was later founded by The Mother, a French lady whose real name was Mirra Alfassa. She took Aurobindo’s teachings and popularized them for the layman. She founded the city of Auroville based on this philosophy. The city is within a 3 km radius – a multinational, multilingual and multicultural population living within its limits. Auroville has many activities including several schools, research institute and other establishments. The research institute conducts research on energy, agriculture and many other areas. At the center is the Matrimandir, the Spiritual center of Auroville. Auroville mostly uses local resources. You can find many foreigners at this place zooming past you with bikes, cycles etc.

On our way back from Auroville, there was an incident, which involved my roommate who had given me a well-deserved dressing down earlier. Two of us, along with our pillion riders had reached our planned destination and were waiting for the other one to arrive. It was almost half an hour now and all thoughts began to cross our minds.  Did something bad happen on the way? There was no chance, since they were right in front of us until we entered the city. One of them had earlier seen a cute hat on a cute French beauty’s head and had desired to buy it. We thought he might have found the same beauty again and was on her trail.  It was almost 45 minutes now, no signs of the daring duo. Finally, we could see our tall friend wearing his hat riding his bike in all glory nearing us. “What happened?  Where the hell were you guys for so long?” I demanded. Then came out the story which made us all laugh our hearts out.

It seems on their way back from Auroville, after entering he city, they wanted to become the first to reach our already planned destination. They took a short cut. But to their bad luck (and our good luck) they had entered a No Entry. There was some procession going on. They managed to cross the entire road without getting noticed (Headlights turned off) and when they were about to join the main road, a policeman emerged from nowhere and asked him to stop. Being faithful citizen of India, he stopped. The policeman just removed the keys from the ignition and asked him to come the next day and collect the keys by paying Rs 300 fine. But the next day was a public holiday. The policeman must have been pissed off by now and told him to come on the next day. The policeman was obviously expecting money from our daring duo. But our duo was not ready to part with their hard-earned money. After much talking, finally the pillion rider offered him Rs 100, for which the cop agreed.

I would like to say something on corruption here. Even though there are measures to check on corruption I don’t think corruption in India will stop. Even if the officials are honest, people offer them bribes to get out of trouble. Poor guys, what can they do??? I am not saying the cop whom our daring duo had met was honest. He was dishonest. But were we ready to stay back for 3 more days and get involved in all that legal complications? Paying Rs 100 seemed a better way to come out of it.

After a superb dinner, we were dead tired and went to bed after midnight. The next day was a Monday and it was a TamilNadu bandh. We planned to have a sea bath and then pack our bags back to Chennai.  This was not to be. Instead we visited the famous Backwaters. It was worth it. The fun we had during the ride on the boat, and on the island left us with pleasant memories. After a normal meal, we returned our bikes and took a long walk back to the bus stand admiring the churches, schools and houses along the way. We preferred walking rather than an auto. No one knows the reason behind this.  Maybe our wallets were empty.

The bus journey back to Chennai would have been a forgettable one, but for a cute girl at whom all the 6 of us had our eyes on. When we got down, Shiva exclaimed “Hey dude, that girl was looking at you”. From then, I am dying to meet that girl. Maybe on our next trip to Pondicherry, I ll be a bit luckier.

( This was written in the year 2008 and pictures have been taken from Google as I lost most of the pictures taken by me)

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