Why Pondy and why solo…the two questions I’ve heard endlessly…Pondicherry because it was a calling I’d been resisting for a while and solo cause like they say, you only live once so why not spend some time with your own self to see how you feel like it. Solo trip to Pondicherry, the place which proudly upholds French history while continuing to function in the Tamilian culture. Two extremes which have merged and unified to make one unique destination. Known as the ‘French Riviera of the East’, Pondicherry history has a mix of both Hindu kingdoms and European rule.
The trip started with a flight from Mumbai to Chennai at 6 am in the morning, then the bus journey from Koyembadu bus station (CMBT) to Pondicherry which was scenic no doubt, but I was also entertained with a dramatic, action-filled Tamilian movie with no subtitles in full volume which I tried hard to drown with loud music playing in my ears.
But well, I reached and an auto took me to my destination, De Pondicherry in Whitetown.
A beautiful old French villa converted to a small hotel. The small place had a garden café and was filled with some mall artefacts and lots of greenery. My room seemed to get over
even before it started but had an old-fashioned wooden bed, olive green cupboard and a beautiful dresser but the washroom was a beauty on its own. Huge, and painted my favourite shade of yellow. I guess I could call myself “The girl with the yellow loo”!!
Laid back scenes and the French influence
The tiring journey after staying awake since early hours couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm as I set out to explore what I had come for. Lunch was at a cute French café run by a French lady who herself cooked for the guests. Lazy and unhurried was the pace as I saw people just reading or napping in those chairs. A chicken sandwich in homemade bread with a cold coffee and I was off to the promenade which the café opened out to and was a treat to the eye. A long row of graceful French architecture lined left of the street with a clean cemented road in the centre followed by the paved coconut tree-lined stretch lit up by wrought iron street lamps, leading to the massive flattened rocks which lead to the sea. Just the experience of sitting on those stones and drinking in the smell of the sea is enough to make one high. The waves continue making their music as they unexpectedly splash innocent passer-by, causing both shock and laughter.
The promenade houses the old lighthouse, Joan of Arc Park, Mahatma Gandhi statue. Special mention to the fact that vehicular traffic is not allowed on this 1.5 km stretch from 6 in the evening to 7:30 am next morning.
The White town area is filled with cafes, big and small, serving a mix of French, South Indian, Asian, Chinese and anything you’d wish to eat. Special mention for a gelato place called GLT which had the most unique and delicious flavours I had seen. A leisurely stroll along the stretch brought me to the web of streets with beautiful French names, Rue Suffren, Romain Rolland Street, La Bourbonnais street, Dumas street that make you question yourself that are you in a part of India or France?
The houses were painted vibrant shades of yellows, blues, whites with trim borders and wrought iron balconies and windows, rows of trees lining the streets on both sides. A vast number of them converted to small hotels, rest houses or cafes. An occasional cycle tuk-tuk bells past or bicyclers cycling lazily, not disturbing the peace at all.
Roaming the streets in the evening trying to find a recommendation from Zomato, disappointment hit me after spending 45 minutes walking around seeing the place (no names will be taken).
A leisurely stroll along the streets of Pondicherry
The streets seemed confusing and I walked around in circles, hoping to see familiar landmarks before walking into a Bike’s café. My bravery soon hid itself as the place filled with burly guys, beer mugs in hand and loud laughter filling up the place along with dhinchak Bollywood music kind of intimidated me and again walked out into the street and into Spice Route and settled for a Guava long island iced tea with nachos and then walked over to the promenade and sat on the rocks facing the waves and enjoyed the solitude
sipping the sweet drink from my plastic glass and retired for the day. Only crepes with Nutella managed to find themselves in my tummy!! Calories were running riot in my life but I was too happy to worry about such trivial things.
Slippers full of sand but my heart filled with unadulterated joy
Aiming to see the sunrise, I set off at 5:20 am, early by my standards but the sun was faster and had already risen but gave me the most exhilarating and unbelievable experience of my life.
I walked the stretch of the rocky beach, threw off my slippers and clambered down the rocks to perch myself on one, armed with my selfie stick and felt pure unadulterated joy as the waves crashed against the rocks, drowning me in their power and teasing me to check how far I could resist their childishness. I was equally notorious and my darling phone, ready to go on a strike, pulled through my daring clambers and managed to give me the most awesome pics I could get. I was drenched, my bag completely wet and ruined, slippers full of sand but my heart filled with unadulterated joy no amount of money could give me.
An amazing breakfast at Baker’s street followed where I was delighted to find shelves full of naughty and cute Easter eggs literally calling out to be bought. The kid in me was spoilt for choice with the croissants, rolls, sandwiches, pizzas, burgers, pastries, cakes and freshly baked products on display, after much deliberation and letting the rational mind decide, I settled on a chicken club sandwich, coffee and a banana chocolate muffin!
Auroville, the universal city
An auto ride took me 45 minutes to reach Auroville, a universal city in the making dedicated to the ideal of human unity based on the vision of Sir Aurobindo and The Mother. They say it’s a land filled with peace and calm and something about the air makes you want to leave all your worries behind and surrender yourself to the vastness of what they have to offer. But they say peace and calm reside inside you and all you have to do is find it and release it.
The Matri Mandir is the soul of the city and is meant to be a place for individual silent concentration. A huge banyan tree marks the center of the City of Dawn and has been marking its place even before this beautiful city was founded.
A chance request for a picture of mine led me to meet two awesome fellow wanderers who invited me to move to the Auro beach with them. A beautiful and clean stretch of pristine sand with waves pulling all those in with complete magnetism who dared venture into the water. People adorning life jackets floated carefree on the serene waters. Though dressed in a long flowing dress, I couldn’t resist pulling it up lungi style and stepping into the water, without any care or worry, more interested in enjoying the moment which I was fortunate enough to get. A quick shower and change and then to the most orgasmic meal of all. Maison Perumal recommended by a close friend meant Fish curry in tamarind, beetroot vegetable on the side, rice and papadam. Couldn’t resist calling for the raw Banana fritters which proved a good choice.
Bollywood rules the roost
Disappointing was travelling 40 minutes to the boathouse for a boat ride to Paradise beach which was shut but that gave me time to explore the museum and Aurobindo ashram which houses The Mother’s shine and is decorated with the most beautiful flowers. The fragrance and aura of the place remind you why so many people flock to this sacred land. The evening had me venturing out looking for food when I met Sam, a young chap from Liverpool, England working in Mumbai and loving every minute of his stay here. Holding an Adhar card and pan card, I wondered if that made him more of an Indian than many more of us. We then joined our newfound friends at Spice Route which supposedly played awesome EDM but seemed a wrong choice as the dance floor remained eerily empty. The fun started when a group of youngsters from Delhi took over the DJ and ended up playing Yo Yo Honey Singh and Bollywood getting the entire place to groove with them. I guess whether we in north or the south, Bollywood rules the roost.
Laughter, fun and gaiety filled up my last night there as I tried making the most of it, most of all as Shruti one of my new friends turned out to be the most enthusiastic and happy dancer, more intent on enjoying herself without a worry to what anyone might think, super attitude and her partner in crime Geetanjali adding to the fun, taking care of Shruti like a mother hen.
Creative Café with Graffiti walls
The French fascination niggled next morning as I donned my hat and went on to sample the breakfast at the most beautiful and creative café I found on Suffren street, Café Des Arts. The yellow wall outside filled with graffiti tempted me to stop and request passer byes to click a few pics on that amazing background and boy, I’m glad for that. The waiter inside the cafe obliged me even more, catering to my drama queen whims as I posed endlessly against the various backdrops. God bless the smiling chap. The Boss stood proudly on his wall and it was hard to resist him. The heavy breakfast was filled with calories and fat, but boy, it tasted good like no one’s business. I was sure nothing could be better hadn’t even realized what was in store for me as I contemplated giving Serenity beach a miss but then finally went there anyway.
Total surrender to the water and my body to flow with nature
Surfers rode the waves as I watched fascinated and then gathering courage, kept my bag down and walked towards the water. Slowly walking deeper and deeper until I was waist deep. A chance hello to a curly-haired beautiful girl who had some sort of a gipsy feel to her led me to spend my next two hours in the water with Krishna, Oriya origin but homegrown in Pondy. We both couldn’t stop talking as we jumped a few waves while sitting down on the bigger ones as we shared each other’s lives.
Her boyfriend Siam kindly agreed to let me sit on his board where forget sitting, even getting on was a task. Siam of a French mother and Cambodian father is a musician, dancer and expert surfboarder and a wonderful human being. The only place I couldn’t take any pictures was in that water but it was indescribable, explainable and may be therapeutic in its own way. Total surrender to the water as it decided where to take me and I stopped resisting, allowing my body to flow with nature, the wind and the waves filling me up with magical energy.
That moment told me that we only decide we are in control of our lives and situations but the minute we let go, and believe in what the universe does offer, we experience what our rational minds can never conceive.
That brought me to the last leg as I cheated my diet on one more awesome pineapple gelato, as superb as the muskmelon one I’d had earlier.
Back to Mumbai with the most wonderful experiences of my life
The Pondicherry bus station seemed crowded, scary and hungry me settled for a curd rice at a place I wouldn’t dare venture in Mumbai. The bus was crowded and halfway stopped to help another bus which had stopped and now our bus was filled to the brim with the passengers shifted here. I scooped up a young kid standing on the bus on my lap as we conversed in signs and smiles since both didn’t know each other’s language.
A few minutes later my bus stooped for technical issues and we were shifted to another bus. Karma calling as a young mother with three kids now took one child on her lap offering me the seat. Strangely no one complained, no hue and cry was created and everything happened like it’s an everyday occurrence. I took the metro to the airport and finally flew back to Mumbai, bringing back the most wonderful experience of my life.
Solo trip to Pondicherry ends with the spirit of knowing that nothing is impossible
I might have gone solo, but I came back with lots of memories, super experiences, wonderful friends, loads of smiles and laughter and the spirit of knowing that nothing is impossible. Let’s not forget the little calorie buggers who attached themselves to my body as leeches but I guess I’m in an indulgent mood to complain. It was much needed both for the tummy and the soul.
Pondicherry is like the Italian lover who serenades you with a song, complimenting and indulging you with romance and love, knowing fully well that commitment is not something you have to offer nor what he needs. His beautiful blue eyes, calm demeanour but flirtatious nature brings out the little girl in you who is ever so glad to be swept away with his sugar sweet talks and charming personality knowing fully well it’s nothing more than a dream. But then dreams to come true for those who dare to dream!!
You’ve been calling my name since oh so long
Flirting and teasing, serenading with a song
I tried to resist, ignore what you had to offer
But you won in the end and filled up my coffers
A whirlwind romance, a crazy fling I’d label it not
You stay embedded forever in my childlike heart!!
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