I see them standing in the informal steps of their shacks. My friends. I see her strolling out under the wooden balcony; her feet, all sandy from the beach. The red tiles on the sides glint like bent plates of blood. I see my girl with a few light books at her hip. Standing with the pillar made of a solid stone with the wooden door still open behind her.
A day before.
We argue on the fact which should not be denied that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape. From history and oppression and law and obligations. Absolute freedom. She, my friend, says it's much more than that. Much deep. "She's right", I say to myself.
We don't talk for a few moments. Then she says "Let's visit Pondy". Pondy - the place which appears as the doings of some magic; the beaches, the terrain, the roads, the architecture; so serene. In an instant, my face lights up. I put up a smile on my face and say, "you quaint, little, inbred beauty; this is why I love you". An impromptu plan.
It is a weekend and in a snap, we are off. The five of us. With a couple of rucksacks and a whole lot of junk food, enough to feed a mini army. If there's something for which they share the common love, it's the love for travel and the food. No wonder they look so beautiful in their plus size clothes. Those cheeky little buggers. Well, I love them the way they are.
Its fifteen past eleven and we are on the highway. The long stretch of asphalt; so smooth, so clean. Makes me want to hit the pedal to the metal; but then, I slow things down, to match the tempo of the soothing music. Its not a rush. I look out to see the stars shimmer and shine as they are meant to be. The sight of the stars, the clear skies. Underrated pleasures of life.
The 3 ladies doze off. Leaving us guys do all the driving. We take turns driving. At some points we stop for a quick tea break and talk about our previous travels. Talk about how great the Indian subcontinent is.
Time flies. And we see the almighty sun rise in front of us along the endless stretch of road. A grand spectacle. The sunrise - never a disappointment. I call my dear friend from Pondy. A native of the place. And ask him to find a nice little sojourn for us to crash for the night. He says "you can stay in my place", but then, we need some privacy because the girls intend to get drunk and fool around all night long. Well, may be it was us guys who intend to do some pushups after getting drunk. It's Pondicherry after all.
The road leads east along the sun scoured stretch of asphalt. The breeze from the ocean welcomes us to Pondy. We find our friend waiting for us. He waves at us with anxiety on his face as we reach him. The next thing we realize is that we are sipping on a hot cup of tea at his home. The steam from the cup enclosing my fingers. We are still strangers for his wife. A quiet lady.
He brings us to this beautiful beach shack with a thatched roof. The walls painted with eye popping colors. Coconut trees in the foreground. Somewhere at the Auroville beach stretch. The beach, a stone's throw away. The sights and the sounds of the waves can be easily felt from the wooden balcony. One among the must stay places in Pondy. Not to mention the Auroville and the Auroville beach being the must visit places in Pondicherry. All in the close proximity.
We plan on reaching Auroville before its too late. The visitors are allowed only on specific timings. Getting ready in a flash seems to be "the thing" to do. I am the first one out. I see them standing in the informal steps of their shacks. My friends. I see her strolling out under the wooden balcony; her feet, all sandy from the beach. The red tiles on the sides glint like bent plates of blood. I see my girl with a few light books at her hip. Standing with the pillar made of a solid stone with the wooden door still open behind her.
They're all ready. Fresh as a flower. OK that was a bit exaggerating. So, we head to this street side joint for a sumptuous French breakfast. After all, we are in a French territory. It seems that way at least, with the architecture, the people and the surroundings. They devour the food like monsters. Gulp it all down with a cup of dark coffee and start towards Auroville.
Auroville a.k.a The city of dawn, just outside Pondy is a township on a whole different level, which cannot be compared with anything else in the world. Founded by Mirra Alfassa (disciple of Aurobindo), fondly known as "The Mother", the Auroville is one of "THE" places to visit in Pondy. And I'm pretty certain that Auroville has increased Pondicherry's tourism up by ten notches.
We stroll around Auroville and it's peaceful environment. Induces everyone to put on a calm and happy face. The display inside the gallery seem spellboundingly amazing; but the real reason for us, especially me, to visit Auroville happens to be the Matrimandir. Matrimandir, a golden metallic sphere is such a delight. While no words can be apt enough to describe this amazing golden structure, words like surreal and tranquil can be put to good use here. I just sit here at a distance watching it, while the structure basks in the sun in all its colorful glory.
An hour later, we are at the docks. The seagulls soar the warm ocean wind in elegance. They seem finesse. The fishermen wave goodbye and head towards the never ending sea. One boat after another, with such a discipline. We find company in the characters of the ocean; the crabs, the oysters, the fishes, caught at the docks as the sun sets along the raggedy structures which enclose the beach.
The nightfalls and we head back to the wooden shack, just in time for the drinks and late night munchies. If there's one thing which costs peanuts in Pondy, its the liquor. And we have them. In loads. We fool around after getting drunk. The next thing I realize is it's 3 am, and I'm drooling all over the pillow.
End of day 1.
The next morning. I wake up early to the melody of the waves. I hope to see an amazing sunrise amidst a heavy wave, a vast sea. But all I see is the sky, enclosed by the gloomy clouds, displaying various hues of blues and greys, fencing the large orange sun. A few fishermen at the horizon in their tiny boats. I just sit here on the beach, crossing my legs, witnessing the dance of the waves, feeling the breeze of the sea. The freedom and simple beauty is just too good to pass up.
No I'm not a bakth material, but I never miss on an opportunity to visit a place of worship. A temple, a mosque, a church, a gurudwara; it doesn't matter. The next thing on our list is the famous Vinayak temple. Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Devasthanam. The interiors, all air conditioned. The holy deity, lord Ganesh, sits peacefully. We are in and out in twenty minutes. Outside, the ladies stuff their faces in cotton candy.
A few blocks away, we are at the alluring main streets. The French architecture entice us. At the very corner, sits Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The interior adorns with the remnants of spirituality giving way to eternal peace. I can never understand spirituality, but places like these, are sure to bring out the inner peace. Makes you understand that money and power is just an illusion. We ramble inside, to find a small market place housing a whole lot of handicrafts and memorabilia. I window shop to the level 9000.
The next places of interest happened to be the Chunnambur boat house and The Paradise beach. The boat house, less majestic yet so famous because of the isolated Paradise Beach hosts a whole lot of boats ranging from the big and slow double decker ones to the fast and swift power boats. The backwaters offer stunning and interesting scapes, finally leading to "Plage Paradiso Island" a.k.a "The Paradise Beach".
They suit us up as them professionals in those bright orange life jackets. The bright color probably visible from 10 miles away. We look like comedians on a big boat, but they insist we wear the vests. The boat takes us along the backwaters, a mix of fresh and salt water, while we bounce up and down, enjoying the vistas, with the boat's movement. Some goof around. Some fall asleep. For them, the 20 minute ferry is too much to handle.
We reach Plago Paradiso Island just to find hordes of beach goers, lugging their sand filled bulky equipment (read as beach shorts), sharing the same love for the huge water body as we do. We order drinks. It costs us a fortune. Yes, the liquor here costs 3 times more compared to the price in town. But the mother nature's optimistic blue skies, kissing the vast salty water with a little bit of warm light, adding the hint of glitter to the clear blue sea, make us forget about the money we spent. We revel on the beach. Happy times.
It's evening. We wander leisurely around the infamous flea market buying things we probably don't need. The bustling streets, the street side joints and the French delectables are definitely not on our "things to miss" list. We frown because our Pondy sojourn is coming to an end.
We stack the trunk with liquor while the roads give way, give more connectivity to the surrounding and add more character to the so called destination/home. At home, we put on the broadest smiles on our faces and go to bed, knowing that our next Pondicherry's travelogue will be a long one. We intend to come back again for a week long rendezvous.