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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

...Et un jour et demi dans Pondicherry

Pit stop at the Chennai contact’s place over, we then went to the Chennai Mofussil Bus Stand (C.M.B.T) to catch a bus to Pondy (40 bucks by rick – the skin tones worked yegain). We got slightly gypped here…the best route to Pondy is via the East Coast Road (ECR) – which is supposed to be very scenic with a huge stretch of sea all along...pity we missed it. The bus we took went via some weird small towns, and joined the ECR for just a km or so. We had asked the conductor before boarding…so technically he didn’t really lie. But we got to marvel at the quality of roads even in the smallest of towns en route. Mumbai’s Western Express ‘Highway’(lol lol) would have shriveled (even more) in shame.

A Tamil-movie-on-DVD-accompanied (the hero was called Thirumalai – garage mechanic), cramped, almost-blood-clot-inducing 4 hour ride later, we reached Pondy. First step was to catch a rick (25 bucks – got to torture the rick guy with my version of Tamil – ‘Moddalu bike, aaparramma Park Guest House’ – thanks to Quick Gun Murugun – remember ‘Moddalu sambar, aaparramma nee’?) and go to the central market (M.G. Road) to get a Kinetic Honda on hire. There’s this guy called Gopi who gives out bikes and stuff, near the Casablanca Hotel. The rates are around 80 bucks/day for a Kine, and 120-150 for bikes depending on the models. Hiring a two-wheeler is the best way to get around here, else you will end up spending ALL your travel money on ricks.

Then it was off to the Aurobindo Park Guest House. This is an amazing place to stay in…with dirt cheap rates and first-rate accommodation. A spanking clean, airy non-AC room for a 100 bucks a day (2 persons ka sharing). That’s it. Go on…rub your eyes real well. There’s no (artificially fawning - tip cadging)room service/telephone/intercom stuff…but out there, you really don’t need it. Situated at the end of the ‘sea-face’(very reminiscent of the one at Worli), it is THE place to stay in. Slightly strict about timings – there is a 10.30 p.m. curfew. Considering that we crashed at 9.45 p.m., the time limit is not as draconian as it seems. Also, smoking, drinking and drugs - not allowed in the rooms. Lots of other staying options are available, averaging from 200-500 bucks/day but finding acco can be a slight pain on weekends. Lotsa places near the bus stand, but staying in the French part is a lot more fun.

It was then time to take in the sights. One side of Pondicherry (near the bus stand and main market) is STRAIGHT out of Tamil Nadu. The crowds, the bustle, the noise, the markets. Cross one small road, and then the French Quarter begins. A totally different world – the bright yellow buildings, the sparse population, the sudden peace and quiet.




You see more expats here than locals. A word on the French women is in place. Had only heard about French beauties, actually got to see them. Porcelain skin, ruby-red lips, and athletic bods. Shiver me timbers laddies. Shiver me timbers.

We then went to the Aurobindo Samadhi. A wonderful, peaceful place, with a lot of fragrant flowers all around. The silence was divine here, broken only momentarily by some kids' utterings - immediately shushed by their embarrassed parents.

After that, it was plain old lukkhagiri on the streets on the whiny old Kine (15 paise ka engine, 5 rupaye ka aawaj). There are a lot of options for eating out...with genuinely classy, open-air,‘French style’ joints. Our dinner menu - 3 bottles of beer, garlic bread with cheese, french fries, vegetable lasagne, and spinach rice. The bill? 517. We were left shaking our heads in disbelief. When beer is just 65 bucks a bottle, that too at such a joint, faith is all you've got to hold on to. We made our unsteady steps back, and hit the sack.

The next morning dawned cloudy and gray. We went first up to Auroville, which is around 8 kms from the Guest house.
Visited the Matrimandir temple(I LOVED the basic funda of the place – no religion, no idols, no rituals, just a beam of sunlight concentrated on a crystal. Meditate and find your own answers within your own selves. The temple is still under construction), and the museum. A must pick-up from the boutiques here are the hand-crafted, non-toxic incense sticks, which are really cool, with fragrances ranging from Lotus, to Opium, and Coffee. Very good gift ideas.




Then went to the Auroville Beach. A nice expanse with nary a single bhel-puri stall in sight. Fab. Couldn’t really appreciate the beach much, mostly due to the lack of sunshine. Got caught in a light drizzle, which added to the ‘coolth’ factor of it all.

Two days is more than enough to take in all of Pondicherry. A very good de-stresser, the Pondy tourism department’s slogan just about says it all.

Give Time A Break.

C’est vrai. Cent pour cent de vrai.
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1:20 AM, January 20, 2006
Blogger bluesman said...

http://www.geocities.com/tapan_gh/signals.html

Tapan, I really liked your article. In my opinion your best piece yet.    



4:54 AM, January 20, 2006
Anonymous Sanju said...

dit bon mon homme....you are right on about French femmes. I can vouch for what you said and more having encountered them in their home turf may a times....at French Riviera no less. Even My wife couldn't help but gape in admiration...    



10:05 PM, March 18, 2006
Blogger Pradyot Dhulipala said...

Makes me want to go there. This blog is more fun as a travel blog than a gunmaster G-9 tribute.    



10:13 PM, March 18, 2006
Blogger Tapan said...

Pradyot,
Good to see you on here. I can safely say I've travelled more into the far reaches of Mithun-land, than any other place...so that explains why you have more of him, and less of actual real-life travelling accounts on here. Blame it all on a lonely child-hood :)
Will try and post more travelogues though, as and when I can sneak away a trip...    



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