Hello peeps! Only a few more weeks to go before the we bid adieu to this year…its time to slow things down…take a break and reflect on the year gone by…the perfect time to look back and discern what it has taught me…to count my blessings…give thanks for all that has been good… and smile at the little serendipities of life that came my way!!
So in that spirit, I spent most of my last week holding hands, both big and small, of the people I love and walked rather aimlessly down the streets of the “French Riviera of the East” or Pondicherry as we better know it.
This former French colony on the coromandel coast turned out to be exactly what I had hoped it would be – a quiet retreat from the madness of everyday city life, a place to turn down the noise and muse on.
Balmy weather greeted us as we drove into this quaint little town, that has much of its old-world charm intact. The white town or french quarters is a pretty picture of large boulevards laden with bougainvillea, brightly painted houses with much love for sunflower yellow… clean well paved streets with beautiful french names …a breezy promenade by the beach…heritage buildings and colonial churches.
These manicured french lanes then give way to the bustling Tamil quarters dotted with a generous dose of the ever elaborate and colorful temple gopurams.
We stayed at the Maison Perumal, a charming boutique hotel located here. This artfully restored old tamil manor house has an unmistakeable Franco-Tamil imprint in its design. Its charming lush green central courtyard dotted with kolams and a lily pond, stained glass doorways, red oxide floors, traditional wooden oonjal (swing), walls adorned with works of local artists and the aromas of flavoursome tamil cuisine gently draw you into its world, that celebrates a time gone by. There are so many little design details to appreciate in this place, yet none of it is in excess and there is a certain refined restraint that it follows, which I found most pleasing.
On our second day, we started early to the rings of a cycle rickshaw and set out to explore Pondicherry on its wheels. Needless to say, our three year old was thrilled to bits with this mode of transport. Leisurely, we crossed the many by-lanes on a quiet Sunday morning, soaking in the history of its many landmarks, as a sleepy town slowly came back to life.
If spiritual high is what you seek…then pondichery is the place for you. For a town that is rather small and best explored on a bicycle or on foot, it has an astounding amount of temples and churches!! If organised religion does not float your boat, then explore Auroville!! Which is what we did next.
The first thing that strikes you about the place is the silence that surrounds it…and then the next thing that stands out is this vast maze of spread out unpaved roads and mud trails, weaving in and out of the forest, rather easy to get lost in. We were very glad to be shown around by a wonderful gentleman born and raised in Auroville, who gave us an insider’s perspective to the place and its people.
It turned out that Auroville is not a place to “see” on a day trip from Pondicherry, it is not a ‘tourist attraction’ to visit for instant gratification. It is a place to stay awhile…introspect…volunteer in something one is passionate about…soak in the sun and ideologies of the international commune and then introspect some more…all this while gorging on some seriously delicious organic fare from its many eateries!! Hopefully I will be back someday to explore this place the way it is meant to be.
Pondi, as it is fondly called, is a unique cultural melting pot, a mosaic of different nationalities and histories, that takes you back in time, when life moved in slower and simpler ways. As we bid good bye, I realised how the Pondicherry tourism slogan “Give time a break” rings so true for this gem of a seaside town.
Image credits : Sunshine in My Cup, Maison Perumal