“Peaceful Pondicherry. Give time a break”
The promoters of Pondicherry tourism couldn’t have chosen a better tagline than this. The coastal town is unique in its own way. There is calmness around. There is peace. There are no inhibitions. Everything seems to stroll along. Everyone backs the idea of ‘living in the moment’. It is pretty much like the good old days. There are no strings attached. There are no commitments. And there is every chance that you might think about ditching the life you’ve lived and living the life you’ve always dreamt. Pondicherry makes it happen.
My T-shirt had the writing,” It is bad manners to keep a vacation waiting”. But Pondy is not about mere vacationing. It is much more than that. It is about savouring the French flavour. It is about being conscious about cleanliness, like the morning tea seller at Promenade beach, who requests his customers to throw the tea cups only in the dustbins. It is about leading a disciplined life, be it at the traffic signals or be it with your choice of food. It is about the kindness and hospitality, like this stranger who patiently explained us in detail about the wholesale liquor shops and the streets where they are housed.
Pondy will forever be French and if I were to judge the French purely by their impact on Pondy, then I’d definitely rate them highly. A canal runs through the heart of the town. On one side lies the French Pondicherry. The neatly laid out perpendicular streets, the prevalent cycling culture on the tree-lined boulevards, French style buildings, nameplates and billboards bearing the names in French, the streets closer to the Promenade beach and laid back life of the inhabitants will give the impressions of a quieter coastal town in France. A plethora of cafes and restaurants serving French and Italian cuisine there will bowl us over. I’ve already started to ponder when I am going to gatecrash the Baker Street again. On the other side of the canal, lies the Tamil Pondicherry. It’s interesting to know how liberal people here were, to still retain portions of what the French left with them.
My favorite Pondy moments were the times spent on the beach. The early morning sunrise from the rocky Promenade Beach was quite a sight in itself. The sun rose, like it does nowhere else, from the Bay of Bengal, creating magical colour patterns on the waters. The windy evening at the Paradise beach was thrilling. These virgin shores took us to another world, a world you’ve read in the fairy tales, a world of magic and tranquility, where you don’t care about burdens and commitments.
But if there is one place, which was an eye opener for most of us, it is Auroville. The quaint village lies on the outskirts and is beautifully nestled in the bog. Auroville, where one comes to live the life that he/she had always dreamt of, attracts thousands from across the globe. The volunteers make every attempt to preserve nature. Organic farming is encouraged. The kitchen serves organic food cooked with solar energy. Plastics are banned. Cycling is appreciated. Local arts and crafts are supported. We can volunteer in farms, local schools and a string of nature conservation initiatives. In a way, this is the best place for self introspection and really think about what we want in life. There is no one to judge us and we are our own master. This trip is probably the best decision that we took. Pondicherry is not just a place, it is a state of mind.