Thursday, September 15, 2016

Puducherry

Matra Mandir
Quickie -

Day 0: Chennai to Pondicherry – Drive – 150 Kms – 2.5 hours
Dinner at Ajanta Beach side restaurant

Day 1: The Sacred Heart of Basilica Church, Quick Bite at Bakers Street Café, Auroville Town, Matra Mandir, Cinnoman Coffee at The Greek Café, Serenity Beach, Dinner at Café Xtasi

Day 2: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Shopping at Local market, Lunch at Kasha ki Aasha Café, Quick Bite at Bob’s Café, Mahabalipuram

The real deal -

As I entered Sri Aurobindo Ashram on a cloudy afternoon, little did I know how this small and quaint space would greet me. I walked in and saw an open space where the Samadhi lay. Adorned with flowers it looked beautiful. Though the board above it read ‘Do not touch the Samadhi to meditate’ I saw a few devotees resting their heads on the lap of their Master and absorb His energy. I simply touched the marble in respect and walked to the other side. We sat on the floor for a couple of minutes before we headed to look at the remaining parts of the Ashram. I had entered this place with absolutely no preparation for being in a meditative space. Wearing jeans and jacket, stuffed with heavy Indian breakfast on a lazy Monday noon, I sat there. But even before I knew, my legs were crossed; hands upturned resting on my legs and eyes closed. Those brief moments that I experienced as I sat there made me feel alive. I drew an absolute blank, although be it for a few minutes. The space certainly had immense energy. There have been very few places which have eased me into meditation. Had I not been tapped to get going, I am certain I would have comfortably spent a reasonable time here. Probably, its an indication that I need to visit this place again soon.

Pondicherry is a place that can be explored in 2-3 days without much running around. In a block of 4-5 kms from where we stayed, the main town could be easily covered.

View from Ajantha Beach Restaurant
The White Town is a block which is situated alongside Bay of Bengal. It has a typical architecture with buildings white washed with plain and simple colours. The roads criss-crossing at every turning would certainly make you scratch your head in wonderment if you have taken the right path or not. We walked from one extreme to the other to get to Ajantha Beach House for dinner. We crossed the Gandhi statue which was flooded with little humans playing up and down the multiple slopes the statue is upright on. The natural ambiance, roaring waves, splash on the rocks made up for the just about average food that was served. After spending some time sitting by the water, we headed back to retire for the day. 

Post the complimentary breakfast the Hotel served us on the next day, The Sacred Heart of Basilica was our first stop. We spent a couple of minutes at this quite Church. It was interesting to observe how people from different region and religion conduct themselves. We then drove around the Grand Bazaar hoping to find something to shop but to our dismay it was a wholesale market for vegetables and spices. The roads were so narrow and occupied with trucks on either sides that we decided to drive through to our next destination.

The layered Khari and Custard dessert
Bakers Street was next on our list. A friend told me about this place just the day I left for Pondy. It’s a well lit café in the heart of the town which serves desserts, assortments of salads and ice creams. We gorged on a Caramel and Exotique (mixed fruit) ice cream. The tanginess of Exotique was rightly balanced with the sweet and saltiness the Caramel had to offer. We also called for a dessert which was basically Khari layered with custard multiple times over, a fascinating dessert I have had in the recent times.

The Path of Yoga
We headed to Auroville. Thanks to Google uncle, it took us through the most wildest of the routes! We literally drove through the jungle to get to this place. Of course there is a good concrete road leading to Auroville but our navigator had other plans. It would have certainly been a scary ride had it been past sunset. But thankfully it turned out to be a bumpy yet adventurous drive right in the middle of the day. Unfortunately we could not get the passes to enter Matra Mandir for the next day. Tuesdays it is closed for visitors. On the first floor of the building opposite to the Information center is an exhibition. While conversing with the volunteer lady who looked after that place, my eyes fell on a picture. The moment I read it I had a broad smile on my face and a chill down my spine. The picture read, ‘THE PATH OF YOGA. The mother made this drawing to explain to a child the meaning of Yoga. Man is at the bottom, the divine at the top. The wavy line is the path of the ordinary life, the straight line the path of Yoga.’ I fell in love with this place the very instance.

Our love for handicrafts, candle and fragrances drew us to the multiple boutiques that were housed within Auroville. The place has a lot to. We finally picked up a few asymmetrical ceramic mugs.

Post lunch at Auroville’s café we walked in the direction of Matra Mandir. The big gorgeous golden globe was a sight worth seeing from up close. It was gigantic. But I feel saddened by the fact that we could not go inside to meditate. Yet another reason for me to visit again! Sitting there absorbing its beauty, I realized how spaces hold power in them. Geometry truly magnifies energy.

Serenity Beach
Our next stop was the Greek Café for we were told it served the best Cinnamon coffee. I would call it an over rated place since the coffee was just about average but the location was pleasant. On our way back we stopped at the Serenity Beach. The beach wasn’t quite clean and neither did I find it exceptional but it was nevertheless a good break to sit by the waves and stare into the oblivion. What I missed doing was to take a walk alongside the shore. Saving this as well for the next time!

At Cafe Xtasi
I have recently fallen in love, totally and absolutely with water! The Hotel offered a roof top swimming pool which was just the perfect way to wrap the day. With a nice relaxing shower post the swim we headed to Café Xtasi. This place offers wood fired Pizza’s and we weren’t disappointed with what they put in front of us, though will slightly less salt! Post the eventful day and a relaxing evening, we jammed to some music and called it a day.

Next day after the sumptuous breakfast we headed to Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Around noon we decided to conclude our stay by picking up some souvenirs from the local market for friends and family. Slight hunger pangs drew us to walk up to Kasha ki Aasha, an art boutique and a local café located in the narrow by lanes of Pondicherry. Once we reached this place we wished we had gotten here earlier! A beautiful roof top café, with great food, it was a perfect location to simply dig into the spacious cane chairs lined with cushions and read or simply be lost in your own thoughts.

Bob's Cafe
We decided to take the East Coast Road towards Chennai with a plan to halt at Mahabalipuram to explore its stone beauty. Unfortunately, due to the political unrest at Chennai and Bangalore over the Cauvery water issue, we had to stop multiple times on our way, leading to a major delay to reach Mahabalipuram before sunset. We however did get to Mahabalipuram and spent some time at Bob’s roof top Café overseeing the beach and grabbed a quick bite.

A quick weekend gateaway, even for a Mumbaite like me, Pondicherry is a close knit town which holds immense aesthetic beauty and rich cultural heritage worth exploring. A town which bursts with surprises from its little nooks and corners, I am certain to visit again and discover more of its hidden treasures.

#dontoverthink #beingmindful #beautifulspaces #absolutebliss #fallinginlove #meditation #serenity #pricelesscompany #fragrances #humidweather #budgettravellers #gettinglostinthewoods #directionallychallenged #firstimeinchennai #firstofmanymoretocome 

3 comments:

Anuj Dadkar said...

That's a fine composition. Inspires me to resume my subdued fervour of writing.

Dhandal said...

Thanks Anuj. Glad to see you here. I sat to scribble this piece after a good long break. You should do it sometime soon!

Anonymous said...

A very long break indeed.