Travel Diaries: Little Things
Sometimes I feel that time is slipping by fast, and there is so much left to live, experience and chronicle. 2015 went by in a jiffy, leaving behind a mixed bag to mull over. I took some resolutions too, not in a fit of an emotion but from emotions solidifying over a period of time. And I ruminated over them while walking by the shore in Pondicherry under a sky full of stars, as I bid goodbye to the year that had been.
On its outskirts, Pondicherry is like any South Indian city, but as you go inwards, you start glimpsing the once French colony that it had been. The cobbled streets intersecting at 90 degrees and the French quarter divided in blocks and avenues, with buildings nearly in shambles, lend a wistful European semblance to the city.
My sister and I cycled around the place for our entire length of stay there; exploring the cafes and bistros the place has to offer. I was cycling after ages and my now dormant but insane fear of cycling in traffic, especially at the intersections made me skeptical again. But then, despite the heightened state of drama in my head playing at every crossing, I came out just fine. We enjoyed cycling the most during the daytime when the streets were not so crowded, and occasionally stopped at various eateries when hungry or sometimes just to sample some food. Our choice of eating places depended on recommendations we had or just the fact that the place looked interesting enough.
It was fun traveling around in a cycle in streets named both in Tamil and in French. I like to think when I travel. And, cycling gave just the right pace to my thoughts; enough to slowly get immersed in an experience, without lingering on for too long. One often knows when and where one wants to invest, and for how long. The Churches, the famous (and probably the wealthiest) Ashram, the War Memorial, the sumptuous Pasta, patisserie and dosa breaks only served as welcome sojourns in this journey. By the end of it all, I could ride with some composure even when at the crossroads. Here, I was reminded of something gravitating I read sometime back. ‘That in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body.’ That the limiting factor in most of the adverse circumstances is the demon within and not without. It is this internal demon I want to combat and make this dictum my lifeline for 2016.
The following day, we toured Auroville. The winding, red road leading up to the City of Dawn has a rustic charm to it. Centered in this township is the Matrimandir and once inside ,the silence is deafening except for the amplified sound of soft breathing of the many meditating there. However, unlike others, I did not focus; I was too distracted in observing the place. Once out of the Matrimandir, we loitered around aimlessly. There, we had an interesting encounter with an Englishman who must have been slightly older than my father. He was trying to seek advice and possible help in relation to his citizenship situation and while he was evaluating his chances, he hauled us to his ‘office'. His office was wooden benches around four sides of a central wooden table under a tree on a red mud flooring adjacent to a scattered group of huts with sloping roofs. These huts housed the staff there from all over the world.
We came back and spent the evening by the seafront, enjoying the dainty eatables we had got from a famous bakery there. Later, we had dinner in a fancy European place to which my sister and I cycled while our parents drove to it. I clicked pictures of candles and lights there; it is these little things among others which amuse me.