The Right and Wrong Conundrum

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedworks/5450261601/

TO DO or NOT TO DO

Seldom does the heart know what it really desires: at one point it knows every hidden dream we ever dreamed; but once we are closer to achieving that ‘dream’, it starts generating mixed signals which usually makes us question every single step we take in achieving that dream. Does this then, involve morality, propriety or worse still, sobriety?

We are brought up with a sense of righteousness, which usually borders on a strict conditioning governed by a strong sense of morality, which involves right and wrong paths. Get waylaid from the laid down path and you are a rebel, immoral and even wild; if you follow the rules, you are moral and deserving. But, who I daresay laid down these ‘ideas’ of morality? Sure, some things are plausibly wrong like taking a life or hurting someone knowingly; however, can the right and wrong be really compartmentalized by the society? Can all the wrongs and all the rights be labeled accurately? It would have definitely made this world a better place, if it were possible.

Different people perceive this conundrum differently; for Muslims eating beef is commonplace but consuming pork would be a sacrilege, on the other hand; Hindus consider eating beef blasphemous. Mind you, both the sides have very legit arguments and you are left wondering, what could be the right side. Ask a vegetarian why he refuses to eat meat and he will drone on about cruelty to animals; ask a meat-eater and he will rant about the circle of life and the animals taking over the world if not curtailed. Is it sufficient to claim then, that the right and wrong dichotomy is solved by people’s feelings; they project these feelings on the choices available to them and internally justify their actions to themselves? They are after all born in a society obsessed with right and wrong; how can they not choose one side over the other.

Interestingly, as we grow older the ‘right’ compartment of our emotional banks tends to expand and widen, the things which were wrong before suddenly seem right and moral. So, should I daresay that morality is flexible, but wasn’t it supposed to be rigid and water-tight? We find ourselves doing things that seemed immoral and downright wrong a few years ago but perfectly acceptable in the present. What causes this shift in perception? Does one start perceiving the gap in the right and wrong labels as one grows older?

Is there then a possibility of a grey area; the area between the societal right and wrong, which is perceived differently by different hearts. After all, hearts dwell in divergent heavens and fear diverse horrors. This grey area can be acknowledged as people’s choices: to do or not to do. People are faced with two choices every time; their choice will then determine the right and wrong. Hence, I can safely presume that right and wrong is not predetermined but depends on choices people make.

The basic question we are faced with everyday is usually on these lines: the rightness of our actions, the rightness of our thoughts and rightness of our lives. But why are we so stuck up on being right or rather doing right. Is being right just a state of mind then, since one person perceives rightness doing one thing and another person feels right doing something exactly the opposite. A murder is downright sinful as it involves taking a man’s life however it becomes right and even justifiable when it is resorted to in self defense. Does that make killing a man more acceptable?

This web of choices will never cease to entrap our sensibilities; it is completely upon us to salvage an escape route. The trap of stereotypes and clichés lulls us into a false sense of security because it feels familiar territory, something we have lived with since forever. Shedding our inhibitions and venturing outside into the unknown is akin to walking into a jungle with no sense of direction, however, this territory needs to be chartered and traveled into. How else will we grow as a person? There is nothing like falling down to teach us how to walk and there is nothing like making mistakes to teach us ‘right and wrong’. The society can’t do it for us.

We have to fight our own battles, this is our battlefield and we are the warriors.

The_Road_Not_Taken_by_joannakuang

CHOICES

 

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The Moving on Syndrome

Oh, moving on, letting go and starting afresh: it yields beautiful results and sometimes makes the problem completely go away (not the smartest solution but it certainly helps). But sometimes, you see, moving on can be downright unpalatable and even obnoxious.

The media is notorious for having a short memory span when it comes to reporting stories: they even choose stories which would have maximum impact on the readers; the usual rapes and murders without a twist are commonplace for them. Yes, they have a business to run and money to make but what about humanity? And what about these people? They are just numbers, of course.

Moving on (pun intended) to the stories that are reported: with thousands of newspapers and social media, they can hardly avoid exposure or print. The killing of innocents in Gaza or Syria or even the plight of the Lebanese refugees is written about so often that we have become immune to the numbers; it does not even evoke heartache or sympathy anymore. I can’t help but mention the gruesome rapes that have been reported in India recently. It is humanly impossible to describe the emotional effects of the notorious Delhi Gang Rape case; there was not a female alive who didn’t cry for her. But, after all is said and done; what can the readers do but read, sympathize and move on?

Gaza-Crisis-Photo-via-Business-Insider-CC-BY-2.0

Hell on Earth

We were designed to move on; to deal with pain, loss and failure: the dog we loved, the last job we hated, the ex who never stopped humiliating you, the son who abandoned the family, the family home which was sold, the best friend who moved on. And some situations would be unbearable without this ability: death of a loved one, a failed marriage or loss of a child. Apparently, we have uncanny resilient powers to always bounce back; stronger. But we have lousy humane powers.

Can’t we, together; do anything about this crumbling world and not just move on when we read about millions dying everywhere. Why is the situation in Syria still the same after three years of warring? Is nobody seeing or even listening? Why is the Gaza conflict reopened again and again? Notwithstanding, the past and its problems this is not about who is right or wrong but about humanity and people. The gruesome rapes and sexual attacks can’t continue like this. All this depravity and debauchery has to end but who will find ‘the end’? Surely, not the present state of affairs……

Will we ever wake up? Or is this an eternal sleep of oblivion?

city_of_the_rising_sun_by_jedi201-d4dnkjj

ALL WE NEED IS HOPE

 

My Rendition of ‘Pondicherry’: Auroville

The first thing that attracted me to Pondicherry was the idea of Auroville itself. The reality of it was more than I had expected and beyond.

Auroville is a self sustaining village located 30 minutes (drive) from Pondicherry on the ECR (East Coast Road). To fathom the idea that is ‘Auroville’ you have to see it and experience it, mere words can’t do justice to the place.

The things we merely give lip-service to: world peace, community living, spiritual life and oneness; they live them.

The idea of Auroville was conceptualized by the enigmatic follower of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, a woman who came seeking truth from France and then became his spiritual partner. This city is built on the principle that it belongs to no one: it belongs to no nation but belongs to the humanity as a whole and the purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.

Charter of Auroville

Lofty sounding goals yes, but they appear achievable here.

Human Unity

Human Unity

It is a universal town where people from every nationality can live; they are referred to as Aurovilleans and not as Indian, Dutch, Spanish or Italian. Their country doesn’t define them.

Matrimandir: Soul of Auroville  

The spiritual connotations indicate that this ‘temple’ does not belong to any religion or sect. It is a common meditation place. The energy I felt inside the dome is indescribable.

They do not believe in any particular religion or belief, nor do they negate the prevailing beliefs. The University of Human Unity in Auroville is attempting to understand the conception and idea of the universe we live in. It is an intriguing undertaking; I really hope they find the answers to all those hauntingly elusive questions. Cameras weren’t allowed inside so I will make do with the pictures I took at the Visitor’s Center ( and the reality is even better)

The Dome

The Dome

The Inner Chamber

The Inner Chamber

A Solar Kitchen:

Besides the fact, that most of the food here is organically grown. There is a solar kitchen where the food is entirely cooked on solar energy. Doesn’t this sound fascinating? And yes, it was.

But, eating there without a reservation can get quite tricky. So, if you plan to eat here make up your mind in advance and make a reservation.

Inside View of the Kitchen

Inside View of the Kitchen

Solar Kitchen

Varied and Authentic Cuisine:

There might be a gazillion places that brag about this. But, in Auroville, a French restaurant is run by a French person, an Italian restaurant by an Italian and most definitely a Greek restaurant by a Greek. The bakeries and patisseries had the most amazing pies and cakes. An Italian dessert, Panna Cotta, caught my fancy; it simply melted in my mouth. It was an exquisite specimen of baking.

A Learning Escapade:

Everywhere you look, you will find pottery classes, dancing classes, yoga classes, language classes etc. The local school which generally has the local Tamil population has greatly benefitted in terms of exposure and teachers. Aurovilleans spend time teaching at the school. A lot of international students come to Auroville for internships and take up community work; some even teach and get involved at this school.

Architecture:

Since Auroville claims to live beyond the usual norms of society and its expectations, the architectural landscape reflects this belief. It is an architect’s haven and has been attracting architecture students from all over the world. If you can create it; flaunt it… is their motto. The city centre and the buildings have a neo look and feel; they are oriented towards the environment and since the basic thrust is towards community living that can be seen in the designs.

Even the landscaping is supposedly man-made.

Inside Auroville

Inside Auroville

Beautiful, isn’t it?

 

 

The Meeting

© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

In the dead of the night she was thrown forward as the bus screeched to a halt. As she recovered from the shock she looked around herself and realized that she was the last passenger on the bus. She could have sworn that five minutes ago she had noticed three girls sitting behind her. Maybe, they got off when she had dozed off. The braking of the bus had startled her. She noted with satisfaction that she had not missed her stop yet.

She had not taken her usual route today.  She joined this office yesterday and didn’t  want to start off on the wrong foot with her boss so she had not mentioned that this meeting was in a part of the town she had never seen before. She had not wanted to sound like a lightweight. The meeting had been in a dilapidated building and the woman she met had looked unhappy and grim. Like she had nothing to laugh about.

She noted that even the ticket collector had got down from the bus. The driver, an old man, was driving the bus at a normal pace but kept glancing at her nervously. Something about his look made her edgy. Suddenly, she heard a bloodcurdling and hair-raising scream, the bus stopped. Thinking that she had imagined the sound she looked at the bus driver.

“Ma’am, you will have to get down here, I am afraid. I can’t drive further”, the driver said nervously.

“But… but… I don’t live here. How will I get home?” she stammered.

“Can’t help you, sorry”, he looked harassed but determined. Knowing when she was beaten, she reluctantly got down and looked around herself. It was dark and the street was empty, it was lit by one flickering streetlamp. She inched further nervously and calculated that she was fifteen minutes away from home.

There was a chill in the air and the air was oppressively gloomy. Suddenly, she heard a rattling sound behind her. She turned and saw a car moving towards her, a car without lights on such a dark night. It was a broken car and the windows were smashed roughly, it stopped when it reached her. She was amazed to see the person behind the wheel. The woman was wearing the same black dress and looked grimmer than she had done before, during the meeting.

“Do you want a ride”, the woman declared, as if she wasn’t asking but telling.

Nodding she moved towards the passenger door. Something told her not to get in the car but the alternative prospect of a long walk on this eerie night did not seem attractive either. As if on cue, the door opened without her even touching it.

She gave directions to the woman in black.

“Was your car in an accident recently”, she gathered enough courage to ask.

Her answer was a nod. She decided to abandon her attempts at conversation and looked outside.

Ten minutes later the car stopped. She didn’t remember giving the woman her house number but maybe, she had.

She formally thanked the woman for her help.

The woman gave her a blank look and left.

As soon as she entered her room her phone was ringing.

“Where have you been all evening. I have been calling you since forever”, her boss thundered.

“I am sorry. My phone had no battery”, she explained stiltedly because the bizarre events of the evening were still on her mind.

“Mrs. Postwalla, the woman who you had to see today met with an accident this afternoon and died”, he continued, “So where were you”?

The pounding in her ears made it impossible to form a coherent reply.

 

The Sanctum

This was one of the most interesting writing challenges I have undertaken so far: writing a story in FIFTY words. I had heard about flash fiction but never thought I would do it.

And guess what? Flash fiction is fun!!

 

11248971336_cf2b6a109a_z

Photo By: Mo

He came

He left

She came

She left

Was this all there was? Or was there something more? But, if there was, how come she had never found it? Struggling and choking in the turbulent waves of doubt, she had to make a decision: to swim up or swim down.

 

Photo:  By Mo

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The Visit (Part II)

The Visit

(For readers who are new to this post, please scroll down to read Part I before continuing with this story)

“For you to understand why I am here, you need to hear a story first”, Anushka sustained.

“This story is about a rich spoilt girl who met the man of her dreams in college. He was everything she had ever imagined her man would be. She was so besotted with him that when her mother said that he was too good to be true and there had to be something wrong with him, she had fought with her mother and had not spoken to her for a week.”

“Relenting, her parents had agreed albeit with reservations and married her soon after they graduated. It was after they married, that she realized that not everything was perfect in her world. The man she had married was completely different from the man she had fallen in love with, they were two completely different men. This man was prone to quick spurts of temper which he usually displayed by using physical violence.”

“Oh my God, did she tell her parents?”Isha asked.

Shaking her head she continued, “at first, he would cajole her and ask her for forgiveness saying he couldn’t help himself because he loved her too much, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. One day, they went out with his friends. He was charm personified when they were with other people but when they returned home that night; he burnt her back with the iron claiming that she had betrayed him by smiling at his friends.”

“That night, she had realized how wrong she had been to not listen to her parents and decided to confide in them the first thing in the morning. As soon as she had woken up the next day, she had been practicing what to tell her parents. Her thoughts had been interrupted by her favorite aunt’s phone call. Her usually full of life aunt sounded unusually dull which had scared her. Her aunt informed her that her parents had been involved in a car accident in the morning, and both of them had been killed instantly.”

“It was then that her world had collapsed around her. She was helpless without her parents. How would she fight the beast she had married without them at her side”, Anushka paused to look at her audience. Isha had not realized but there were tears in her eyes. Four months pregnant she had a husband who was arrested for murder but at least she knew she had someone who loved her and cared for her.

“Please tell me what happened next”, Isha pressed.

“It took her months and months but she learnt to practice the art of living within herself. All her joys and sorrows lived inside. The man of her dreams continued to physically and emotionally abuse her and she let him. She somehow believed that she had brought this on herself. Then, one day she learnt that she was free from all this sorrow and heartache”, Anushka continued.

“Today is that day, Isha. Believe me; your husband saved my life by stabbing him. That man was my husband”, she claimed tearfully. “I know, you think I was a coward not to leave him but Isha where would I have gone? And what would I have told them? That my husband burns and hits me because he likes it? Everyone in my world knew I had chosen him and fought with my family to marry him, what could I have possibly done?

“I know how much you went through, but, Anushka there are laws for such things. You didn’t have to live in that hell”, Isha found herself adding; she felt protective of this young, frail woman.

“How would the law have helped me? They would have asked me for evidence and my husband is the most charming and glib talking man you will ever meet, he could make a stone respond to him. He would have explained everything away. Don’t you think, I would have thought this through?” she continued in a hurt voice.

“I am sorry, I just can’t imagine what you must have gone through” Isha added. She craved to touch her hand to give her some comfort but feared her response and shied away from making things more difficult for her.

“I was afraid to come here because I was scared about how you would react”, Anushka continued, mirroring her own feelings. “But now when I have met you and spoken to you, I want to go to the police and tell them everything. I am sure your husband was provoked to stab him. Even, the knife that he was stabbed with belonged to my husband. I am sure the authorities will consider that. I suspect that he was mentally unstable as well but I never had the courage to do anything about it”, she voiced.

“Your husband gave me a new lease of life, Isha”, she added softly.

Isha was ashamed to hear this. This kind hearted woman who had gone through so much had given her husband the benefit of doubt without even knowing him. Shouldn’t she have done so as well? She had heard his story, known that he had not been responsible but she had still considered leaving him. How could she have been so short sighted? To be honest, Raj had not even stabbed him, he had hurled himself at the knife.

This woman’s visit had saved her marriage and her life.

Isha Sahai touched her swelling stomach and sent a silent prayer to Raj, “We are with you always”.

The Visit (Part I)

The Visit

How could he do it?

Isha Sahai was lying on her bed and staring at the white ceiling. It was quarter past eleven and she had been in this position for over two hours now. Even now, she couldn’t bring herself to believe what had been revealed to her only a few hours ago. “Your husband has been arrested for murder”, a crisp authoritarian voice had informed her. Her shocked, “but he can never do such a thing”, had been met with an indifferent snigger. “I am Rajesh Mishra, the Inspector- In charge of this investigation”, he continued and gave her a description of the bare facts in an emotionless voice. Her silence had been met with a sharp noise, which to her bemused system had signified an end to the alarming conversation.

Her hurried visit to the Police Station had been a nightmare. In her haste, she had completely forgotten the doctor’s advice that she was not supposed to run or walk quickly because she was in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. Her genetic history had revealed that she had to be careful in this trimester. Most of the women in her family had lost at least one child in their second trimester. This thought had jolted her back to reality. She had then made an attempt to calm down and changed her pace to a more reasonable one. The first time she saw Raj huddled in a cell, she could have wept for him. Her anguished “Raj”, had been answered by him getting up and facing her. The sight of his blood and tear stained face was like a kick in her solar plexus. Once again, she had reminded herself of her fragile state and tried to steady her nerves. With forced calm she had asked, “Raj, what has happened? Please tell me that what they are saying is not true”.

The few moments of silence after her heartfelt declaration had been the worst moments of her life.

“Isha, he got stabbed when I was trying to save my life”, he had pleaded.

Something in her perplexed expression had caught his attention as he began, “After I called you last night, Mr. Smith wanted to visit a new restaurant, La Club. Around midnight a man started shouting at the bartender. Coincidentally, I was at the counter for a refill. I merely asked him why he was making such a scene”, Raj looked at her to confirm whether she was with him and continued, “The moment I uttered these words, this man turned his full wrath upon me. He was a stout and pudgy man, not fearing him I faced him with my full height. His eyes were blood shot and he started hurling profanities my way. Something about his tone piqued me and I asked him to shut up.”

“This was when he produced a knife from somewhere and held it at me. By this time, everyone had gathered around us and no one dared to stop this man. Inebriated, his behavior did not seem normal, as if he was demented or completely unhinged. Seeing the gravity of the situation, the bartender tried to stop the man. I don’t know what happened, was he too fast or others too slow; he hurled the knife at the bartender this time and nearly got him. I picked up the knife and before I knew it, he hurled himself at me. The knife pierced into his flesh and he died instantaneously”, he finished on a disbelieving note, as if still unable to digest what had happened.

“But, Raj why did you have to interfere in the first place”, Isha had asked, hearing the full story had restored her confidence in her husband. But could she live with a murderer?  Whatever the reason, a man had been killed. Could she let her child be brought up by a man who had killed another man?

Their conversation had been broken by a shrill voice shouting that the visiting time was up. She had made her way back to the house as if in a trance. Even now, only a couple of hours later she could remember nothing of the journey back home.

The piercing sound of the door bell raised her from her reverie. She glanced at the clock, it was quarter past three; she must eat something she chided herself. Her eyes were met with a frail dark woman, her face was covered in worry lines and it seemed she was sweating profusely. Isha was startled to see her like this, “Can I help you with something, and you look like you could do with a drink”.

“Are you Raj Sahai’s wife”, she replied with a question of her own. Nodding, instinctively Isha moved back to let the woman in, her already troubled mind registered alarm at this question but she could hardly turn this distressed soul away. She could sense this woman’s fear and responded to it, “Why don’t you come in?” she asked politely.

The woman looked stupefied, as if, she had not been expecting a welcome. She looked like she was about to collapse but somehow she stepped into the house and made her way to the sitting room. Unsure about what to do, Isha said, “Allow me to get you a glass of water. Please make yourself comfortable”.

Unable to hold her curiosity any longer she rushed into the room with the promised water. She found the woman cracking her knuckles, when the woman caught her eye she rose as if to flee but sat down again with great difficulty.

“My name is Anushka Triweni”, she began nervously. She was looking everywhere but at Isha. The name ‘Triweni’ was enough to send Isha’s already agitated mind in a whirlwind of doubts. The man who was killed had the same last name. Who was she? Was she here to threaten her? Did she want money? Or worse, was she here for revenge? She hardly looked the type but you never know about these things, do you?

“I know, you are surprised to see me”, Anushka continued with increasing confidence. “I want to make it clear to you that I mean no harm”.

“Then why are you here”, Isha wanted to ask but didn’t. As far as she knew, the man had died in the scuffle and Raj was responsible for it. Had she somehow got the story wrong?

 

The next part of the story will follow soon

The Inner Precipice

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“Why do I always hurt the people I love the most?” he had cried passionately after she stormed off. The compassionate stranger who had witnessed the scene playing out in the middle of the street had kindly tapped his shoulder and left.

“You make it impossible to love you, Neil”, Priya had thrown at him.

Even today, weeks after the incident he could recall the episode in Technicolor. Every word, every look exchanged was still fresh in his mind. Somehow, this parting had affected him more than anything he had felt before. He felt like he had lost a part of himself. Not because he had lost Priya, he was certain about that but because it had finally dawned on him that he destroyed whatever was good in his life. He was his own enemy!

Suddenly he had felt trapped in his own skin, he was certain there was more to him than this cruel bastard who butchered dreams. The next day he had stormed into his boss’ office, “Sir, I need a month off”, he had declared. Mr. Wania had been visibly shocked at this unusual behavior but something about the look in his eyes had warned him off and he had merely nodded, “Okay, you can do that. But, explain everything about the project you are working on to Rajesh, before you leave”.

A month, trekking the Himalayas was what he needed he had told himself. He needed this rigorous physical exertion to douse out this inner storm. He didn’t want to get swallowed into this chasm of self-doubt and misery.

Two weeks here had done nothing but raise more doubts and questions, he had discounted the importance of silence. Wasn’t this something he must have avoided at all costs?

Sitting on a precipice, he could feel the vast and elusive sea beckoning him. How could such beauty be so perilous? If he jumped into this rapidly flowing maelstrom, could he then be able to start afresh? A new life and a new him, was this the answer?

It wasn’t just his relationship with Priya that had been marred by him. His parents, who had died last year in a car wreck, had been troubled by the change in him. They had never mentioned it, but he knew how much he had hurt them with his indifference and elusiveness.

Why was he intent on destroying the things he cherished? In hindsight, he had annihilated all his relationships after losing his best friend; they had been together since they were five. He had seen him die, seen the life suck out of him, it had been the hardest part of his life. Getting used to his absence had been worse. He had frozen inside.

But hadn’t he done the same to his life? Yogi never had a choice but he did… or did he?

Was there really a destiny mapped out for him or did he have a say in that? They all had said when Yogi died; he was destined to go like this. So, did he also have no choice? Maybe his fate had decided that he would live alone and die alone…. Maybe all this was destiny. What were the odds of him fighting that?

But the major question was what was he really scared of? Death?

Did the end of existence and the nothingness scare him? But what if this life was the abyss and death the real thing? What if Yogi was happier than he had ever been here, surely, he couldn’t be certain. So why fear the unknown?

He was intimate with death, had seen it riding around many times. Wasn’t he still alive and kicking? Didn’t that mean something?

He did have a choice, a tiny voice in his head whispered. He had the choice to live; he had the choice to live his life any way he wanted to. Who was stopping him from forming loving and healthy relationships with people and most importantly with himself? When had he started dissociating from himself?

Armed with this knowledge, he could see where he had gone wrong in all his relationships in the past; he had tuned the world out expecting it to lash at him, harm him. But, hey, the whole wide world wasn’t out to get him, why couldn’t he see that? He realized the more people loved him the more he pushed them away. So this had been his self-defense mechanism, yes. But who was he defending and from what?

He was safe. He had always been safe.

This short story has been written for the Daily Post Challenge.

Photo- Cheri Lucas Rowlands

My Rendition of ‘Pondicherry’:The Gastronomic Trail

No travel is complete without experimenting with the local Cuisine. Pondicherry brags to have the French cuisine, the Indo- French cuisine and the South Indian cuisine .The added advantage of being a coastal area gives it a foothold on sea food as well. Honestly, I am a conventional non- vegetarian, as I am allergic to red meat and I don’t relish sea food, so that leaves me with not much choice save Chicken. Fortunately, the French Bakeries had amazing things to choose from. I devoured at many places but make a mention of a few places I liked below:

Le Space- Yolande’s Kitchen

This Café looked very homely and inviting with a Bohemian setting. There was something very endearing about a young boy carrying the huge menu board around; there were no typed menus!  The Menu for the day had Petit Pate, Shrimps and Julienne de Legumes as starters. The place was crowded and rushed, it being 31st of December. Yolande came to take our order when I explained my conventional non-vegetarian taste but I insisted that I wanted to have a good French Dish – he sent the cook to speak to us. The cook made a wonderful chicken dish. He made chicken in wine and some weird sounding French sauce (I don’t remember the name) with rice. He also sautéed vegetables on the side. Though it doesn’t sound much, but trust me; this was one of the best meals I have had in a long time. Perhaps, it was the celebratory air or the ambiance which did the trick, but it was amazing!

Yolande had called a French Salsa teacher, Fred Lassere, who was teaching the people how to dance. So it was a wonderful way to welcome the New Year.

Anyone looking for an unassuming place which is not ostentatious but has good food must surely come here.

Le Café

Anybody visiting Pondicherry can’t miss this Café on the Promenade. The best part is that it is open 24 hours, and the outside sitting area is so close to the sea that you can enjoy the sea waves crashing with your cup of coffee. There was something ethereal about the sight of the magnificent sun rising from the sea, after witnessing the glorious sun rise we walked into the Café for Breakfast. Sipping my coffee and biting into my croissant with the sound of waves as the music, was a scene out of my own dream-book.

Tanto’s

This restaurant is in Auroville. The first thing you notice here is the Huuuuge clay oven being used to bake fresh pizzas. The menu has French dishes also, but basically this place specializes in Italian. The dessert, Panna Cotta with chocolate sauce was delectably delicious. Auroville has many good restaurants with authentic cuisine.

Café Daily Bread

The best part about this place was its narrow gallery overlooking the street. It is a French patisserie but also offers a food menu. Surprisingly, their Biryani was very good.

Café Coffee.com

I can’t finish my trail without mentioning this Café. The heavy woodwork inside is worth admiring. This place is run by a Family. Where the father does most of the cooking including making his own ice- cream. This Café has its own cyber area, where you can sip your fragrant beverage while checking your email.

However, Beware you are forbidden to wear your foot-gear inside. So if you don’t mind removing your shoes and hanging out, this is the place to be!

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My Rendition of Pondicherry: Introduction

Renamed ‘Puducherry’ in 2006, this coastal union territory packs a punch in terms of an unreal experience. Something about ‘Puducherry’ could not conjure the same image as ‘Pondicherry’ for me, if you ask me the reason for it, I wouldn’t know.  Interestingly, it seemed that the locals and the people in Tamil Nadu were also bitten by the same bug and they continue with ‘Pondy’ and ‘Pondicherry’, as if the change means nothing to them. But as Shakespeare pointed out, what’s in a name?

Travelers looking for peace and quiet would love Pondicherry. However, anybody expecting a Goa like party frenzy will be disappointed; this is a place to spend time with yourself and in many ways to find yourself again.

Unlike my usual trips, I decided to travel blind, where I did not research like I usually do and just randomly made a plan to go to Pondicherry; I guess I wanted to be surprised. Mind you, we were travelling there for the New Year and we hadn’t even made our hotel reservations (which is a dumb thing to do, but I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before). I was travelling with a friend so it wasn’t that foolish, but foolish nonetheless, knowing how crowded the place would be.

We took a bus to Pondi from Chennai. After the three and half hour bus drive, we reached Pondicherry, and that is when I started hyperventilating. The place was awash with tourists, and every place we went to had no rooms available. The thought uppermost in my mind was, would we never get a place to stay? After a three hour search we finally managed to book into a very comfortable budget hotel on the Captain Marius Xavier Street which was not very far from the main square.

After thanking our stars for coming to our rescue we quickly grabbed some food and set out to explore this fascinating melting pot of cultures.

The Extraordinary Architecture: A Feast for the eyes!

What stood out was the architectural divide! The French rule which ended in the early 60s had a profound effect on the architecture and the plan of the town; all the streets have retained their French names .                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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The largest square in the city, Government square, is surrounded by all the public buildings, which can easily be labeled as the heart of the town. Wherever we went, we crossed this square at least twice a day.

In the colonial times, the city was divided into the White town and the Black town, interestingly, this can be still perceived in the architecture. The White Town (popularly known as the French Colony), is by the sea side, all the buildings are inspired by French Architecture ( usually yellow or orange)

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 which makes the whole experience of walking around them remarkable, as soon as we move a little further, we can see the buildings that are Franco- Tamil and which mark the Tamil Quarter. It was fascinating to see the changing look of the buildings.  Moving further was the Muslim Quarter characterized by mosques.

Even the churches have a Franco- Tamil feel to them

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The Beaches

The Promenade beach overlooking the Bay of Bengal is the most crowded and the most frequently visited beaches in the city. Its promenade is long and is surrounded by the White town on the other side, the promenade houses the most important memorials and statues.

The other beach, the Serenity Beach was a typical fishing beach with fishing boats and fishermen et al, unlike its name; it’s not very serene and is usually crowded, so there is nothing which can pass for a quiet and private beach around the city.       DSCN0717

The Auro Beach was also crowded with the local people and the fishermen were selling freshly cooked fish in small shacks. The locals explained that after the Tsunami raised the water level the beach here does not exist per se, a small strip of sand passes as the beach.  

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Arikamedu 

The highlight of my sojourn was a day trip to Arikamedu in Kakkayanthope, which is about 7 kms from the city.  This was a Tamil fishing village which archaeologists claim had trading ties with Rome in the pre- historic times; it was an important centre in bead making. Riding through the quiet south Indian village of Kakkayanthope (on a Scooty) was an experience I will never forget. The site looked abandoned and deserted with not  a  single soul present, after about half an hour we spotted a local on a bike; we stopped him to ask a few questions. He enthusiastically informed us how the ancient Arikameduans used an underground tunnel to transport their goods to a nearby port which would then be sent to Rome. The tunnel in question was covered by a thick covering of trees and vegetation.
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It was a surreal experience to stand at the very place, which despite being a quiet South Indian village had made a mark as an International Centre for bead making in as far back as 200 BC!  I could envision the bygone era… feel it in my bones. Today, the village has fallen into obscurity and the main site has been taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India. The artifacts, coins and pottery excavated from the site are displayed in the Pondicherry museum and some have been sent to the museums in Italy.

A Temple Town?

Like all the cities in Southern India, even this one was full of temples and shrines. The most remarkable feature about the temples in South India is that they are ostentatious and flamboyant, in a good way. Most of temple domes depict a scene from the Ramayana on the outside whereas the temples in the north have all the depictions on the inside.

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The Sri Aurobindo Ashram

No post about Pondicherry can be complete without the mention of the ‘Ashram’; the building is small and looks quite unassuming from the outside. But as soon as I went inside, I was struck with stillness, it seemed like time stood still and all my worries and inhibitions left me. The peace and serenity engulfed me as I sat there for about two hours. The energy in that place was poignant. Even now, while writing, I can feel Goosebumps on my arm just thinking about that place.

My next post will cover my gastronomic adventures and obviously Auroville!!!!