After bidding goodbye to cold weather and chilly winds 3 weeks ago, it was time to turn on the heat.
The last three weeks have been hectic. The mind's been crawling, and i've caught myself snoring on the keyboard almost everyday between 2pm-6pm. The eyes simply shuts close during this period. I escaped the first week blaming it on the Jet-lag, while looking up the dictionary for words with the same meaning, so i could use it during the coming weeks. After 3 weeks of torture, it was time for a break, i thought.
with four of us planning to hit pondicherry over the weekend, it seemed like good days ahead. The last time i remember touring India was when bullock carts were advertized on TV as the finest means of transportation and about the only thing the traffic police did then was wear the right uniform for the day.
with enthusiasm touching record levels, myself and karthik
got into an auto to drive us to the railway station.
the auto driver : "Saar meter haakla, athva haage rate helala ?" ( shall i turn on the taxi meter or shall i estimate the rate without that ?)...while i kept wondering whether it was a game the auto driver played to amuse himself by guessing the taxi rate, or did he accidentally notice cauliflowers behind my ears, karthik replied back:
"meter haaki, nimge yaak kashta" (put on the meter, why do you have to go through the trouble)..it did take me sometime to realize that it was a sarcastic remark :P...
i guess the driver took offense of it, for he seemed to go slow enough for us to actually get down and smell-the-flowers
Reaching the railway station, where praveen joined us, we moved around for sometime before finding our train. I ran to a nearby makeshift shop on the platform to buy a bottle of water.
Me: "idu olley brand aa ?" (is this a good brand ?)
seller: "Any time saar!"
Me(slightly shocked at the emphatic reply)
: "Oh wow! sari kodi!" (give me right away!)
Happy about the deal i had got, i sat down looking at the bottle, and turned it around to read the letters printed on the bottle "Any Time Mineral water"....Ah ! ok.
The travel was uneventful with all of us dozing off as soon as the train picked up speed. Reaching Chennai Central at 5am the next morning, pradeep picked us up from the station and we got into a taxi to start our short journey to pondicherry.pondicherry, a french colony earlier, is a place quite different from many other. With very little recollection of a place i had been to when 2 feet pygmies competed with me in height competitions, i only hoped that the place hasn't changed much since.
Reaching pondicherry at about 8am, we searched around for a hotel to find one just off the beach.
Walking down the streets filled with sellers and tourists, the bustling marketplace was busy as ever. sale everywhere with confused tourists blinking at dilapidated buildings trying to make sense out of it.
"Nah Dear! this one's just another building...the book doesnt mention it"
with a tour guide book in hand, often tourists try to make sense of what's in it with what's not there than what's out there.
Deciding to go to auro beach in the evening we tracked back after baking ourselves for a little longer in the scorching sun. Hungry like ravens, we walked along the streets looking for a hotel....and found none other than "Hotel Ananda Bhavan"...."Ananda Bhavan" is such a popular name for a hotel in this part of the world, some hotels paint the name in different colors just to differentiate themselves from fellow ananda bhavans..
Walking into the hotel, we planted ourself onto the nearest dining table, when praveen muttered loudly "Oh man! i can drink 6 coke bottles now!". No sooner had the waiter heard this, than he jumped towards refrigerator and voila! 6 bottles of KOKA's KOLA. It was like a wish come true, but only this time it was the waiter's wish. The next 2 minutes went in explaining to the waiter how badly we didnt want the drink, and that praveen habitually shouted this way whenever he was hungry!
With all 6 KOKAs out of sight, we ordered "Veg north indian meals".....the food did look like veg, and the only thing north indian about it was the bill. thoroughly unimpressed by the food and the lack of service, pradeep tried to act smart by leaving a 1 rupee tip. enraged by this, the waiter called him back just when we were about to leave and dropped the one rupee into pradeep's pocket, like it was HunDi. laughing out loudly at the rotund thug, we ran towards the door with the booty.
After a nice afteroon siesta, we hopped back into the car where the driver lay drunk and sodden. exchanging nervous looks, we sat in the car asking him to drive us to auro beach. hoping to catch a nice evening sunset, we stay put in the car, watching the driver zig zag past the cows and humans with utmost indifference. after about 30 minutes of driving us through narrow lanes, he dropped us at auroville ashram ! the drunk moron had confused auro ashram for auro beach!..one in the west, and the other in the east, 10km apart...with still time in hand to catch the sunset at the beach, we hurried into the ashram, to get a quick glance, before we ran back to the car.
Zooming along, we reached the entrance of the beach, where a huge board said:
"Aurovillians and guests only"...cursing the place for discriminating so blatantly, we took the other entrance meant for indians. At the beach, a long rope separated the foreigners from the locals, with a board that read "Please protect the privacy of the people at the beach. Do not Stare!", while the guard, supposedly posted there to make sure this was followed, was busy staring himself.
Well we did realise one thing really late.....Damn! we were always going to miss the sunset over the beach...we were in the east! The sun was quietly setting behind the coconut trees.
At the sight of the beach, i had turned half-mad and it didnt take long to go that extra mile to turn crazy, when i decided to try and float on my back. while i was busy trying my tips and tricks to float in this fashion, a huge wave gobbled me up and threw me towards the shore, leaving fans laughing hysterically at the sight. My honeymoon with the sea was now over.
dipping ourselves until it was dark, we returned to our hotel room. We decided to roam the city, before we stuffed ourselves with pizza.pondy did seem to have changed a lot, with shops of all sizes and shapes everywhere. the excess population seemed to have destroyed the city, but the charm was there. french looked well at home, with "rue" stamped on every street board..."rue" is french for street, i was later told.
With praveen the only tamil link, the rest of us simply nodded in acknowledgement to whatever answers we got vis-a-vis directions.
The next day we got up early to start our journey towards mahabalipuram. I wanted to go to the beach once again, but was assured that mahabalipuram was nothing but miles of beach, and i'd have ample chances to try my tricks.
The ECR or the East Coast Road, is a long stretch of road along the beach and is a brilliant 1.5 hour drive to Mahabalipuram. With cool breeze all over, it was fantastic to be sitting in the car watching the beach on our right, and the long stretch of salt harvesting fields on the left. 1/2 an hour into the drive, we spotted a beach area that was devoid of people, and we decided to stop in, to hop in. we jetted towards the beach, that was, simply put, awesome! with a few fishermen trying their luck on our right, i jumped into the water. pondicherry has got the beaches ! some of the best i've seen. Stopping at places either for a pic, or for a tender coconut drink, the entire drive was highly gratifying, which also put me to sleep as we headed to mahabalipuram by noon.
"Eddolo Mele, banthu ..." ( Get up ! we are here !)waking me up, the other three ran out with their cameras, while i took time to collect my stuff for swimming in the bay.
I followed them, while they rushed towards what looked like a shack that was selling some kind of tickets. well i was too excited to actually care to see what they were trying to buy, as long as i am let into the beach....a few seconds later
"Lo Eno Thandidia ??" (what the hell have you got with you ?),
shouted pradeep looking at the swimming trunks in my hand.
still drowsy, i replied back "unlike you, i am planning to swim in the beach!"
pradeep startled and enraged, "unlike you, others go to the temple here! there isnt any beach nearby!"
"WHAT!!!!, arent we at the beach ??"
....While the rest went in with cameras, i went in with swimming trunks in my hand, trying to hide it from prying eyes! After loitering around for sometime we headed towards the shore temple to finally head towards the beach.
I had bought a huge beach hat, which i wore, but somehow the driver couldn't stop laughing at me. The Drunk moron was weird in many ways, another one to add i thought.
The beach as before was great, and clean!....after a few photo-ops, we jumped around in the water till dusk. packing our stuff, we walked down the rows of shops near the beach. I planned to buy a few shells that was being sold.
"Evolo ?"..( how much ?),
i tried to, in tamil..
"moopathanji saaar" ( !!!!
"Lo praveen, eshto adu? " ( praveen, how much did he mention ?)
"35" praveen muttered..
bargaining has never been my forte, but i'd not shell out 35 for shells!
"evolo, kammi solri ?" ( @#$%@#$ ), i tried to get some words out..
seller : "!!!!"
"saar kammi ille...ok 20 kuDungo ..." ( give 20)
i had started off to hand over the money, happy about the deal, but pradeep interjected...
"Lo 15 ge kelo" ( Ask for 15!)
"Lo hogo, i cant try again in tamil..more over i dont know what 15 means in tamil, praveen's already in the car"
"pannajji ge kuDkriya ?"....pradeep tried now...
wonder what pradeep had asked, the seller was visibly angry, snatching the shells away from me unceremonisously from me, while i was busy trying to check out the design.
"pannaji kuDkraanda iva, POYAYO POYA !" shouted the seller, pointing at pradeep and later at me !, with the "POYAYO POYA" markedly louder and echoing all over!
well i didnt get what was happening, but it looked very funny the way pradeep shouted back something in half baked french, while i mumbled "BEDA BIDI, NEEVE ITKOLI" ( I dont want it, you can keep the dumb shells to yourself!).
the fiasco notwithstanding, we searched around for more things to buy, and finally got into the car to drive us back to chennai. Reaching chennai, and after having dinner at "Saravana Bhavan", we finally made it to the bus terminal to board the bus to bangalore.
Long beaches, clean shores, countryside view....all we had asked for, and a weekend well spent.
for now, i am all ready for more of such trips, and any proposal would recieve a thumping "Any time Saar!" from me :D...Credits :- Picture support from Karthik and Praveen.