Incredible India: The French Flavour of Pondicherry

In the morning Denis and I stared for Pondicherry. On the way to the bus pickup point we had the usual street tea with milk. I think I got addicted to the drink; I will be drinking it throughout the trip. During the 2-km walk Denis shared a lot insights from his previous and current trip in India.

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Last minutes in Mamallapuram

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The mix of tradition and modernity is commonplace in India

The 2-hour bus ride was awesome. A typical here old local bus horning loudly all along the way, with traditional Indian music on. We had amazing conversation with Denis (or Danesh as Ravi called him :)), all of the topics related to India somehow.

On arrival to Pondicherry’s bus station we asked for the way to downtown from the policemen. Indian police enjoys high authority and reputation, and it’s safe to ask them as they know what they are talking about :). As we started walking, I had mixed feeling again – the city was a mix of noise, dust, crazy traffic (or rather “normal”, but I just didn’t get used to it), lots of bad smells on the one hand; and on the other hand exotic surroundings, the mix of traditional and modern (like cows walking next to cars on the roads, Indian women in traditional dress riding scooters), friendly and smiling people. I think I started learning how to stay away from value judgements; I was observing everything without classifying it wither bad or good.

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Temple along the road

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A cow and an old man

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The old man was waving his stick to us.

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Podicherry’s main road – hell for Western pedestrians, common for Indian ones

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Old man using traditional ironing style – with red-hot charcoals

We stopped by at a local market, very authentic, and took some pictures with the sellers. Denis is a professional photographer, I wish I had the same skills. Afterwards we headed for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram since I planned to rent a room at the ashram’s guesthouse for 1 or 2 days. On the way we stopped at Sri Manakula Vinayagar Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesh. It was quite spectacular inside. As we were about to leave and asked for the shoes back at the entrance, the shoe collector asked us to give a donation in return. He looked a bit pissed off when I handed in a 100-rupee note and demanded 90 rupees back. Needless to say, many around were trying to sell us something.

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At the Hindu temple

During this day we walked a whole lot. We wandered through the French Quarter which didn’t look like India at all (as it turned out many Indians had dual Indian-French citizenship here); walked along the beach promenade and saw the Gandhi Memorial; chilled out a bit in the Bharathi par; wandered through the Tamil quarter too; had our share of chai and street delicacies. But most importantly the day brought me a very important lesson – don’t set goals in India; just relax and let it go.

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Beach promenade

Denis told me about the same in the morning. He emphasized there’s no need to try to solve things; in India somehow they are solved in the best optimal way; just trust the Universe. I kind of accepted that before on an intellectual level; but to experience it yourself is a different thing. What happened in Pondicherry was that I was looking all day long for a guesthouse with an optimal price, and could find none. Towards the day I started getting nervous and tired. Finally in the afternoon we went back to the bus terminal, where there was another bad option which I rejected. Since we were at the terminal anyway, I enquired about the route Kanyakunari (Cape Comorin) where I planned to the following day. An it turned out there was only one direct bus, and it was leaving in 1.5 hours. The timing was perfect!

So everything during that day happened for the better. Similar situations happened to me in the past; but I guess I didn’t learn the lesson fully, that’s why it came back. I think India has lessons to give to everyone.

I said farewell to Denis, and boarded the bus soon. It was a semi-sleeper, and the time of journey was 13 hours overnight. It was hard in the beginning with the usual bumps on the roads, but then I got used to it and could even get some sleep. On the bus I met a plastic surgeon who worked in Pondicherry in a public clinic. I was surprised to find out that the clinic gave their plastic surgery services to public for free.

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Gandhi Memorial

Another day was gone full of impressions and lessons. Towards 8 in the morning I was at Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of India where the waters of three great basins unite – the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arab Sea.

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