In the early first week of the month of June, when I booked my tickets for Pondicherry I hoped and prayed that the day I was to spend in Chennai, 19th June, not be that hot since I had heard a lot about Chennai heat.
Ironically, 19th June was the hottest day of the year.
By late night I was in Pondicherry. I just wanted to visit the place and see the Bay of Bengal. I did not expect anything much. Heck, I did not even expect the hot weather.
As you walk by the straight and clean roads of Pondicherry, the city constantly reminds you of its French past. This was a colony of the French while the rest of India was in the British rule. The only exceptions were Pondicherry, on the east coast, which was under the French and in the west coast, Goa, my home, which was under the Portuguese.
[Above: Pondicherry, by the sea]
On the walls of most of the houses, their French names are written in neat blue boards. The architecture is beautiful, more so in the city of Auroville (located near Pondicherry), which was a dream of Sri Aurobindo. Auroville is a must see.
The ashram of Sri Aurobindo is the main attraction and people come from all over the country to visit his samadhi (more about it, here). This is the city where he lived in exile and made his home since Sri Aurobindo was also involved in the freedom movement and was wanted by the British Authorities. No visit to Pondicherry is complete without spending some time at The Ashram. Also do not forget to visit the Aurobindo handmade paper factory. It is walking distance from The Ashram.
[Above: Under the white sky, Pondicherry, by the sea]
The best way to explore the city is by walking. It is an enjoyable experience. Walk, be patient and the city quietly unfolds itself to you. The residents, they all seem so welcoming.
Also make sure, that the bus you take from Chennai happens to be a day journey. At least make it that one way. Trust me you won’t regret the sight. The highway is all along the east coast. The bay flirts with the line of sight when, at times, it goes away. All through the journey you will have the treat of watching the Bay along the highway and the humid, salty breeze washing your face.
[Above: The Blessing]
By the way, now that I have travelled by road on both the east coast and the west coast, I think there will be less road journeys better than the ones on the west coast. I have travelled extensively on that side and each time I am left spellbound. In fact, since my family is still in Goa, I do these journeys every few months.
Coming back to the topic, Pondicherry is not a city for beach bummers. If you wish to do that, Goa is the place to be. I think this city is a place where you can get in touch with your inner self by exploring your own version of spirituality. I found it to be a quiet and silent place, even though locals insist that in the past it was much better. When I go again to Pondicherry, it will be only to spend some time back in the Ashram, in the day and sit by the Bay of Bengal, watching the limitless sea in the evening. These are enough reasons for me to visit Pondicherry again.
(PS: while visiting Chennai, do NOT miss the Idlis and the Dosas.)