Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Holiday To Remember

I firmly believe that a city is like a person’s mother. No matter how she is, we will always love her. In my case I’m blessed to have two such loving cities, Madras was the city where I was born and spent most of my summer holidays during childhood and Hyderabad was the city that brought me up and made me the man I am today. So both these cities hold an equally important place in my life. My trip to Madras and Pondicherry was my first trip out of Hyderabad in over a year and a half, so it was obviously a much awaited one for me. So let me in detail, take you through the six days of what I call A HOLIDAY TO REMEMBER.

Jan 23
After a no incidents train ride, I caught a bus and went to my Uncle’s place which is about 45 minutes from the Central station. I decided to not do too much on that day, so didn’t make any plans. But didn’t want to be stuck at home all day either, so I visited the famous Kabaleeshwara temple in Mylapore passing through most of the busy roads in Chennai or Madras as I will be referring to it throughout the rest of the post. The temple is vast, has many shrines but mainly that of Shiva. Like any other South Indian temple complex it has a huge Gopuram and a lake inside the premises. It was a peaceful place and I went at a time when it isn’t particularly crowded. En route I saw the Akkineni Nageshwara Rao Park and the Andhra Mahila Sabha school where my mother had started off her career as a teacher before coming to Hyderabad. After this I headed back home, again local bus + shared auto formula, the cheapest way to get around after the famed Madras Electric Train. Madras is particularly balmy in the mornings, so are most of the coastal places in the winters I’d like to think. So I totally loved the weather for a change. Rest of the day I spent bonding with cousins Vishak and Ashok.

Jan 24
It was Vindhya’s birthday. For those of you who haven’t been introduced to Vindhya, she is doing her 3rd yr Biotech at IIT Madras. So I took a bus from the Vadapalani bus stand to IIT – M. It was one of those local deluxe buses, there is a lot of variety in the buses that ply in Madras, like in Bangalore. We have the rickety old ones to the new air conditioned ones with digital signboards.
Madras like any other Indian city suffers from the curse of excessive honking, processions, crazy autorickshaw drivers and the occasional jay walking cattle. So it was a while before I got to IIT-M. There I met up with Vindy, who had arranged for a bike. Met a few other friends who had come from Hyderabad. Meanwhile Vindy had made plans to go to an orphanage for HIV positive children called CHES. The place where they stayed was called ANANDA ILLAM (House of Joy). It certainly lived up to its name. As soon as we got there after a grueling bike trip, the kids came and clung to us like they had known us all along. It was a moving experience, most of these kids may not live to celebrate their 21st birthdays. The House Manager Mrs.Chitra and Father Samuel, the teacher explained to us how they learnt the essential education needed, and also played around for a while in the evenings.

It isn’t a walk in the park managing kids, they can be so absolutely unpredictable, some kids meddled with my shades, some played cricket with me, some of the younger ones pulled my hair, some begged to taken for piggy back rides, but I realized that in the end, all they needed was to be loved. Affection was one of the key factors that kept these kids from going into depression. I’d like to think, that I did my part and brought a few smiles to these children. Thanks Vindhya, firstly for the orphanage trip, secondly because, I got the chance to pass by the place where I lived as a kid. That house still remained as it had been so many years ago.
Meanwhile, we totally forgot our hunger, and in Madras no restaurants are open after 3. So after a lot of searching, we finally found a Pizza Hut in Adyar. After a quick lunch, we headed back to IIT. After this I met up with Deepthi, one of my seniors who was now working at Cognizant in Madras. We met at this place called Planet Yumm at Ascendas, a software complex on the Old Mamallapuram Road in the IT corridor. It was a super place and had most of the major food outlets, I tried some green tea for the first time and didn’t quite like. There was a lot of catching up that we did. Feels good to know that distance only makes people like you more. Went back to the IIT campus at about 8 in the night, spent some time with my classmates who were staying there and then headed for home. Unusually at 10.30, Madras had become a quite place, owing to its majority of early sleepers I presume. Next day it was off to Auroville.

Jan 25
Took an early bus out to Auroville via the East Coast Road, one of the most scenic highways in the country. It took me three hours to get to get there. After getting off at Periya Mudaliar Chavadi, I saw a signpost which said that Auroville was a further 8 kms inside. I had just had two glasses of milk in the morning. So mustering up all my strength, I started walking. I was about 5 kms into the township, when an auto stopped a few metres ahead of me, a smiling old gora asked me I needed a lift. I nodded and got in. He introduced himself as Alain. He was a frenchman working on a bio organic farm there. We spoke for the next 15-20 minutes as the auto made its way to the visitors centre. He explained to me how he had a carefree life in France and that he was busy here in Auroville, I told him the contrary, that Hyderabad was busy for me and that I had come to Auroville to slow things down. After saying bye to him, I went to the visitors centre where Eva , the receptionist there told me that it was peak season and that everything was full. So I trudged back the beach, 8 kms , stopping for a few idlis at Dinesh Tea and Snacks. After getting the beach, I looked around and finally found a lovely place to stay in. It was owned by a German couple. The lady was of Malaysian Tamil ethnicity, so she could speak Tamil. Her husband was German. Padmini Aunty showed me up to the cottage which was supported by 8 stone pillars and was made of bamboo sticks and dried coconut leaves. I loved the place immediately, it had place for 3-4 people and a table fan, a bulb and a mosquito net.
I must have slept for 3-4 hours after that 15 km walk. Aunty came and woke me up and we spoke for a long time. I loved the hammock in front of her house. Throughout the trip, I spent many hours in that hammock. As the heat receded, I went and explored the beach, from the pier down south to the fishing village in the north. Here I ran into a very heart warming site, a Tibetan single father and his daughter. He was teaching her to swim on the beach, and everytime she successfully completed a stroke she would come running back to her father and kiss him.
My alone time was going to come to an end. Harsha and Sneha said they would be joining me in the night. Sneha’s uncle was at the Aurobindo Ashram. So she would be going there, and Harsha would stay with me. They arrived three hours later at around 8 in the night, we came back to the cottage, put their luggage. Then we made our way to THE BEACH CAFÉ for dinner. (Remember the Indica V2 advertisement, that place only). This was a place where people of all nationalities ate and socialized together. Knowing Tamil made things easier for me, but the Europeans were pretty happy speaking in Francais and Deustche too, of course I managed with the limited knowledge of these languages that I had. We strolled around on the beach after that. The stars, the sea and us, along with a few dark silhouetted people in the distance. The night was breathtaking. It was off to sleep after an eventful day.

Jan 26
Republic Day. We woke up to a few local numbers being played out after the traditional National Anthem. Some events were being held in the local village on this occasion and the loudspeakers were on full volume, much to the amusement of the Europeans residing in the area. The three of us decided to head to the beach that morning. We loafed around, I even did a Daniel Craig imitation on the beach and kept getting battered around by the waves. Then we went back, showered and headed to Pondicherry. Here with Sneha’s uncle assistance we hired a bike and explored most of French town and the Indian quarter. We also saw the Samadhi of Shri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Since booze sells at half the price in Pondicherry, compared to other states, my friend wanted to make optimum use of this. So we went to the seaside Ajantha. I had a Virgin Mary. He had his fill. We returned to Auroville and headed towards the Matrimandir, the main meditation hall in Auroville. It is a golden sphere which signifies the divine power. Inside it is a meditation chamber entirely in white marble with a single ray of light passing through. There was also a placed called the Lotus bud which has the soil of 124 nations in it, placed during the foundation of Auroville. It was a pleasant evening and as we made our way to the cafeteria, we saw posters saying that the Auroville Theatre Group would be staging an adaptation of Hamlet. So we hastily made our way back to the Beach café, had some coffee and garlic bread, went to the cottage, had a cold shower and went to the Town Hall Plaza where it was being staged. As we were leaving, Aunty warned me to wear pants during the night because there would be too many mosquitoes and it would get cold. But I didn’t listen and went ahead.
The play was captivating. Probably one of the few occasions where one would find Indians, French, German and Tibetan actors on the same stage. I faced the wrath of the cold on our way back. We did all sorts of crazy things en route, there were hardly any vehicles on the road, so we went a few seconds switching off our headlights. Crazy and Scary simultaneously. After dinner, a few hours of silence followed and then we went off to sleep.

Jan 27
My last day in Pondicherry, I woke up and headed to see the sunrise alone. It was spectacular. I headed back to the cottage and had coffee with Padmini Aunty and her daughter as Harsha was still asleep. It was more roaming around French town. We checked out most of the places, went to the Puducheri museum, The Manakula Vinayakar Temple and a French restaurant called La Maree.

Contrary to what you all might think, every cuisine offers decent vegetarian fare and I feasted on the food at hand. It was very nicely done, tres francais to be precise. Then we sat on the rocks at the beach and shopped for some handmade products. After this, my friend Puppy dropped me at the bus stand and I made for Chennai.It was Sunday evening and getting a ticket was a pain, the junta in my bus were packed in like a can of sardines. But the trip was fun anyway, the highways in Tamilnadu have improved a lot over the years. On the way, I saw the Panchavati Hanuman temple, the idol here is really huge. After getting to Madras, I ate and slept.

Jan 28
Last day of my holiday. Didn’t have too many plans. Went to Landmark, Nungambakkam. Bought a few books for my cousins. Went to the coffee day nearby, sipped Ethiopian Coffee and caught a bus back home.
I packed and arrived at the station long before anyone else. They were all running late. A few of them were a little too late and one guy pulled the chain, I was the tamil translator and we were let off the hook with a fine. I stayed up late talking to friends in the train. It had certainly been a HOLIDAY TO REMEMBER.

PS: For a week no one spoke of b schools, college and there was no gossip. So it was all the more peaceful.


Anonymous said...

okies firstly

very very nice trip i must say n also very very adventrous

n did u actually have reservations at the french place or u just walked in ??

n how abt putting up more pics

Velcro said...

Aah..Nostalgia in the form of a nice long smooth blog post.. Enjoyed the read.. not forgetting to mention the fact that i couldn't agree less on the ECR being one of the best Highways of the country, with a peak-a-boo at the Bay of Bengal at parts nearing Mammallapuram.. The beauitful Auroville..the cottages, the kashmiri shop around the corner, Auro Beach at Periya Mudaliar Chavadi(dunno what that means)...thanks for the nostalgia.. :)

Anonymous said...

lovely ...very very.
now the crib:
it felt like an account, an entry...where is the stuff in between the lines? (that's the readers job, i know. but you used to make it easier for us earlier). said...

experience over entertainment


the in between lines part


Anonymous said...

seems like u had an amazing time macha !!!!
it was interesting!
and which jack..... pulled the chain?????

Anonymous said...

Nicely described...too much u already said...A holiday to remember...

Dream said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Indeed a holiday to remember! exploring new places can be as exciting as ever. The smooth narration actually takes us along the journey. Ready for a repeat holiday at auroville?

veggietigress said...

One Word.


dcsjobs said...

dude nice post! made me so nostalgic about my eventful trip to chennai last year!

Anonymous said...

:-) chanced upon you blog from cv's......its great to do impulsive stuff sometimes....i was in chennai from 23rd to 28th.....i wish i had some good company with me was lights off for the guys at 9...boring bums......check mahabalipuram out....but that was it....
We had so much trouble with the lingo though....i managed to survive with just "vanda".Anything the auto guy says i said vanda. Had some nice food though....this place called Saravana Bhavan....mmmm, nice food.
You should put up more pictures......and when you take pictures the next time, try to experiment with a few angles and the view from each one to get a good shot. :-) Nice post.

Schmetterling said...

Pondicherry rocks :) As does Madras!!!

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