Quaint little bungalows crop up as you drive along. Roads widen and now the breeze has turned into a persistent wind. Your eyes scour for the first hint of the virgin blueness of the sea. Your hand automatically runs through your hair, looking for grains of sand. There is a certain surreal feeling of time having slowed down. And everything seems muted. Even your emotions. And the light seems filtered. And the sounds seem faraway. Pebble beach. There is a drone in the air. Elsewhere it would have been the din and bustle of the crowd. Here in Pondicherry, it is magically de-amplified to a background drone. Like the static in your head.
I don’t know what it is about this place. The potent mixture of secluded beaches, cheap booze, old world charm of Portuguese quarters, roaring waves, open roads, French bakeries, foreigners in saffron shorts driving rickety bikes on dusty roads.
Darkness descends, and with it a certain formlessness. Pondicherry’s numbness, its unhurried charm is wonderful in the afternoon sun. In the night, it leaves you with the uneasy thoughts of being stuck in limbo. The slowed down time has to be sped up with the dirt cheap alcohol and thumping music.
Pondi was freedom.
Pondi was about letting go.
The first step to finding yourself.
Pondi was about not being scared of falling.
Of Failing. Yourself. Everything else.
Pondi was about a few shots of tequila downed to the accompaniment of mango “thotu” pickle sachets (in absence of the more traditional lime and salt) and the streets going in and out of focus.
Pondi was about getting up and feeling alright.
Even if the night seemed like it would never end.
It was about the dull glare of the milky white neon lights, cobbled, crisscrossing streets.
About finding order and purity in the midst of the inconceivable chaos of your mind.
Pondi was about that eternal clock that would wind you down till you move in sync with its idyllic pace.
You could live your life to Jack Johnson’s “Inaudible melodies” here. Its as if this beautiful place whispers “Slow down everyone, you’re moving too fast, Frames can’t catch you when you’re moving like that”.
Pondi was about eating tofu noodles at the friendly French lady’s quaint little restaurant while her cat purred benignly at you.
It was about the nth can of beer being passed around while conversations were weaved around things that mattered.
(Rather things that should matter but didn’t because the world wasn’t Pondi. Or vice versa.)
Pondi was about Life that Should Be.
It was also about the search for something that you cannot quite find.
Pondi was about French bakeries in the middle of nowhere serving the best walnut fudges and brownies.
Pondi was about number plates on bicycles.
And spiritual junkies and golden domes.
It was about simple things. One way or the other.
Pondi was about dharma beads. Om tee shirts. Potpourri. All branded. And housed in gilded cases.
Pondi was about a wild, unconquerable sea. That one could master.
It was about liquid sunshine.
Exultant bodies fighting furious waves.
Caught in mid flight in the mind’s eye.
Pondi was about the Journey. Not the destination.
It was about road trips.
Singing Aerosmith’s “Dream on” in wild glee till your ‘happy high’ wore off from the effort.
Packed like sardines in a car with rolled down windows and stopping intermittently for random ‘breaks’.
Pondi was perhaps our last shot at happiness.
The weekend getaway to what Life Should Be. Pondi was where all the ‘wrong’ things became alright.
It was the price one had to pay (by scrubbing your jeans of the stickiness of the salty water and sand?) for having a regulator for life.
The loss of innocence in a way is bartered here for something infinitely precious.
The solemn acceptance of higher things while one quietly brushes aside Pondi’s promise of spiritual rebirth.
There was something here. That you could not quite fathom.
In the red earth of Aurovile, the dust covered, now brown leaves, the quaint turnings that the road took and the peace that pervaded the place.
Pondicherry is essentially about suspension.
Of judgement. Of labels.
Of belief and disbelief alike.
Pondicherry is about being at ease
Pondicherry is grey
Despite all its breathtaking colors.
Anindita Deo amuses herself with words while going on with the business of living. Occasional writer. Compulsive Doubter. Incorrigible traveller. Insatiable reader. Published in a couple of literary journals: here and here. Collects gems here.