Got to Love the French

Pondicherry Travel Blog

 › entry 32 of 37 › view all entries

In the morning we walked across the street to the Sai Baba temple, and meditated again.  Meditation started becoming and theme, and I was glad Kelsey was into it. I still feel a bit uncomfortable dropping the “Hey, you know what would be fun, lets go meditate for an hour” bomb on people.  So no bomb dropped, she was into it.


Then, we boarded the bus on to Pondicherry.  It was a commuter buss, packed with people, but we got the seat in the back.  Cruising along the ECR (East Coast Road) I pulled out the Swami Vivekananda Karma Yoga book that I bought in Kanyakumari.  Again he followed me…  Kelsey opted not to read on the bus, but she asked if I would read aloud.  So there we go, 3 ½ hours, driving along the east coast of India, past the rice fields, the farmers, the rickety cars.  The wind in my face, Indians trying to overhear us speaking English, and me reading about Karma Yoga ~ the yoga of how to act in life.  We read a few pages, then launched into conversation, then returned to reading.  The bus ride passed quickly.  We were sharing our history, sharing stories, and winding our way to Pondicherry.  On the way, I talked to Aman ~ my roommate in Vipassana, oh so long ago.  He was already in Pondicherry.  So we made plans to meet him.  It was Easter, and he said the place was packed.  I really wanted to stay at the Park Guest House, a Sri Aurobindo Ashram guest house, right on the water.  It was recommended by my yoga teacher Yoga Meenakshi and the Bible.  But we only had wrong numbers.  So we booked into the nearby hotel for a whopping Rs. 2200 per night.  Upon arrival, we checked the Park Guest House, just in case.  And sure enough, there was a room available.  Rs. 600.  We got the Generosity room!  


We rented bikes and headed out to find evening yoga class.  Unfortunately we struck out on that – nothing is perfect, but in the process we toured the little city (only 220,000).  The Bible describes it, “With its seafront promenade, wide boulevards, enduring pockets of French culture and architecture, and a popular ashram, Pondicherry is unlike anywhere else in South India.”  It was the perfect break for me.  The French named brick streets, European architecture, coffee shops and European food brought a welcomed dietary detour.  After going bust on the yoga, Kelsey and I headed back to the room and did a quick sun salutation to the rising golden full moon above the Bay of Bengal.  Then a quick cold shower, and to Satsanga for dinner. 


Aman grew a huge beard, which dwarfed my mustache.  I was very insecure!  Satsanga was a cute little French like restaurant, just up the street from Park.  Beneath the stars, in the warm sea breeze I ate an ORGANIC SALAD, GRILLED SOLE, AND MASHED POTATOES.  For dessert, we ate CHOCOLATE MOUSSE.  I was in heaven.  It had been so long since I had a salad.  It was really just plain lettuce, but was so good!  At 10:30 the guest house closes its doors, so we split before curfew.  We talked about India, meditation, life, growing up, good times, bad times.  We talked openly, unguardedly in the Generosity room.   We talked until my eyes grew so heavy and sleep overtook me.  At 12:30 I succumbed, slipped under the covers.  The moonlight shone threw the window and the waves crashed on the beach.  I fell deeply asleep and had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time. 


We awoke at 7ish and we started talking again.  10:00 crept up on us.  I cannot relay how good it felt to speak conversational English.  To just say what was on my mind as it rose up.  No editing, no censuring, no trying to find the simplest way to state it.  And then add to that, the freedom to discuss yoga, meditation, people we’ve met doing both, life changes, job changes, transformative India.  I was drinking it all in so I had a store of it to return home with.  Too hot for yoga, Kelsey and I wandered down to the meditation garden, and settled into a half hour meditation. Monkey brained again, I drifted in and out of concentration, felt on the verge of sleeping, then catching myself and snapped back to.  But it felt good to sit and be still.  To listen to the ocean and smell the sea and feel the salt. 


Then we met Aman at Kashi ki aashi.  Across the canal (there once was water there) up the narrow staircase, and onto the rooftop, bamboo thatched hut with ceiling fan, cushioned chairs we had breakfast. Wheat pancakes with honey, butter and jam.  I had all three!  Then a cup of thick, bitter, strong, pungent coffee!  It was a visceral experience.  Everything in Pondicherry moved slowly for us, as did our 1 and a half hour breakfast!   Full, we peddled the bikes down the New Orleanesque French streets, to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.  We entered the Ashram and I knelt next to the flower-covered Samadhi (tomb venerated as a shrine) of Aurobindo and the mother.  The flowers were yellow and red and violet.  But more than the colors, sweet auroma overwhelmed me.  With my head on the Samadhi and flowers drowning out all other senses, I quietly prayed ~ I could think of nothing else but the fragrant flowers, and I was totally calm.  The three of us walked past the private gate and into another meditation hall, where we meditated before the Mother’s bed for about 40 minutes. 


After all this meditation, and relaxation, we practically floated into the bookshop, where I again loaded up on several more books.  Well one solid book on Integral Yoga ~ as Kelsey pointed out – how fitting that the lawyer needs the “how to book.”  Then several little pamphlets on fear and death by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. 


After sometime, we peddled over to  Another choice of mine and ate a huge veggie baguette sandwich and another coffee.  Not sure if you are catching the theme ~ but I was craving coffee, meditation, and a little bit of the west.  The young Indian woman serving us spoke with an Indo-French accent and conversed in French with the French Patrons.  I was LOVING it.  Kelsey and Aman made plans to go to Auroville the following day, and I made mental plans to return to Madurai. 


I hadn’t figured out how to get to Villalapuram to catch the train I was supposed to have caught 3 hours earlier in Chennai.  So we rode to the bus stand to see where Kelsey could take a yoga class in the morning. 


That’s when we discovered rush hour on bicycles at the bus depot.  I think, if there are three things never to put together in India (excluding water) it is a bicycling white person, an Indian rush hour, and huge late busses trying to save time.  It was a zoo.  Busses honking as they overtook us on bicycles only a few inches away.  Literally, I could look and smell the tired as it spun passed my head.  Kelsey almost was run over, and I grabbed her arm to pull her as the buss bore down on her without even the squeal of a brake.  Adrenalin was pumping as we said forget the yoga place and went in search of the train station.  There we learned that the last train to Villalapuram already left.  So it was the bus after all.  Without time for dinner, we went back to the room and repacked.  I inherited more Emergen C, mosquito coils, books, and a bag.  Aman and Kelsey took me back the bus depot, where I boarded a packed commuter bus – standing room only, and at 9:00 began my return journey to Madurai.   


At the train station in Villupurim, I kicked off my Keens, and with a bottle of water, some black tea, a bag of biscuits, and a lot of mosquito repellant, I read more Vivekananda waiting for my train.  At midnight it arrived, I climbed into my 3AC bunk, and slept until Madurai at 5:00 a.m. 



musicdan says:
Frickin' A... you were cruisin' with Kelsey? That's insane!
Posted on: Apr 18, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: joehobo