Visit to the Aurobindo Ashram

I cannot recall when I first visited the Aurobindo Ashram. I was aware that both my parents were staunch believers of the Mother and I vaguely recall having visited the Ashram to learn eye exercises. We used to visit Pondicherry at least once every year for a really loong time. This was my first trip where the objective was not to only visit the Ashram. The Ashram is quite close to the beach road but it took us forever to find the place. When we managed to find the place, I found that it had not changed much and suddenly I had tears in my eyes. It was weird. I was probably feeling overwhelmed ’bout visiting one of the places of my childhood memories. Everything seemed exactly the same. The Ashram has the samadhis of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Cameras are not allowed inside the Ashram and so this is the only picture we could take of the Ashram. I did not want to spend too much time inside and so we left.

As I mentioned earlier, all the streets have French names that are very difficult to pronounce. While there are sign boards all over the place, they are not really tourist-friendly. Of course, it is a small place and after doing multiple chakkars, you will be back right where you started. Also, remember ask natives of Pondicherry ’bout the place you want to visit because almost every third person you see on the road is a tourist. Of course, if you can speak Tamil, half your battle is already won.

What a hectic day. We were very tired and headed back to the resort. We thought it may be a good idea to visit the beach attached to the resort. We changed and went out to the beach and spent exactly 5 minutes when the security guard told us to get back. According to him, some bad elements usually come out to the beach after 7 pm and they did not want any folks who stay at the resort to be embarrassed. Though shocked, we returned to our room. What an end to a nice day!

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Pondy Church Sight-Seeing

The next day dawned bright and sunny. By the time I woke up, the Arien had already finished his chakkar of the resort and the beach. I would have liked to do the same but was informed by the Arien that if we wanted to see some of the places before it got too warm, we had to leave now. Well, when the Arien is logical, he is 200% logical and so there is really no point arguing. I got ready as quickly as possible and we set out.

The first place we reached by following the exact same route that we took yesterday was the Railway station. As we continued driving, we came across a beautiful church which is known as the Sacred Heart of Jesus church. We walked inside. It had lovely stained glass panels and was a visual treat. We went in and sat for a while. It had a calming effect on us. This church reminded me of the St. Philomina’s church in Mysore. However,  this church is more colourful. You can read about the St. Philomina’s Church in Mysore, here.

We then visited another church, Church of our Lady of Immaculate Conception. It was a white church. Most of the buildings in Pondicherry are of a bright white shade. The church was closed for worship and it was quite warm. We stood outside for a while, took some snaps and then I escaped to a handicraft mela opposite to the church. I was hoping it would be cooler. Well, it was not. Anyway, I spent a good half an hour there before the Arien got bugged and so we decided to have lunch.

We were going to have lunch at a place called Satsanga. Now, the names of the streets in Pondicherry are in French and can be quite confusing. I mean, Satsanga was on Rue Labourdonnais. Pronouncing that name was a challenge. The Arien promptly asked me to ask for directions!! Most ppl I asked turned out to be tourists. The others had no clue ’bout what I was saying 😦

Finally, one person sent us in the right direction after informing us that the street name was pronounced as lebor-dannis! Satsanga was a shocker in terms of the decor even if it was more an outdoor cafe than a restuarant. Both of us were slightly disappointed. Considering that the restuarant was known for French and Italian cuisine – food is quite bland which was a turn off for the Arien. I also found it slightly bland. The service was shockingly slow. But, surprisingly for the first time during the day, we relaxed. We sat and observed the other guests. There were very few Indians. I always thought Indians were talkers but I was forced to change my opinion as I saw another guest chatting nineteen to a dozen. 

We decided to visit the Aurobindo Ashram post lunch. That will be part of the next post. 🙂

Sight-seeing on Pondicherry Beach Road

The first place we visited was the beach. While I had been to Pondicherry umpteen times, I did not recall how we reached the beach at all and so I was no help at all to the Arien, who was equally clueless. Anyway, we got lost a couple of times but we reached the beach only to find that the beach road is usually off-limits for vehicles in the evening on some days. We finally found a place to park and walked back. The beach was crowded and we walked from one end to the Mahatma Gandhi statue on the other end. There were quite a few foreigners, either strolling on the beach with kids in tow, or running (exercising). The Arien waited till most of the folks were either too far away or were nearer the beach before he took this lovely shot of the beach road. It was quite warm and so Ice-cream break banta hai.

As we walked, eating the fast-melting ice-cream, and wiping the perspiration beads off our face, neck, etc. – we realized how much we love the Bangalore climate. In August, Pondicherry was quite warm, so warm that my ice-cream melted and fell down while I was eating it :O

As we continued our walk, we came across  the French War memorial, on the left.  I was very sure that the Aurobindo ashram was closeby. I could recall that part vividly. But, I was not sure which one of the gullies would lead us to the ashram and did not want to take chances. 

We also saw the Church of the Lady of our Angels. Some construction work was in progress. The Arien took multiple pictures of both. We reached the statue of Ghandiji and started walking back. A cool breeze was coming up and we were totally enjoying the walk. The Arien of course, was busy shooting pics.

It was almost the second time we were walking past the Le Cafe` and though I was not hungry, it looked quite inviting. I mean, I could easily see myself sitting there everyday. The Arien meanwhile wanted a shot of the Le Cafe` without ppl around. I thought that it was an imposs task but the optimist that the Arien is, we kept walking. 

It was quite late when he finally noticed that there was no one around Le Cafe` and took a picture just as the old man got out of the cafe and walked away. The Arien was not sure if he shd laugh or cry.  Soon, a lot of ppl were walking past the cafe and I cajoled the Arien to let it go. This was still Day 1 – we had at least 2 more days to go. He finally agreed and we moved on.

It was a lovely day and our holiday had just started. We drove back to the resort, after one wrong turn that made us go around the place once again! I was glad that it was only once. Well, if he had listened to me the first time, we would have reached the resort 😀 The Arien picked up some of the stuff he wanted and so was glad that we had lost our way!