Places to visit in Pondicherry -A Memoir travelogue.

Thought for a trip

My goals for traveling are mostly undefined and unplanned. The same thought came when the weekend holidays were on the verge of the Holi festival and I wanted to do something exciting and unexplored. Thinking about how to celebrate the festival in the best possible way is the question. I was not in a mood to stay indoors in the comfort of my room and sleep most of the time, hence I started exploring the internet to find are there any activities or trips going on to join the same as the pandemic time is prevailing.

Scrolling on Instagram I came to know about Hampi Tour through a tour agency, another option was the Malvan trip which I already completed in recent years. So after checking my work schedule, I planned for Hampi tour which was 4 days 3 Nights long commencing from 27-30 March 2021 covering the holidays. I gathered the initial information and itinerary about the trip and booked for the Hampi Tour by paying an initial amount. All planned well and I was excited for new destination and meeting new people.

But destiny has something else written this time. I got a call from the tour agency that the trip for Pune to Hampi Tour was canceled as people were not coming due to the Covid factor, which is going on for the last year. They provided me with two alternatives, either join Malvan or Pondicherry. I was in a dilemma now about what to select as the duration of the Pondicherry trip was 3 days extra after the holiday period and in the financial year-end time, I have to take leave from the job. To decide, they have given half an hour time only on Thursday 25 March 12:00 pm to book the train tickets.

Thinking of it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and unexplored destination, I finalized the Pondicherry trip and completed my work. I got a call again that other team members have booked their berths in AC Coach hence your ticket is upgraded to AC coach with a little extra amount. I received the confirmed ticket on Whatsapp from the tour operator. It was all planned now, and I was excited about the new destination and meeting new people, hoping this will not cancel.

The next thought came to look at my wardrobe which was not updated recently, so I decided to do some shopping for tees n lowers for the trip and went to the Mall. I selected some essential things required for the trip and concluded the shopping along with the selfie stick for my mobile.

The task of packing bags is very time consuming and confusing activity. We have to make sure that, we keep only required items to reduce baggage. With basic things such as clothes, shoes, sleepers, masks, we should check on documents and IDs required for the trip to avoid any problems.

With Covid guidelines in force, one has to reach the Pune station before one hour, hence I reached railway station at 11 pm and went to the waiting room. After waiting for half an hour at waiting room, I got the message from other team members that they have reached the station.

We all met and came to know that we are a team of nine members’ four boys and five girls including our team Captain, with the initial introduction we took a selfie and pictures at the station and waited for the train with a little chit-chat. One member was coming from Dadar, Mumbai hence she has already boarded the train.

The train came on time, we boarded and we found our berths. The tickets were booked in a single block hence it was easy for us to stay in a group. We started having fun at once by playing UNO game which is first group activity between all of us strangers after the initial introduction. As it was late at night and for the sake of other passengers sleeping, we slept after playing one round of game. The train journey was 30 hour long and it will take next full day also.

DAY – 1 : 30 Hours of train journey.

I woke up at 6:00 am on sound of other passengers as their destination has come. So I enjoyed the sunrise from the train. It was thrilling experience in the morning with moving train and rising sun. I took some pictures for memory and heard the tea vendor’s voice but in a different accent as state was crossed. I bought one tea from vendor and just took little nap till other members awake. All members were sleeping till 10.00 am. We started with tea and light breakfast and continued with our UNO game till lunch time.

We took our lunch from the train service providing lunch packets. Some have brought home cooked snacks and food that we all shared. After lunch we took a small nap. In the evening we started with other games, songs, shared our stories, our experiences, future plans, present careers and moments were in making to remember and cherish ahead.

Then we ordered Dinner at night as the train took one hour halt at Bangalore station, so we were just wandering on the platform and taking pictures as all were just blocked in the train for 20 continuous hours till now. We slept early as our destination was 9 hours ahead and we have to wake up at 7:00 AM.

One thing I will tell with experience that each individual is different. You get new thoughts, new experiences, new things to learn from new friends coming from different backgrounds. All this makes up your memories, experiences and knowledge about outer world and current developments. From members we became friends.

Day 2 – Pondicherry City , Manakula Temple, White Town, Botanical Garden.

We reached the UT Pondicherry in the Morning on 28 March and directly went to our hotel for rest and getting ready for our trip to begin. As informed in the itinerary we were provided with mopeds for roaming within the city as that is the best way to explore the city. Each moped will have two persons, so we made team of two. With initial breakfast we reached the streets of white town the French colony and commenced our trip with Manakula Temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha.

Travelling on mopeds in a new city felt very refreshing and free. My fear of new city has vanished and felt like my heart was flying on the streets of Pondicherry. The body became light and stress free.

The Manakula Temple is a Hindu temple located in the UT Pondicherry. The temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The temple is of considerable antiquity and predates French occupation. The name of temple is derived from the two Tamil words Manal means full of sand and Kulam means pond near the sea. The architecture of the temple was mesmerizing, styled in Dravidian culture and other South Indian Temples. It has sculptures of animals and, roofs, walls and ceilings with multiple colours.  The interior of the temple was mesmerizing with long carved pillars beautifully decorated with pictures of deities with multiple colours.

There was an Elephant visible at the entrance of the temple known as Lakshmi, who provides blessings on donating some money or fruits. She wears anklets and chain of golden bells around her neck. We also donated the same to her and received blessings. There was puja going on the day we visited as it was festival day for Holi. We took the pictures and spent some time at the temple taking the blessing of the lord Ganesha. The outside market was very colourful and had a variety of artifacts on display.

Feelings was as I have arrived at divine place waiting for me to embrace. It gave mental peace and stillness. The chants and spirituality was beyond explanation. The belief became more stronger that there is some stronger force who runs the planet.

We explored streets of white town and took some pictures. The French colony has a typical French colonial style of buildings with compounds and high walls. These vibrant-looking buildings were painted in yellow and blue with highlights of white which makes it a favorite destination among travelers and photo enthusiast.

It was a unique experience of feeling in French. It felt that I have came to another world away from daily routines. I just surrendered to the environment to embrace me and don’t let me go. Those few minutes felt like i don’t need anything now in life. It was so fullfiling.

Then we went to Promenade beach also known as Rock beach which was close to the white town. The waves coming in the afternoon sun were refreshing but the atmosphere was humid and hot. We started feeling dehydrated and tired.

The sight of sea waves made all stress vanish, shoulders went light, and so peaceful that I forgot all my problems and tensions. It was like suddenly you are relieved from all worries of life and flying free with the wind. The sound and sight of sea waves was capable of taking to the whole new world.

We reached the Gandhi Statue which was built alongside the Promenade beach. The main highlight of this popular tourist site is eight beautiful carved granite pillars that surround the statue. Every day a large number of tourists visit this historical site. The Light House near Promenade beach is one of the remarkable landmarks in Pondicherry. We were very excited to see this place and climb to the top but it was closed for maintenance. Hence we moved to Bharathi Park.

Next, we reached the Bharathi Park which is few minutes walk from Promenade Beach. In the center of the park is a white monument which is a reservoir for water built during the time of Napoleon III, Emperor of France. The monument was named after a lady courtesan Ayi who destroyed her own house to erect this water reservoir to supply water for the city.

Everyone was feeling tired as sun was just awesome at its peak. After spending time at Bharathi Park we found a small café for some drinks and refreshed ourselves. The Music at the café was awesome and relaxing though it was in Tamil.

When you lie on grass, it takes all your fatigue fills you with freshness. After walking so much I got relaxed just laying on the grass. It felt cool, natural, and soothing making you fall asleep. Half an hour of sleep on green grass has rejuvenated all my energy at Bharathi Park. And also all others.

The next spot was Botanical Garden which was a landmark site set up in 1826. The entrance of the garden reflects French architecture and culture. We started exploring the Park and came close to Toy Train. We all took the kid’s train ride which is 15 min passing through towering trees and flower beds while taking photos on the move. We further explored the Park, the museum and left for our next destination.

The toy train really brought back the memories from past. Once we went on a school picnic and taken the ride on toy train. That ride made me emotional as faces of friends from past just passed in front of eyes. It felt like a kid is still jumping within the body and enjoying. Even all were pointing to sea-saws and swings in the garden to play with.

We all were tired so reached to a restaurant for some food. We completed our meals and reached the Aurobindo Ashram.

Aurobindo Ashram was set up by Mirra Alfassa in 1926, The Mother. The Samadhi of both Sri Aurobindo and The Mother is situated at the central courtyard where floral tributes are paid every-day. We meditated for 15 minutes and experienced the peaceful silence. You were instructed to maintain silence, wear Masks (Covid-19 time) and switch off your mobiles.

Meditation was first learned in new school when I changed the same. The same feeling was just regaining at that time in the ashram. When I closed my eyes various thoughts came and vanished until divine peace took place in the mind and body and I felt much lighter. The place has different positive vibe.

In the evening we were so tired so went back to our room and rested for a while. Now friends were in the mood to explore a pub in the city, hence we started searching nearby pubs and went to one. But destiny plays games here also as the pub was about to close due to Elections guidelines, hence we got limited time to enjoy our drinks and dance with DJ. The environment was electric with DJ running and dances in the pub as each one was in a free vibe.

I lost the touch of world for a moment under music, dance and drinks. The stress vanished, it felt lighter and nice with friends dancing to the tunes of DJ. I felt very much relieved as the crowd was awesome. It makes you do sinful activities and forget the dirty world. You only live once so enjoy.

After drinks and dances at the pub, we all friends went to the Rock beach to chill out in the sea waves enjoying with cold Kulfi. We were singing songs and enjoying with picturesque Moon over the sea and capturing the same memories. The day ended with a lot of fun and memories.

Peace under the sky, beside the sea makes you feel that what is life about. This moment is life that we are enjoying, living for self, taking care for self is life. Here no water takes you down, no moon takes you up. Just enjoyed the peaceful, serene atmosphere. That night was still in my eyes, that sound of waves still felt in my ears. And to others also.

Day – 3: Chidambaram Temple & Mangrove Forest.

With morning alarm we all woke up and got ready for our today’s destination. We took some tea in the morning and started our ride to Chidambaram Temple and Mangrove Forest which was 60 Km from the city of Pondicherry. Mangrove forest includes boating as well will comes later. We started with our mopeds provided and took the road. Our captain was cool guide to give directions for the route. He was a really amazing companion during our journey.

The road was picturesque and the views were mesmerizing but the horns of the buses and trucks passing by were mind blowing and so loud that we got irritated and the driving of buses and cars was as rash as we have to drive very carefully. We were taking pictures and videos on the way and enjoying en-route. Thanks to our captain acting as a google map for us.

When I was driving, the truth revealed that life is in movement. When I was crossing the different roads it was enriching the soul. Coming out of routine task and taking some adventurous routes gives you a sense of fulfillment. These made me feel that I have done something satisfying.

After driving for 60 Km’s we finally reached near Chidambaram Temple. We all decided to take some quick breakfast and then entered the temple premise.

Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Nataraja Shiva known as the lord of the dance. The temple has four colorful gateway towers or gopurams for each direction, each gate having 7 stories. The awe-inspiring temple architecture symbolizes the connection between arts and spirituality, creative activity, and the divine. Each pillar and wall was beautifully carved and painted with different colors displaying the 108 postures from Natya Shastra by Bharat Muni and forming Bharatnatyam foundation. We spent considerable time in the temple and received the blessings of Lord Shiva.

Next, we moved to one of the largest Mangrove forests in India covering 1100 hectares. The mangrove forest can be explored by rowboat or motorboat. It is well worth taking a rowboat to reach deep inside the forest. We took the life jackets and selected rowboats. It was an amazing experience of boat ride on seawater under the cover and shade of trees. Each person was enjoying thoroughly the ride and taking the snaps of mesmerizing views that nature has created. The forest was thick and covered with a parallel tree that grows three to ten feet deep in the water. It was a ride of about 3 KMs but full of life.

After completing the boat ride we went back towards Chidambaram Temple and had our lunch at the restaurant. We were so tired hence rested for some time. We commenced our return journey to Pondicherry as we have to drive again 60 km. The traffic as described was horrible and at night it was worse, there was rash driving all the way with loud irritating horns.

We reached our hotel room and after freshening up we got out for pub as planned but all were closed due to elections, hence we bought some drinks both hard and soft and celebrated. Ordered some snacks and food from the nearby restaurant and we are done. Some got high some were normal, music was high environment was normal. We were eating and singing and drinking and all was going just fine. Two of friends have cleared their exams of ICMAI and they were also happy and thrown the party.

Two friends were so high with drinks that we have to leave them in their respective rooms to get some sleep. All other friends went for a walk on road adjacent to the hotel room. The breeze was cool and the road was silent, we even met some people from Delhi also. Some friends were keen to go to the beach, hence we went on the beach for some silent time and it was serene. The day ended with amazing memories.

Day – 4: Visit to Auraville, Matri Mandir, Suffren Street, Paradise Beach.

Yesterday night we have planned to witness the sunrise at Rock beach. Hence I woke up at 5:30 am and called all my friends to get ready for the beach. We reached the beach in the morning for an amazing view of the sunrise. It was as usual awesome to see the sun rising with new hope and life. We stayed for some time, played in the water, took snaps, and returned. Today our destination was Auraville, the Matri Mandir which is a 20 KM ride.

We started at 8 Am towards the temple route on mopeds. First we stopped at the Café Des Arts famous for its pale yellow walls with attractive graffiti. We were unlucky we didn’t get inside the café as it was closed on Tuesdays. We spent an hour on the Suffren Street taking the candid pictures and enjoying the moments. It was a nice experience and unique in its own way.

We reached the Matri Mandir premises and parked our vehicles. The temple path was full of greenery with different trees along side. There were artificial artefacts created for the tourists to give the place a beautiful look. We reached the small museum where various posters, pictures about life, philosophy were displayed also a small model of Matri Mandir was placed in the middle. Our tour captain and guide helped us to find correct route every time with information about particular places.

The Matri Mandir is an edifice of spiritual significance and established by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Designed by French architect Roger Anger literally the dwelling place of The Mother. It was designed in 1968, construction started in 1971 and completed in 2008. Matri Mandir is in the form of huge sphere surrounded by twelve petals.

The Geodesic dome is covered by golden discs and reflects sunlight. It was an awe-inspiring view with a beautiful and picturesque lush green garden surrounding the Mandir. The Mandir was closed due to Corona Pandemic and construction work, hence we didn’t go inside. We took the best pictures possible and took the bus towards the exit gate provided by the Mandir management.

Then we decided to have quick snacks hence we stopped at the café nearby and ordered some drinks and croissants which were delicious. Some of friends decided to do some shopping near the temple. Others left for the room.

We came back to hotel and left for the Paradise beach. We have to take different route to reach the beach as PM Modi was coming in the town for election rally and all the roads were closed and heavy police was deployed at the roads with barricades.

Sandunes, also known as New Paradise Beach is one of the best beach with crystal clear water and pristine sands. There are plenty of activities available here including boating, horse and camel ride ATV Bikes etc. We took pictures and kept our bags nearby and ready to get wet in the sea water, the sand was hot, the breeze was cool and the environment was awesome.

We just went into the sea water to the reachable limits and enjoyed for considerable time. The water was cool, clear and the waves were sharp full of life drenching us fully. We all were enjoying a lot as we were free after a long time due to Pandemic.

We also celebrated Holi with Haldi (Turmeric) and Kumkum (Red Turmeric) at the beach which was a unique experience. The sun begins to go down though no one of us was happy about that. The darkness was near to surround, so we came out and changed to dry clothes after cleaning ourselves under open showers and took a return ride to our hotel. As already explained the traffic was horrible with speedy and rash driving. 

We came back to our rooms and rested for some time. Then we decided to go for the dinner as it was already late after coming from the long ride and heavy traffic. We started exploring for open restaurants as we were already late. The streets of Pondicherry were awesome at night with lampposts lit in sequences created picturesque views.

We found one restaurant but after getting inside we found that it is closing. We enquired the restaurant near our stay room to find if it is open for dinner as all the restaurants were closed at 9 PM due to elections. Luckily it was open and we hurried to the place immediately. After dinner, we went for small walk feeling the silence and serenity of the night. Our return train was at 5:30 am in morning so we went to sleep.

Day – 5: Onward Journey and Visit to Chennai

We woke up at 4:30 am and got ready for our train from Pondicherry to Chennai, from where we have to catch our train to Mumbai/Pune at 6:30 PM.

We got some spare time to hop out in Chennai city till we catch our train. First, we booked one room in the nearby hotel to keep our belongings, took some breakfast, and then went sightseeing as we had limited time. As the language problem persisted, we booked an auto to Marina Beach and started exploring the city. We went to Ex-CM Jayalalitha’s Samadhi and then to Marina Beach.

The environment was quite humid and the sun was shining brightly, we started getting tired and dehydrated. The sand under our feet was also hot and dry making it difficult to walk. We finally reached the beach and rested for some time. The breeze and water were cold as compared to the hot weather. Then we returned from the beach after taking some pictures and booked one auto to go to Santhome Church Basilica.

We spent considerable time at the Church and rested. The architecture of the Church was awesome from inside and outside. We also visited the Shiva Temple, Ramakrishna Paramhans Temple, Fish Aquarium, Sai Temple, explored the shops of Kanjeevarm silk sarees. Some friends purchased the Kanjeevaram sarees as memories from Chennai. We had limited time hence detailed description not included here for Chennai visit. May be in next blog I will share if visited there.

Then we returned to our hotel room and took our bags to catch the train which is the last journey to our destination. We boarded the train and started our return journey. First we started to settle our accounts as we have expensed out on behalf of others, so money transfer was in progress and discussed in the group. All friends cleared the dues all settled well. Then after some rest we started playing UNO game again which was our companion for the long train journey.

All persons were so nice and friendly that made time memorable. Thanks to all the people for support and trust. All made a nice company with their unique nature. Thanks to all including our trip organizer, the captain.

DAY – 6: Visit to Pune Station

We reached Pune at 12:00 PM as the train was late. We decided to take some tea or drinks for one last time. We went to nearby restaurant and took tea and some cold drinks, took last selfies and left for our homes.

The captain who took us to such nice places helped us to explore the places and guided us nicely with proper management. He was our Google Map in the new city. We thanked him with a hope to collaborate again in near future.

Day after we were sharing pics and jokes in the group as each one was so happy with the trip and it was memorable. We started discussing what happened and other stuff, for photo sharing and funny things. We still are connected through social media platforms. Thanks to our tour operator also for such a nice trip.

NO PERSONAL INFORMATION OR IMAGES ARE USED FOR ANY OF THE FRIENDS.

Tried to explain every detail possible in this blog considering the length with limited words. Errors & omissions excepted

Source: Facts and historical information are taken from Google, Wikipedia and other related sites for authentication. Other views are based on personal experiences of the author. Do check and confirm before planning similar trips.

Disclaimer – This is a personal blog. Any views and description and images used and represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to blog owner. All details provided in this blog are based on personal experiences of the owner. All images are taken by the blog owner from actual sites. Any views, information and opinion are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, public, business or person etc. The author has taken certain liberties to add or modify the details so as to maintain the flow of narrative. The owner will not be liable for any loss or damages caused from the use of this information.

HOW TO FOLLOW MASK ETIQUETTE

A mask is an object normally worn on face typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. We have seen superheroes were masks to hide there identities. We all thoughts that we should also portray the same in real life but we have limitations. In current context we are using masks as protection from invisible evil called Corona Virus.

With this Pandemic coming into our lives and just shattering our lives the importance of mask is as similar as our using mobile phones. You cannot go outside without a mask nowadays. The Corona Virus has left us with no options but to protect ourselves with Masks.

During the initial phase of pandemic face masks like surgical masks, cloth masks, N- 95 masks were employed as public and personal health care measure. Their use is intended to control the source and transmission of virus to prevent Infection.

The use of face masks has been recommended by health professionals, Doctors, and political authorities to reduce the risk of contagion. Doctors say that just wearing a mask is not enough.

The important thing is to follow the right etiquette.

Proper Fit – The mask should fit closely and tightly, should cover the nose and mouth and should be extended right under the chin. We shouldn’t pull it down down our nose. If there are gaps around your nose, cheeks or below your chin this shows that mask is not properly fitted and you are breathing unfiltered air. A mask should completely seals the face.

Removing – Removing the mask while talking is worse because that is the time when chances of spreading the virus is higher. If you think you are less audible to a person talk loudly instead of removing the mask. Do not touch the outer surface of the mask as it is contaminated.

Qualities – While purchasing Masks do not priorities matching with clothes. Some celebrities do the same and public follow the same in the society. Just look for qualities such as breathability, fit, virus filtration efficiency. In India the climatic conditions are such that it is difficult to wear even one mask, forget two as the second wave has started doctors recommend two masks. We only need one mask that completely seals the face.

Single or Double Mask – Double masking is better but doctors says that if you are wearing an N95 mask or a three layered mask just one mask is enough with qualities listed above. If you are stepping in really crowded spaces use a face shield along with N-95 Mask. As the virus is spreading faster the ideal combination If you prefer two masks wear two cloth masks or one surgical and a cloth one.

Do’s and Don’ts of wearing and remove the masks – WHO

DO’S

  • Clean your hands before touching your mask.
  • Inspect the mask for damage or its dirty
  • Ensure that mask cover your face, nose and chin without leaving gaps on the sides.
  • Avoid touching the mask from outside.
  • Clean your hands before removing your mask.
  • Remove and take mask by the straps while putting and removing on face.
  • Wash the mask daily with detergent.
  • Clean your hands after removing your mask.

DON’TS

  • Do not remove the mask if you have to sneeze – it defeats the purpose of the mask.
  • Do not wear the mask under your nose.
  • Do not wear hang around the neck and chin
  • Do not remove while talking.
  • Do not use damaged or loose mask.
  • Do not share mask with your family members.

So wear mask properly and be safe in this pandemic period. Follow all the guidelines issued by the authorities, WHO, health professionals and mitigate the risk of spreading and getting infected. We collectively can fight and win this situation. Time will come when these masks were not required.

Deepak Valecha DV

Disclaimer This is a personal blog. Any views and description represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to blog owner. All details provided in this blog are based on guidelines as prescribed by the health professionals, and other authorities for containing the virus. Any views, information and opinion are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, public, business etc. The owner will not be liable for any loss or damages caused from the use of this information.

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