Saturday, December 15, 2007

Booze, Sea Food and Fireworks

Next day morning would seem odd for most. The huge assortment of art journals and magazines were being studied us four like we discovered some great treasure. Once a while, we would remind ourselves that we were in Pondy for new year fun and here we were doing it all wrong, or maybe it was a great way to end the soon to be gone year or even better to say begin the new year in an art gallery. In fact we were so enthralled by reading few articles out, even after our breakfast at the hotel restaurant below, were were back to the books. We also made sure we got some nice snaps clicked of a huge canvas painting in 'our' room. There was a small art museum in the ground floor with several kinds of art and paintings. It was time well spent.
In the afternoon, we set out towards Goubert Avenue for lunch. We headed for the Hotel Ajanta sea view and after waiting for a table to get free, all four us got loaded with sea food and beer. The crabs were best here. How some two hours went off, nobody knew. We were full and we were drunk. Walking out of the hotel, four us went towards the port stretch of bridge built for the port. At times, one or two of us tripped down because of the rocks and also because were a bit high but still in control.

The scene was getting amazing as time passed. More people were being seen in the shore side and all along the Goubert Avenue as the sun was going behind the horizon. The life size statue of Sir Francois Dupleix, Bapu, Joan of Arc, the spirit of people all around, the waves hitting the rocks all seemed to be enjoying and witnessing this evening to their hearts content.

When it was completely dark, we were sitting facing the sea and trying to look farther ahead towards even though nothing much was visible, trying to locate a small fishing boat or a sea vessel lying stable far far away. We didn't speak much around this time. And yet we could hear the chaotic noises of all kinds of people who, like us, had come down here to witness the new year celebrations. Security was also kept well in mind the administration there. Roads along the main points had a few cops watching over. Sadly, they were not to enjoy the night but to be despondently answering to their duty of policing.

Some time around 8 to 9 pm, in the sea shore we saw some magnificent display of fireworks from about half a mile where we were sitting. It lasted for a good half an hour or so. After that ended, we were thrilled to see the same happening again, this time near where we were. This also continued for good long minutes. Then the same was done at a third place ahead of us. All that time, there were one or two fire trucks standing by, in case there might be an emergency. This whole event was so spectacular, all us were super charged. It was surely one of the best of new year eve for me. Slowly and unwillingly we traced back our way to the hotel getting back through the MG road.

The evening itself was so sufficient and eventful out there by the beach, when we were back at the hotel, there didn't seem to be much of a happy mood or even anything such at there. It was calm and silent like the previous night. Not much ado about it. It was somewhat queer. But none of us were bothered much as all the three went to bed long time before the watch could mid night. I was awake listening around outside for a while but I too couldn't resist the heavy eyes and was fast asleep to realise any outcry or merryful exchange of those three words, even if there was any in the hotel.

"Happy New Year 2007" - hopefully someone or the other said that to us in our dreams or in their own heart far far away.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gingee Fort and Thiruvanmalai Temple

It was new year day and we were returning back from Pondichery, we decided to halt at two places for sight seeing on the way. Gingee fort in Villupuram was first of them, which was just about 25-30 kms from Pondy. There were two forts - Rajagiri and Krishnagiri, also called as Raja fort and Rani fort. The alternate names suggest who it was meant for in those times. We had already planned to go to the topmost one and there were heading towards Rajagiri fort; this was also called the "Troy of the East" by the British because it was supremely fortified with the added advantage of being 800 ft high.

But we were not alone. There was a horde of people all around the place as tourists. Most we figured out were from nearby places. It was just about nearing noon then and the heat was already in its extremes. We stuffed ourselves with whatever packed food we were carrying and bottles of mineral water. On the way to the entrance, there were boards and inscriptions with historical information about the fort. The initial entrance was an unpaved path which more or less appeared like a field with a clean ambiance. To reach the top were a flight of steps made of large rocks mostly cut out or laid appropriately. There was a small lake also visible which was kind of a catchment area for the rains. As we went up, R was getting out of breath somewhere half the way and sat down to relax. But from that point on he did not want to go ahead. As he also had to ride all the way back to Bangalore and there was no alternative driver amongst rest of us, we agreed with him. Whimsically, we named that part as 'Randeep point' by his name.

there, the three of us then stopped at a couple of more spots to view the cannons, some nice viewpoints, etc. Finally reaching the top, we were in high spirits to have overcome our fatigue. At the top, there was another catchment area under a huge rock which was drinking water source for many already present there when we reached. It was like a cave about 2 meters under the rock where you walk down and suddenly feel a mysterious cool breeze and a small pool of water in the dark. Some local kids were excited to have been photographed by us.

By the time we left from Gingee fort, it was already about 2 in the afternoon. Thiruvanmalai temple at Villupuram was our second stop. They were attractive from far away where anybody can see the high rise tower roofs in glowing white. Here we visited one or two temple, got a few snaps taken and then left for good. A few kilometers before reaching Krishnagiri, we halted for some more relaxation and stretching. We were back in Bangalore in good heart. It was already dark and we headed for our homes. Our new year journey shall be cherished for quite some time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Beach visit at night

That night before sleeping, I got a mood to experience the night time sea, especially after knowing that the sea was just 10 kms walk from where we stayed. P also got interested. Leaving the other two in the "ashram", we two set out.

We had to walk through a silent but well inhabited lane. It was a small village in fact. Most of the people already had their lights off by then while one or two were enjoying the breeze outside before going to bed. Those few didn't bother much as to who we were as they might have got used to tourists moving around the place very often. In fact we came across a group of foreign hikers near one house or maybe it was some inn or lodge. Then I noticed one female hiker splitting up from the group and disappeared into one of the small meandering roads.

On our way, we saw few newly constructed small houses beside the lane. These were built as relief work for those who had lost their homes and family in the Tsunami disaster that hit most of the southern shores on 26th December 2004. We proceeded slowly towards the beach side. It wasn't much of an eye appealing sight. This part of the beach was used by the fishermen which was apparent from the smell of sea fish all around. There were also few rowing boats and
rafts with fish nets around which were scattered some dead small sea fishes.

We went near the waves. P went in to feel and get his feet wet. He was overjoyed. I have seen beaches a lot but the feel of being there at night is totally different. Its only you and the sea and not any other soul to disturb your peace. We could see the strong halogen lights far away in Night Sky at the beachthe distance along the coast. It created a wonderful view. Also just about a kilometer or so from this place was another private beach & resort whose lights dimly illuminated the place where we were standing. We two then got onto one of the boats anchored in the sands and clicked few snaps. It felt very peaceful being there listening only to the waves and no other artificial noise. We sat on the boat edges and just listened to the silence. I could have slept there itself feeling the nature. But all good things have to come to an end, if they are to be cherished. Being filled too much of feel good factor, we decided to get to bed. That night I had a sound sleep.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Ashram - our stay

Busy Market StreetThe Evening:…..Hitting back to MG Road back to where the car was parked, we drove to the place where we were going to stay. Just a few kilometers along the ECR and after crossing the Pondy-Tamil Nadu border, we reached the place. It was kind of an ashram for the Jains but also offered accommodation for other people as was apparent from a signboard which said some hotel name. I am not able to recall the hotel name though now. We were to stay in a large hall on the first floor. Later we came to know that the hall was an art gallery or workshop. There weren’t any bed or such. This was “not” a great accommodation, but was kind of different and we liked it. The “Ashram” as we called it was a place for art (paintings). There were loads of books on art in the library which was in fact also in the hall where were to stay. Apart from that, a large dining table with few chairs and a heavy study table were the only furniture there. There were a couple of large paintings towards the long end of the hall and just a sink at the other end. One or two Ashram guys came and set up four beds on the floor for four of us. There was however one problem. There wasn’t any scope of privacy; there being no curtains over the large windows. We lived with that, whatsoever. In spite of all these, we were charged a decent amount as in any other hotel for our stay. New Year bonanza!

Downstairs was a nice restaurant The little gardenmanaged by the ashram itself. From the first floor, the place looked very neat. There was a small open area in between all the constructions with a medium sized tree with nicely constructed base around it for people to sit around. It was like a garden with small shrubs and bushes here and there. It made a nice landscape though being a small area. While there was the compound wall on one side of the open space, on one end of it was the restaurant while in the opposite side there was a small statue of Lord Krishna with focus lights to keep it illuminated during the night. The end opposite to the compound wall was the art museum.

We got fresh and spent sufficient time relaxing and it was now time to satisfy our tummies. We all went to the restaurant downstairs. This being a Jain ashram, there were only veg items available. The restaurant also had its unique appeal. There were perfumed candles on one end of it for sale. This, along with the beautiful lightings created a pleasant environment in it. After the dinner all of us were too worn out to go out. One of us got a vodka bottle. Drinks were of course prohibited there but we had it camouflaged it in a 2 ltr sprite bottle back in our so called room – the art gallery.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

First day evening time

Place to Stay…… There was already a large crowd of people from different places who had flocked in for the New Year like us by evening. Done with the relaxing, R and J inquired about hotels and luckily got an autorickshaw driver who knew a few hotels. Usually most such drivers would have knowledge of accommodation for tourists. So those two went with the driver, while I and P walked along the rocks and explored a bit of the shore.

Waves Cutting the RocksWe clicked some snaps with the sea waves rising to as high as 7-8 feet when struck on the sharp rocks. The rocks are so sharp and slippery near the sea due to the continuous striking by the sea waves that one has to be very careful when exploring that area. P had never seen any sea or Ocean before and so here he was completely enjoying the Arabian Sea and its breeze.

We then walked along the street Goubert Avenue which goes along the shore. The whole landscape was filled with families, kids and boyfriends-girlfriends. It was just a place to sit and feel the breeze. Apart from watching the ships and boats in the distance, it was only about gazing at the horizon as far as possible. There was the crowd almost along the full stretch of the shore. To break out, I and P went in one of the lanes.

There was the Aurobindo Museum just a few footsteps away Aurobindo Museumand there was a moderate crowd here too. The museum was basically the showplace of the life and work of Sri Aurobindo who had settled in Pondicherry when he was released from jail during the independence time. Both of us were curious to see inside. The shoes had to be removed outside and then we were in
queue to go in to take the museum tour. All had to keep silence and there was strictly no photography allowed inside. We toured around the rooms which had books, paintings and other such antique items for display. At the center of the building was a tomb. Around that we saw few aged and middle aged men and women praying and sitting in a Samadhi. It was surprising to see few of them even weeping. I didn’t know why and didn’t bother as well. The tour included walking around the tomb and then it was over. The museum wasn’t much large. It wasn’t much appealing for us as well. May be we were too young to appreciate the peace and calm nature inside. Within 15 minutes we came out and again put our shoes on. We went back towards the shore and waited for the other two to return.

Those two were back in less than an hour. That itself was too long for a place like this. They had reserved a hotel a bit far towards the north. That was good news.

We four then walked along the Goubert Avenue from the French War Memorial to Place de la Republique where there was a life size statue of Gandhiji. This place was filled with lots of kids who were playing with the slopes along the pedestal of the statue. It was sheer fun for the jovial kids. Around the statue were eight tall pillars. This brought a wonderful look to the whole landscape. A few steps ahead was a small park.

French War Memorial

Place de la Republique

After seeing this bit of the place, we decided to go to the hotel. We needed some rest and loads of food for sure.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

New Year at Pondicherry Day 1

Day 1-: Reaching there ......

Though its been eleven months we did this trip, I thought it would be great to jot it down as another new year is ahead. This was the new year 2006 break. With no plans towards the end of the week, which also turned out to be the last weekend of the year, there happened to be an instant plan on Friday after returning from office late. Jitumon was going with Randeep and Premjit to pondy for 3 days. From my companies side a trip to Nandi Hills was planned but got cancelled that evening itself. I was free and so I also jumped in. Earlier, for Diwali also we same guys had planned for this but it didn’t visualize. At that moment, 2006 happened to end with instant decisions.

30 dec ’06. We had to wake up early as we had planned to start from Bangalore by 7 to 8 AM.From the Car After packing with few necessary items in my backpack soon I and J were off to Silk Board junction which was our meeting place. R was waiting for us and P, taking the wheels in his dad’s Maruti Zen. By 8:10 we started our engine and we swept along the Hosur Road. Money was an important aspect for unplanned tours like this and so we halted at Electronics City where two of us loaded the purse with some cash. Cruising ahead, we reached a toll road after which for the next 30 kms it was a smooth ride. On the way we stopped for breakfast at A1 Plaza, a restaurant maintained by the Reliance group.

But smooth rides do not last long. On the way just before reaching the Krishnagiri hills, we detoured planning to go and visit a fort that was on a different track. It was P who willed to go to the vellore Fort. Thanks to the Bangalore Weekends book I took with me. I also took theFinding Solution Pondy map for reference. But on the way, we missed track and came back to the road to Pondy. Destiny had only that as our New Year destination I suppose. Once crossing the rocky hills while entering Krishnagiri, the road had all the pits and humps that a typical Indian asphalted road has. It was like torture to the car but then, the same car had crossed many road miles in Assam which are worse than this. But somewhere in between the road was worse. We were going fast when suddenly a hump appeared and we saw the registration plate fly past the windscreen. R pulled over. There weren’t any mechanic nearby. We found some discarded wires in the car and used that to tie the plate.

Picturesque LakeNext few kilometers went smooth. There was Kamelot playing in the background and the serene beauty. What a combination! Then we reached this place. Just beside the highway, we noticed a lovely landscape with still water, plain land and a flock of cranes sitting on the branches of the trees nearby. It was very soothing and refreshing. We halted here and relaxed. It was mainly for R, who was driving constantly and needed a break. We then moved ahead and by afternoon reached a populated city – Villupuram or somewhere around that. This appeared a very crowded place. We noticed that there was a wonderful temple in the city and planned to visit while returning. We halted here for lunch and filled our tummies. After this, we didn’t stop for anything.

Before coming, we hadn’t booked any hotel for staying at Pondy. When we felt we were near, I made some futile calls to few hotels for accommodation. All were filled. But still we hoped that would be arrangements in some form and proceeded ahead. By 3 or 4 PM, R pulled over the car and parked on the busy MG Road. We walked through the city inquiring for accommodation. There was one right in the middle of the city but we didn’t like it and went towards the beach.

I saw the rocky shore for the first time and it didn’t quite impress me. Yet I enjoyed the wind blowing past the shore. Finally we were in that union territory of India which was once the original French headquarter in India – Pondicherry. We four sat on the rocks and relaxed again. There was one little problem none of us overlooked yet. We needed a place to sleep!

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