Auroville is the La-La-Land to your Hippie Soul (Pondicherry-2)

The second day of our trip dawned upon us, we thought Paradise beach would be the best way to welcome it. I am not an early morning person at all but amazingly I transform into one when I am travelling ( That’s why they say “Do what makes you wanna wake up in the morning”). Paradise Beach was one such time I was up before the crack of the dawn and it surely paid off well. The sun wore the shrouds of heavy clouds and we had the wide beach all to ourselves except a few fishermen who were still preparing for the day. Paradise beach lives up to its name as it is believed to be the cleanest and most peaceful beach in Pondicherry.


We grabbed a quick breakfast at the very talked-about Indian Coffee House on Mission street. Do try the Idli Vada there. Since we were too early dosas weren’t ready by then but they sure must have been as good as everything else they served. Let me tell you, Mission street is one of the most important streets in the main city of Pondicherry. You will also find the roots of the very famous Hidesign here. The factory outlet supposedly sells the products at fractions of the showroom prices. So make it a point to not miss this one


Next on the agenda was exploring Auroville and spend the evening at the Serenity Beach. Although the plan went haywire, we still managed to unearth a lot about Auroville that I was so curious about. Thanks to Radhika who has been living there as an Aurovillian for two years now. Meeting Radhika was a chapter in itself. When one of my friends said we would be meeting her, barely had I known I was about to meet one huge inspiration who chose a tough life just out of passion. Radhika is an architect and works in Auroville among all other foreign nationals who have come together to make that place what it is today.

Auroville and everything you must know about it.

 

The vision of Mirra Alfassa – The Mother

Auroville that we see today is what Mirra Alfassa, also regarded as ‘The Mother’ by the world had envisioned back in the 1930s. She dreamt of a place which ran on the philosophy of “Vasudeva Kutumbakam”. The world which no country could claim as its own and citizens would freely live as world citizens, work towards the common goals of a sustainable growth. A land where art is the only weapon people would use. Where a person’s worth would be much more precious than money, power or any religion. In the very words of the Aurovillians, “Auroville is a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities”. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity above any religion. In the words of The Mother herself:

“Humanity is not the last rung of the terrestrial creation.
Evolution continues and man will be surpassed.
It is for each individual to know whether he wants to participate in the advent of this new species.
For those who are satisfied with the world as it is, Auroville obviously has no reason to exist.”
— The Mother, 1966

Life in Auroville

People in Auroville live in a world where money isn’t the end all be all. Although the ground reality remains that there is no sustenance without money but you can manage to feed yourself by merely volunteering in the bakeries and shops. On the surface to me, living in Auroville was like going back to the times when people had a minimalistic approach to happiness, were self-sufficient and self-reliant. The work you do is meaningful and paid with as much as you would need to survive in the town which is every moment striving to be a moneyless economy. Life wouldn’t be as fancy as it appeared to me on a one-day visit but surely worth it if you are looking for an inner connection and striving to master your ego. You can go through the entire procedure of being an Ayurovillian at http://bit.ly/2msuDAH


Things to do in and around Auroville:

Volunteer:

If you are here for a while say a week or more, you can choose to volunteer with the Auroville farm group. A number of farms in Auroville accept volunteers. Hours and possibilities for accommodation depend greatly upon which time of year you are planning your stay . Guesthouses and homestays tend to get full and busy during the guests season—December to March—and it’s always wise to grab your bookings well ahead of time if you are wanting to volunteer. Some bakeries in Auroville also accept volunteers, you can get your hands dirty in the ground level baking activities. You can also choose to intern with the International House, a living space built with sustainable and environmental architectural ideals.

Workshops and Therapies:

You can learn Permaculture to Tango, different forms of Yoga, Cooking to Tai chi, Tree-climbing to Clay classes, Sound therapy, Creative arts, in short, there is no end to learning in Auroville. Pick any workshop of your choice from their events list at their website.

Shop:

Auroville is famous for its indigenous essential oils, perfumes, incense sticks, candles and clay items. I bumped across Auro kind store right opposite to the visitors centre run by an old woman along with her son. The quaint little shot exhibited beautifully decorates scented candles, and lame and other clay and ceramic ware everything very reasonably priced.

Auroville Handmade Paper Factory:

Save a day (not Sunday) to visit the handmade paper factory in Auroville. Bespoke, delicate, and individually handcrafted stationery products from Auroville are definitely worth your money. You can watch the makers adding their creative touches to the papers which are purely made from cotton rag pulp.

Eateries:

There are over twenty eateries in Auroville my favourite being the Auroville bakery. The chocolate croissants are to die for and you literally don’t them you earn them because they are available early in the morning and are the first to go off the rack. For a lazy ass like me, it’s definitely a great deal of hard work. Right opposite there is Farm Fresh Cafe which serves serving freshly made dosa, burgers, pasta and pizzas. also, do visit Tanto’s pizza for your pizza cravings which is on the way to the visitors centre from the Pondicherry town. Options are many all you need is a lot of time to do proper justice to the “City of Dawn”.

I was overwhelmed listening to stories o Randika and looking at the ways people lived in this quaint little village in the corner of Puducherry. It got me nostalgic as I was thrown back to the memories of visiting my grandma’s back in Orissa. Everything looked pretty much similar except that there were a lot of foreign nationals here. If quitting my comfortable city life to settle in the countryside of Auroville and work for a more holistic aim is too much, I’ll at least try adopting a the minimalistic lifestyle and spread some of the goodness her in my city. This was my awakening in the land of spiritually.
Hope you find your’s soon too

How Pondicherry took a piece of my heart away! 

The city of French Villas and Bouganvillas did win over me but not for its beauty and charm this time but for the crazy stories that me and my friends Cannica and Pallavi will narrate to our grand children. The two day trip was a rollercoaster ride of weird twists and turns but at the end of the day it only left us laughing at the mishaps and of course a little bit of skin tan. Pondicherry happened to us in a much clichéd way when all three of us had reached the threshold of our 9 to 5 life pressure. We gave the trip a two weeks window time, meanwhile which we booked our stay and the transport. When we met at the majestic station the Friday night barely did we know that the two days ahead had in their bags for us.

Day 1 – White Town and Promenade Beach 

A comfy overnight journey in the Greenline Bus and we were in Pondy before the crack of the dawn. Here comes the lesson one – bargaining with auto drivers when you are tourists is a waste of time because you will be overcharged anyway. Nine kms away was the beautiful Airbnb property we had booked purely out of impulse, by just looking at the pictures of the beach-side huts by the pristinely blue sea. Well it’s a perfect budget hide out in a natgeo like set up incase you are looking for some insanely tranquil getaway. The cottage overlooks the blue waters of the Auroville Beach situated in remotest corner of the village. Although it’s not safe to hang around by the beach but you can have a gala time sitting in your room staring at the vast sea sipping over your coffee. To help you guys out I have attached the link to the property here. Samprutha Beachside Hut- Ganga Up, Bommapalayam.
It would have been too gutsy of three girls who had only carried the shortest of their outfits from their wardrobe for their much awaited beachside getaway, to stay at such a secluded place. With a heavy heart we cancelled our booking there and headed towards the main city.The obvious lesson no 2- Never rely on an auto drivers to get you to a decent hotel with a liveable room. Our drivers helped us witness the worst hotels existing in the city. After some 7 odd bad hotels we finally rested our tired bums in Hotel Vijayantra. Rented our scooters and headed towards the white town.

The enchanting White Town 

P.S it’s extremely easy to rent bikes in Pondicherry, I neither did I have a licence nor did I knew anything about a scooty except for how to start one. And about traffic rules? Well let’s keep that for some other time. Although I successfully made it back to Bangalore alive without killing anyone 😉 We  rode through the Promenade Beach to the White Town, also famous as the French Colony.  Beautiful eateries, vibrant colours, jaw dropping architecture and lots of Bouganvillas. White Town is the food for a vintage lover’s soul. We sat by the side of the streets whiling away our time, clicking probably thousands of random pictures of the walls, the doors, the cafes, the streets our faces and what not.

Cafe Des Arts

Like every other visitor we clicked our mandatory heavily directed and posed pictures against the quirky yellow walls of Cafe Des Arts. But there was much more to it than just good food and quirky decor. If you are a lover of vintage clothing you will find some lovely dresses in the store tucked in a corner if the cafe. The collection was truly vintage and pretty reasonably priced so you don’t have to worry about your shopping burning a hole in your pockets. 

Delhiwala 6

Delhiwala 6  is that happy emotion that a North Indians feel when they find ‘good’ North Indian food in South India. Quirky decor in a heritage building teamed with Chole bhature, Pav Bhaji; what more an insta-addict could ask from a beachy holiday.

Happy face and happy tummies walked out of Delhiwala-6 knowing not what to do and where to go. So we decided to spend some time by the rock beach and then wander in some random direction. I loved how the Promenade beach has made arrangements for tourists. Every road leading to the beach from the White Town is barricaded at 8 at night. So you only fond pedestrians strolling around the concrete pathway beautifully embedded with palm trees and elegant street lights lighting up the area. 

 

Shopping in Pondicherry

In the evening we stepped out for a ride across the city and stumbled across a lane that was a boulevard of tiny stalls that sold earthen clay artefacts, handmade paper lamps and ceramic items. Colorful lamps put for display lit the streets and we managed to pick some for ourselves too. 

 After a not so happy meal at Dis Dis & Co. the rest of evening was again spent sitting at the sores of the promenade beach watching the ocean crashing against the rocks, listening to the roars of the waves. Someone has very wisely said some experiences can neither be expressed in words nor through pictures. Sitting by the Rock Beach was what made me believe that authenticity of that statement. Summing up, Day 1 was picture perfect till we made our way back home. What followed wasn’t as pleasant an experience but worth sharing. Obviously who wouldn’t be proud of dodging a group of almost 30 drunk men on an empty street at around 12 in the night. 😛 Well! I’d rather keep the story untold but then yeah! I made it alive again 😀

 

The next day greeted us with another set of sweet surprises and shocks which i am gonna tell you on my second blog on Pondicherry. On the next blog I’ll be talking about everything you need to know about Auroville.

Till then keep wandering.