An Auroville experience (Day 1)

This is part 1 of a 4 part series titled 'A trip that made a difference: Auroville'
Click here for Part 2

Hill stations are the most sought after holiday destinations during monsoons. Karnataka hill stations attract people from all the directions, making it a major tourist attraction. This was the sole reason a friend and I refrained from travelling to any of those. The purpose of this holiday was to spend a few days in tranquility, away from the nerve-wrecking traffic of Bangalore. After mulling over for days, we finally decided to head to Pondicherry. The initial plan was to stay in Pondicherry for two days, rent a bike and ride to Mahabalipuram, spend the next two days exploring the historic sites, ride back to Pondicherry and take a bus to Bangalore. But travel, for us, is a continuous process of rediscovery and planning every second of it kills the fun of the whole experience. Hence, we prefer following our instincts.

Bangalore to Pondicherry
Travels : GreenLine travels, sleeper coach. 
Journey time :  7-8 hours.
Cost : Rs. 600

The view from Le Cafe
We headed straight to Le Café. The café overlooks the sea and offers a splendid view. It is pretty crowded in the evenings but a weekday morning gives you the privilege of sipping your coffee and gorge on the nature’s opus. The food served at Le café is moderate but the striking location comes to the rescue. I ordered a mushroom omelette and tea, and relished at a pace much slower than my usual routine that I often get done with.                   

The much needed Breakfast: Mushroom Omelette
After a sumptuous breakfast, taking a walk on the beach seemed difficult as the scorching sun had started playing its role. We took an auto, which charged us Rs. 150 for mere 6 kms of distance but haggling doesn't work in tourist places like these. You need to accept the fact and go with the flow.

Stay : Samarpan Guest House, Around 7 kms from Pondicherry.
Cost: Rs 1100 per day for the room we opted for. 

We had booked a guest house for two days which wasn't difficult, given the days didn't fall on the weekend. Without much difficulty, we reached the guest house in Auroville. With quite a few unpleasant experiences in the past, when in the search of solitude, I had booked resorts in the middle of nowhere; I silently prayed the heavens to spare me the horror. Not that I regret them. Such experiences are a part and parcel of the journeys enriching your life. 

                    The adorable pet

Coming face to face with a black dog with an unconventionally huge frame, when you have never had a pet, wasn't a very good beginning and to be true to my heart, it freaked me out. On ringing the bell (literally), hung on the front gate, a lady approached from the front porch. She was fair, carried an infectious smile and a distinctive aura. “Donata?” I asked. “Oh yes I am Donata.” came the reply in a husky powerful voice with an Italian accent.

The view from the window

After the exchange of the pleasantries, we were shown the rooms to pick from. We immediately selected the one on the first floor overlooking the sea. It was a fairly big room but didn't have an attached bathroom; instead, it was on the ground floor exclusive to us. 

Simple yet elegant
The room had a bed with a mosquito net, two pairs of tables and chairs with the bulbs dangling right over them in order to not deprive the readers/ writers to have a love affair with their true love, their books; a table fan and small bedding on the floor with beautiful cushions with hand woven covers, placed neatly on the floor. The window faced the sea, a view so beautiful you can spend the entire day basking in the nature’s glory. Such are the times when you realize how simple things hold the power to make your life worth living.                   

By the time the room was cleaned, we were offered tea by Donata. The aroma and the flavor of tulsi and the perfect mix of the water and milk made it one of the best teas I have ever had. The exertion from the journey and the previous day at work vanished in a split second. We relaxed for half an hour, had a shower and headed to Auroville, which is about 6 kms from Samarpan, on our rented two wheeler. 

Local Transport : You can opt for a moped. 

Charges : Rs 200 for a day.
Lush green Auroville
Auroville is an international township where people live by the philosophy of unity in humanity. They are not the victims of the conditioned consumerism and they don't let their life pass by in the futile pursuits of happiness and contentment through the materialistic possessions in order to fuel their egos. They work not out of the slavery for the endless needs but for the sheer pleasure and passion for it. Auroville is an artist's paradise. It has schools and institutes teaching various forms of art such as dance, music, painting, sketching, pottery, dramatics, candle making, etc. One can opt for an internship at these institutes and learn any of these arts. People here grow their own vegetables, crops, grow spices, prepare oils and garments. Put in a nutshell, it is a self sufficient township and so are the people which amuses me the most. 

Solar kitchen offers free food to all the travelers or at a very low price. Volunteers can either cook or help in other ways.

We had to collect a visitor’s pass for a concentration session in Matrimandir, the heart of Auroville for the next day. we reached at 11.30 am and were told by the attendant that the registrations will re-open at 2.00 pm.

Lush Green Auroville
We had two and a half hours at hand to explore this then barren land but lush green now. The credit goes to the residents of Auroville who have planted more than 1.5 million trees in a span of a few years. The visitors' room had the pictures and the writings describing the history of Auroville (City of Dawn), an experimental township, founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, also known as The Mother. It has a population of close to 2000 people. It is home to the people coming from 43 nationalities. It doesn't favor any religion hence people spend their lives in peace.

Drip Coffee at Dreamer's Cafe
The Dreamer's cafe in the visitor's area was bustling with people. Sandwiches packed for the residents, cool drinks sipped by the visitors, the kids relishing their ice-creams. I, due to some strange reason, ordered drip coffee in the blistering heat and a vegetable sandwich. I sat in the open area next to the café and reflected on the Auroville’s purpose of existence. 
It was difficult to hold ourselves from having a glimpse of Matrimandir, the outstanding architecture and the heart of Auroville. We grabbed a guest pass and walked down to Matrimandir, just to have a look from a distance. It is incredible how the excitement and the willingness to witness a place as grand as Matrimandir can pull you through the insane heat and fatigue.

The magnificent Matrimandir
The moment I laid my eyes on this magnificent structure, I instantly fell in love, the deep, insane love, the kind where you don’t want to avert your eyes from it, the gold, the design and the vibes. The globe is covered with the golden discs which reflect the light providing the structure its characteristic radiance.We sat there in silence, away from the chaos and confusions of life, away from the greed and the need to prove your identity every single second.
Our lovely host
With the promise of returning back the next day, we left for the visitor’s area and headed back to the closest I had ever been to the sea in terms of the stay. By 4 pm we were with Donata, sipping on her impeccably prepared tea and, for the first time since we met her, we had an informal conversation. Donata is a passionate lady who had traveled to India, thirty eight years back at the time when she could neither understand nor speak a word of English. The country made such an impact on her psyche, she knew she had to come back, this time not as a visitor. She shared stories from her youth, her encounters with the people who went out of their ways to help her reach her destination, her life in Italy. Her humility touched me in a way that is indescribable. I shared my travel experiences, interests and passions, to which she responded in a manner that made me sense that she was there in the past, right where I am, at the crossroads of life where life offers you endless opportunities and all you need to do is grab them and make the most of what is called LIFE. We came to an end of a conversation that would stay with me for a long time.

Life is for this
The rest of the evening was spent in the hammock, reading a book and playing with blackie who, by now, had become an inseparable part of the trip. By 7 in the evening, it started pouring. We were forced to eat at a restaurant called Goodman: Empty, expensive by its standards and a rundown place.

We returned to the room, contemplated on the eventful day of the trip, set an alarm at 5.30 am for next day to witness the nature’s another marvel : the sunrise, we couldn't afford to miss.                                  

Weather: November to February : The best time to visit Pondicherry/Auroville
              The weather is relatively pleasant during this time.

              July to September : It receives good amount of rainfall and is 

              suitable for the rain lovers.

              Summers are extremely hot.

This is part 1 of a 4 part series titled 'A trip that made a difference: Auroville'
Click here for Part 2


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