Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pondicherry - Home Away From Home?

Church On Rue Dumas
Its been over 5 months since the expedition to Mentok. Pondicherry has become a kind of a home in this last half year. Its funny how I ended up here. Ram and I reached Chennai on 23rd of July. During the journey I was pondering on something important; deciding on the ideal place to catch up with my study and may be even stay in shape. It had been a couple of weeks since we left Chennai for the expedition and the scriptures were a little vague in my mind. So I thought, some place near a beach would  be perfect. I have always dreamed of running on an uninhabited beach for miles sans being flustered by inquiring looks or inquisitive stares.

Beach houses and guest houses in  Chennai were not even in the frame; courtesy "exorbitant prices". So it had to be Pondicherry. So I travel to the Union Territory and make home at the International Guest House (to begin with) and relish my much deserved rest while playing catch with the scriptures. Two days on, I decide to hit the beach. I put on my running shoes and briskly walk to the beach and what do I find - rocks in the place of sand, pavements crowded with people and hundreds of kiosks and pushcarts selling sweets and snacks. This was not what I had dreamed of. Where was that elusive, uninhabited beach. I was better off in Chennai. Atleast I  could run on the Tambram by pass where the tarmac was all mine and the lanes were frequented only by speeding vehicles ever so often.

So with a sullen face I began "walking" on the pavement next to the beach to avoid piercing glares from those casual strollers in case I ran. However, after two days of brisk walks along the beach (pavements really) and the streets in its vicinity, I did discover Rue Dumas, one of the streets parallel to the beach which is sparsely occupied. Hence, Rue Dumas was my temporary training ground, where I ran for an hour, may be 90 minutes, in the evenings, to begin with.

World War I - Memorial
However, lately (well for two months now), I have changed the schedule and go for the runs in the mornings - by the beach :). Fewer people, cool gushing winds and the sound of the roaring waters are inviting - to say the least. And I even managed to befriend this little guy called Akash. Well, actually he broke the ice. So I cant take credit there. He comes to skate while his folks walk. So we end up racing on the pavements. Him on skates and me on my itchy feet. The little guy is fast, but not fast enough I guess. 

The first time we raced (and got acquainted) was when I overtook him from behind, although not intending to race. Not one to hold back, he changed gears and tried to gain lead. So began the tussle between a kid and an ageing (or should I say aged) horse. A four, may be five hundred meter sprint till the war memorial alongside the beach, and He was left behind but only just. With a grin he said, "Anna! I was never too far from you". And I just told him that he was really good and that he was only going to get better. I told him about Christ and his Gospel a couple of days later. I intend to give him a Bible tomorrow, or the next time he shows up. He is a good kid.

This town is good too. Everything is cheap. Aristo, my humble abode these days, charges a paltry 200 a day for a single room with attached bath. Now you dont even get a meal for "one" in Chennai for that sum. Most of the places are easily accessible. Food is cheap too. Well!! depends on where you want to eat. I am talking about the street vendors and local diners. Breakfast is usually at the Indian Coffee House on Mission Street, who serve Vada and Idly soaked in piping hot Sambhar. For lunch, I invariably go for the beef biriyani at Inian Kabaab Centre which is on MG Road. The brothers who run the little eatery have taken a liking to me. So I end up with a little extra rice and beef in my parcel. :D .. Dinner is usually at the Amma Non Veg Mess on Mission Street, where I am served the south indian style "paratha" with mutton gravy and fried eggs to go with it. A bowl of Fruit Salad from Palamudhir rounds off the days meals. Snacks and tidbits are usually procured from Nilgiris and Grand Bakery.  

The town is nicely planned and the drainage is excellent. In the last 6 months, I have seldom come across a flooded road. On the flipside, you are more than likely to step on "dung" (lots of vagabond buffaloes in Pondicherry - LOL), than come across stagnant waters. Is that a good thing or bad - I will let you be the judge. Personally I prefer to cleverly squirm my way around the dung, than wade through stagnant waters.

To each his own I guess.