As I blew the candles for my 23rd birthday, with a strong hope in my heart, I walked up to my parents to ask for my birthday gift, the permission for a solo trip. Maybe a little too old for it now, but I couldn’t blow the candles without wishing – wishing for my first-ever solo trip! To my surprise, Dad said, “Yes darling..!!” (I guess parents always know what we want; they just wait for the right time.) Suddenly, DDLJ playing in my head, my voice changed to Amrish Puri saying – Ja Simran Ja, Jee Le Apni Zindagi..!!
A week before I was set to say bye-bye to my hustle town, I wouldn’t deny: I was scared. My mind had captured all the heinous crime news it could and built-up a few mental videos on self-defense moves I could use. But the night before my flight, I couldn’t contain my excitement and spent the evening jumping around the house, singing ‘La Vie En Rose’ as I sway to the music.
I landed at Chennai airport and took a bus to Pondicherry from Koyembedu bus station.
The union territory welcomes you with an Arch that reads Puducherry, (the changed name of Pondicherry.) As I toured the city in the bus, I felt like Gulliver from the Gulliver’s travel story. Probably it was because of living in Bombay for so many years. I had gotten accustomed to seeing tall buildings and grand shops. But the petite look of the city was warm and comforting.
I had decided to explore the Airbnb accommodations and was going to be living with a family. I must have called up the lady a million times, and she seems extremely calm and patient in every call. As I reached her house, in White Town – the famous French Colony – I was smitten by the wooden setting, straight, right out of a Malgudi Day story.
I spent the evening I strolled around the streets of Pondicherry (sort of induction) and ate at a local joint around the corner. It was going to be a long day, and I was in no mood to skip the transition sight of all-shades-of blue transfused with grey & white, to bright daylight. I started as early as 5 am, and hit the road to cycle in the misty morning breeze. Dark blue was the colour of the city in which the yellow, grey & white buildings shun like marble. Riding on the cobble-stoned Boulevard, I couldn’t stop admiring how simple yet elegant the city was! The colours of the building give you a sense of warmth and tell you the story of the city; the graffiti speaks with you out-loud from the wall (The graffiti’s on the walls are done mostly by travelling artists in an attempt to leave behind a mark of their art).
I reached the very famous promenade and as I rode on the empty roads, with the wind in my hair and the sweet smell of the sea. In a sudden epiphany, I realised I was all alone in this unknown city. At that moment, I experienced a sense of liberation. I had never felt like that before; A possible transcendence..!!
As the morning skies started to set in, I parked my cycle by a bench and watched (probably what I thought was the population of the whole of the city) in front of me, embark on the zestful morning walk. The sight of all ages and stripes enthusiastically headed towards one goal was pretty inspiring.
I basked in the morning cold sand and warm sun for a while and headed straight for breakfast to a house turned café, called Café des Arts. “Oh My Lord..!!” said my mind as I stepped in. A petite little place used to the best of its capacity. Picturesque! is the word for the place. I sat on the corner most table with only one chair and tried to absorb all that the place had to offer. The smell of the freshly bloomed flowers to your right, those antique tables and chairs that you just can’t get enough off, the charming carriage that runs right out of a 70’s romance novel and the aroma of the food. I ordered a ‘croquet madam’ with a glass of orange juice and sat there enjoying my food.
Next, I headed to Auroville Ashram - a revered ashram in Pondicherry that you must visit. Once the rush of the tourist ends, the ashram is the calmest and quiet place to be in. There is something magical in the silence of Auroville. It talks to you! It calms you down and fills you with positive energy.
Later I cycled back home and planned the rest of my day: Exploring local joints, Sight-seeing, Auroville & anything new I stumble upon in the journey. In my four day trip, I came across a lot of new things: new people, new culture, new food and finally a new me. Someone I just dreamed of being.
As I reminisced this particular morning, I documented it on my flight back home. It was the most liberating, empowering experience I shared with myself. A beginning I wrote!
I believe each one of us must take a chance and get out of our shell to experience something like this. It could be anything – anything you are scared off, have dreamt off or even if it happens by chance. It connects you to yourself; it challenges you and makes you independent. Leaving you empowered in a way no one else can!