Monday, April 24, 2006

auroville...and the night ahead

La terasse beckoned us through the slighlty hidden archway..a cool place built aesthetically using sutmps of cocunut trees for pillars and a tatched and windy..we were expecting a menu where prices started in 3 digits, but to our surprise the prices were nominal compared to what even a sangeetha in chennai charges. and we dug in for the long haul.
but the start was not good..."soups and frite"..i ordered..the waiter blinked "sprite????".."no no frite" i said pointing to the menu.."oh!!!u mean freets"
yeah!! yeah!! i replied; in a tone which was meant to convey that in my part of the country that thing was pronounced the way i just did it..
the waiter just smiled..i smiled back in the realisation that ordering veg dishes from a menu written in french/english was going to be fun(for all practical purposes the menu could have even been in greek or latin)
The fried potatos, with the hot soup set the taste buds yearning for more. We were out for a ball and we were going to have it. But then rarely did it strike us that these would later form an explosive combination once inside the body. But then again, first things first. starters done with, it was maincourse time..Italian wood fire pizzza for me ...and steaks for the others..The jouney began in all earnesty and providing respite to the mouth from all the chewing and swallowing was the harmless gossip and banter. oops i almost forgot. we also had mashed potato to go with this round.
Main course done..icecreams and frites for desserts:-))
stepping out into the early evening sun, we were brought back from the hallowed confines of a meditteranean setting to the hot early summer climes of Pondy..more specifically to the loud world of dravidian politics..Amma was going to have a rally in Pondy...yes, we were blessed to the see her in person and experience first hand the best in the world of sycophancy.
Managing to get out of pondy a good hour before the rally the drive to auroville was largely uneventful..except for the final 2 Kms. Bad roads, lush trees mango guava and jack fruit, lots and lotso white skin and life just ambling along one in any particular hurry. Welcome to Auroville..The reception center was like an arts gallery and to shed the fatigue from the ride we loitered around in the A/C rooms for a while. Refreshed, we were all set to go to the maitri mandir only to be told that it was a good 15 minute walk. And the thought brought the fatigue right back. No walking business for us today. A lime soda from the canteen and we were off on our main pursuit..the Auroville beach ;-)
A lot of stories about the beach do the rounds in Chennai and we were going to get a few of our own to tell. Parking our bikes at the gates, we try and pass for regulars only to be shooed away by the security guards. Standing there perplexed, i had this feeling that we were going to be fodder for laughter for the few auto drivers there..only to have the thought cut short by sreejith leading the way..through a clearing beside the gate..smelly and shady we were wondering were we were headed.Only to be assured a few steps later by the lashing waves of the Bay of bengal. We felt like explorers and with the anticipation mounting by the minute, what resulted was one of the biggest anti climaxes of recent times. the clearing led us to the beach, only to be greeted by hundreds of "Onlookers" if u know what i mean, separated from the main beach by a fence and a few security guards..and a board that requested us to respect others' privacy ..Phuuu
Not to be undone and making the best use of the situation we quickly changed and dove right into the sea...real shallow and real gentle. we walk almost a 100 meters in. enjoi the waves, the occasional swimmer who has moved on to the wrong side inadvertently and then startled by some prick, moves back again. it went on for a while. Sunset and we were out of the water. All sandy we slowly ride back to Pondy only to be greeted by huge crowds waiting for amma. The rally was late.
a quick wash later we were back on the road, this time no bikes, we were going to explore the night life on foot. First pitstop - Hot and cold for Dinner. Take a turn on the road and there it was..The tempo carrying Amma a spot light on her face and the loud speaker blaring ..and I think i heard free rice????
The rooftop restaurant at H&C was quite a setting, and under the influence of a little bit of inhibition reducing substances the conversation grew more interesting as the night grew older.. A good 3 hrs and we were out on the empty roads...11.PM we decide to walk to the marina only to be surprised to see a good family crowd at that time of the night. i once again wonder when Kerala is going to be like this..
A few party animals coming out of the pub were to be our eye candy. And once we were sure that there were no more left where they came from we pushed on ..Only to have the night spiced up by a PYT totally lost in her world,drunk??? drugged??? riding a scooter all over the lonely road and us three standing right in the middle. She halts..We halt ..??????again anti climax..she comes close and then takes the turn on the road just ahead of us ..we walk on, only to have her zip past on the parallel roads a few times. Enough to have a few of us imagining a few things...the cool sea breeze, tired legs an A/C room ..we doze of with promises of catching the sunrise...Promises????

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

la pondy

time 7.30 distance covered 40kms. Not a great way to go if we wanted to beat the early summer sun to Pondicherry. And with every passing kilometer the road began twisting and turning more. And with every passing kilometer i was getting more and more comfy with the bike. Fear melting away and the deeply held craze for racing -NFS style took over. 10 mins into the drive and anil bellowed 10 mins-8 kms...and that did it..

I bent my head and crouched on the fuel tank, putting on the profile of a race biker, and exposing anil's huge frame to the wind. the tacho was steadily climbing.. 6000rpm...7k.....7.5k...8k... and i could now feel the engine straining. But i was not one to let go now. The spirit had taken over. tilting gently thru the banked curves. devouring the kilometers. And anil behind me was getting slightly uncomfortable and with a gentle tap on the shoulder pointed to the tacho..and i gently let go..a few kms on and the game was back on..immediate target - catch up with the guys in the front. and we did that soon after anil cried out 12 mins 15 kms..and we passed them...Riding was now a breeze with the vegetation providing
cover against the wind. With trees on both sides and lush green paddy fields the scene could been straight out of kerala. the road now punctuated with the odd signpost declaring dangerous curves. We were pushing ahead in the hope that the series of dangerous curves would continue even in Pondy.
After what felt like 5 minutes, we stopped. Time 8.30 distancve covered 55 kms.. And the guys couldnt have stopped at a better place. A road side flatform built long ago, under a huge banyan tree, for the travellers of yore. A small navagraha temple nearby and a couple of locals peering at us curiously. Kind of felt like a step back in time, as though, in the next second a huge caravan of bullock carts could come right out of the end of the road. Or a battalion of soldiers gallop by to the alambra fort that we just passed.
A few memorable snaps later we were off again, me and anil switching roles. We passed the memorial marking pondicherry soon and were slowed down to a crawl by the narrow roads and the traffic.
Upto me to play the role of the navigator. The countless traveller magazines that i had read came in handy. Pondy is reputed to have a very efficient tourism department and what better place to look for help than on the fabled marina. And there it was tucked away, in one of the buildings in the french quarter.
The sun was bearing down heavily on us and the reflection from the clear sea was blinding to say the least. The air conditioned confines of the tourism office was a welcome reprieve. We were asked to make ourselves comfortable, handed out a couple of brouchres and a map of pondy that was to become our guiding beacon from then on. Asking around for a couple of decent stay options we move out. A little bit of desperation creeping in with the rumblings from within growing bigger. And with nature calling a couple of us really badly, we needed to act fast. The sun was
sapping us pretty fast and a couple of hotels later (all of which were costly) we were dehydrated to the core. Finally finding a baragain at Hotel Aruna. Draggin up our tired asses upto 4th floor, and the A/C room felt like heaven. All of us dozed off almost instantaneously, waking up a good 2 hrs later at 12.30. A refreshing shower and all of us were raring to go. Lunch time!!!

Friday, April 07, 2006


The watch read 06.30 as we breezed past the toll way and the ECR stretched out ahead. But we were not confident about pushing the fazer to its limit. The past year had shown that the fazer leaves a lot to be desired on the buid quality. As a precaution the bike was just out of a full paid serive a week back and as of a couple of days back was singing like a nightingale. But then just before we were leaving for pondy we noticed that the speedo and the odo were broken - yet again.

A sign of things to come, maybe??? fingers crossed

Anil was cruising at around 60 kmph (had to count the miles and the time and then calculate the speed the good old fashioned way) on the ECR and by now the traffic had really thinned out to the odd moped or bike and the qualises that seemed to appear out of nowhere and then zoom past. We had also left behind the clutter of buildings on ECR which were obstructing the beach. The monstrosities that have been buuilt in the name of farmhouses were truly an eye sore. The rising sun was now peeking through the vegetation on our left more frequently. But then nothing
prepared us for the splendour of a sunrise over the wast bay of bengal as we approached the lake at Muthukad. The ECR bridges over the lake and provides a unhindered view of the sea to the left.That period of the dawn, was ideal too, with the haze and the smog gently lifting away and a cool wind blowing into the sea. Only thing i could mutter to myself was

"so, this is what sunrises look like!!".

I had by now, with my 2 years in the city, begun to associate day break with the changing hue at the horizon as seen from my 3rd floor bedroom window.
Bike rides with Anil regardless of who is riding is generally not a silent affair, what with everything ranging from movies, society , religion and ladies being discussed. But this was different. I was too engrossed in the life erupting around me at day break, trying to capture whatever i could with a digital camera, the size of a match box. Anil meanwhile, was fulfilling his hearts desire for a cruise at dawn. We hardly spoke and whatever little i said was answered with a nod of the helmet.
We were now truely out on the open road and to our left were the wind breakers - a series of trees that buffeted the space between the road and the sea. These were planted to protect the coast from the murderous winds that lash this coast, year after year, with unflinching resolve. If there ever was anything surreal then this was it. And we didnt notice the bike slowing down as we took in the magic of the moment.
After a few snaps, I had begun to lose faith in the camera and had begun hating the Japs for their obsession with size (small is beautiful seems to be their motto) and not functionality. The LCD monitor was getting blurred as the ambient light brightened and i had a hard time trying to figure out whether i was even pointing
in the right direction, let alone focus.
The semi trance that we were in broke suddenly, with what else, my mobile phone ringing. The guys ahead had already reached Mamallapuram (mahabalipuram of yore) and had been waiting for us for some time now. And this brought our attention back to more pressing things at hand. Revving up we raced ahead and met up with the guys in a few minutes.

Getting down from the bike i could sense the excitement that everyone shared. My whole body a sense of vibrations going up and down, as i stood on the ground. And was glad to note that this was not happening with me alone. A few interesting tit bits on the ride thus far and we were off again. Only to stop 500 meters later for breakfast. A quick bite and a sip of coffee later we were off again with me riding the fazer. Everyone a little apprehensive about the state of our bowels though.
I generally dont use helmets, as i am more of an instinctive driver. I sense vehicles coming up from behind with the corner of my eye rather than the rear view. But that short ride upto mamalla inn and the sight of an aveo, camry and an esteem slipstreaming one behind the other at what was deifnitely way over the speed limit, convinced me to put one on today....and i was not going to regret that today.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The pondy saga!!! - a prelude

The scene had not changed much from the time i hit the bed..all the lights in all the rooms were on..the comp was i guessed i had not slept much and try and fall asleep again..
Vimal had other plans though. Already up and having finished his bath he was looking for a person to wake up. and with my timing sense being immaculate as ever, my gentle stirrings manage to catch his eye...quick to oblige, he does manage to get me out of bed..Groggy-eyed, slurred speech and a head that was weighin a million tonnes..
Everything begins to come back to me slowly....why i woke up, pondy, the bike, the ride and ECR!!! With an ego that is larger than me, backing out of the trip is not an option. I am already cursing myself for sort of having let the cat out of the bag..My fear of ECR..
I hurriedly rush through the chores (brushing my teeth) more as a ritual and with a deep breath decide not to have a bath..Logically speaking i would be accumulating dirt all along the way and so makes sense to wash at the end.. and another not so logical reason my mentor calvin i hate to take bath..(not apologetic)
And after a lot of pushing, cajoling and name calling, the door to our flat is finally shut at 5.45. Rushing down from the 3rd flr making quite a racket, the old mami staying in the ground floor would surely have been wondering at that sight...And the machines come to life.. Pulsar and a Fazer
First stop the petrol pump..and the realisation dawns that we dont have a helmet..That would mean us going back while vimal and sreejith Waited..Not a good sign...As grandma says " once u start a journey u r not supposed to turn back until u reach ur destination" , turning back is meant to bring MISFORTUNE..
Grandmas and their superstitions, "huh!! really silly!!!"...and brush aside my suspiscions...a nagging doubt though "r they really silly"...eeey!!!!!
And as we turn back from the house...we see a horde of buffalos......buffalos..Yaman's 6.00 in the morning..and every bloody superstition that has somehow been fed into my subconscious through a tradtional upbringing explode into the open...Never would have realised that i even knew these things..
Spooked i was..Spooked as in hell...but then when u have an overpowering ego coupled with a insatiable desire for travel, ur decisions and actions are not really yours and Fear invariably takes the back seat..we turn from Thiruvanmiyur and the ECR beckons...Vimal and sreejith Race ahead in the pulsar, through the sparse morning traffic while we strain to keep pace in the fazer...a good 5 kms out and my cap flies off...and now i am thinking of that stupid e-mail forward that i recd...about how god talks to u through his agents - helmet, Buffalo and now wind??? Weird when I begin to realise the amount of crap that is residing in my brain...

We give up on the Pulsar and steady the pace.
And as we approached the Toll, the sign post read.....

ECR Scenic roadway begins

This was a trip that has been one of the most memorable ive ever made..and i have made quite a i look at the photos and the events now...feel as though i have just experienced what can maybe run as a mega serial me enough substance to write about for a couple of weeks and keep me engaged for the period.
All i can say is, however hard i try and blog, the trip will come alive in the images keep the comments coming as u enjoy this attempt at a travelogue ( I hope)

Saturday, April 01, 2006


April begins tomorrow - The last month for the 4 of us at 3/10, Mayur apts, Indiranagar. We have given our landlord the notice and the four of us - Vimal - the investment banker, Sreejith - management guru, Anil - "_____" guru (really dont know what to put there) and me the travel journalist, all wannabes though...are set to part ways after 6 long years..and what better way to mark it than with a trip to pondy ...
This was a trip that was planned in December 04.. when we stepped into this house for the first time..but then due to the inborn tendency for procrastination that all of us seemed to have, the trip never ever happened and the farthest that we got towards pondicherry was T.C.O..
But now the issue picked up some real urgency, and April 1st was decided...easier part done with..but with our motto being "never do today, what u can do tomorrow"..the plan has not moved an inch off the ground...that is go to pondy..stay the night there and come back on sunday evening
planning to do this trip by car, my uncle's maruti 800, I make a couple of sorties to his house to try and lend me the car...but then...he has this nose to pick up shit coming from me how ever sugar coated it might i get the car but only if i take the driver along...definitely not an interesting plan ditched
After a lot of deliberation we decide to bike to Pondy..120 kms on ECR...and my meek mutterings against it are voted out 3 to 1...ECR is probably one of the most scenic of coastal highways in India..but one of the most dangerous too...and for me taming the ECR has been the stuff of nightmares...
I ride fast but carefully and rarely use the brake until i really need to. But that can often mean that the person sitting behind me often has his heart in his mouth, which i recognise by their thighs tightening against me....and to put it in the words of my bro/sis i ride like a madman...i simply luv riding for the fun of it..but then ECR it is a different ball game..
The guys are all too but to a lesser extent...excitement tinged with a little trepidation
I hear voices in the other room....and out comes an audacious plan..."the time is now 1.30am so let us get ready and leave now...we will reach pondy at 6.00 in the morning" heart just skipped a beat..quickly go on the offensive and manage to shoot down the plan....the guys pull back and settle down for a departure at 5.30 am...
My mind a little at ease..but not yet fully settled...planning to hit the bed now...dont know whether ill be able to sleep...looking ahead for what a brand new day beholds..cause all said and done...i will never want to back out of this trip cause the travel bug that has bitten me..sure did one hell of a job..fingers crossed