“Traveling; it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Batuta
Travel is the biggest inspiration for an Artist, a Storyteller, a Poet and a Soul-searcher. Such is the case with me; the traveler in me is always restless to see cultures and beauty of the world. It is not only to collect pictures as memorabilia; I gather experiences in my mind and share them in my stories.
The thought that there is so much to explore in India and with the help of Google, we decided to visit ‘Pondicherry and Auroville’. We booked our flights and hotel and set off.
Day 1: Pondicherry
We landed at Chennai airport and headed off to Pondicherry, on one of the most beautiful routes; just a 3-hour drive on the East Coast Road.
Pondicherry has 2 parts- the Indian and the French. The French East India Company established it as their headquarters in 1674. Pondicherry still carries the French flavour very strongly in its architecture, churches, hotels, beaches, restaurants and even street names.
We reached around 2pm, had lunch at Café Xtasy and left for Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which is serene and peaceful. In the evening, we explored the French colony and visited ‘The Promenade’ and gorged on the fresh handmade pasta at Le Dupleix.
Day 2: Pondicherry
All excited to explore a little more of Pondicherry, we got ready and headed off to rent cycles. We headed to Sri Aurobindo Paper Mill, where they make beautiful handmade paper stationary. They showed us the way paper is made, followed by their shopping store. We ended up shopping for stationary from there followed by some more shopping for jewelry, ceramics, incense and other beautiful stuff from the main market.
We had lunch at the alluring Villa Shanti, post that we visited the botanical garden, the Museum and other places.
After a sumptuous dinner at the rooftop restaurant of Promenade Hotel, we retired to our hotel for a few games of UNO before we called it a day.
Day 3: Auroville
The life changing part of the trip was here- Auroville, which is 8km from Pondicherry. We had heard a bit about Auroville, but that was nothing as compared to the experience we were to have over the next one and half days. Auroville; founded in 1968 and named after Sri Aurobindo, is home to 2500 people from over 53 countries. The thought is to have a universal town, where people from all countries are able to live in peace and harmony and work for humanity.
We reached the middle of Auroville and saw ‘The Matrimandir’, which is the place to find inner peace. The interiors of Matrimandir were all white and pious.
At Auroville there are activities such as yoga, meditation, art, music, cultural activities, and workshops that are conducted by Aurovillians. This is how they earn, get to know others and share their knowledge with them. We visited the shopping centre which displayed cotton clothes, handmade stationary and other beautiful things made by women at a local NGO. Later, we grabbed a quick bite at one of the many food options here. We spent some time at the Savitri Bhavan which displayed beautiful paintings and offers a reading room.
We stayed at one of the home-stay options to experience how Aurovillians live. People stay in beautiful wooden huts here. Many of them quit their high paying jobs to reside here and serve humanity. Excellent Pasta for dinner at Tantos was the perfect way to wind up an enriching day.
Day 4: Auroville and back.
We attended a workshop called Leela: The Game of Life, conducted by a Spanish resident of Auroville. It was an interesting game with Snakes and ladders; a positive quality takes you up the ladder, while a negative one will pull you down with the snake. The dice decides your journey in life and we learned a lot about ourselves through that game.
We bid goodbye to Auroville to catch our flight back home. It was a short vacation but a powerful one. Not only did it strengthen our friendship, it gave me the most beautiful experience of being at Auroville and lessons of selflessness.