Puducherry, Auroville

This has been a really nice vacation so far. Someone just asked me what we’ve been up to here, basically a lot of nothing, and it’s been great. Today we spent the day wandering around Pondicherry again. It was nice. We mostly spent it in a cafe and looking for the bus stop where I’ll be leaving from on Monday night to Hyderabad. The highlight was sitting in a very small van from one end of the city to another. Manoj had to crawl into the front, while I squatted in the back area with a bunch of women in sarees (more women wear sarees here than salwar kameez) looked at my scantly clad legs (I was wearing shorts) and giggled. They were really nice. A few got up and they made sure there was room on the benches surrounding the edges. At the tourist information center they were sure that all the tickets to Hyd would be sold out. When we got there, it seems as if only 5 or so were booked. We managed to take a public bus all the way back to Auroville (around 10K from Pondicherry) and then walked, a long walk, back to where we’re staying.

Auroville is a very, very interesting place. It’s a community living space. They have a charter; They follow the teachings of The Mother, a French woman who spent most of her adult life here, and Sri Aurobindo. They have a vision and this community is a part of it. From what I’ve understood from being here is that due to human activity mostly the place was in complete ruins and left as a desert. Forty years into their vision, the forest is back. It truly is beautiful. There’s dirt roads, a canteen where most people eat. They don’t accept money there – nor at a few other places. Rather, you have to put money on a card and they’ll deduct it from there. We have cycles and go around and around on their roads. It’s an interesting concept that Manoj and I have discussed – the pros, cons, oddities – at great length. They’ve done a great job in terms of water conservation. We went on a tour of Sadhana Forest which has done a lot of tree planting and done a huge amount of work in water conservation – the water table has risen 6 meters in the past couple of years, it’s very green. We both have some issues on the social impacts that are both positive and negative, and this isn’t the place I’ll discuss it but feel free to mail me if you wanna know my opinions or takeaways.

It gets dark a little before 7. A friend of ours, Sam, is a capoeira angola teacher here. He came up for our capoeira event. We went to his class on Wednesday night when we got here. We had to walk through the woods to get there. The class was done using a huge flashlight until the power came back halfway through. It took about another half hour for it to go back off again and we did a roda in the dark. It was pretty awesome. We were dropped back at our guest house by two girls from the class. Girls here ride geared bikes. It’s awesome. In Pune I’m an anomaly.

Yesterday we just biked around and did more of a bunch of nothing. Tomorrow we’ll venture to the beach. It should be nice.

People here are lazy. We walked from the main road yesterday. It’s probably about 5m from where we’re staying. People were shocked! Today, we cycled to the beach, which might be a good 10km. It’s not that bad and was a nice ride. People were shocked. When we were in Pondi the first day we walked from one end of the boardwalk to the other to get to the hotel. When we said we’d walk and not take a rickshaw the guy was shocked. We asked how long it would take and he said maybe a 10 minute walk. We smiled, thanked him, and walked.

The beach was awesome. The water was great. I swam in the Bay of Bengal. It was exciting, salty, and not that cold. We expected people to be a bit less conservative, especially the foreigners, but there were a few who were in full piece suits. The waves were awesome. We ran into a group of merchant marines who were from all over India and the offered us a beer. It was really relaxed. After a few swims we went to a small, but really nice restaurant right next to the water. It was also a surf shop. Manoj and I ate crepes and a sandwich while playing carrom. The owners are Tibetan from Dharamshala. It was really great to speak with him. We cycled back and are getting ready to eat. The canteen here closes by 7:30 and we were quite lucky that they had enough food to feed us last night.

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