Friday, August 24, 2007

Pondy Pilgrimage

We are currently in Pondicherry (recently renamed Puducherry, but there is no way I am calling it that silly name.) We made the journey from Chennai in the quetionable comfort of a frigidly air-conditioned Ambassador taxi. I mention the aircon because it had only two settings: FREEZING, and off. We favoured the latter, but our driver, in the way of minor bureaucrats everywhere, kept switching it back on. The basic rationale seemed to be: you paid for aircon, this car has aircon, so now you will have it, whether you want it or not. It took the rest of the day for us to defrost, even in the humid heat of coastal Tamil Nadu.

Our journey was, however, enlivend by the streams of orange-clad Christian pilgrims walking past on their way to Pondicherry. Their clothes ranged from lurid day-glo orange to faded sherbert tones. Some wore shoes, many more didn't. Some carried flags, and some even pushed carts blaring music and containg icons of Jesus or Mary - of course! I wasn't able to get full details from our driver, but he did tell me that the walk takes ten days, and is undertaken by South India's Christians. Now here is an interesting pseudo-fact: depending who you ask, between one and two percent of India's population is Christian. Seems like a number to overlook, no? But it represents somewhere between 10 and 20 million people. South Africa's entire population is only 45 million. And this is maybe a metaphor for all of India. It is BIG. So many people, so much faith, so much heat, so many insects. And lots of poop!

We are really enjoying Pondicherry - it is a small town, clean and quiet compared to Chennai. The old French town - the Ville Blanche - is riddled with gorgeous old buildings and seems to be undergoing a period of gentrification. We are staying in one such renovated building - our hotel must be the best in the town - it is named for the ill-fated French governor of South India, Le Dupleix. We ended up in this upscale establishment through a combination of two factors: leaving our travel arrangements to the last minute, and exhaustion with the profound grubbiness of our Chennai apartment. Cleanliness in India runs to different standards than I am comfortable with. But now, according to the Le Dupleix catchphrase, we are sleeping like governors and eating like nawabs. See the pictures (courtesy of the Le Dupleix site) and weep!

Yup, that is our room. Perfect for naps, sloth, and, of course, yoga.

Stay tuned for tales of our trip to Auroville and the Matramandir, including my sweaty brush with celebrity.


Danura said...

You;re on flickr!

EinsteinsSmellySock said...


which hotel in Pondicherry is this? And what room type? We were planning a trip there...and this seems perfect!!!
Hope to hear from you soon ...