It’s very easy for me to fall in love. I tend to look for the best in people and things and so, I find myself drawn to everyone and everything – at least for a while. But with Pondicherry, I never really had to try.
Pondicherry is like one of those places the protagonist discovers through magic. Where time stops the moment you step foot into the city and where everything you’ve ever known seems absolutely unnecessary. The people of Pondicherry are extremely nice and extremely helpful. They will treat you like a guest and offer you help whenever you ask for it. On the weekends, the same folks will gather in groups with their close ones and by the beach – they’ll sit down to talk about life and everything in it.
We arrived in Pondicherry at 8 Am in the morning and set out to the guest house we had booked for the weekend. The guest house was located in White Town, which is a slightly more developed and tourist friendly part of the union territory. Nila Homestay is the kind of guest house that’ll make you feel instantly at home. In just under ₹1500 ($22 aprox) you can get the comfort of an AC room and share it with two other friends. They also have one of the most helpful staff around. If you ever find yourself in Pondicherry, make sure you Google them.
In Pondicherry, you’ll find many nooks and corners where you can have your lunch, breakfast or even dinner in the dimmest of lights, surrounded with best of company and the best of music. And if you love to shop, prepare yourself to be treated with the most beautiful and handmade pieces of clothings, jewelry, books and journals and other niceties everywhere you go. We first visited the Tasha ki Asha Café for breakfast and treated ourselves to some parfait, some freshly squeezed orange juice and the most delicate Idlis mankind has ever touched. The café regularly organises concerts and jam sessions, which I am told are a must visit. After a heavy breakfast, it was time to get exploring. We set out under the unforgiving sun towards Promenade Beach. Promenade Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Pondicherry and rightly so. It houses the famous Mahatma Gandhi statue, which I found to my amusement, was quite popular among the kids of Pondicherry. The pavement along the beach is so much like Bombay; it is a staunch reminder of the times gone by when Pondicherry used to be a French colony. The impact the French had on the people and the place is still quite visible in every aspect of Pondicherry. When you visit Pondicherry, you must take a walk on the Promenade beach at night and perhaps take a moment to contemplate life and your place in it because that’s exactly what the place inspires you to do. It’s the place where you find the road meant for you even when you’re surrounded by water all around.
If you’re into water sports, Paradise Beach is where you should head. You have to pay a minimal charge to go inside the beach and once you’re in, a ferry will take you to a small island where you can indulge in all the water sports you like or if you’d rather just lose yourself in the tides and become a child again – that’s okay too. With a pint of beer in your hands, you’ll be content and glad and you’ll wish were nowhere else.
The next morning, we went to the Baker’s Street Café which is a temple for food lovers all over the world. If you’re the kind of person who finds joy only when served with the most delicious food the world has to offer – this is your place. Built like a cafe and housed with the most beautiful food I’ve ever seen, Baker’s Street is a must visit.
And if you’re Pizza lover then do yourself a huge favour and visit Cafe Xtasi which is just down the road from Baker’s Street. Cafe Xtasi has a huge woodplace oven and they serve the largest and the most delicious slice of pizza in the whole of Pondicherry.
Another thing you must do when you land in Pondicherry is visit Auroville Ashram. The Auroville Ashram was started by the followers of Aurobindo and the Mother and it houses a huge dome where one can escape the world and go on to concentrate and find their inner peace.
Pondicherry is the kind of place I see someday settling down in. It’s like a glorified village where your weekend is only so many days away and the city as a whole is your family. It’s the sort of place you want to escape to.
The world may have forgotten Pondicherry, but Pondicherry doesn’t care. It’s happy and content being what it was meant to be. A place to escape and a place to get inspired.