A Taste of France in India

Trip Start Aug 09, 2008
Trip End Aug 2009

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Flag of India  , Union Territory of Pondicherry,
Saturday, February 7, 2009

Have we mentioned anywhere in our blog that India is LOUD. India is a country that makes sure you feel and hear its pulse with every fibre of your being.  Nothing is more true when you take the public/state buses which Rajiv and I have been doing for some of our long distance travels.  It's more flexible and no advanced booking is required, hence our preferred choice for some routes.

On our ride from Salem to Pondicherry which is a 6 hour bus ride, the driver had a movie/songs playing on a screen.  No headphones but speakers in the bus and Rajiv and I had the privilege of sitting right underneath them. They are loud and in Tamil which we both don't understand, so doesn't help.  Throw in the constant honking by the bus driver to that mix plus other vehicles and the occasional herd of cattle or goats on the road, which all makes for a lot of noise. 

The odd time when there is a lull in the music and this co-incides with the driver not honking, there is blessed peace for just a couple of seconds before the whole symphony starts again.  I  pass the time by looking at the scenery outside and inside the bus.  The ratio of men to women on the buses is about 8:2  We noticed that women don't sit beside unknown males and so there is a constant juggling to get the men to move so that women are able to find a seat.  After observing this, Rajiv and I switched seats. I was sitting by the window on a 3 seater with Rajiv in the middle. I moved to the middle so that a woman could sit with us.  Just thought we would share some of our bus experiences.

And now, a little bit about Pondicherry. A former French colony, there are still pockets of French culture evident in the city from the street names, food and the french language. Had our fix of lattes and chocolate cake at Coffee.com, a great little cafe with wifi and internet access. 

We also rented a scooter and drove to Auroville, about 12 km from Pondicherry.  Rajiv had fun with the scooter but driving on Indian roads, even relatively quiet ones, is stressful.  Auroville is an international community, described as a project in human unity.  They have about 80 rural settlements and each settlement has its own area of work and expertise from renewable energy, organic farming to womens' projects etc.

At the spiritual and physical centre of Auroville is the Matrimandir, the soul of Auroville.  It looks like a golden golf ball and contains a silent inner chamber for meditation and spiritual practices.  Day visitors are not allowed in, so we only saw this from the outside. We spent the day wandering through their ecological park that showcased how they reforested the area they settled, and started organic farms and alternative energy projects. We also looked through shops that contained products like soap, incense, and stationary made by Aurovillians, and finished the tour with a good wholesome lunch at their cafe. It will be interesting to spend a week here, participating in some of their projects- possibly another time!
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