Category Archives: Travel

Pondicherry Diaries

“It is only in quietness and peace that one can know what is the best thing to do.” –

The Mother

 

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Roads in White Town 🙂

Pondicherry was one of my destination on  my #100days of road trip to South India. It so happened that Pondicherry was one of those places I couldn’t do any prior bookings for. After some initial research on Google, I decided to go first to the White Town. Honestly, I didn’t know about it then. I reached and parked my car in front of the post office, a little away from Aurobindo Ashram. The moment I stepped out of the car, I was in awe. I have this habit of collecting stamps from all the places I go to, so the first thing in front of me was a post office. I went there to collect stamps. There I saw the stamp carrying picture of The Mother, Mirra Alfassa. Then I asked the lady sitting there and she told me the story about the Mother and White town. I was amazed at it and wanted to know more. She told me to visit Auroville for that. I decided that that had to be one of my to do list for Pondicherry.

 

Post office in White Town/French Town, Pondicherry

I walked around in the White Town for almost three hours…street after street. It was peaceful and serene. It is a peaceful, laid back town with a legacy of being a French colony. Pondicherry and White Town are synonymous. I stayed in a luxurious hotel – Le Dupleix and then in beach hotel run by Aurobindo Society. Both are properties were good. Personally between the two of them, I like the Aurobindo run society guest house more than Le Dupleix. That was booked through a friendship that germinated in Aura Shop on Promenade Beach road. I met two beautiful souls there – Charles and Venkat, who not only helped me in planning my Pondicherry and Auroville tour, but also helped me in booking a perfect stay for me.

Me at Aurobindo Ashram
One of the best office location – this was Secretariat office
Promenade beach, Pondicherry

The city has everything – cleanest beaches in India, chinches, Ashram, temple, museum, and cafes. The town has got everything to offer what one could desire for. I went for four days, but ended up spending a week there. And still didn’t want to leave. Pondicherry is one place where you can stay in peace for almost a week and connect with yourself.

A day spent at Auroville will need another write up, for another day. For now, enjoy trip to Pondicherry.

Kumbh Mela – The Eternal Journey

Fragrance of burning incense sticks, Vedic mantras in the background, echoes of sadhus and sadhavis, and public in general chanting prayers related to Hindu mythology, millions of people gathering to take a dip at Sangam, thousands of diyas lit, colours from all over the world – that is how Kumbh Mela looks like!

Kumbh Mela in India is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm, attended by people all over the world. It is not a festival, not an occasion – it is a faith, a faith in which Hindus (majorly) gather to take a dip in holy waters. It is also considered as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”. This faith behind the greatest congregation on Earth, this all encompassing energy of belief and power – it is the spiritual belief of hinduism – MOKSHA. It is this faith in the form of Kumbh Mela, the only one in which people together believe in the fact that one has to get out of this circle of life and death, and they take an attempt (whichever way they can understand) to get out of this cycle. It has also been inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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Taken from Facebook/Internet

There are only four places for it – Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.

  • The Ganges – At Haridwar; when Jupiter is in Aquarisu and Sun is in Aries during The Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April)
  • Sangam of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati – At Prayagraj (Allahabad); when Jupiter is in Aries or Taurus and Sun and Moon are in Capricorn during The Hindu month of Magha (January-February)
  • The Godavari – At Nashik; when Sun and Jupiter are in Leo during The Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August-September)
  • The Shipra – At Ujjain; when Jupiter is in Leo and Sun is in Aries, or when all three are in Libra during The Hindu month of Vaisakha (April-May).

There is a difference of around 3 years between Kumbh Melas at Haridwar and Nashik; the Melas at Nashik and Ujjain are celebrated int eh same year or one year apart. Maha Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years – at Haridwar and Prayagraj (Allahabad).

STORY BEHIND KUMBH MELA

This Mela is associated with a Hindu Legend –  In Samudra Manthan (churning of ocean)a pot (“Kumbh”) of nectar came out of it, for which gods and demons fought. This fight was for immortality. When the pot was produced, to prevent the demons from seizing it, a divine carrier flew away with it. As per the legends, while carrying the pot around, it spilled at four places – these four are the places where Kumbh Mela takes place.

Another story is that each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Moon, the Sun, and the Jupiter.

SIGNIFICANCE OF HOLY WATERS 

Mela at Prayagraj (Allahabad) is probably the oldest. It derives its importance from the fact that the waters here creates a vortex – confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and invisible Saraswati. It is believed that whenever the planet Jupiter enters the astrological sign Taurus, when the Sun and the Moon are in Capricorn, a powerful positive energy space is created at Prayag. The whole area is charged with that force – water, air and the entire atmosphere.

It is believed that taking a bath in holy water that is imbued with  a power to promote spiritual growth, emotional strength, and health, and finally putting an individual on the path to moksha.

Now, one need to understand that only taking a dip in water doesn’t bring moksha/liberation. It puts on the path of moksha – the journey is still long from there. Because of the positive and charging energies there, people are put on the path of liberation and move towards attaining true knowledge. It is only this true knowledge that would end the war between the good and the bad – like the legend – where it is the search for the nectar of immortality that ended the war between the gods and the demons. It is for this search, when both came together and worked for it. That is what a human being also needs to do – accept and assimilate, both the good and bad, work together to move towards liberation.

In 2019, Ardh Kumbh Mela is being held in Prayagraj (Allahabad, India).

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Aayi Mandapam At Pondicherry

Aayi Mandapam At #puducherry

It was build during the period of Napoleon III, Emperor of France. It is located in the centre of #BharathiPark. This monument tells a story of a king and a prostitute. Kind Krishnadevaraya and Aayi. So there’s a link of hundreds of year story and the one during the time of Napoleon III.

Krishnadevarya, while on a visit to the town, got impressed by the beauty of a house. He unknowingly bowed down before the beauty of Aayi’s brothel. When people started making fun of him and he realised his mistake, he fumed with anger. He wanted to destroy the brothel. Aayi pleaded to the king and asked for permission to break down the house herself. The prostitute broke down the house and build a well in place of that. It is called #aayikulam in her memory.

Years later, the French made Pondicherry their capital. The French town on sea shore side faces water shortage and all the wells present had only salty water. The French king, Napoleon III sent an architect Monsieur Lamairesse to sort out the problem. The architect built 5km long tunnel from Aayi kulam to a park in the French town. When the French king heard about the story behind Aayi kulam, he ordered to build a monument for Aayi. This monument is built in French architectural style.

#indiaissafe #incredibleindia #indianstories #gettingstrongereveryday #travelresponsibly #pondicherrydiaries #pondicherrytourism

A visit to Coffee and other spices Plantation in Madikeri, Coorg

A visit to Coffee and other spices Plantation in Madikeri, Coorg. Coorg also is known as Kodagu.

This coffee plantation is a private property of an individual whom I met on this journey, through another known, and we ended up becoming friends. His name is Rohith Mathews and through him, I got home cooked food too 😛

Rohith’s usual days start early, going to the farm and assigning work to everyone. He too stays and work wherever needed. Through this walk, not only did I learn a little about coffees but also saw a glimpse into the lives of people who put their hard work into it. So a coffee farmer, as he calls himself, is unlike what I always thought. I assumed it to be toiling – pruning and harvesting. But unless I saw it, I couldn’t imagine the read hard work. Also, Rohith had a brilliant understanding of soil and plants reaction towards the nature. He had more sensitivity towards the earth / understands and connects to the soil in a way I have never seen or heard so far. I also learnt that cardamom plant is actually really sensitive plant. You need to visit it on a regular basis to get a good crop. Rohith calls the plant as “Attention Seeker”.

Inspite of being the owner of this plantation, He does participate in all work with his labour forces- harvesting, pruning, fertilising, experimenting with new planting techniques, marketing, transporting, and then finally praying to the Mother Nature to take care of the crop.

The coffee plants harvest once a year, and the life period of one plant can go up to 20-25 years. Initially when these plants are planted, they take 3-5 years to get the first harvest. So a farmer has to wait for at least five years to get its results. Some patience and perseverance is needed.

On the other hand, then there are landslides, unwanted rains, etc other natural occurrences which is taking away the soil’s capability of growing produces.

This coffee plantation has been with Rohith’s family since 1950s – bought by his grand mother. Then his father worked on it. Quite a number of plants in the plantation belongs to grandmother’s time. Rohith himself is also experimenting with new ways too.

Still, a lot of coffee plantations are getting out of family and sold to big players. No youngster as such really wants to learn and take over the business of being a coffee farmer. When you are a farmer, you will eat what you will work for. You are responsible not only for yourself but others too. Most of the youngsters need a salaried, secured job. Rohith wishes that the plantation stAys forever in family and his children inherits it.

#incredibleindia #landofstories #indiaissafe #coorgdiaries

Asking for help is an Art

#day48 #tiruvnamallai #help #artofasking #universe #gratitude

This morning I woke up with a message from a student of MBA(Toursim), Pondicherry Central University where I was invited as a guest speaker to share my journey and views on solo travelling. The message was about appreciating one of my view – how it left a mark – the view “Asking for help is an Art”.

I had thought about writing regarding this in detail, but amidst all these trips, planning where to travel and where to stay, to cover which places and all, it somehow skipped my mind. This morning when I saw this message, I decided it’s about time. So I sat in my balcony, overlooking the Arunachala Hill and feeling grateful to the Universe, started scribbling down.

Till the age of 27, I was not good at asking about anything. To anyone. Be it my parents or anyone in the world. In fact, when I was dating, I always wanted to pay for the dates or atleast share the expenditure. In my relationships, I had always been the one spending. In fact, if the other partner wanted to do it, I felt uncomfortable. Maybe I was too control freak. I didn’t want anyone to ever claim that they had spent on me. When I was growing up, I wanted a lot of things. Coming from a middle working class family, then essentials were always taken care of – in fact, in a much better way because we do got to travel throughout India too with parents during our summer vacations. But when it came to buying things which is for your own consumption, and a “want”, I was very reserved. The same way I grew up. I couldn’t ask – so this habit of “not asking” came down to not ask, not only for the material things, but emotional too. I couldn’t ask for emotional support too, when I needed. When I was heart broken, I knew I had to pick up the pieces on my own. There was too much hurt, and I couldn’t share it. One, I didn’t know how to. Two, what stopped me always was – “what the other person would be thinking?” Because of this, I could never open up. One incident happened, and then i was open to receiving too. I got signs from the universe that it’s not only giving, but I have to be open to receive too. That’s how we get most of our gifts. We need to open for them.

Now you must be thinking how is this related to travelling. Let me just link the art of asking for help with travelling. When we are travelling, especially solo, doesn’t matter how equipped we are, we do end up needing some sort of help. Nothing big or small. Just help. Through this only, we also get an opportunity to get connected to other people too – especially the locals. Otherwise, we could be sitting in our car and going around the world, but without interacting with others that journey would never be complete.

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

Let me just list down a few situations where we might be put into a position of asking for help –

1. Asking for help in directions

That’s one help that is much required when we are travelling, especially driving. This is the most integral part of visiting new places. Doesn’t matter how much the technology may make us believe that it’s there to show us the way, we do loose connections/ no connection zone. Then, who’s gonna come for rescue? Yes. Right. The locals. In fact asking for directions from people is more sociable too. When we loose network connections and are lost, we do loose this false sense of having everything under control too. So when we ask for help for directions, we are head on facing the issue of being lost too. So, wait for a while and look around. Observe your surroundings, grasp the situation, engage with people and society around then only. This is more like an act of trusting. People, especially strangers, usually don’t break your trust and live up to your expectations.

This act of helping the other also makes one feel good. So just by asking for directions, we also can learn new things – like the way people respond, their behaviour, the way they tell directions, etc. For e.g., in one state you will find people telling you directions like “take left or right”, etc. And then there are times when people will say “Go north or south or north east for 30kms” and so on. So yeah, we do learn that too! So when travelling to a different land, remember to learn a few lines of help in the respective language. If you are travelling in India, where English is second language, do not try to be grammatically correct. People might actually not understand what you are trying to say. It’s better to use टूटी फूटी English.

Another way of asking for help while travelling is asking for advice from people who have already travelled to that particular place. It can be in the form of travel experiences, places to visit/stay/eat. You can also read travel blogs – that’s another way of seeking help. Also by asking for destination advice, there’s a very high probability that you might end up at some place not known to many. I ended up visiting an old friend’s home in Sivakasi, when I asked for some suggestions on places to visit. Sivakasi was never in my itinerary but I ended up being there. Ask people for advice, and share their stories.

Travelling solo is an amazing experience, but at time when the days are more you do feel like having a company. This is when sharing experiences and stories becomes a beautiful experience. Being friendly and open is a simple way of connecting with people.

While travelling, it is important to keep everything balanced. Being independent, and yet knowing when to ask for help is the skill that one needs with time and travelling.