I had been dreading writing this article for so long, thinking that no matter what I write, nothing can bring the beauty and vibe of Pondicherry to justice. And it breaks my heart to see people dismiss the place as “dead” and “boring” with no “life” of it’s own.
Pondicherry is no Goa. Everyone who has set foot there knows it. Infact, people who love Pondicherry and calls it their home, takes pride in the fact that Pondicherry is no Goa. It is a laid back beach town, still looming with spirituality, an essence of harmony, a culture that is deep rooted in traditions yet pecked with colonial remnants, squeaky clean roads (thanks to Kiran Bedi), a sunrise to die for and the nicest people that India could see.
I had read magazines after magazines, blogs after blogs, armed with information to make the best of the UT, desperate to fall in love with the place and dismiss a friend’s notion from her trip there with her college friends who went into culture shock on arriving there from Mumbai. I don’t blame them.
Pondicherry is not for everyone. It is no ordinary place.
From the moment I crossed the last toll gate, my face burnt from the heat, dusty hair strewn across, riding atop a bike, having crossed a few hundred kms from Bangalore— I knew I found a new home. Happy bohemians riding mopeds with their cheery smiles, police officer who didn’t just give you instructions but were happy to hear your story, a man from a laptop service centre who left his work and stepped out to help us find our destination— Pondicherry left us in awe.
We didn’t waste much time and headed to the town side of Paradise beach right after lunch. Sipping coconut water lavishly, thinking to myself “if I could move here permanently?” The next day, I sat under the shade of tree at Auroville, Matrimandir, having decided to skip the city and soak in the culture of this independent township, a universal city away from the shackles of borders and territories and believed only in human unity. Here I wasn’t an Indian, a Pakistani, an American. Here I was wholly and truly, a human.
As much as I loved everything here, the cute cafes, the friendly restaurant owners, it did get a bit dull when everything shut down by 8 pm. We ventured to the most happening part of Pondi— the Promenade aka Gandhi Beach, although no one really calls it that. The restaurants and hotels here start to get posh. The crisp, salty beach air hits your lips, knots up your hair but, you can’t help but watch yourself instantly feel happy. You watch families gathered together, kids chasing one another, dogs in their own little world— it is as if you leave your world full of chaotic upheaval, outside the realm of this beach town on the eastern shore of India.
It may be true that Pondicherry lacks the party vibe of Goa. People don’t travel here with the intention of letting loose. Heck, you don’t need to get here with the intention of finding peace, tranquility, getting in touch with your spiritual being— nothing. But, it is a different feeling of laying by the other side of Paradise Beach. The one you need to take a ferry to. Where the waters are a deep hue of blue, away from heavy tourist infestation. Nothing I ever write can describe this very feeling. The feeling of nothingness yet a deep sense of fulfilment that fills you from within.
You may come here and do nothing apart from visiting some of the cutest cafes and spend your time reading or interacting with the owners. But, I can assure you that you are going to love it. Not for the slightest bit will you miss going out drinking till late night with your friends. You will happily embrace a glass or two of wine and sit by the rocks at the Promenade and talk your heart out with your friend or partner. You will not find cheap bottles of beer but you will tantalise your senses with cuisine that will bring you back. Not once or twice but more number of times that you would like to admit. If you are anything like me, you will secretly plan everything in your hands to shift here permanently and find a job that you could do remotely that can pay your bills.
Pondicherry isn’t Goa. And honestly, we love it that way!
How to Reach Pondicherry
By Air- The nearest airport is at Chennai which is 171 kms away.
By Road- There are many buses that ply to Pondicherry regularly. You can share a cab through bla bla car or drive through ECR or from Bangalore.
By Rail- Trains regularly ply from nearby cities to Pondi.
Mohana Ganguly, when not eating, she daydreams about her next vacation.