Bookstalkist-Pondicherry-Empty-Benches

Unlike Pondicherry

1: Sunrise

I alight from my bus and it was still dark. I look at auto drivers buzzing around me. My destination shows 4 km away and he quotes a 100. I smile at him for I had somewhere else to go and something else in mind. I picked my bags and started walking. My new destination is only 3 km away. My love for google maps isn’t rock solid. I stop at a tea stall and confirm the route. At the end of a 30 minutes long walk laden with nostalgia, I arrive at this beating the morning sun to it. Strangely, it feels like home.

Bookstalkist-Pondicherry-Sunrise
 

2: Anna

As I grabbled for my route in the dark, I kept looking at the statues at every circle. I had to find Anna Circle to ensure I was on the right path. I could barely recognise the faces of the leaders or their names from my side of the road. Yet I knew, I would know Arignar Anna from distance. And I was right. There he was in his signature style hands raised and his fingers indicating victory and his party’s symbol. Some stereotyping is good!

Bookstalkist-Pondicherry-Anna-Statue

3: Empty Benches

Early mornings and empty benches are so irresistible. These seemingly empty benches are anything but empty. They are full of stories. Stories of love, stories of loss, stories of betrayal, stories of  longing, stories of a zillion kind. They hoard the secrets of  every passerby and I wait by them to steal some or more!

Bookstalkist-Pondicherry-Empty-Benches

4: Homeless in Pondicherry

I am no stranger to Pondicherry. The first time I visited the place was about 15 years ago. Since then, my association with the place has been bittersweet. Every time I tried rewriting my memory of Pondicherry, it would eventually end up being bittersweet. Nevertheless, I remember being smitten by the place right from the first time. I had even considered settling down here. Although I had grown out of that idea, this solo-trip to Pondy gave me the liberty to ponder over what made me fall for it in the first place. The first thing that occurred to me was that I love the roads there, at least those roads adjoining the beaches and the areas around. I did happen to witness a lot of the city, as I kept walking about these roads, but this one thing was a repeating scene. I was surprised to see  elderly people sleeping on footpaths and verandas of uninhabited houses. Not that it is an uncommon sign in Indian cities, but the number of such people seemed unusually high. This being a union territory with its own legislative assembly, one would expect better administration and social welfare. Add to it the fact that the place is now governed by one of the most decorated administrators of this country. What was even more shocking was that I found a few old women sleeping on the road right next to the Secretariat building. Its been almost a week now since I returned from Pondicherry and I can barely wrap my head around the whole thing. I believe its high time we formulate a better policy nationwide for geriatric care and not leave the elderly to the mercy of footpaths.

 

5: Colours

Some green, some  blue, some bright, some beautiful, some with darker shades and some with dual colours. These sacred threads decorating the temple streets of Thiruvahindapuram  reminded me of human bonds. No matter how sanctified they are made to sound, they are meant to  keep you bound. Bound to wishes , bound of promises, bound to expectations. And no matter how sanctified they are, when it’s time, you ought to break free of them; sometimes to make way for new ones and sometimes just because you are done with it.

 

Bookstalkist-Pondicherry-Colours

6: South Indian Meal

Ever wondered how does happiness smell? I think it smells like food. And what might disappointment look like? I would say it looks like a bowl of delicious looking dish that you had to forgo because you are too full. Which do you think is sweeter? An extra serving of your favourite dessert or a stolen kiss? I was going to go with the kiss, but I must say a sound sleep after a meal like this beats them both.

Bookstalkist-Pondicherry-South-Indian-Meal

7: Stranger in Beach 

The beach was buzzing with crowd but a lone bench was waiting for me. I sat there  training my eyes to the growing darkness while trying to spot the faintest stars up on the January sky. She called out to me. “Didi, buy one of these to help me”. I told her I had no use of it, but I would still buy if she can tell me a story. She laughed and sat down in front me. She said she spoke only Hindi and  asked what did I want to listen to. I asked for hers. Mother of six, four boys, two girls. Eldest is fourteen and youngest just turned a year old. Been ten years in Pondichery since she moved from Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow to Barabanki, another bus from there to village. That is how far she is from. No electricity, no jobs, no means of survival. Why all the way to Puducherry? Why did she skip all the places in between?

“They are not good. I like it here in #Pondy”, she says. She compliments my broken Hindi and I, her unbroken smile. I asked if I could click a picture to remember her and our conversation. “I don’t look good in pics”, she adds shyly. I promised to click a good picture and we clicked. She seemed happy when I showed it to her. I kept the other  promise too. “Forty for others, thirty for you”. I laughed but I was her Bohni for the evening. So, we sealed the deal at forty and I let her pick one for me. As we said our goodbyes, Shakina touches my shoulder gently and says “Go home safely. Tonight seems colder than usual and your clothes aren’t warm enough. Don’t stay out for long”. “Take care and be safe”, she repeated, more than a couple of times. I assure her with a smile and then she called out to the next didi.

Bookstalkist-Pondicherry-Didi

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