This was supposed to be my third trip to Pondicherry. A trip I wasn’t really looking forward to. One of the main reason: Trip no.2 was traumatic as hell. I came back with a few physical and emotional scars. My friend Tanay, who was one of the good things in Trip no.2 tried to calm me down, reminding me that it wasn’t the place but the people. And, as I was travelling with one of my oldest and closest friend, it should turn out well.
My first trip to Pondicherry (PY from here on) was in around 2008. I had gone with Abhinav, my cousin Priya and a friend. That was a fine holiday. It was good, not great. Also, I don’t remember most of it. I remember eating at Rendezvous and not drinking enough for a holiday! Maybe that’s why I feel it wasn’t great. 😛
Trip no.2 as mentioned, was disaster beyond compare. Let’s not discuss it anymore. Not worth your or my time.
So, it was time for Trip no.3 with my childhood friend Surya. So, Surya is actually Suryashweta, my buddy for the last 22 years now. Now people call her Shweta, but she is stuck with “Surya” with all of us old friends. And as far as I know she hates it. Tough luck! She is one of the few people who knows and accepts all of me. The fun (I am super fun!) as well as the hothead Deepika. She is also one of the few people who has gone through the experience of being shut off from my life. Which basically means, pissing me off so much, eroding my patience to a point where you stop existing for me. You are invisible and I don’t know you anymore. In her defense, it was from a time when I barely had any patience and we were kids! Now, it would take a lot of fuck ups for you to reach that place. My tolerance for people’s fuckery has gone up quite a bit since those days, which according to my Therapist and a friend, isn’t a good trait to have. It just makes me more vulnerable to a lot of assholes out there.
Well, like the other people who were banished and then wormed their way back into my life, Surya made the effort constantly. I am so glad that she did, and she did it well! The ice breaker was….. (drum roll please)…… FOOD!! 😀
So, she is one of the people I can tell on her face, that she was annoying me and vice versa (I hope). We were such thick friends that at some point or another, our parents hated the other (Sign of teenage best friends) They assumed that every bad decision we made was due to the influence of the other. I have traveled solo so many times, but just before this trip, my mom said “Take care” a million times. Because, she still somewhere feels that Surya and I together, is nothing but trouble.
We discussed multiple locations but I grudgingly agree to PY because Surya really wanted to go there. We were supposed to meet in Chennai initially, then in PY and then it changed to Chennai again. But, we finally met in PY (PHEW!)
I left Hyderabad on the 9th of December last year. Early morning flight to Chennai where another of my dearest friends’ Jai came to pick me up. The flight was 15 minutes early! How can you ever be prepared for such things in India?
Jai tried to take me through the beach road but there was a marathon happening and the streets were cordoned off. We caught up on each other’s life as we got home. So, a bit about Jai. We met in 2000 at an event and stayed in touch. I honestly wanted to stay in touch with his cousin who was incredibly good looking, but instead Jai and I ended up talking on a regular basis and became really good friends. He was my weekend break when I was doing my Masters in Mangalore. I used to run away to his place in Bangalore every chance I got. We were (and are, even if we don’t talk or meet on a regular basis) incredibly thick and he is someone who knows everything about me. The good, bad and the ugly.
We reached his place, I met up and chit chatted with his mom and Jeeva (Jai’s wife), before getting ready, and heading out to Gayatri’s place. Gayatri and I were introduced through a common friend years ago and luckily we stayed in touch. I was visiting her for the first time and was looking forward to seeing her and meeting her husband.
It was supposed to be a brunch with Gayatri’s famous Masala Dosa with peanut chutney. A brunch which turned into a 5 hour affair and that too, while being sober! The food was delicious and the conversation hilarious! We talked mostly about her college days and the friends (I know a few of them) I laughed non stop, it felt like I was with them, part of their class, part of all the crazy things they did. 😀 Gayatri and Prasanna were incredible hosts and I am already looking forward to visiting them on my next trip to Chennai or having them over on their visit to Hyderabad.
Back home at 5 and after a little break, Jai and I went to the Gandhi Nagar Club and had a few drinks while we got the dinner packed. We caught up after years. Sharing all that is going on in our lives. The goods and mostly the bads. We both were in the same boat. Our best friends were not in the same city as us (which is each other too). And it isn’t the same to pick up the phone and talk compared to sitting face to face discussing how our life was turning into. I share things with Jai, I might not even share with my therapist. He is someone I can tell my dirtiest, darkest secrets, without any fear of judgement.
After some soul baring, we left for Jai’s cousin’s place. His cousin Nikhil, (someone I know too) wasn’t in town but we were mainly going to meet the family. I had never met his wife who is also Jeeva’s sister, and his parents who are my in law’s friends. We had discovered this connection years ago when I took Abhinav (still my boyfriend at that time) to meet them. We had a fun evening with all of them, a lot of alcohol and food.
I could barely sleep all night. Was not in a great emotional state before I left and was extremely jittery and restless. There were buses from Chennai to PY every few minutes from a bus stop very close to Jai’s place. We said our goodbyes at 7 a.m. and I was on my way to meet Surya in PY.
I wanted to pee so bad, and the super cold breeze from the window, which wouldn’t shut wasn’t helping! On top of that, the bus stopped for a long while in the middle of nowhere as the staff wanted to have breakfast. I reached PY by around 10:00 and directly went to the hotel. Surya was in the middle of jobs and was busy at an internet café sending some important paperwork to her new company. The check-in was at 1 and I had no patience to wait till then. We were booked at the Athithi hotel and I requested them to give me an early check-in. They offered to give me the suite which was available immediately for an additional cost of 1500/- It was a no-brainer, I took it, unpacked and went in for a shower. Surya came in by around 11ish. We checked out our hotel, the pool on the rooftop and went in the search for a rental bike.
Through our school days, Surya had a red scooty. We have bunked classes, secretly gone out for movies, lunches, met many a guys which btw was always her, never me. I was the nice one. Or the too picky one I wonder? She used to tease me that I will forever be single! No boy was interesting enough for me! 😀 So, to go back to those fun days, we rented a red Vespa. Ready to do all the crazy stuff, but this time we didn’t need to hide it! Minus meeting the boys. I still think there aren’t any interesting ones. 😛
We were starving and the first stop had to be lunch. She wanted to eat some proper South Indian lunch, which I didn’t mind either and we zeroed down on Sri Kamatchi which is quite popular for it’s Tamil style lunch Thalis.
We stopped at multiple places on the way admiring the beautiful old buildings. Lunch was crazy! We over ordered. The Thali came with rice, veggies, sambar, rasam, egg curry, curd, salad and I chose a tamarind based fish curry, while Surya took a coconut based one. We were greedy and ordered some fish fry too. In the end, we had to pack the fish cause there was no way we could finish it.
Next stop was the Sacred Heart Basilica Church. On the way, we saw a proposal in action. Just like school days, Surya wanted to drive closer and be nosy, and I wanted to ignore and move away. 😛
The church was beautiful and we sat in it for a bit. The same sense of calm I feel in every church I visit. Once out, Surya wanted to make a video for IG and I was embarrassed as hell. I did mumble a bit though. Now we were sleepy. All the food and the sleepless nights…. We decided to go back to the hotel and take a short nap. The video on IG was about us discussing if we should take a nap. When I woke up, I had texts from Surya’s sister asking me not to fall for her nap trap. She was apparently quite infamous for spending most of the holiday napping. 😀
We wanted to check out the sunset at Ousteri lake in the evening. I had read a lot of blog posts on how gorgeous it was. Well, let’s just say we were in for the ride of our life. Literally. It took forever and we reached some godforsaken corner of that town. We could see the lake from the road, but all the entries were through private property. At one point, a guy stopped next to us and asked us to get out of the area before sunset. It was not a safe neighbourhood. That was enough for us and we rushed back into the town. Yup, down below you can see the view we got. (rolling my eyes)
For such a tiny place, PY’s traffic was quite annoying. We stopped at “Our lady of immaculate conception” cathedral before we hit the drinks for the night. It’s another matter neither of us wanted to ever conceive again!
Stop 1 for a night of bar hopping. Villa shanti. Beautiful, serene décor and pocket heavy. We decided to have a plate of fish cakes, couple of drinks each and then push off to the next place. We finally caught up with what’s going on with each other in detail. It was incredible to feel how much and how well Surya knew me. My thought process, my reactions, my habit of not expressing much and being on guard almost always. And all that was matter of fact. No judgement being doled out, no criticism. Just stating a fact. Irrespective of who or what I was, we were friends.
Specially at a time when I was going through a rough time with friendships, being with Surya and earlier with Jai, helped me a lot with my self-confidence and healing. Next stop was supposed to be Rendezvous. I had great memories of eating some lip smacking French food there on my Trip no.1, and on my Trip no.2 it was under renovation. When we reached there, I was in for a rude shock. They had completely transformed the place, and not in a good way. It looked like the replica of a cheap, shady bar. We walked out and took a stroll by the promenade and ended up at the Bay of Buddha, the rooftop restaurant of “The promenade hotel.” Some more deep convo, loads of photos, drinks and over ordered food later (again!), we decided to call it a night.
Lazy morning and a solid breakfast. I went berserk at the buffet spread, my favourite, the chicken stew. Unfortunately I kept waiting for the Iddiappam which never came. Post breakfast we went chilling by the pool side. We met a couple who were celebrating their 1st wedding anniversary. Surya being Surya wanted to take pictures with them. No wait! She wanted to do a tik tok video with them! I outright refused and settled for pictures.
Agenda for today was Auroville. A place I detested.
1. There is nothing to do or see there that holds any interest for me.
2. I have s*** memories there.
I went grudgingly and we walked to the matrimandir. Took pictures and walked back. Surya wanted to go the Auroville beach but it was bloody hot and we were hungry.
We directly went to Maison Perumal, a restaurant suggested by Gayatri. When I entered that place, I had déjà vu. Felt like it was one of the places we came looking for accommodation on my Trip no.2.
The recommendation was spot on! Beautiful heritage house and an incredible menu. Some kickass cocktails and food. We loved their tamarind chutney so much, that the chef came out and shared the recipe with us! I would have loved to drink more, but we had to drive. Time to head back to the hotel and take respite from the heat.
We went in, changed which kinda took forever and headed back out to the promenade in the hunt of a yellow building Surya had seen. Madam wanted a picture in front of it. (Rolling my eyes.) We finally found one building which was the police headquarters! I felt embarrassed and weirded out as always and but still quickly took pictures 😀
Then went by the water side. I was bored to death and getting cranky. Surya sensed it, after all she has 22 years of practice and we headed to the Baker street, a little bakery famous and overpriced for the food they serve. Trip no.2 we had had breakfast here one day. We split a savoury and a dessert, can’t remember what now. I was tempted to buy some chocolates for people back home. But decided against it as;
- They won’t last without refrigeration beyond a few hours.
- Nobody ever gets me any gifts when they go travelling. So why should I? 😛
We two old ladies were done for the day and decided to call it a night. We were the epitome of uselessness. The rooftop bar of the hotel we were staying at was famous for it’s MRP nights. Meaning, you get drinks on MRP! How great is that? How many times did we drink there? Zero. For dinner, we just ordered some rice and ate with all the left over food we had been packing for the last two days. And then we did what we were doing very consistently. Sleep!
The day started with an early morning visit to the Serenity beach to catch the sunrise. There was a rocky pathway going into the water and there were a bunch of people on it, ready to capture the sunrise. We walked extra carefully on it to reach closer to the edge. It was slippery and scary. All the youngsters were busy taking some crazy selfies. I announced that I didn’t want to be one of the foolish women being mentioned in the next day’s news, “Mother of an 8 year old plummets to death while taking a selfie.” We took some pictures from a safe distance and headed back to the hotel. Oh ya! We also got harassed by some local boys, but we completely ignored and walked away. I guess that means, they tried to harass but it didn’t really work.
Today I got Iddiappam for breakfast and that made me a super happy soul.
A little pool time later we headed to Café Des Arts, highly recommended by my friend Vanita. We did some photoshoot (I love this fellow traveller!) and ordered a crepe. Quaint little place, with the most adorable décor, this place has to be checked out if you are visiting PY.
We were looking for a place which would serve alcohol and give us shelter from the blistering heat. We went to Le Saveurs, which was on my list. But unfortunately they had a problem with their liquor license and so were unable to serve. Dang it! They recommended another bar which was also their property. We decided to follow Zomato and ended up at Maison rose. Gorgeous place but they don’t serve soft drinks!! So, I had to make do with rum and water! Nooooo!
I was pissed off and Surya thought it was a great time to take a video. Apparently to capture my consistent angry and irritated expressions for 22 years! We soon moved to the other bar recommended by Les Saveurs. Don’t remember the name. We got hammered, ate some super yummy beef fry and talked about ex boyfriends, current crushes (Celebrities. Don’t get your panties in a bunch!) stalked some of them on social media (exes and celebrities) 😛 and all other kind of crazies.
Last stop, off to Les Saveurs where we did some nutty photoshoot (after all we were drunk!) and split a meal. It was close to the departure time of my bus. Rushed back to the hotel and took my drunken ass into an auto and somehow made it to the bus.
And that’s how my Trip no.3 ended. I am glad to say that this one finally washed away the bitter taste this town had left, after the last holiday here. And also, I think Surya makes a good holiday buddy. Mainly cause with her, I have a good and enthusiastic personal photographer on board. 😛
I am definitely looking forward to a holiday we have been planning for years. Whenever it happens, I know it would be as fun, relaxing and joyful as this one has been.