Sunday, May 20, 2007

We had seen the Matrimandir lit up in all its glory the night before

Blogged by Pixelshooter as Travel, Travelogue — Sun 20 May 2007 1:35
It was way past 6:30 and we were just about nearing Pondy. At that point of time, there were two things that occurred to me - Auroville closes early, so if we had to get there and find a place to stay, we had to do so fast. The road that deviates into Auroville from the highway comes before the town of Pondy. I shared these facts with Uday, and we consulted a fellow traveler who advised us to get down from the bus shortly. Because of point #1, we knew it was too late to do any kind of sight-seeing in Auroville.
The bus conductor was kind enough to let us get off at the right place (which was a tiny hamlet of houses, shacks and shady places offering rooms). From the road sign we learnt that Auroville is 8 kms from the highway so we took a smart decision of hiring a bike. Our next best option, an auto, would have cost us 150 bucks. Meanwhile Uday had called up his friends who informed him that there were no rooms available at the ‘Bharat Nivas’ guest house where they were put up (inside Auroville). They told us to try another dorm called ‘Mitra’, which was supposedly close to Bharat Nivas. We grabbed something to eat at a rather pathetic shack, and then went looking for a bike to hire.
We found a shop bang in front of where we got off, and the ‘thatha’ at the shop told us that a TVS-50 moped would cost us 70 bucks per day and we took one gladly. Note: The TVS-50 is the coolest thing to ride off-road So we began our journey into Auroville. The roads were good, but it was getting dark and we had no clue where Mitra was. We just kept riding into the darkness, and on either side of the mud road we were surrounded by trees, trees and more trees. We were riding through sparsely populated country side. Finally, after numerous wrong turns, ‘just over there’ replies, misleading road signs and vacant looks, we found something that looked like a dorm. It was Mitra indeed, and the time was 8:o0 pm. En route we discovered the ‘Visitors Center’ and ‘Matrimandir’, the two main landmarks of Auroville. The Matrimandir was light up and quite a sight in the dark jungle, but since I was not carrying a tripod, I couldn’t get a good shot
Finding a room: Mitra was being manned by a chinki watchman. Mr Chinki had only one piece of information to give us - call this guy, Samrat, to book rooms. Where is Samrat? Chinki didn’t know. When will Samrat come? Chinki said probably around 9…maybe 10 and sometimes even 11. Are there any vacant rooms? Chinki was positive and optimistic about that, but he had no powers to give us one. I tried calling Samrat but the call just wouldn’t go through. So there we were, in the middle of nowhere, not knowing what to do. Another quick call to Uday’s friend cheered us because she too was positive about us getting a room at Mitra. Only problem was locating Samrat.
We thought it would be a good idea to find some grub instead of just sitting there and waiting for the missing dorm in-charge. But finding a restaurant meant risking losing our way again. Nevertheless in the spirit of adventure and hunger we retraced our steps till the ‘Visitor’s Center’. When we told our predicament to the watchman there, he gave us the best piece of news we wanted to hear at that time - The Visitor’s Center had a restaurant. We parked and walked in.
The Visitor’s Center is a stone building right out of some French town, and we had only firangs for company at the eat-out. We ordered some totally firang dinner, binged and rode back to Mitra filled and satisfied. Small accomplishments like this make life less boring The time was 9.30 and there was still no sign of Samrat when we got back. We began discussing the prospects of riding back to Pondy (another 15 kms) and looking for a room there. But since Uday wanted to meet his friends, we decided to stop at Bharat Nivas first.
Bharat Nivas turned out to be another secluded building in the middle of the jungle. Unique architecture, single cottages circling a main verandah and the use of earthly materials for landscaping made it a beautiful sight. We met the in-charge there and explained the situation. He was an acquaintance of Uday’s friends, who at that time had still not returned from wherever, so he was keen on helping us. Luckily there was a vacant room at Bharat Nivas itself. He let us take it for 420/-, instead of the regular price of 500/-, ‘because we were friends of Shivani’s’. Neat So finally at 10 pm we got a place to crash. And when we entered the room, where we happy or what! The room was as beautiful as the exteriors. A fine ending to an adventurous evening. After a much needed shower, I joined Uday and his friends who had returned by now. We chatted into the night and crashed after 1.
Living it up Auroville: We had decided to to head out to the beach at 6. It had rained during the night, so at 5:30 am when I opened the door, I was greeted by the most beautiful morning ever. The air was cool, the air calm and the grass greener than ever. I hadn’t woken to a morning like this since my college days (when I had my room in a similar jungle). The girls and us got ready and headed out to the beach. We had good fun there, playing in the water and watching dolphins jump around in the sea (!). We returned by around 9 and after a sumptuous and relaxed breakfast at Bharat Nivas itself, we headed out to the Visitor’s Center to get passes to visit Matrimandir. The girls meanwhile got ready to leave to Pondy where they had decided to spend the day shopping.
Buying souvenirs at the many boutiques at the Visitor’s Center was on my agenda but unfortunately I didn’t find what I wanted because some of the shops were closed (being a Sunday). Having acquired the passes, and seeing educational videos of the place, we set forth to Matrimandir on our TVS-50. But were in for two surprises. Firstly, we weren’t allowed to take the vehicle anywhere close Matrimandir so we had to park it in a nearby building after buttering the watchman there. Secondly we realized after walking in that tourists weren’t allowed anywhere near the main building, let alone enter and see the crystal - the main attraction of the Matrimandir. It was a total let down, but we were glad that unlike the other tourists present there, we had seen the Matrimandir lit up in all its glory the night before. Again, I didn’t feel depressed about not having the tripod, because I was mentally prepared to trade a photo-op for foraying into an unplanned vacation. I wanted to challenge myself and not be me. And it worked!
... and since it was lunch time, we headed back into Auroville to eat. We had yet another firangi meal, and it was as delicious as ever...Sure, things would have been different if I had planned everything to the T, but I would have surely missed out on such an adventure. So I have no regrets. All’s well, ends well. Cheers to that permalink trackback URI

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