Monkeys, Bombs and Beach Resorts

Day Six: today we played hooky. The movement from place to place, the changes in time and the lack of sleep finally overtook us.

We slept in until 8 and felt reborn. It’s amazing what sleep will do for you.

Today we’re traveling to Pondicherry, an old coastal town that was once occupied by the French. Along the way we stop at an ancient fort – Rajagiri – overrun by red faced monkeys. They own this place.

As we parked our bus and began to explore, a couple of these wiley rascals boarded in search of food. Our driver and guide ushered them back off before they could do any damage.

We were to appreciate some of the ancient Indian history, but I was completely caught up in the monkey hijinx. Much like children they chase each other around, beg for attention and fight. We found one young monkey, high in the ruins of the fort, in a nook with his new treasure, someone’s purse.

As we wandered the grounds there was a loud bang, deep and serious. I said, “Oh, must be a cannon.” Another said, “Sounds like a sonic boom.” Then a third, a bit more pessimistic chimed, “Sounded like a bomb!” It was a cannon. It was noon.

These are the perspectives we bring with us. One rooted in the atmosphere of the fort, one relating to a sound found at home in Florida and another feeling a little anxiety about being in the Middle East. There are 13 other perspectives wandering around the grounds as well. Even though we are here together we are having completely separate and unique experiences.

With my fill of photos of monkeys being monkeys and some shots of the beautiful grounds and ruins, I’m back on the bus. Onto the next adventure.

We are bound for Auroville, an intentional international community, the shared vision of Aurobindo and The Mother. These two created an ashram in Pondicherry and from that experience began to imagine a self-sustaining, mutually supportive community. When Aurobindo passed away, The Mother saw to it that the vision become a reality. This place is the result.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of it all. It’s extremely clean, which is so counter to our experience so far, and perhaps that is feeding my suspicions. But I can’t ignore the peacefulness. We are asked to watch a brief movie by way of explanation of this communal concept. It doesn’t do much to assuage my skepticism. But I endeavor to remain open to the experience.

There is a giant golden orb placed in the center of the property. It can probably be seen from space. It has an interior that serves as a place of concentration for those devoted to it. In the center of the room, in the center of this huge golden ball, there is a rather large crystal ball for gazing while in concentration. We are not allowed in. We must walk a mile and a half to view the outside from a safe distance. It reminds me of a gold Epcot. Or Logan’s Run.

On our way to this orb we pass the most magnificent banyan tree – huge and wide-spreading with roots draping down into the earth from tall branches. We walk beneath arbors of climbing vines and flowers, past handmade fences of interwoven twigs and branches, a few requisite cows, and then rising up before us, the golden orb.

Since we’re only allowed to view it from a distance there’s not much else for us to do once we’ve seen it. While some sit on one of the many rocks provided and gaze at it or meditate in front of it, others of us seize the opportunity to take silly selfies in front of it.

Checking the orb viewing off our list we head back. We find a lovely little cafe run by the residents and I have the most amazing lemon sorbet of my life. I could live here just for this. But alas, the bus is waiting.

On our way through Pondicherry to our beach resort. “Beach resort” holds a little charge for me because we stayed in one on the other coast last year on the Arabian Sea. It was neither a beach by any standards I’d come to know, nor a resort. It had the feel of being deserted except for us. It was chilly, the sand was like sludge and there was a village next door burning trash 24/7. My expectations are low.

Pondicherry proved to be a bustling city. A French state many years ago, it still has aspects of French architecture, wide avenues, labeled in French and Tamil, and a nice large public park. And many vehicles and people to navigate on our way through to the “beach.”

At our destination, it is apparent we have left India and are now in the French West Indies. Our resort is peach terra cotta and clay roof tiles, with no doors in the reception or common areas. Breezes waft freely through. Keys in hand, we retrieve what luggage we can carry and leave the rest to the staff. We are on the second floor. As we open the door we are greeted with two tall mahogany double beds, a round mahogany table between them. We have an armoire made of carved teak and an antique desk and chair. Our balcony overlooks the gardens and lotus pond. For the first time, on the bed, we have a top sheet and cover, rather than the heavy duvet and no top sheet to which we’ve become begrudgingly accustomed. We run from room to room to marvel at the differences in textiles, furnishings and views.

We are to have yoga on the rooftop. There is a view of the Bay of Bengal in the distance. It’s a little hazy but I can make out the blue waters and long, tall, wind blown palm trees. A treat for later.

Yoga complete, body restored, we head to the restaurant by the pool, yes pool, beautiful, crystal clear pool. We are seated beneath an arbor of bougainvillea, an errant flower floating to the table with each gentle breeze. The dinner is acceptable, the company exceptional. Sated and relaxed we head up to bed.

The bed is so high I must fling one leg up onto the edge and roll up into position. Hard as most Indian beds are, this one has a pillow to match. Maybe this is good. Maybe this will allow me to sleep like a rock. As I begin to drift off to sleep I make a mental note to remember the height of the bed should I need to leave it in the middle of the night.

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