Less than a month since I moved to Bangalore from Hyderabad and my world was opening up on multiple levels. Never before had I this kind of space and freedom to define who I am from scratch.
Fondly recall memories of walking down a supermarket aisle, gauging every item, thinking about what I like and dislike. Simple enough task but it felt like I was constructing myself – internal realignment like.
Same year that I got “aham” tattoo’d on me as well. More on that later.
One unassuming weekend, Pondy was the destination of choice. Perfect, since I was missing the balmy Hyderabad sun and grey Bangalore rainy days were getting to me and it has no proper beach as such so no pressure to get into a swimsuit also. Brilliant!
Train tickets booked (favorite mode of transport!) I reached the station Friday evening to find a whole bunch of young un’s waiting to board as well! Love nothing more than people watching, smiles all around.
I love when the trains pulls out of the station – reality is left behind, a strange calm sets in, eyes absorbing all the sights, the slums at the city fringe, the traffic as seen from the overhead bridge, the vast expanse of nothingness that are city skirts, the slow coming into view of the smaller towns and villages, the ramshackle homes, the drains, the greens growing next to the drains, people on the train – young boys checking out your ink, an older dude watching a sitcom, a hippie with a find-yourself-book.
I love observing people’s body language. A bit creepy, you say ? Maybe. But isn’t it fascinating – how we are able to pick up subtle tones to judge who is comfortable in their skin and who isn’t. I wasn’t back then, and I was learning by examination.
A freezing train journey later, I woke to a beautiful morning light, mistily filtering into the compartment. The customary newspaper and tea later, the train pulled into the station.
Backpack hefted on, M sets off to the hotel which is a short walk from the train station. Do not underestimate the power of tropical sun. It can go from perfectly-balmy to hair-sticking-to-scalp warm in a matter of minutes.
What do you do in Pondy ? Slouch your shoulders, carefree shrug, and mutter something unintelligible. Classic French insouciance is Pondy personified. A outlook that feels like its been put on haphazardly yet gives the output of something deeply rooted in privilege. So of course, I carefully put on my clothes, my shoes, my hat, my hair to appear oh-I-couldn’t-care-less and set off to explore.
Breakfast by the wharf, a walk to the museum, a day spent ogling the curvaceous Chola statuettes, tanning under the tamil sun, walking through parks and rue’s (streets), taking in the beauty of faded yellow walls and bougainvillea, bespoke cocktails and fresh fish under the clam breeze of coconut trees and the wonderful Hotel Le Dupleix. Customary siesta, wake up, filter coffee, meet people by the wharf, enjoy the orange-pinkish hue of the sun going down, the salty sea breeze, streets named Monsieur So & So, The Shanti’s, The Padma’s, The Shakti’s, The Villa’s – every tumblr worthy visual of India has been re-purposed in Pondy and helped contribute to the personal coffers of the residents of White Town.
Such a shame honestly, Black Town is 90% of Pondy yet the most expensive real estate, the most aspirational lifestyle is all in the White Town. And we’re to blame. The minute you step out of White Town its all dusty roads, crap traffic, cows and dogs and general chaos.
I didn’t find Pondy as fascinating as I though I would. The clear segregation between the have’s and the have-not’s truly put me off. Folks who got lucky have sprawling mansions in the White Town district, all cultivated avenues and chic bistros. Mostly white-men. And the locals are relegated to Black Town that houses the Tamils, local Christians, Muslims, Fisherfolk etc.
Felt a little ashamed at the stark lifestyle difference between White & Black. But it is, one is well maintained, the other is in shambles. One feels like an escape, from the other you want to escape. I did both and got back to Bangalore in two days.
Ah well, atleast I got out of town. Finito.