People ask me what I love more, beaches or mountains. If only it was that easy to choose.
The peace at the top of a mountain or the calmness on a secluded beach? The serene of the rejuvenating hilly air, or the tranquil sound of the sea? The view from the top of a hill or the view into the expansiveness of the ocean? I know I have confused you too, but the serendipity of each is truly and vividly its own!
It was May of 2019; I had just graduated and was looking forward to starting my new job in KPMG. Unsure of how much travel laid ahead in my future, I decided to postpone my joining by one whole month just to feed my travel bug. In this period, I ended up visiting two places. What I would like to share today is my journey to one of these places, the place where I found paradise on earth: Pondicherry.
I decided Pondicherry was a destination not to be savored alone. So, I took a flight to Bangalore, to catch up with my friend Anmol. After reaching Bangalore, I secretly crashed in his room, which apparently his company had provided him (Don’t judge me, I have always been big on saving costs). The fun begins here. The destination was planned, the itinerary wasn’t. We bought a one-way bus ticket to Pondicherry, not having the least idea of when we were going to return!
For the first time in my life, my risks were not calculated. I hadn’t told at home about the trip, I had taken a month delay from my first job, I hardly had any savings to survive this trip and I was going to a beach destination in mid-June when the sun was at its peak. For all I know, I could have been kidnapped and no one would know where to look. Though, this entire scenario actually made the trip quite thrilling. For all I said was, “Pondicherry, here I come!” and onwards I went.
While booking the bus tickets I made sure we reached just minutes before the sunrise. Be it mountains or beaches, treks or trips abroad, my day to day life or traveling, one thing I do not miss, (actually two things) are the sunrise and the sunset. Feeling the warmth of the first ray that hits the earth breathes a new life into my soul. It’s like the big blue sky is letting the other colors come to light for just a little while, knowing that they would enhance its beauty. For me, every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn and every sunrise brings the hope of a new chance so there was no way that I was going to miss it.
As I was sitting on the shore of the promenade beach, waiting for the sun to rise and kiss the morning clouds, everything else was forgotten. The tiredness from the bus ride, the excuses I had to make to come on this trip, the budget constraints, all was in the past now. And then finally, the majestic celestial body rose and brought with it a new day with hopes for a fresh beginning.
Next, we went to check in to our hotel. After eating a proper south Indian breakfast of idli, sambhar, and vada, (which was just edible enough to eat; I have never been a fan of south Indian dishes), and freshening up, we left to explore around.
Café Des Arts is where we went first. The place was filled with the aroma of old books and fresh chocolate, two things, the scent of which I love a lot. Waffles were a specialty there, and so I went for the well-known Nutella waffle. It might be hard to believe, but this was the first time I had Nutella and I was licking my fingers by the end, so certainly this was not going to be the last. Along with the beautiful aura, the aesthetic art, and the friendly people, what I liked about this café was its moral values. There was a board on the food counter which said, ‘No straws here’, a little yet significant contribution; say no to plastics.
We next went to the Rock beach. I have always wanted to spend time at a secluded beach, tranquil in my thoughts, and savoring the moments. With no rush or schedule to follow, this is what we ended up doing for a few splendid hours. Gazing at the water, sitting by the shore, and then later playing Kabaddi with water too, because ‘Love you Zindagi’. That day I learned that time wasted at the beach is actually time well spent.
To explore the nightlife, the next place we landed up was at the LB2 Lounge. My crazy yet weird wish to try the ‘Sex on the beach’ cocktail was accomplished there (I just had a fascination with the name!). No guesses to how much I drank that day! The lounge was at the bottom of a very famous hotel, so what we did next after exiting the bar was sneak around the guards and have some fun. I actually can’t fathom what was going on in our minds at that time but the next thing I remember was my friend (a guy) sneaking into the girl’s washroom (I don’t remember how or why) when the guards were just outside taking rounds. And then afterward, we sneaked and went to this posh, super expensive and alluringly beautiful rooftop restaurant where we roamed around and enjoyed the view. Later, I pretended to be sick so we could exit suavely.
On the way back, I looked at the beautiful view that the beach offered at night. Lost in my own world, I started walking on the sand barefoot (and even hurt my leg) and enjoyed the sound of the flowing water.
The next day, unplanned as I came for the trip, I came to know that the hotel I stayed in did not have a room available for that day, a typical example of ‘me being me’. So, the first thing I had to do was shift to another hotel (No judgments please, this is how an impromptu trip is like, right?). Next, we rented a scooty so that we could easily explore even far off places. More importantly, because I just love riding on two-wheelers. Now don’t ask me to choose between bikes and scooty, it is an equally difficult choice!
After exploring a few cafes and sticking to our motto of trying different cuisines of varied famous places, we went to the Paradise beach. And what I experienced next; I hope my words would be enough to describe those ecstatic feelings.
There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean keeps on canoodling the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away. It was a beautiful realization, one which I would carry with me for my lifetime. The calmness that I felt that day is something you can only experience, and not fully describe. But once experienced, it can never be forgotten. I realized that I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this. This feeling, this tranquility, this peacefulness! It was magical.
Funny as it may sound, we realized later that we were on the wrong side of the beach. That is the reason there was no one but us there. Although we were having a splendid time there, we were equally excited to reach the actual part of the beach. So, we went back to our ride and after some inquiry left for the right side of the beach where we were supposed to go by a boat ride.
While on our way to the beach, our scooty stopped abruptly (we basically ran out of petrol). We were stranded on a road with no idea as to how to get out of there. Suddenly we saw two guys were passing by on a bike. We stopped them and they helped us by giving the necessary push to the scooty (by kicking it throughout the way) and thus helping us reach the nearest petrol pump. A big shout out to such kind and generous people who help strangers on their way. I can’t imagine what we would have done and how much of the beach experience we would have missed if they hadn’t rescued us.
After this yet another mini-adventure, we finally reached the ticket counter and thankfully before time (We were scared it would close before we reach). We boarded the boat and got ready for the island like entry to the beach. As the journey started, the rush started to settle down and restored into a more serene feeling. Leaving the shore, amidst the water, I realized that if there is magic on this planet then it is certainly contained in water.
Once we reached, there was no coming back. We stayed there the entire day until it was time to close. That was the day that I learned that a day at the beach, restores your soul!
The next day we booked a night bus to Bangalore. The day was full of the scorching heat, it was probably the hottest day of the year. We planned to first visit the popular Auroville town and then later go to the Paradise beach again. As our luck was probably rotten that day, it was a Sunday, so the township had already closed. So, we decided to visit the Auroville beach, and later I had one of the best pizzas of my life at Tanto Pizzeria. A large, thin-crust, freshly baked, saucy pizza full of vegetables, just how I like it.
Since the day was getting hotter, we decided to stay indoors and went to watch the newly released movie ‘Kabir Singh’. In the interval, we decided to leave so we could again visit the Paradise beach. But coming out of the theatre, we realized that the sun was at its peak and there was a hot summer wind around. So, we went back to the theatre to watch the rest of the movie, and astonishingly we were able to do that without any explanation to anyone (security) because there was no one to explain to. Confused? At first, we were too! We realized that the Pondicherry movie theatres don’t have any security checks. We could just come and go anytime! Coming from a city like Delhi which is full of security everywhere, this seemed quite strange to me.
After the movie ended, coming out of the theatre, we realized that it was already dark. But such was the earlier experience of the seaside, that we just had to go. The roads were empty, we being the only people going to the beach. A few moments later, we were abruptly stopped by the police. They asked us to leave telling us that it was not safe to go now. Initially hesitant and argumentative, we left and started conniving on how to reach the beach from another route. Knowing our intentions and determination to go from the earlier conversation, the police followed us and more like dropped us back to where we came from. Thus, instead of experiencing serenity, we ended up experiencing the thrill of being chased off by the police.
For dinner, we went to explore different eating joints and thus ended up trying the delicious pizza of Café Xtasi. On our way back, I saw this bakery called ‘Bakers Street’. Being a big Sherlock Holmes fan, I just had to go. I had a mouth-watering chocolate pudding at the bakery. A few moments later, I recalled one of the trivial wishes of my bucket list. Having over an hour left before the bus starts, I decided to fulfill it. So, I bought some cranberry juice and Vodka and went to the Promenade beach and sat there and drank until it was time to leave. (The wish was to drink at a beach)
We headed back to Bangalore and I had my flight to Delhi the next afternoon. But was this the end of my craziness, carelessness, and adventures? Not really! I wasn’t aware at that time, but fate had planned another thrilling experience for me to say goodbye at the end of the trip.
When I reached the airport, heading back to my hometown Delhi, I was stopped at the security check. I was a little confused and thought that it might be because of the perfume bottle that I was carrying in my bag. But apparently, that vodka bottle from the previous night was still there in my bag (Yes, you can laugh out loud). I would never forget the judgmental looks that I got from the security guard. He looked at the bottle as if it was a bomb and when I asked him to throw it away, he behaved as if it was something untouchable. I can still mimic his voice, full of anger when he said, ‘THROW IT AWAY’. And that’s how my trip ended, with endless laughter!