The long awaited break came when a friend visited me from her teaching post in China. She came to Chennai and then we took the bus to and from Pondicherry. After that, we flew to Kerala. We didn’t do the typical trip of going on a river house boat, or going down south. We went for the cool air, the breeze, and to coexist with the beautiful green forest way up on the mountains. There we took a few hikes, a yoga class, chatted, had a massage played games, and watched some cultural performances. Maybe it was just what we needed to get a way from the hustle and bustle of the cities both of us had been living in. One thing for sure, is that I want to get back to Kerala and experience all the other amazing historical offerings and more of the beautiful landscape that makes up this huge state. The food was good, the people were welcoming, and the air was fresh.
After looking at this blog, you might think that I actually lived in Pondicherry for 4 months. Well, that wasn’t the case, but I did visit more than the average tourist. Mostly because it was close and I visited some lovely friends often. And of course, anyone who came to visit me, also came to Pondy. Here are a few more pictures from around the sleepy colonial part of town and a little bit to and from the beach. There was so much art on every corner, and also random, unexplained things, like: lectures, decorated auto rickshaws, and signs that I didn’t know the meaning of. I loved the quirkiness of the place and would go back to visit anytime.
If I was feeling homesick, or had hankering for some western food, there was no where better than visiting a nice cafe, sitting outside or being around art and greenery. It was a nice treat, and one I always looked forward to. One of the best things was things about these western style cafes is that they would make the best dish they could make. You want a waffle? You got the best waffle. You want a granola with your fruit bowl? You got the best granola someone could make. You want a creamy pasta dish? You can get a creamy pasta dish, with homemade pasta. All of the cafes had something special and tasty to eat, no matter what it was. If it was on the menu, that means they were good at making it. Here are a few pictures of a few cafes I frequented in four months.
After my experience at Auroville the very first time, of course I told everyone about it. So when people came to visit me, I had to take them to at least see it. So on the second and third trips I took my good camera and got some better shots that were closer to the Matrimandir. Still think it’s one of those amazing experiences that will live with me forever. I still can’t get over being inside the Matrimandir and how quiet it was inside.
I was approached by NalandaWay to help with a community project they were spearheading to bring groups of students and artists together in a school communities to create a murals. The idea was not only to improve the environment, but connect and integrate arts into making positive relationships. I loved this project so much I think I’m mentioning it twice on this blog. I had never posted the before and after pictures together, but I will today.
In early February I went to the school to choose the place for the mural. The Principal and a a co-worker went with me to help coordinate and choose an appropriate place for the mural. We decided it would be good to place the mural in the hallway, so that when kids saw it, they would be able to see it and interact with it. The hallway itself was an elementary part of the school contained in a larger high school. I would be working with kids in standard four, but the mural would be right outside of the door of the standard one and two classrooms.
I was so excited to be working with kids by this point. I had been out of my own classroom since December 22nd, so I felt like it was about time to have some interaction with kids again. The hard part would be deciding what would go on the wall. I had seen so many murals throughout the city of Chennai, what could I do for this school that could be a little different but also represent the school?
For some reason my mind immediately stayed with the word “school” and I decided on a “school of fish”. I found out that, I actually would have to draw the mural and create the idea. There just wasn’t enough time to include the students input on everything. However, they would be able to paint, mix and choose colors.
The mural had to be created and completed in about 2 1/2 days. It was a fast turn around, but I had some help. Two fantastic volunteers from Fidelity came to help me sketch out the mural and do some preliminary cleaning and painting. Without their help, it never would have been completed.
The second day, the kids would come paint. AND PAINT THEY DID! They loved seeing the wall come to life and already you could notice a change in the environment from just the buzz that was happening with the student painters. They had a blast mixing colors and getting to work. Many of the students passed up playing in the school yard so they could help paint more. They were so focused and dedicated. So many of the students were eager to speak with me in the English words they knew. The students shared how proud they were of their painting with their other friends and teachers, and when students were being picked up after school, some students took their family back to the wall to show off what they did.
Day three, was all in the details. I was working by myself to just clean it up a little and add the details that may have been missing. Many students came by to check in with me to see how it was going. They offered to help again, so I let them. They helped layer some of the details, and clean up some line work and mix colors. One little girl came to sit with me and talked to me a while. She told me stories about what she ate for lunch, and who took care of her. She told me her favorite foods, her favorite cartoon, and what she liked to do in her free time. She was a sweet, gentle, sensitive girl. I tried to persuade her to go back to her class, but she seemed to have no interest in leaving my side. At first I was a little worried that she may get in trouble, but no one came looking for her, and the other teachers who passed by us seemed to think that this was kind of a normal behavior for her. She wanted, maybe needed, some attention and kindness, and I was willing to give it to her.
Below, are some before, during and after pictures. It really was one of my most favorite experiences in India. So much so, that I would love to replicate the experience.
It was a lovely treat to be able to visit “Pondi” many times while I was in India. The proximity to Chennai made it an easy getaway from the busy city. Getting there was the hard part– and making yourself return was sometimes even harder. What was it about Puducherry that I enjoyed so much? I suppose I would have to say it was a world away from from hectic streets, loud cars honking their horns, and a place where you could just “Give time a break”.
In many ways it was an ideal place to get away, and an artist’s retreat. In other ways, it’s an easy breezy place in India where you can find good food, nice accommodations and feel like you’re on vacation.
I loved being close to the water, and enjoyed many great meals, but I also really appreciated seeing art on the streets at every turn, the interesting history of the city with a French connection. In many ways this is not totally India, it’s a little France inside India, which is strange. Yoga is also an important part of life, there’s a big ashram, and of course Auroville is close by.
These pictures and videos represent some other vantage points, many from bus trips. As I look at these pictures I feel happy and calm. And who doesn’t want to feel that way?
Serenity Beach is outside of Pondicherry. By auto it takes about 1/2 hour. You zoom through the town and it takes you out towards Auroville. The beach is a welcoming sight for the traveler who just needs some peace. You can watch the fishermen bring in the fish, take a walk, and soak in the sights. There are some cute little cafes to stay cool in and have some awesome beach snacks. I actually really enjoyed the tofu burger and french fries at the What’s Up Cafe. They also have amazing lime sodas. You can sit back relax, take a surf class, or do absolutely nothing, and just watch the day pass you by.