To peace, harmony and friendship – A vacation that was much more!

Written By

Rupam Sabharwal

Peace, harmony and friendship Loading

“Travelling; it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

– Ibn Battuta

Travel is a big inspiration for Artists, Storytellers and Poets. They tell stories experienced during their amazing journeys in life through their art and words. Such is the case with me; Travel gives me experiences and hence, words. The traveller in me is always restless to see cultures and objects de beauty of the world.

Last year, in an impromptu discussion with two of my friends, we firmed up a short 4-day vacation to Pondicherry and Auroville, which gave us much more than a few days of break from work.

We knew a bit about Pondicherry; The French East India Company had established it as their headquarters in 1674. A little more research told us that Pondicherry still carried the French flavour very strongly in its architecture, churches, hotels, beaches, restaurants and even street names. We booked our tickets, then the hotel, packed our bags and set off for this much-awaited trip on 15th August 2015.

Day 1 and 2: Pondicherry

We landed at Chennai Airport at 9:30 am. This is the closest airport to Pondicherry, about 170km via one of the most beautiful routes in India- the East Coast Road (ECR).

We reached Pondicherry at around 2 pm, checked into our hotel and had lunch at Café Xtasy. We went to Sri Aurobindo Ashram after that; it was serene and peaceful. In the evening, we gorged on the fresh handmade pasta at Le Dupleix- a popular French restaurant.

We started early the next day and rented cycles from the main market. We headed to Sri Aurobindo Paper Mill. They showed us the way paper is made using cotton rags, followed by a tour of their shopping store. We ended up shopping for stationery from there and then some more shopping for jewellery, ceramics, incense etc. from the main market. Cycling on a sunny day here can be quite draining. Quick tip- carry water in your backpack and stop over at Gelatos for a quick ice-cream bite :-)

We had lunch at Villa Shanti- an Indo-French hotel that mesmerised us with its white and yellow walls. After this, we visited the botanical garden, the Museum and other places. We had dinner at the rooftop restaurant of The Promenade Hotel- the excellent food and the view sealed the day.

Day 3 and 4: Auroville

We booked a cab and reached Auroville, which is 8km from Pondicherry. This alluring place, founded in 1968 and named after Sri Aurobindo is home to 2500 people from over 53 countries.

One of the standees at the information centre shared the message from ‘The Mother’ which told us all about Auroville!

Auroville

We reached the middle of Auroville and saw ‘The Matrimandir’, which is The place to find peace. The interiors of Matrimandir were all white and pious. You should book this at least three days before your visit to secure a place in the meditation session.

Auroville 2

Aurovillians conduct activities such as yoga, meditation, art, music, cultural activities, and workshops. This is how they earn, get to know others and share their knowledge with each other. The information centre and pin-boards at various locations gave us the schedule for these. We visited the main shopping centre which displayed cotton clothes, handmade stationary and other beautiful things made by women at a local NGO. These are priced a little higher than the main market at Pondicherry, but it had a well-curated collection.

Later, we grabbed a quick bite at one of the many food options here. We spent some time at the Savitri Bhavan which displayed beautiful paintings and offered a reading room.

There are a few home-stay options here- you can choose one to experience how Aurovillians live. People stay in beautiful wooden huts here. Many of them quit their high paying jobs to reside here and serve humanity.

The next morning, we attended a workshop called ‘Leela: The Game of Life’, conducted by a Spanish resident of Auroville. The venue was a beautiful hut- butterfly barn. It was an interesting game with Snakes and ladders; a positive quality takes you up the ladder, while a negative one will pull you down via the snake. The dice decides your journey in life and we learnt a lot about ourselves through that game.

We bid adieu to Auroville in the afternoon to catch our flight back home. It was a short vacation but a memorable one. Not only did it strengthen our friendship, but it gave us the most beautiful experience of being at Auroville and lessons of selflessness.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rupam Sabharwal, 29, works as a Brand Manager and lives in Mumbai. She believes life is too short to waste any moment and the time to live life is now. She is a curious traveller and is always ready for a new experience. A creative soul who loves to paint and create DIY things for her home and loved ones. Learning, for her, never stops and she embraces every opportunity to learn something new. Dancing gives her a high and she does that like no one's watching. She loves reading and a cup of coffee with a book is her idea of a perfect break. Writing liberates her and is her passion. She also writes a blog called Roasted Papad, which is on experiences that touch her.

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