Sunday, October 02, 2005

2005-10-01: Biking in Pondicherry

My phone rang late at night; 0413-XXXXXXX was the number flashing on my cell. "Somewhere in Tamil Nadu, must be a wrong number..." As I pressed the green button on my cell and put the cell near my ears, a very familiar voice was on the other side. "Hey!! I'm here in Pondy, and you are coming here to visit me, and coming this weekend!!" It was Arnab. One trip together to Patna Rifle Shooting Competition with our parents had brought us together... that was more than 21 years back; we were still in nursery at that time!

It was already 10:30PM, and being a Friday night, it was impossible to get a bus ticket that late. Gloomy skies had already truncated any plans of riding down those ~300kms to Pondy on Bike :(. To add to it, few of my friends were coming down from Hyderabad to see me next morning... I had already given them commitment and could not turn it down now - they would have already be half way to Bangalore by now.

"I would try to start tomorrow some time, shall confirm the time before I leave." "Fine, BUT, you ARE coming!" "Ok baba, done!" It was more than two years that we had met last (in Kolhapur). That was the end of Friday.

Saturday morning, and I was done with the Hyderabad commitment by 12:15PM. By the time I reached back home, it was already 2:05PM, thanks to the EPIC, COLOSSAL etc etc traffic jam situation all over the city... Just managed to get the second last seat in a 3PM PSTC Volvo. After stuffing my bag with minimum clothes, my Camera (how can I leave it behind!!) and the Nike Cap that I had bought for Arnab while I was at Roseville. My roomie Amit volunteered to drop me to the Bus Stand. Thanks to his skillful driving, we meandered through a dead stop traffic and reached the bus JIT (yes, Just In Time!) at 3PM.

21:08PM and I was standing in front of JIPMER. After some 5 minutes, Arnab came in on his security guard's bicycle! Once we finished our dinner, it was shopping time!! With a total of 4kms of length covered within the next 50 minutes on foot and then 1.5 kms on his 'bike', we were grinning ear to ear! We had our scalp with us. One more thing to be said here... Arnab, though thinner than me, is still very fit; its not easy to tow a 90+ kgs guy on an Atlas Goldline!
As our 'gup' session finally took a break at 3AM, it was time to get some well deserved rest for what lied ahead on the next day for us.

11:45AM. After having a moderate breakfast and hunting around for my return ticket to Bangalore for a good hour, we were about to start for the Pondy Beach. We also had with us Dhur Jyoti, the roomie of Arnab at his guest house. It was time to burn some fat with us mounting these three rickety but functional 'definition' bikes - Atlas Goldline with 'Semi rickshaw tyres for extra life' at a modest rental of INR2.00 per hour. No deposits, but Arnab had to surrender his Company ID Card for that.

12:15PM. We were trying to beat the heat of a hot Pondy Sun at the beach, if you can call it a beach... mostly studded with huge boulders with a pinch of sand right in the middle of the shoreline stretch. To our ill luck, the Aurobindo Ashram nearby was closed for afternoon cleaning up. After gulping down a Choco-vanilla ice-cream cone each, we were off towards Auroville Beach, about 7kms on the Chennai bound Eastern Express Road. By the time we reached the Beach junction, we learnt that the Auroville 'city' was another 8kms from there.
All of us knew that even if we somehow managed to reach the city on our bikes, we would definitely not be able to make it back to Pondy bike rental shop... After all, riding a bike after a gap of nearly six years, and that too for such a humbling distance was no joke for us!

We had our lunch in a hut Restaurant near by Auroville Beach. The restaurant owner was kind enough to assure us that we could leave our bikes locked there, and that we will be safe there.

After negotiating with the auto rickshaw for INR 70 for dropping us to the city, we reached our destination around 3:30PM. To our disappointment, the main attraction of Auroville, the MaatriMandir - the temple for all, above all religions preaching humanity and nothing else was not accessible. The entry closes at 12:45PM on Sundays (and not at 4:30PM, like on other days of week). We went around the Information Center, and then took a mini tour of various means of them producing renewable energy. The video shown at the IC about the upcoming of Auroville was also very captivating! After grabbing Soda Lime at the cafeteria there, we started back towards the Beach.

Its one of the best beaches that I've seen in India, with pretty 'surfable' waves coming in every now and then. There were a couple of guys trying to put the waves to the exact use! Just one glitch here, not all of the beach was accessible to us, there seemed to be a restricted area right in the middle on the beach length. I was really disappointed for not able to traverse the entire length of the beach, from one end to the other. More so because we knew that it was already too late to get an entry in the Aurobindo Ashram back in Pondy (it closes at 6:15PM) as it was already 5:30PM. By the time we came back to the restaurant and started back after a cup of tea, it was nearly 6 o'clock. And this was not the end of it... Dhur's front 'Semi rickshaw tyres for extra life' gave in. Later in the puncture repair shop, it was revealed that the culprit was not one but two repairs, overlapping on each other. So in went the third layer of vulcanized rubber and we were back on track after a delay of 20 minutes. We came back to the Pondy Beach and spent some time there. The entire stretch was very well lit, with some special work around the statue of MG; wondering whether it’s always like that or because of that day being his birthday. The atmosphere was very well like a fair there.

Clicking through the place, we were finally back at the bike shop. A supreme figure of INR 48 was levied on us as the rental for our 3 bikes... After a moderate dinner, we were back at Arnab's guesthouse. Sanity returned as I took bath; the Pondy weather had taken its toll on me... being in Bangalore for six years has indeed made my body not as tough as it used to be earlier... 10:27PM, and the bus was on time at JIPMER. Morning 4:37 AM, and I was taking the morning walk from the Silk Board Jn to my house in Koramangala in Bangalore... It came and went past very quickly, but the Pondy experience was worth every bit of it!


Abdulla syed said...

It tells why i couldn`t reach u on cell.

good trip man.

Subbu said...

Hmmmm Aakhir Jaake Aaaya na. Good spirit of friendship... Keep it up.