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Call it Puducherry or Pondicherry it’s still quite French

March 27, 2008

pondicherry.jpgIf you enter the French quarter or what was once called the ‘White town’ of Puducherry (for larger picture, click on the map) you might as well have stepped into another world. The paved streets with French names, the colonial style architecture and the lack of crowds make you feel as if you aren’t in India.

The various sectors have been planned and the streets are wide and perpendicular to each other. French is spoken widely and is still the official language (along with Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam). There are foreigners around to complete the illusion of being outside India.🙂 The fact that Puducherry was once a French colony is evident.

Puducherry street

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Not surprisingly there is another area in the city called ‘Black town.’ This may not be as pretty as the French quarter, but it does retain its quaint old look. Narrow roads, but not too crowded and like in the “white town” people of all classes and gender move around on cycles.

The place, which has a holiday atmosphere, is full of eateries, guest houses and restaurants. Tourists don’t stay here for long though, as there is nothing to see as such in Puducherry itself. Not unless you count the beaches. There is one main ‘Beach Road” which is like a promenade and people collect here in the evenings. You can’t actually touch the water, not on this beach, as the seafront is raised and separated from the sea by boulders. On the day we visited, it was drizzling, but the heavy rain was over and it was very pleasant walking around. Otherwise at this time of the year Puducherry can get very hot.

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There is a plethora of guest houses and hotels to choose from. There is also the Ashram guest house where rates are very reasonable, starting from Rs 600/- for a double room. There are other places where you can get a room for as cheap at Rs 300/- with a clean bathroom. However these ashram places have a curfew of 10. p.m. for some reason and smoking and alcohol is not allowed in the rooms.

The only way to move around if you don’t have a hired car is if you use the rickshaws. Unfortunately they don’t go by the meter and charge you anything from Rs 25/- to Rs 50/- for traveling a distance of even half a kilometer. Best is to walk around the city as it’s small enough (we did a lot of walking) and traffic is limited. Cars may actually stop for you!🙂 The other option is to hire cycles which you can get at Rs 20/- a day. This is a good idea, less to save money and more to avoid intimidation by rickshaw drivers.

The town’s popular tourist attraction is Auroville which is about half an hour’s drive away. Auroville was built by a French lady now known as the ‘Mother,’ a disciple of Sri Aurobindo (freedom fighter and spiritual leader). The township is supposed to embody “Unity in Diversity” and is an “experimental community would evolve humans by helping to bring into being a more advanced consciousness called the supramental ” whatever that means. We did visit and got a general view of the place, but no one is allowed to actually see the township, except its office and a hall, not unless you actually live there.

But not everyone is allowed to live here, although we were told the opposite. We know someone really well in Pondicherry and they were refused to be allowed to stay there overnight. When we asked the guide as to why he said students were not allowed! We told him that the people who were refused were not students, but working people, and he could not meet my eyes then. I asked if foreign “students” would be allowed and whether all foreigners would be allowed and he quickly changed the subject. And this is a place which is supposed to embody “Unity in Diversity”?

These are pictures of the MatriMandir where the people from Auroville do their meditation and prayer. It looks more like a spaceship to me. And that would be funny if it weren’t true…I mean the town is modeled on the solar system! From the air it looks like it too.

The pictures were taken with a zoom camera as we were not allowed even this close:

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Actually I find nothing wrong in restricting entry into Auroville, but then why say “everyone” is allowed? If they want to restrict entry to “believers” they are welcome, but I think it must be more than that because they say “everyone” is allowed. Even in the audio-visual shown to us there was a lot of hoopla about how people of all kinds from all over the world came here and the idea was “unity in diversity.”

We had encountered some racism in some Pondy restaurants (I will be writing about that later in another post) and were therefore not surprised to know that at Auroville they are very particular about whom they let in. When we came back to Mumbai I checked on the net and found that there were others who had had similar experiences. This blogger has written about an “Auro” beach from which Indians were shooed away. And a foreigner who has lived in Auroville himself has written:

While Auroville’s charter claims it to be a place of tolerance and equality, many of its residents seem to harbor opposing views. Racism between the Indian citizens and the Westerners, as well as among each of the groups themselves is very noticeable. The North Indians, like in the rest of the country, do not see their southern compatriots as equals. At the same time, some of the European residents I met always referred to their fellow Indian Aurovilians as “they” or “them.” And then there were those who found fault in people’s different religions.

If you read the rest of the entry he describes how “materialistic” Aurovilians can be. I personally have nothing against materialism and frankly only see extreme materialism as clashing with spirituality, but pretending that one is not materialistic does clash with spiritualism. To me spiritualism has always meant truth and honesty in all things and also self awareness. If these two things are missing you cannot be anywhere near spiritual.

Sadly, in Puducherry, a town where the ‘Mother’s presence is palpable, where her pictures are hung in hotels, restaurants and in shops, where her name is uttered in hushed tones, racism is also palpable. The Indians themselves practice it…waiters, rickshaw drivers, guides, security guards…and so do the whites. I had heard about the whites being racist from someone who lives there, and I also read something on the net. We ourselves did not meet any foreigners during our trip and an ordinary tourist in fact will not come into contact with them. But if one is sensitive it can be upsetting to see foreigners getting better service. In one self-service restaurant (Le Cafe owned by the government) a waiter was serving each and every foreigner and Indians were repeatedly refused service, even those with babies on their arms. This happened on two consecutive days with loads of different people…we found it more amusing than hurtful though.

One great thing about Auroville – those who built it look after the land really well, have planted thousands of trees and in fact have turned the once barren area into a lush forest. Hats off to them for this achievement.

Puducherry was an interesting experience overall. We enjoyed ourselves and did not take any ‘slights’ personally and did not argue with anyone. After all there were some really decent restaurants and we met some really nice people. And the town itself was beautiful, the area was green, the air was pure and well, it was a very different experience.

The place is about 3 hours drive from Chennai and the drive is picturesque. The salt pans, rice fields, coconut trees and the lush vegetation made the drive a real treat. And the road is excellent.

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I almost forgot about the shopping! You can buy a lot of hand crafted items here ranging from bedcovers to table mats. Also a lot of pottery work and jewellery, all hand-made. And a great variety of incense and aromatic stuff. Stuff like candles, herbs, teas, incense sticks, mosquito and insect repellents etc. Apparently quite a few of these industries are run by the Aurovillians themselves.I also managed to buy some “stoles” at a sale, for just Rs 50/- each and I thought they were a steal. They can easily be used as duppattas, although they are a trifle short.

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(Map is from the wikimapia and the photographs are all copyrighted to me)

Update, 25th May 2008: Purnima has written about her experience of Auroville and well, it confirms my suspicions about the dubious goings-on there. It was from Purnima’s post that I got the link to the bbc article which – horror of horrors – talked about child abuse! Sure, the Aurovillians have denied the allegations, but naturally, they will. Auroville is nothing a cult that should be disbanded by the Tamil Nadu government.

Related Reading: Life on the streets of Puducherry – a photo essay
A visit to Mammallapuram – a photo essay
The cave temples of Ellora in Aurangabad – a photo feature
A tour of the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad – a photo feature

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56 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2008 9:34 am

    Really beautiful pics and very interesting info, too, Nita, though I would be chary of visiting any place which would rub me the wrong way by discrimination.

  2. March 27, 2008 9:39 am

    wow.. really nice write up. I feel like I must visit it now.

    Thank you so much.

  3. March 27, 2008 10:17 am

    yeah, I am aware that Aurovilles are quite choose about whom to let. I know a couple who went there. They could stay there because they were on good terms with a key person there.

    But you did not write about the education system in Auroville?

  4. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 27, 2008 10:18 am

    Nita,

    Thanks for this very interesting post. From your photographs, Pondicherry seems much the same as it was when I was there for a month, way back in 1965, as a 1st-yr. architecture student doing a summer internship at the Ashram’s cottage industry department.

    The place seems more neat and clean now, though of course the promenade along the beach appears less attractive with so many more buildings and cars.

    Auroville was just beginning then, but the real architectural treat was Golconde — the Ashram’s outstanding dormitory building right in the town, designed and built in the late-1930s/early-1940s by Antonin Raymond and George Nakashima — the first work of modern architecture in the International Style to be built in India. Raymond, who apprenticed under Frank Lloyd Wright, went on to set up his own practice in Japan, while *his* apprentice Nakashima became one of the iconic furniture designers of the 20th centtury.

    Since you seem to have missed out this important landmark, here’s a link to a good documentation of it:

    http://www.aia.org/SiteObjects/files/Gupta_color.pdf

    I am sad (and glad you drew attention to it) about the racism in Pondicherry and Auroville. I, too, had sensed it all those years back, though either it was more subtle or I, as a quasi-ashramite, was shielded from its more blatant manifestations. And yes, it was practised by by our own compatriots too.

    My most horrifying experience then was the sight, especially in the “Black Town”, of several people afflicted simultaneously with leprosy and elephantiasis, and I was very disturbed by the apparent indifference and lack of compassion to them of the Ashram — an extremely well funded body dedicated to the betterment of humanity — which had it well within its means to set up a world-class facility for their treatment and rehabilitation.

    A quaintly amusing memory I have is of bicycles with mandatory registration plates (similar to those on cars and motorbikes). These comprised the letter “P” followed by a 5-digit number. On the rear mudguards of the bicycles they stuck out about 10 cm on either side, and this inevitably meant that they were bent by brushing against various things (including humans and animals) in the streets.

    As regarding shopping, the Ashram used produce some outstanding crafted products — particularly in leather and wood — fabricated by its inmates from across the world. I wonder how much of that is still alive.

    On the whole I share Doc’s chariness, but I do now have two friends (not connected with the Ashram) living in Pondicherry, from whom I have standing invitations. So maybe I will visit after all🙂

  5. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 27, 2008 10:29 am

    Postscript:

    The drive from Chennai to Pondicherry, depending on the route you take, goes past Mahabalipuram — a bonus.

    I will be writing about Mahabalipuram in a separate post. That was a great experience. – Nita.

  6. aquariius permalink
    March 27, 2008 10:58 am

    hey nita, thanks for this info on pondicherry, we have in the past decided against going there, on two occasions, as we could not get much prior info on the place so did not want to take a chance.

    but now i feel a bit more comfortable after having read your piece.

    seems like a quaint place and like vivek mentioned, mahabalipuram can be added to the itinerary.

    we are still deciding between kerala and himachal…now there is another option!

    cheers🙂

    Ahh Kerala! Now that is one place I am craving to go to!! I would think Kerala is a better bet. We plan to go there next time. This time we went to Pondi as the time frame worked out. We want to spend more time in Kerala as there is so much to see. – Nita.

  7. March 27, 2008 11:03 am

    Rdoc, thanks. And I know what you mean…I would for example not like to visit there again. Once it was fun, for the sheer novelty of it.

    Bharath, you are welcome. Certainly, Pondi is worth visiting at least once. It’s like being in a different world altogether.

    Poonam, I do not have too much info on the education system. We did see an audio-visual about auroville and there was some mention of the education system, but mostly I was very skeptical about it all. The words used sounded very “elevated” and fancy and it made me wonder about the authenticity of it all.

    Vivek, thanks for that very informative and educative comment. I know I can depend on you!🙂 Well, if you haven’t been to Pondi for so many years, it’s certainly worth a visit. If just to see how much it has changed. It’s a beautiful and charming town but I doubt whether I will visit for another 30 years!🙂
    Also the city outskirts are quite dirty by the way.

  8. March 27, 2008 12:45 pm

    pondy is a good place to drvie to…hmmm….about auroville…all i have heard is we have to book to stay…we never stay in pondy..its only about 160 kms from here…and the ECR is pretty good to drive through…btw you checked out hte antiques over there? if you are good at bargaining you can get stuff..

  9. March 27, 2008 2:54 pm

    A nice write up on Puducherry. There are lot of developments taking place on industrial and IT sector as well.

  10. Vipul permalink
    March 27, 2008 4:08 pm

    Hi Nita – thanks for the lovely pictures. They ooze freshness.

    I’ve never been there but am very surprised about the racism / discrimination. Tell me, what are the roots of this behavior? Is it simply people attending to foreigners since they assume they have thicker wallets? If you or I were to throw money at the table would the attitudes change?

    I just dont get it …

  11. March 27, 2008 4:43 pm

    Vipul, it’s a colonial mentality, a sucking up to white skin, that’s all. The French still live there in fairly large numbers (descendents of the colonials or relatives and plus there are other foreigners too) and they probably perpetuate this feeling. It’s nothing to do with wallets because most foreigners who either live in Pondicherry or even come there as tourists are not the rich types. Quite a few are backpackers and/or spiritual types, and if you look at them you realise at once that they are not well off. The Indians however look well fed and rich!🙂
    In fact there was one couple who was sitting next to us, who were wearing tattered clothes, were making the waiter run around and left no tip at all. But the waiter didn’t seem to mind, he was more concerned with showing his contempt for the brown patrons of his cafe.
    By the way over there the cafes like it if the majority of their patrons are white, it gives them more ‘respectibility’ and so they go all out to woo them. In one case I personally know, I was told that they arrived at a restaurant as it was about to close, but they were refused. However the whites who came after them were let in.
    In any case from what I saw the Indians there were in fact throwing their money around! They do the maximum shopping and eating out and also order far more. We saw this for ourselves. A foreigner might order a salad and some wine or simply sit there for hours just smoking. The Indians eat!🙂
    It’s simply an inferiority complex that some of these people have, that’s all. As those whom we came across practicing this apartheid were poor and uneducated, we let it pass.

    Old Sailor, thanks.

    Vishesh, I had heard about the antiques, but there was not much time to shop.

    • Michaela permalink
      October 1, 2009 3:33 pm

      Hello Neeta, I like your article about Pondicherry. What surprised me is how you write about “white and brown” people. Well, I am foreigner living in India for last 7 1/2 years, married to an indian man and i can tell you that this extra attention if I go to restaurat is quite disturbing and I don’t like it. I feel like an alien here. Please don’t think that all foreigners are just thick wallets, manipulating people. We are people just like you are. Maybe that is why I have little problem to find friends over here, because they think they must behave extra special and I think I must be too decent and quite.
      Anyway, thanks on this, you are little helpful to me here since we may be moving to Pondicherry.
      Have a good day.

      • October 5, 2009 1:09 pm

        Thanks Michaela, good to hear from you. I know what you mean but not everyone is uncomfortable with the special treatment. I just came back from abroad and I was thinking, how nice if we got special treatment abroad!🙂 As you might have guessed, we don’t! But yes getting this extra attention is like being treated as some kind of fragile and precious object and it can create a wall if you are staying here long.

        • Michaela permalink
          December 23, 2009 12:49 am

          Hello Nita,
          we did move to Pondicherry and it has been one moth already. It is great change for us. I met many foreigners here and was thinking to make some friends but I think it is better not to mix with them after I found this link today http://nandhivarman.wordpress.com/2008/06/13/auroville-under-scanner/
          I was surprised by this and I think it is not worth to risk to mix with strangers, even if they come from same land like me. I guess I am more indian by now. Sometimes I am so ashamed for “our culture”. And yes, indians don’t get good treatment abroad. People see them as gypsies…

          Thanks Michaela. Having visited Auroville myself I immediately sensed a kind of evil there. I thought evil was a strong word, but after reading that personal account, and also others about child abuse, I realise that the word evil is fitting. About racism yes ofcourse it is very strong in Auroville, and it’s worse because it is in our country. And after a visit to Switzerland I got a taste of a racism that I never want to experience again – Nita

  12. LIZ permalink
    March 27, 2008 6:19 pm

    the pictures is very very baeutiful … you site is very baeutiful

  13. March 27, 2008 7:49 pm

    Nita, I’ve always been smitten by everything French and that’s the reason that I really want to visit Pondi sometime. I do have a friend who stays there. She says that it’s nothing great. But that’s probably because she’s so used to it.😉

    Re: racism- very sad to hear that. I’ve seen this sort of an attitude even in other parts of the country. For example, I had gone to this upscale restaurant in Koregaon Park in Pune. There was a white couple sitting next to us. They were not even served water. Finally, they got the message and left after 20 mins. Reverse racism…if you will.

    I admit I am surprised by this. I have lived for many years in Pune and generally I have seen the locals fall over themselves to help/serve white people. I have seen racism against those who are of African origin though. Overall, it’s sad.
    But when it comes to service at Pune restaurants, I am afraid I do not have much to praise!🙂 The attitude is laid back. – Nita.

  14. March 27, 2008 8:38 pm

    I’ve been intrigued by Auroville since they are experimenting with sustainable, organic agriculture, but this is not the first time I’ve heard of this racism. From what I’ve read, the ashram did play a part in helping the survivors of the tsunami.

    As Vivek mentions, it does seem very odd and counterintuitive if they didn’t help the residents of “Black Town” and were indifferent, but I wouldn’t be too quick to judge them without knowing the full story. As I understand it, they are quite focused and maybe they didn’t have resources to spare – or maybe our idea of what they should do to help doesn’t align with their idea.

    As for racism, I’ve experienced that from fellow-Indians (servers) a few times at Indian restaurants in the US. Luckily, not all Indian restaurants are run like that, and there are also many that welcome Indians/browns with a genuine smile and joy.

    Amit, yes you are right about the organic farming that they do. A lot of organic products are available all over Puducherry. These guys certainly do a great job here. And about the racism, I know people who have traveled Air India who have had similar complaints, but I believe the situation has improved in the last 5 years. – Nita

  15. March 28, 2008 12:12 pm

    Nice travelogue Nita. But what a pity that one such institute that hails Unity in Diversity discriminates people based on the race.

    I think it is not just Auroville, but there is increasing trend in our tourism industry where people keep areas/hotels strictly reserved for foreigners. I read in a book (by Pankaj Mishra?) where he writes about being denied accommodation in a hotel in Kerala even though he was ready to pay the rent that the foreigners paid. He wrote that even some of the foreigners of got sick of this attitude by hotel administration and preferred other hotels where there is no such blatant racist attitude.

    Imagine how cruel it is that we the Indians being discriminated in our own land, by our own people on the basis of race and color!

    Will wait for your post on your experience in Puducherry.

  16. March 28, 2008 5:01 pm

    Joe thanks for that update on Kerala. I had never heard that these things happen there and I am quite indignant! It’s a shame that we Indians are racist towards our own kind!

  17. March 28, 2008 5:21 pm

    It’s not quite evident in Kerala, it is only in some places like Kovalam (famous for it’s beach, where foreigners frequent a lot), in Thiruvananthapuram district, where such things were reported. Rest of the state is quite welcoming to domestic and international tourists. I’m sure you will love a boat trip in Alleppey.🙂

  18. March 28, 2008 8:17 pm

    I understand that Joe. It’s only where foreigners are present in large numbers, and that’s why it happens in Pondicherry. But this makes me wonder whether the foreigners themselves (majority) demand this. After all, people aren’t fools. If the foreigners didn’t mind sharing the restaurant/hotel with mostly brown people, then perhaps this wouldn’t happen. Sure, some foreigners might be different, but the majority is what matters. All these hoteliers have an eye on profits and they will sell themselves I think to make more money! If they think the foreigners want to be surrounded by mostly other foreigners, then they might try and want to make it so…I don’t know. I am just guessing.

  19. March 28, 2008 10:02 pm

    Nita,

    As a person who visits India’s own French Riviera fairly frequently,I must say that this is a good,comprehensive article about Puducherry.

    What are the places you visited in my favourite Union Territory?Did you visit Karaikal any other place near Puducherry?

    The photos are neat ! And yes,French is used in signboards ! I have also seen school buses that carry the names of schools that end in lycee or ecole ! Charming little territory,I must say !

    Sadly,there is another side to Puducherry as well.Ofcourse,there is the divide,but of late,several more unpleasant things are taking place there.Drugs are becoming freely available 😦 And the East Coast Road is a fabulous two-lane highway but horrible accidents are quite common due to drunken driving.But things are very slowly improving due to increased patrolling by the traffic police.

    I am not sure about Karaikal as I do not remember the names, but we did take a bus tour on one of the days. We went to Ruby beach. And about the drive, yes people drive very rashly on that road and I don’t think they are drunk either!🙂 We had some narrow misses ourselves as big vehicles overtake without a thought as to whether a vehicle is approaching from the other side. It’s necessary to increase the width of the highway to two lanes on both sides. – Nita.

  20. March 29, 2008 1:31 am

    So that was your big trip, i expect it must have been hectic. the pics are great especially the first one. on Racism it has and will always exist everywhere be it pondi, goa or kerala or uk anywhere, and i agree with u locals always fall over themselves to help/serve white people .
    I had seen some discov documentary that auroville was substantially constructed by the dark skinned locals and the foreign settlers were barred just so that locals could get jobs.
    In kerala i discovered anti hindi bias, and on rare occasions anti mumbai bias, and the minute u switched to english people would be impressed and talk rather nicely. In tiny villages u were sometimes treated like aliens and their day stared at 4am and closed at 6pm – a big shock to a mumbaikars system. In kerala Varkala is the best place to swim , and in the north (a simi hotbed) it was Kapil beach (next to fort baikal where the song tu hi re of bombay was shot )(not for the amature swimmer as waves are killer and can pound u to the sand)

  21. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 29, 2008 5:51 am

    Hey Prax!

    I’ve said this before somewhere else on this blog, and don’t mind repeating myself: please do not freely share information about less-known getaways. You’ll only be instrumental in making a mess of them, as has happened in Goa, Kovalam etc. North Malabar has so far remained relatively unspoilt, and let’s try to keep it that way.

    You have to be specially possessive about seaside places that are easy to get to. That is where the whites tend to flock, and the Indians follow as oglers, as racist restauranterurs, and as land grabbers of what should be in the public domain.

  22. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 29, 2008 6:18 am

    Prax,

    //In kerala i discovered anti hindi bias//

    That, unfortunately, seems poised to vanish. It already is halfway there in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kannur. Next to Maharashtrians and Gujaratis, the Malayalees are sold out on Hindi. It is saddening to see Malayalee couples living outside their state (and I don’t necessarily mean in the north) speaking in Hindi at home. So their children don’t have a clue about their own language, are conditioned to look down upon the local language, and speak barely passable English.

    I would have no problem with this (other than the part about looking down upon the local language) if it were only for the practical purpose of getting along, as so many of them work outside Kerala. But the malaise seems to be striking deeper roots.

    It would not be surprising if there soon arose a demand from the expat Malayalees to officially shorten the names of Thiruvnanthapuram and Kozhikode to something more manageable (not only for themselves but also for their North Indian gods) like maybe Tipu-Ram (has a nice nationalistic ring) and Kozy (goes well with the God’s Own Country image).

  23. March 29, 2008 6:54 am

    We’ve been to Pondicherry twice now and have enjoyed it each time. Most recently in December of 2007. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the overall great information.

  24. March 29, 2008 1:27 pm

    vivek i agree 100% but v is quite well known
    and noone will dare swim at kapil not even the locals
    im an ok/ decent out of practice swimmer but twice i got pounded onto the sand and came out with bruises
    i also hate to make secret places public and i post it
    as that waterfall or that beach

    had recently been to a beautiful beach but was wound up on whether to post on it or not
    maybe ill call it that beach …🙂

  25. March 29, 2008 1:29 pm

    i reiterate vivek u must blog , i always follow ur comments

    i agree that the hip young things feel shy or uncool to speak in a native language

  26. vish permalink
    March 29, 2008 1:49 pm

    Hi Vivek, you need to follow Raj and start your blog…I will be a regular vistor to your blog.

  27. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 29, 2008 4:30 pm

    Prax,

    I know Varkala is well known (as is Beikal), but try mentioning it to the types to whom picnics mean listening in a group to loud music on the transistor radio, or playing *antyakshari* based on Hindi film-songs, and chances are you’ll draw a blank. That’s how it should remain. Despite heavy promotion by the God’s Own Country chaps, tourism in Kerala is largely confined to a few pockets south of Thrissur. The concerns voiced by Hariharan Chandrashekar more than five years ago are still valid:

    hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mag/2002/07/28/stories

    I dread the day when (and if) Kerala becomes another Goa, or like the stretch of Sri Lanka from Negombo to Galle. I am not saying ban tourists, but let them come on terms that are acceptable to (dictated by) local people — I mean the fishermen, the farmers and the toddy-tappers, and care must be taken to ensure that they are guided by informed opinion, not by the hype of smart-ass marketing guys.

    Incidentally, since this post concerns the UT of Pondicherry, I am surprised no one talking about Kerala has mentioned a certain place between Badagara and Thalassery (I shall not name it, althought prima facie it’s nothing to write home about). But if an even more obvious candidate such as Karaikal could be missed, the absence of M… (oops!!!) from the discussion is no great surprise.

    BTW, correct me if I am wrong, but “swimming in the sea” is not part of the Indian RECREATIONAL tradition. We normally go to the beach of an evening — all dressed up, not down — to “eat the air”. It is mainly the foreign tourists, and our own city slickers who ape them, that will actually plunge in with the express purpose of swimming. I am not suggesting that this is “right” or “wrong”, just a simple fact that I have observed across most of coastal India.

  28. March 29, 2008 9:17 pm

    again i agree fully
    try reading this post and guess which place i was talking about

    Plastic waste in National Parks!
    http://techntrek.wordpress.com/2007/10/17/plastic-waste-in-national-parks/

  29. March 29, 2008 9:23 pm

    luckily i think and i may be wrong here, such people dont visit nitas blog

  30. March 29, 2008 9:58 pm

    Dont they allow visitors inside the spaceship (I mean, the meditation hall), these days? Some years ago, I was allowed to go inside, and meditate. There was some specific time whilst you could go, back then. There was a huge green colour crystal inside and the whole place is totally covered except a small well direct hole on the top of the globe-shaped crystal. The sun rays enter and fall on the crystal and then reflected around the whole room. All the people were very quiet and were meditating, when I went. So I also did close my eyes and sit there for sometime.

    Quite an experience and an excellent place to meditate, I must say.

    Destination Infinity.

  31. March 29, 2008 10:15 pm

    Paul, thanks.

    Prax, you are making me envious with your account of Kerala. We had planned to go twice, and each time something happened and we had to cancel. Hopefully we will make it soon within the next year.

    Destination Infinity, thanks for sharing that positive experience. And yes, they do allow people to go there and meditate for which you have to take an appointment. But then you have to be seriously about the meditation, no sightseeing is allowed. I can understand that. But it is not possible to even go near the Dome now as they say it is under repairs. One can see it only from a distance. And ofcourse one cannot visit any other part of Auroville (there are several sectors) unless you actually live there.

  32. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 29, 2008 11:17 pm

    Nita,

    Auroville is beginning to sound like a spiritual police state, and I guess it wouldn’t be the first of its kind!

  33. March 30, 2008 1:22 am

    nita
    in kerala we had the good experiences and the bad
    we travelled in the sts and state run boats to pvt taxis

    varkala is special cause of a very funny comment by a lifeguard who was tormented by my swimming underwater most of the times ,
    other experiences included living in tiny hotels in nondescript places at bargains eating great food of desi noodles at a roadside stall

    and worst one for my sis was seeing them eat rasam and rice unlimited at 15 bucks a plate the south way with rice ball making, sambar flowing freely and being licked freely spanning half a hand

    maybe i should search the pics and get them scanned and post some of them – got some beautiful beach and periyar munnar and other pics

    yes it is worth a visit for sure

  34. March 31, 2008 1:11 am

    Hi Nita

    Nice to see you writing about your big trip🙂 I havent been to Pondicherry but this was a wonderful virtual trip. I have experienced intolerence in Goa, Gujarat, Kerala and even Himachal. I’m sure others felt the same sometime in Mumbai. I’m immune to it now😛

    Kerala: If you are on the verge and need a slight push over the edge, you must visit my travelogue. It’s truly God’s own country.

    Looking fwd to Mahabalipuram.

  35. March 31, 2008 4:44 am

    Hi Nita. Got her from Laksh’s. I enjoyed reading and looking at the photos of Pondicherry. My grandfather is from here,…. but none of our family (including my dad) has ever been to this town. I hope that one day,..I will be able to make a trip to India,… and then to Pondicherry :)….

  36. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 31, 2008 6:57 am

    Priyank,

    Saw your Kerala travelogue via the link you provided. Delighted. It’s more my kind of thing than what Nita writes when she travels (sorry, Nita!🙂 ). You’ve packed in a lot of information without unnecessarily giving away stuff that eveyone need not know (of course, looking at your itinerary it’s possible you may not have visited such places). And although I generally prefer to undertake such outings alone, on this particular one, I guess I’d go, like you, in a small, congenial group.

    The absenceof Padmanabhapuram palace in your picture gallery confirms something I’ve always felt — it’s a helluva difficult building to capture on camera.

    This was my first visit to your blog. I look forward to further exploring it.

  37. March 31, 2008 7:20 am

    Priyank, thanks. Didn’t know you had written about Kerala. Will check it for sure.

    spillay, I hope you can make a trip to Pondicherry too. If your grandfather lived there that means he was there during the time of the French and well, today that atmosphere is partially intact. Overall, that whole area is very beautiful and worth the trip. Will be writing about Mammallapuram this week. Thanks.

    Vivek, Priyank’s travelogues are fantastic and there is no way I can compete with him!🙂 I was rather surprised you hadn’t visited Priyank before. I have been an admirer of his detailed travelogues for some time now, and by the way he is a master photographer while I am an amateur one! His writing notes as he travels is one of the reasons what makes his travelogues so excellent.

  38. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 31, 2008 7:45 am

    Nita:

    “Writing notes as he travels” … that, alas, is one thing I’m too lazy to do. And also photography. A notebook and a camera — and having to reload it after every 36 shots — are too much of an encumbrance (digital cameras are more manageable, but the results are much less satisfying).

    On another track, thanks for switching over to the local name of Mahabalipuram, but there’s no double “m” in it (unless the zoologists have intervened!🙂 ).

  39. March 31, 2008 6:56 pm

    Nita,

    // And about the drive, yes people drive very rashly on that road and I don’t think they are drunk either! We had some narrow misses ourselves as big vehicles overtake without a thought as to whether a vehicle is approaching from the other side. It’s necessary to increase the width of the highway to two lanes on both sides //

    Sorry to hear about that but narrow misses are a part of life on that road and almost every other road in Tamil Nadu.The drivers here are maniacs,especially the notorious government bus drivers.Little wonder then,that TN leads the list in terms of road fatalities😦
    Please wear your seatbelts and helmets while travelling on the roads of my state.

  40. April 1, 2008 11:01 pm

    Nita, Vivek,
    I am overwhelmed by your comments🙂 It is a tremendous motivation to hear words of encouragement from people whom I look up to. Thanks🙂

    You are welcome Priyank.🙂 – Nita.

  41. Raghav permalink
    April 6, 2008 9:36 pm

    Hello Nita,

    I was enoying your photos very much until in between i saw this statement from you.

    The North Indians, like in the rest of the country, do not see their southern compatriots as equals.

    I will not even say if i agree or disagree but could you please let me know what type of research makes you to write such a general statement about an entire community.

    Thanks in advance.

  42. April 6, 2008 9:56 pm

    Raghav, come on, don’t tell me you dont know that I have quoted someone! Please do read my post again.
    You can also go to that site and ask that person. As I have never lived in that ashram I cannot prove or disprove him can I! But I do believe that that is his impression and every single person has a right to his opinon and/or impression.
    Also why should someone else’s opinions upset you so much! You have also made some statements on the North South Post which I vehemently disagree with but at the same time I don’t get upset because someone has a view opposite from mine! Also it is clear that you haven’t quoted any research either and I don’t expect it as it is your view/impression. Every person has a right to a view and everyone has a right to disagree.
    Relax!

  43. Raghav permalink
    April 6, 2008 11:03 pm

    I am sorry i didn’t spend much time in reading your above information and thought that comment came from a well read person like you.

    Even if didn’t , it’s just a opinion at the end of the day.

    Thank you, i very much appreciate your information on views and opinions.

  44. May 25, 2008 8:16 pm

    “Sure, the Aurovillians have denied the allegations, but naturally, they will.”

    In the article it said they admited that they had an convicted peadophile in their midst. They did admit that but from what I heard it’s just the top of the iceburg.

    I have a little wow moment while reading your article. Most here get a little defensIVE when talking about Auroville. You descirbed the place exactly as how I felt it and without the apolgetic poeha.

    The BBC article also has a link to what I think is the documentary/investigation. My connection is to slow to watch it but if you can do share your views.

  45. May 25, 2008 9:10 pm

    Thanks Purnima. That update to my post was most needed and thanks to you I got it! Its so important to have an authority to back up one’s feelings, for the sake of those reading it. And this is as you said a controversial subject and some people don’t want to see the reality. But the way I am, I think it’s important to see the reality, however unpleasant it is. Whether it’s about my state, my people, my family…or my country, seeing the reality is what keeps us sane.

  46. October 4, 2008 7:34 pm

    I am a pondicherry resident btw, and you know what racism is a challenge or i can say it’s thrilling to me. I can take them down, straightforwardly and care not to give a damn when their are *ucking off with me.

    You can even say my ego is way way more then that of a white *ucking racist.

    Mutu Vel a blogger from chennai faced racism, in auro beach. He shouldn’t have left the place when being shooed away. The white nude couple and their a$$ licking indian bodyguard should have given what they deserve. Yes iam *ucking practical.

    You know, we leave in the white town, my house owner is a white american, they are polite and i restlessly say that i never have faced racism and iam thrilled to face it and give it the damn to them when they do that. I am not getting ready to get down to that low, but these bottom feeder must be parented😉🙂

    Ok, enough of my racism ranting. Btw Nita, you have a good blog, i enjoy it, especially when it’s a desi’s byproduct. And i hope you had a great moment visiting here too.

    Btw, did you get some Bollinger or some Veuvue Cloquet, oh they are quality champaigns you get here for cheap.

    Best,
    Eshwar Iyer
    The Dare Head Indian😉

    Hullo Esh and welcome to my blog. We really loved Pondicherry except for the racism. Guess we were just not used to it and nor could we deal with it. And we didn’t know about the champagne or we would have surely got it. I guess the next time around then! And I wonder why you called me desi…somehow that word seems to mean Indians settled abroad…isn’t that what they call themselves there? Anyway, good to hear from you Dare Head Indian!🙂 – Nita

  47. July 31, 2016 12:28 pm

    This is the problem with White people, by nature they are contradictory and lack self consistency. Which other mass group of people would run off to join a society which centres around the notion of ‘unity amongst all nationalities’ and then turn it into something hierarchical to fit their own agenda? It just doesn’t make any sense and is the type of behaviour that is inherent within White people.

    By the way I am aware this article is eight years old but just thought I would add my two cents.

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