I was offered my Michelle to spend a night in the village that he stays in with the Indian girl he visits. There was a local festival going on and I felt it would be stupid to miss such an opportunity. I cant remember the girls name, they seem to go in and out simultaneously, the pronunciation escapes me. I have worked out their situation. He has partially adopted her and he has no children of his own. So the relationship is very father daughter like. He comes here twice a year and stays at the house he has built her family. "The village was only and hour away" was what I was told, but it was longer, hotter and far more dangerous than I could have possibly imagined. Aman Chahal said to me that south India has problems, health and safety is by far one of the worst. I took the bus just outside Reddichavady, where I am staying. The bus was rammed so tightly I cant put it into words. I was forced to climb aboard and suffer the next 15 minuets in agony. This is the best way I can describe how I rode the bus:
There is an open door to get on the bus. There are steps leading up to the compartment of the bus. The bus is so full that the outside of the door has people protruding out. I am one of these people. Arms locked and at full stretch hanging onto the bus. I don’t know if I would actually class myself as being “on” the bus. I was so far out at one point that my bag hit a passing bus. One of my feet was half on half off, they other would switch to be completely off or managing to get some brief purchase. At every stop I was off and then running along side of the bus as it drove away, then jumping back on. Different position every time was entertaining but the pain constant.
I was literally hanging off. It annoys me when people use this word, “literally” but here it is very much the right word. There was no room for movement and the sweat of my hands made them slip on the metal I was able to cling onto. I was genuinely scared and could feel the strength in my arms disappearing. I had to count to keep my concentration. I was there for 9km and it seemed like an eternity. People were so close together the idea of personal space had been destroyed. This bus cost me 4 Rupees but I don’t know if I am willing to try this again for the pennies I saved not taking a taxi.
I finally got to Pondicherry, weak, hot and tired. We all met up and took another bus to Auroville. We got a seat and the busy Indian bus experience for me was over. As we arrived at the village we could start to hear some of the celebration happening but we headed to the house for a small rest as the main festival would not start till later. The house was nicely built, with marble floors, but there was nothing inside apart from some kitchen appliances in one room and 3 plastic chairs shared in the remaining 4 rooms. There wasn’t a toilet in the house or water, this had to be collected every morning. I don’t know if it was drinkable but when it is the only water to drink, I don’t know if you want to ask because you don't have a choice.
The festival was great and a large crowd quickly gather as they were preparing the fire on which all the men in the village, around 1000 of them, walk on. It was at this point that my camera decided enough was enough and died on me. A big ceremony started the event and a stampede of men ran to get a cross the hot ash. They ran across it and straight into the water, so it didn’t look to bad but I don’t know if I am willing to give it a go. After the celebrations we went back to the house where the power also decided enough was enough for that day and we sat in the darkness, had some food and slept; on the marble floor with nothing more than a thin pillow. I awoke with mosquito bites all over me.Only a stupid man would ask me how I slept that night.
My plan for Monday, today, was to come back in the morning, but Michelle was insistent that I saw a few things before I headed back. This was fine, but because he is 75, everything takes ages and I didn’t get back till 6. We went to 2 real places of interest and of no interest to me what soever Although two both promised the same thing, they were so far apart in comparison. We first went to visit Matrimandir. I would recommend you Google it just to have a bit of background knowledge if you are interested. It is very spiritual, or so it claims, and hopes, in its plans, to one day be a true Utopia for people. Its is not finished and is very like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, promising that it too will possibly never be finished. It is centered by a huge golden globe which encased a room where you can meditate. Tourists flock to see it and wait 3 hours so that they can meditate for a 5 minuet slot. I was not prepared to do this and was well aware of the commercial approach that this place had. I don’t think this is quite what the founding fathers had in mind. We then went to an earth center that Michelle was insistent we go to. They call it scientific research but I don't really know how scientific it is. They experiment with different shapes of bricks and ways to construct buildings out of earth bricks. Not my type of thing but to an engineer or Simon Williams it would have been heaven. We went to Pondicherry to have lunch and after went to the Ashram. This is the place where Sri Aurobindo is buried and is a centre for meditation. This had a completely different ambiance and I would love to visit again, on my own when I have lots of time. He has a big following and has written many texts on how to focus the mind and heal the soul, etc. I do not believe, like the followers that I will reach enlightenment and that I will truly have a better soul and heart if I follow their teaching, but I do believe in relaxation, concentration and focusing your thoughts so this is something I would love to try.
In Pondy there is an Elephant outside a temple dedicated to Ganesha. It is so well trained that is is not tied and if you give him some money it will take it and then tap your head. Its a good tourist attraction and I'm sure a good little earner for the chap behind but I didn't count on the fact that it would be so terrifying. I was completely taken over by fear when I confronted him as he was so strong and powerful. I just had such an overwhelming feeling and was taken aback by the size of the creature. It was an amazing 10 second experience.
Michelle, despite his stories and endless talk, was a great host for the weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with him. You just need to go with it sometimes, not really knowing where you're going or what you will be doing or with who, but if you do, I promise it will be amazing.
Preparing the fire
The chaos that followed
This wasnt my camera, im stealing the photos from here
Just put this in for Simon Williams and Alex Becker as they love their architecture and wanted to show them what it is like here
The Dome at the Matrimandir
Simon will love this
This is not just a small man. this is an Indian grown, rickshaw driving small man. (actually they are all like this)
Truly an amazing animal