Now, there are many ways to lose weight. There is the crash diet, the go-to-the-gym-and-make-your-wallet-lose-weight, the buy-larger-size clothes way. Plenty. We chose the climb-a-9th-century-fort-in-the-afternoon-sun way. I mean, we went all the way to Trichy and we didn’t climb the Rock Fort Temple because the heat would be unbearable we were told. But we went ahead and climbed Gingee (or Shenji) Fort at 3 PM on a gloriously hot September day.
But that was later. What we were originally doing was wandering about in Pondicherry. I know, everyone’s been there, done that and drank the cheap booze. But still its wonderful. The last couple of times I’d been there, I really don’t remember doing anything in particular. And that was not because of the cheap booze. It that that is pretty much what I do when I’m travelling. Plus the avid followers of this blog (6) will attest to that fact.
We went on a perfectly and gloriously hot weekend towards the end of September. The stretch from Krishnagiri is kind of like your annual performance review. Your boss starts off with your good points, highlighting how you’re basically the super glue holding the entire company together and how without you the world as we know it will end. However, when you get your rating it’ll be kind of like the big pothole in the middle of the Krishnagiri Tindivanam route. Which is also equally unexpected. Unless you’re an experienced driver like yours truly, who after numerous such roads and performance appraisal cycles is now extremely wary of smooth roads and smoother bosses. So essentially, be warned. The road beyond Tindivanam is now being upgraded to a 4 lane strip, so all the attendant caveats apply.
We stayed at The Richmond, and thought that it was quite nice. It is on the smaller side and the food tends to take it’s time, but hey, it’s not like a billion dollar deal was waiting on us. The Missus especially liked it which in my opinion says a lot about the place. In a nice way. Just to be clear.
While we were there, there seemed to some sort of event sponsored by the Pondicherry Tourism Department. During the evenings, the area near Gandhi statue sported a shamiana where a Debate in Tamil, a musical evening and other events were organised. It was preceded by a concerned citizen playing the ghatam for 24 hours to promote awareness for Global Warming. The entire stretch has a feeling of a mela, with the local government pitching in and shutting down traffic on Goubert Road (the road on the beach). There are all the elements that make up a traditional carnival, small Ferris wheels, cotton candy sellers, balloon sellers, you assorted chat sellers – admittedly with a very Southie twist, but excellent nevertheless and the essential element, crowds of children whining. But don’t let that deter you, for you can come upon interesting sights. Like a band from the Reunion Island singing in French and the crowd enjoying it or like the family out for an evening stroll and the father deciding to “borrow” some plants from the Kargil memorial for the family garden. When The Missus caught him at it, he loitered and then sent his kid to do the job. It is wonderful to see how our country passes on it’s glorious 5000-year old values.
The mornings were spent loitering around the French part of town, which is very elegantly called the “White” town. As opposed to the Indian part, which is the “Black” Town. Of course no one calls them that any more. But it was interesting to note. And my loitering didn’t go unnoticed. A gent on his morning walk, when running into me for the nth time, politely enquired if I was lost. I had all the trappings of the tourist anyway, the camera bag, the dangling camera, the gawker’s pace. Not a pretty sight. Which is why The Missus very wisely does not accompany me on such ramblings.
However, we did put in some solid leg kms. Driving up to Grigorio’s (or was it Grigio’s) which is a shack just off the road that leads to Auroville for some solid, yummy, wood burned pizzas and then walking all the way back to help the food do it’s job. We did get a lot of stares though. And that would be because we were the only ones sauntering about in the afternoon sun.
In the morning we spent poking about the streets of Pondicherry looking at the huge houses. But like all things they seem to be coming to an end too and are being replaced by either hotels or glass fronted buildings.
And that is when, after all the walking in the sun was over and we were heading back, we decided to outdo our selves. Around 3 in the afternoon, we decided to hike up to Krishnagiri section of the Gingee fort complex. The fort itself itself is divided into 3 parts, so there is still some exploring to do. The fort is quite clean, and it doesn’t have a lot of people visiting it. Or it could just be the heat. Some of it got into my head as well and all my photos turned out to be crap. Like they say, always find someone or something to pin the blame. Between the 3 sections, I would think it will take around 2 trips to completely see the fort. And the climb might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I did plan one again in December when we stayed over at Thiruvannamalai, but I had to play conscientious mate to a sick Missus. That involved pulling the curtains, staying very quiet and watching TV all day. It was the best help I ever did according to her.
So, next time you’re heading towards Pondicherry (or Puducherry or Pondi), take some time off to visit the Gingee fort. As they say, you’ve got nothing to lose but your weight.