Monday, January 23, 2006

Searching across India - Part II

We left part of our luggage at the IITM hostels, and started for Pondicherry. A three hour bus ride along the Eastern Coastal Road on the Pondy Express will get you to Pondicherry. The speeding bus braked suddenly on the way, and U fell down her seat and got a nasty bruise on the bridge of her nose. As she cuddled beside her husband for comfort, I gazed out into the night sky, at the shining stars with the cool sea breeze blowing into my hair.

We reached Pondicherry at 9:30 pm. An auto ride got us to the Aurobindo Ashram where we pleaded for two rooms. We got them in the New Guest House of the ashram. Every room in the guesthouse has a name like Dignity, Freedom, and Integrity. My room's name was Miracle. Providence?

I had to perform surgery on a mosquito net at 1:30 am, to escape the mosquitoes. Other than that, the night passed in calm sleep until U's call woke me up at 5:30 am and her impatient voice asked me to hurry to the beach to catch the sunrise. I walked down to the beach, and the sea greeted me with her silently roaring waters. As the sky slowly turned from black, to blue, to myriad hues of yellow and red, I could hear the ocean speak to me. It spoke of the countless millions it touched everyday, in peace and in pain. As U and S walked ahead, I walked with a handycam trying in vain to capture the beauty unfolding in front of my eyes. Then the sun peeked out of the horizon mists and world turned a magical shade of golden red. I felt frozen in time and in space, all alone, forever. It was as if all the melancholy on the earth was distilled into those few rays of sunlight, which shone on me. Such sights are not meant to be seen alone, and yet here I was, condemned to witness this mystical painting of the astral skies all by myself. The sun rose into the morning sky, and we took a walk on the wharf which extended about half a kilometer into the ocean. From there the promenade and the typical skyline of a French-influenced Mediterranean settlement looked fascinating.

We checked out of the guesthouse at nine and boarded a bus tour run by the tourism department. In what still remains of its French connection, there is a uniqueness that makes it different. As a fellow French traveler on the tour bus informed me, "It is different here, outside it is India again, but here it is different." What I believe instead, is that this also, is India and there in lies her beauty. The tour began at the Aurobindo Ashram, which houses the samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This was followed by a visit to the Manakula Vinayakar temple, which has about 45 forms of Ganesha worshipped in and around India. Then it was onto the Pondicherry Museum, which had sections on archaeology, which displayed remains of Roman amphorae and coins excavated from Arikamedu. It is the first place known to have made small, drawn (cut from a tube) glass beads. I never knew that the Romans traded with India so early on, and that bead making was an industry on its own.

Then we visited the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As other people went around clicking the magnificent gothic architecture and the French girl lit a candle, I sat down on the front most pew. As I bent my head down and prayed, I felt a strange calm fill me from within. I prayed for someone, who I know loves Jesus in a way I do not understand. And even though I have never prayed in a church before, I found what I have always known in my heart, to be true. That God hears... in all languages, in all faiths, from all beings, at all times and in all ways. That is what makes Him the same for all of us, and makes all of us the same to Him. I prayed that she finds boundless love in her life and peace in her heart, and that He always stays with her, holding her like His own child. I know He heard.

This was followed by a visit to the Botanical Gardens, where we all went on a toy train ride, giggling like little children. It was fun to be on a five-minute train ride, while everybody clicked photos of everybody else. After this, we had a sumptuous South Indian lunch at restaurant. After lunch, the first event was a boat ride in the backwaters, at the Chunambar water sports complex. The last attraction of the tour was a trip to Auroville.

As the Auroville charter says, "Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity." On 28 February 1968, some 5,000 people assembled near the banyan tree at the center of the future township for an inauguration ceremony attended by representatives of 124 nations, including all the States of India. The representatives brought with them some soil from their homeland, to be mixed in a white marble-clad, lotus-shaped urn, now sited at the focal point of an amphitheatre. In the center of the township, one finds the Matrimandir. On the outside, it is a large golden sphere, while the spacious Inner Chamber in the upper hemisphere of the structure is completely white, with white marble walls and white carpeting. In the center, a pure crystal-glass globe suffuses a ray of electronically guided sunlight, which falls on it through an opening at the apex of the sphere. There are no images, no organized meditations, no flowers, no incense, no religion or religious forms. It is the symbol of the Divine's answer to man's aspiration for perfection.

I quote the Mother:
"Let it not become a religion. The failure of religion is... because they were divided. They wanted people to be religious to the exclusion of other religions, and every branch of knowledge has been a failure because it has been exclusive. What the new consciousness wants (it is on this that it insists) is: no more divisions. To be able to understand the spiritual extreme, the material extreme, and to find the meeting point, the point where that becomes a real force."

The tour bus dropped us at the bus terminal, from where S took a bus to Bangalore, while U and me returned to Chennai.

Continued in the next post...


  1. You know you have to post pictures so that we can see of it is really as beautiful as it sounds. :-)

  2. Ah pictures! I have quite a few... lemme see what I can do about that.