Chronologically you’ve already had the next episode embedded in 2017 so if you missed The people in the restaurant aka Murder in the Mansion pop over and read it here.
I’m struggling writing to you about being a Temple Junkie this last few days so I’m just jumping up to today. Patience is a virtue and you’ll get your temples in due course. We arrived in Pondicherry about lunch time. This once French colony does still have a very French feel and look and it’s not just that the policemen wear caps that make them look like they’re straight off the set of Casablanca! Anyway the hotel’s on a dingy road down the corner from the bazaar and I nearly didn’t get out of the car. Lucky I did because inside this heritage mansion’s grotty exterior is a beautiful boutique gourmet hotel – best yet this trip even without a roof top pool.
After lunch of BBQ prawns and lemon rice followed by chocolate pudding (it is a French colony remember) and sending off my washing, I decided on a walk. Karthik decided I needed company and he also needed a walk.
So walk… First we stumbled onto the local Ganesha Temple, always a good thing. Well this one has a temple elephant that takes gifts (money) out of your hand and taps you on the head in blessing. Very cute but Karthik’s not the best photographer so I had to pay twice before he got a photo with me and the elephant both in it. Bless.
Then we went for a perambulation along the beach. Indian beaches are all different and all the same – Mumbai, Calicutt, Cochin and here in Pondicherry just a riot. First thing was being hailed by the hotel manager: I’ve never before been to a beach in India and bumped into someone I know! Very exciting. The manager and five staff had joined a local community group and, wearing surgical rubber gloves, were trying to collect rubbish. A thankless task on the scale of Cnut turning back the tide but they’re trying. I tried to be encouraging but didn’t stop to help.
Off we walked past the statue of Gandhi and into the throng. There were food sellers, trinket sellers, flower sellers, photographers. I can’t begin to describe the food, it ranged from ice cream and fairy floss to hot spicy cups of chick peas, roasted peanuts, fans of green mango and cups of chopped fresh fruit smelling sweet and delicious. Beggars of all descriptions occasionally got a gift from Karthik, madam was not so kind. A man with a green parrot was telling fortunes, sadly for me the parrot spoke no English. Girls in saris, flowers in their hair wandering along in giggling clumps like so many coloured flags. Muslim girls clad head to toe in black like so many gold tipped blackbirds still giggling and chirping and beautiful flying in the breeze. A rock band played in a water front bar. And everywhere groups of young men, I wasn’t scared but I was glad of Karthik’s company.
So many people walking and laughing, some just sitting on the rocky foreshore watching the fishing boats heading out. Some sitting philosophising in deep contemplation. Our friends trying to collect rubbish but being filmed by a tv crew and watched by police with batons. Clean up Pondicherry Day didn’t seem to be going so well.
Then it was back to the hotel through the evening streets, colors softened in the evening night. People sitting in their doorsteps, others decorating their doorsteps with intricate patterns free drawn in rice flour for blessing, protection and decoration, fresh each night. Cows and people all off home after one last stop at the temple.
Back in the hotel I had a quick shower then down to a one-on-one Tamil cooking class – home style fish curry – coconut oil, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, garlic cloves and curry leaves. Powdered turmeric, home-made garam masala, salt and asafoetida. Onion, tomato, kingfish and coconut milk. Oh and pulped tamarind for sour tang – mmmmm. It was delicious.
So that’s been my afternoon. Now I’m down to the bar, it’s not Rick’s but then this is Pondicherry not Casablanca. Happily they do have Bombay Blue Sapphire Gin!!
OMG at 630am Karthik’s taking me to the fresh food market – madam’s going to need a rest when she gets home!