Thursday, July 02, 2020

The game called life

I was in standard IX, when I first met her as a bride to one of my most favorite uncle, mom’s younger brother. Uncle had moved in with my parents to Chennai from Kerala, after my parents got married, and he has been an integral part of my life all along. Even today. 

Cilvy was her name, petite, short, active and a pocket sized wonder. She only wore organdy and kotta sarees that was vogue and stylish, those days. I have seen her carrying herself in sarees with ease, they were well pleated, and also  remember until she had her own children, she would never pick up any child, after she draped herself in a saree for it would crumple them. She wore foundation, used cosmetics and a curled lock of hair hung on both sides of her face.  When a dads side cousin told me that your aunt puts on lot of makeup, the ninth grade me was secretly happy, as I had someone in my family who used make up. Yes. Seriously. 

They lived very close to my parents place, and especially after my two little cousins who were naughty brats came  along our bonds got stronger. My maternal uncle had a significant role in shaping my personality with his amazing positivity, his ability to talk about any topic under the sun, riveting story telling techniques and they have all influenced me quite a bit. My aunt was very supportive in all his endeavors. 

I am yet to see a woman like her who can spin like a top, don multiple hats and do hundred stuff at the same time. She could work her magic with her signature dishes and cook for the entire town, if need be. She was loud surprisingly for a small person and spoke dime a dozen. Always with a smile on her face, she was at the helm of everything that was happening at my uncles house and she was pretty stellar at what she was managing. With my uncle into a lot of social activities, after his work time, like being a president of an association at Chennai, active member at church and his community, Cilvy aunty could work her magic, held down the fort during my uncles absence from domestic activities.

While in first year of my graduation, I was to wear a saree for some occasion. Since I didn’t own any then, my parents were planning to buy me and I remember Uncle and Aunty coming home and surprising me with an Organza saree, just like the ones Cilvy aunty wears. It was a light shade of brown pastel colour with a maroon border. It must have been her choice definitely and I was on cloud nine with all those compliments that was coming my way, when I wore it the first time. She wished me many hundreds of sarees in my lifetime, when she gifted me my first and made me feel special. 

I now stare at the picture my cousin Joe, their son, sent me over Whatsapp. Its my aunts’ picture along with the announcement of her demise. We lost her to cancer. She is smiling subtly in the picture, so unlike her open laughter and grief engulfs all of us in the family. They had moved to Kerala to our tharavad in Chalakudi just before the lockdown commenced. None of us could pay our last rites to her or be with my Uncles’ family during this profound period of sorrow. 

The bright saree she is seen in the picture used for the announcement, is my gift to her sometime back. Neenu, Joe's wife tells me that she looked her best in it and that was one of her favorites. 

Life certainly plays deep games. Doesn’t it?

Monday, June 01, 2020


It was a wedding that took us, girls to Srivilliputhur. By the way this is a different set of girls, unlike the 4 babes. We were a gang of 6 who went together to attend a fellow dancers’ wedding. Oh yes. I am sure you must be knowing by now, though I have two left feet, I have been into some serious Zumba for the last couple years at office. Must have been an uncanny coincidence that a girls trip was to a temple where the prime deity is Andaal, a powerful goddess. 

Starting the journey, in the train
It was after a long time, I was travelling by train, and that too with a group of friends, all girls and an excitement had set in long ago. Jayanthi ensured that the tickets were booked much in advance back and forth in Podhigai express, a direct train to Srivilliputhur. We were accompanied by Sudha, Lavanya and Gayathri. Our Zumba instructor and adorable dancer Monica, was travelling by car with her newly married husband. 

Train journeys are always pleasant and in a way quite romantic, probably because they take us back to our simpler juvenile times, where we immensely enjoyed them. We chatted along, planned our day at Srivilliputhur and our trip to waterfalls nearby, painting our nails, gobbling up all the home made food from different homes and yes all this until we slept, which invariably was late. 

My first picture in Srivilliputhur, from our lodge
We reached the town pretty early and checked into a lodge overlooking the temple, so close that it almost felt like we were in the temple complex itself. We probably took the Chennai rains with us and it looked like a wonderfully rainy day. Infact, when I took the first pictures of the temple towers that you see, it was raining cats and dogs.

The first pit stop was the temple and as always, since we had done adequate  research and added to it, Jayanthi had organized a guide to take us within the temple complex. Pretty soon, we were at the gates of this imposing 11-tiered gopuram of this great temple. The tower of this temple rises 192 feet high and is the official symbol of the Government of Tamilnadu since its façade is devoid of idols of deities unlike the gopuram of other temples.

Kothai, the adopted daughter of Periazhvar, a Vaishnava sage and devotee of Vishnu, was seen wearing the flower garland intended for the lord. Though  her father, was quite upset and reprimanded his daughter, the god in his dream told the sage to offer him the same flower garland worn by Kothai for puja. Kothai's love for the lord was so intense, ultimately she married the lord. Hence, Kothai was called Andaal and got the appellation Chudi Kodutha Sudarkodi (the woman who gave the lord the flower garland worn by her).

Andaal is well-known for her wonderful Tamil literary works - Thirupavai (consisting of devotional songs) and Nachiyar Thirumozhi. The vimanam (mini tower) is beautified with the poems of Andaal and we tried reading them. Since its ancient script, none of us could succeed at it, but still gave it a try. 

Such a beauty, this leaf parrot
Here in the sanctum, a hand-crafted parrot with fresh green leaves adorns the left hand of Andal's idol. A fascinating fact is, this endearing leaf parrot that takes roughly around four and half hours to be crafted, is specially made daily by a florist for the goddess. Pomegranate flower for beak and mouth, Bamboo sticks for legs, banana leaves, petals of pink oleander and crape jasmine (nandiyavattai) flower go into the making of the parrot. The guide who also is a priest at the temple, told us that there is just one family at Srivilliputhur who can craft it now, and only a single parrot is made every day. The one that you see in the picture is a day old and the guide brought it out to show us, since we specifically requested for it. Look at its workmanship.  Isn't it adorable? and remember its a day old.

It is also quite interesting to note that a Garland worn by Andaal is sent all along to Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh a day before the Brahmotsavam start and is used to garland Lord Balaji. Similarly, every year, Tirupathi Balaji’s garland is sent to Srivilliputtur for marriage festival of Andal Thayar. 

Goddess Andal's hair style and ornaments are unique here unlike the ornamentation and hair style of goddess Laksmi. Andal Kondai (a bun),typical hair styling tilted to one side and elaborate plaited hair is famous and quite striking. In the Vaishnava Brahmin weddings, invariably, the bride wears Andal Kondai and this tradition has been vogue for centuries. 

The rich architecture of Srivilliputhur

When it comes to sculptural beauty and architectural excellence, Srivilliputhur temple stands out. There are very few temples that I have visited in India, that could be the reason, but the main mandapam adorned with giant sized statues are astonishing. The Pillar-Hall, with an artistically designed front view, welcomes us to the Flag Staff. In the columns of this hall, the carved figures of Rama, Lakshmana, Arjunan, Karnan, Rathi Devi, Manmadhan, Gugan and Mohini and many others look excellently beautiful. ( I do not remember the others)

Sudha with Manmadhan,
notice the sugar cane?
I should mention the speciality of these statues – they are soulfully carved and especially Manmadhan’s feet is supposed to feel like human skin, which is a pièce de résistance. Unfortunately, though all of us loved the muscles of Manmadhan statue, the feet were covered with turmeric and we couldn’t feel it. Manmadhan is seen holding a sugarcane, again carved in stone, and its so realistically made, that when you tap the sugarcane with a coin you get the sound of real sugarcane. Amazed by the skills of the artisans, we went around listening to the interesting stories and didn’t realise we had spent an easy two hours in this temple. 

All of us at temple
Dressed for the wedding 

We had to pose!!
From this moment we knew our time is limited and it was an eternal rush. Adorned in sarees we all went for the wedding, took the bride and groom to the stage, dancing to the smiles of the people there and left for courtallam falls which was almost a couple of hours drive from there. Felt refreshed with the water thumping on our heads at the waterfalls, screaming above the sound of waters and enjoying the supposedly medicinal water falling on us. The drive to courtallam was scenic and the Tenkasi railway station reminded me so much of my maternal grandparents place chalakudi. 

Back in the train, tired, Srivilliputhur temple and its architecture were the last images that came up in my mind, before I fell asleep.


This trip happened in October 2019.  This post took the longest to be written and published. Almost a month since i started writing it. and feeling accomplished that I even finished it. :-)  

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wild and Wondrous Wayanad

Raised a non-resident Keralite, in Chennai to be specific, have always been in love with the greenery and stunning nature of Gods own country. Though I have spent every summer vacation in Kerala at both my maternal and paternal homes, haven’t had much opportunity to visit districts other than Thrissur and Ernakulam. Most of the family are in these two districts and our travels and stay were confined to these places. Until I got married, that is.

J is from Kannur, a huge contrast to the place I was familiar with, not just in topography of the region, the hilly terrains of Kannur is very different from the plains of Thrissur, but also the dialect of Malayalam was totally strange and the cuisine was totally different. Add to it my lack of expertise in authentic Malayalam, I wondered if I was a Malayalee at all. Now this is a topic for another post. 

With J moving to Cochin, he had to  travel the length and breadth of Kerala as part of his work, he was eager to take me to a whole lot of exotic places that he had been to, with his team. He seems to have enjoyed his bachelorhood, don’t you get the hint? So last year around this time, when we had to go for a nephews’ wedding at Kannur, we had planned for a short trip to Wayanad which was on our way back and J seemed enticed with this place. 

Having enjoyed the onset of monsoon rains as a child almost every summer, I was looking forward to the June rains at Wayanad. There’s yet another reason why we chose Wayanad. This year we were completing 25 years in wedlock and Wayanad was the first place we both went together as a couple on a short trip, a couple of days into marriage. Mananthavady, a small hill station ( anyplace that has a few hair pin bends to cross can be called that) is where we had a chance to go on a bike, in fact, even before we went on our honeymoon ( that word sounds so pathetic now, but yeah for lack of another suitable word, have to use it). It was my idea that we revisit all those roads and places that we went to, 25 years ago. 

Wayanad, being adjacent to Kannur, the hilly plateau of the Western Ghats extends here and makes it a green paradise. There is so much to see in Wayanad, that we both had such difficulty in narrowing down on places to visit keeping in mind the number of days we had at hand. And we also wanted to pace it out and relax after all the hectic wedding ceremonies, where we also doubled up as event managers.
The country side of Sulthan Batheri, during our morning walks.

The Le Coffee resort
We stayed at a resort with a French sounding name, Le Coffee resort, (nothing else that was French there) at Sulthan Bathery, closer to the town, making it easy for our travels. A lovely resort that lights up in the evenings and keeps the nature and surroundings tender at dawn. Long walks to the countryside in the morning made sure we got to drink in the sights and sounds along with lush greenery around. Kerala has a rustic scent that makes me nostalgic about my childhood, brings in sweet memories of our grandparents and cousins – it sort of always runs in the background. 

The board at the Dam site 
Banasura Sagar Dam was the first place in our list of places. Built on the foothills of Banasura hills, the second tallest peak of Wayanad, impounding one of the major tributaries of the great Kabani river, Karamanthodu. It is the largest earth dam in India and the second largest in Asia. With the cloud peaked mountains as the rim, greenery making the place scenic, scattered islets around, this dam with a vast reservoir looks phenomenally beautiful. A walk across the dam is the highlight and the dark clouds that made the sky overcast made this special. We could just sit there and stare at the mist-clad hills and their breathtaking view for eternity. Thank fully, since we were not in a hurry, we could savor our time there. 

The walk across the Dam - Look at the breath taking views around
We could sit here all day!!!
Earth dams (as the name implies) are made of soil, rock, clay, etc., versus Gravity dams that are constructed of concrete. A little note to those who are wondering what a earthen dam is, I didn’t know the difference, until I was there. 

The evening was dedicated entirely for our trip around Mananthavady and all those plantations around Boys Town that we had roamed around as a young couple, while we barely knew each other. Going back in time and reminiscing memories about our bike ride to this place 25 years back was making both of us heady 😊 

At the coffee estates at Boys town, like those bygone days

Starting our trek
at Edakkal caves
A trip to Edakkal caves was in the offing for the next day, at Ambukuthi mala (hills) and I was excited about it. A short but scenic drive from Sulthan bathery was nothing close to what I expected. Visiting this place to me was like going into an unknown past of our ancestors and kept wondering how in the world did people even live in those caves. Situated at an altitude of 1200 metres above sea level, these caves are formed by a split in a rock, that allows sunlight to come in. The cave walls have highly refined hieroglyphics and carvings that depict the lives of stone age people. It is told that the etchings date back to 6000 BC of the Neolithic period. 

The pathway turning Rocky 
The caves can be reached by trekking up a scenic mountain with a green canopy of large trees for almost a kilometre of plain concrete road lulling the trekker into a comfort zone and then without any caution, this road turns into rocky pathway which you have to carefully maneuver. After this comes 380 steep stairs that are quite narrow in some places, built of steel. Not an easy climb, it did tire us out and we had to stop in many places to take a gulp of air. The aroma of coffee and spices fill the air, probably from the little shops that line the pathway initially, the altitude gain making the trekker stoop forward to balance the centre of gravity, keeping up the suspense and excitement of what awaits you and the caves didn’t disappoint us. The caves definitely made us introspect, wonder and definitely gave me an surreal experience. 

The steep stairs of Steel

Edakkal caves were discovered by Fred Fawcett, the then Superintendent of Police of the Malabar district in 1890, during his hunting trip to Wayanad. How did this guy make his maiden trip to this caves, without these stairs, I wonder. The trek down back the same way was not easy either, but our love for an archaeological site did definitely keep us going. Definitely not for the physically unfit ones. Fred must have been in fine fettle to reach these caves in the first place – some of my thoughts.

Etchings on the walls

The Edakkal caves, can you believe people lived here, back then!

The Sign board 
Two more places in Wayanad made me a fan of this place. One was the tomb of Pazhassi Raja. We didn’t realize that this place could be closed on a weekday and we landed up right there on that day. But I don’t take no for an answer. I went into their office which was still working and explained that I have come all the way from Chennai and also that my hubby dear is a great fan of this guy and so we got brief permission to go inside and see the tomb. For the uninitiated, Pazhassi Raja was a brave Chieftain of Kerala, who took the Britishers head on rebelling against them instead of being their ally. The Colonizers in turn, planned meticulously to kill him, which they did. Pazhassi did put up a brave fight for 9 years with the British, even engaging in guerrilla warfare with the support of the local gypsies. 
The memorial that doesn't 
live upto the kings valor

While the place was neat and well kept, people all around had tremendous respect for the Raja, I felt we could have built a better memorial for him. A movie in Malayalam with that name does justice to this guy. I was keen to visit his tomb, as I have heard stories of Pazhassi  Raja as a young bride when I came to J’s tharavad. A hill range in front of our tharavad has a small cave, where Pazhassi Raja was said to be in hiding for some time.  

Next on the cards was Muthanga wildlife sanctuary, which is spread across a massive 400 sq. kms and it was my first wildlife safari in India. Our day started pretty early and we were waiting for our Jeep by 5.30 am. This is a rainforest and a protected area and well into the Safari, I was excited to hear the driver, who is also our guide, stop at a three forked mud road, and tell us one of these roads would lead us into Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary of Tamilnadu, the other to Bandipur Wildlife sanctuary, Karnataka and the third one to Muthanga, Wayanad. A Wildlife sanctuary that encompasses all the three states, called by different names in each state. 

The Inhabitants we met at the reserve

The Jeep Ride 
The Jeep drive was bumpy along the forest trail and we had instructions to be silent. Only a certain number of people are allowed in a day, with a pre-booking. This two hour Jeep ride reveals stunning unexpected spectacles to the ones who are alert. At one point the driver stopped the Jeep behind some tall bushes and instructed us to sit still, and after a bit of waiting, across a water body there, we got a glimpse of the moving cat, which was awesome. Though some days the driver said we could see many and on some they never spot any, at all. We also managed to see some exotic monkeys, peacocks, babblers, cuckoos, other jungle fowls, elephants and herds of lovely spotted deers and that too up close. We must have seen at least 500 deer altogether – some sun bathing, playing around in their natural habitat and some eating grass. A sight that refuses to get away from minds eye. A small movement and they disperse into the lush thickets of the forest. 

The ancient Jain Temple
The least expected of all the places that we visited was the Ancient Jain Temple at Sulthan Bathery. One of the oldest Jain temples, with the most intricate architecture, this is a charming stone shrine. I had no idea that Jainism had spread to these parts of the country. Dating back to the 13th century, this shrine is said to have been built in the prevalent architectural style of the then reigning Vijayanagar Dynasty. Maintained by the ASI right now, no prayers are held here now. One is immediately made aware of the sanctity and colourful past that shrouds this temple. Peace and serenity abound this shrine and an untold reverence engulfed us when we were here. 

The side view 
Few holy sites have ever served as a shrine, an administrative hub and as an ammunition base for an invading army. This Jain temple is inextricably linked to the name of the town. It is said that Tipu Sultan, trying to evade the British, came here and hid in the dense forests, building up his army to recover his kingdom. He took over the local Jain Temple and converted it into a warehouse for storing his ammunition. The temple went on to resemble a fortification, and the town a battery, and thus came to be known as the Sultan’s Battery now called as Sulthan Bathery.

One last picture of us at Jain Temple

On our drive back to Chennai, we asked ourselves why didn’t we do this long ago. The grandeur and Mystique of nature that we encountered at Wayanad continued to be in our thoughts and I get that same feel, now as I put down my thoughts here.

On our way back home 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Lock down Lessons

While we have all gotten used to wrapping our minds around lock down, Covid-19 is playing a much deeper game with the world. None of us are sure if we have seen the worst case scenario yet, but we all are coping with what life has thrown at us. In spite of the pandemonium it has created, the global pandemic behooves me for the life lessons, it has taught in a short time.
  1. This planet is not just ours. It belongs to other species too. We acted otherwise all along.
  2. There is no substitute to family. It’s a big safety net.
  3. Everything else has its substitutes – from the simple newspaper to an herb like oregano. Absolutely anything can be substituted. No Oregano use fresh basil from the pots. No moisturizer use coconut oil and the list goes on.
  4. Important to be creative, in everything – especially in cooking. How else would I have survived so many days impressing two men, with some limited resources.
  5. Even the strong ones need help and support – physically and emotionally. Give it without being judgmental.
  6. The stone rejected by builders becomes the cornerstone – got to understand the real meaning of this verse. Our elliptical has moved from the first floor to our terrace due to complete lack of patronage and during this lock down it has been a saving grace for our workouts.
  7. It’s not enough that you have a good collection of professional wear, but imperative that you have a good collection of home wear too. To create an feel good factor, I lavishly used all the holiday wear at home.
  8. I always believed we paid a big price for a house, as its is locked most of the day and we get back late in the evenings. No, I am wrong. Its definitely serving its ROI now.
  9. There is nothing that cannot happen virtually – weddings, birthdays, Zumba, mass, family get together's, games, why even funerals.
  10. It pays to have good neighbors around, especially when you end up seeing them almost every day for more than 40 days
  11. Hopeless and futile to have dependencies in life. Change is the only constant thing.
  12. Always knew the uncertainty of life, but Covid-19, took it a little far. Attitude adjustment is the key.
  13. When its between life and death, everything else can wait. That includes religion too.
  14. For what it’s worth other interests in life would help you sustain yourself during slow down days, even later – reading, art, writing, music, plants, pets, cooking, dreaming, cleaning and not to forget Netflix. Apply your mind and this list is endless.
  15. In no time, the discernibly strong can spiral out of control and look like fools
  16. For all we know L.I.F.E could just turn around willfully, malevolently and vindictively anytime. Don’t we ever forget that.
  17. Yes. Life can take a complete U turn in no time and without any notice!
  18. Health is what we all need to aspire for. Nothing more. Nothing less. Period.
  19. We all desire for continuity and that’s exactly why we see people scaling up to the unprecedented times – school teachers using virtual apps for classes, people coming up with innovative videos on music and many more.
  20. Education that we thought is the most important has taken a back seat.  how do explain that?
  21. The most ordinary of the folks cannot be replaced and they still work.   the garbage cleaner, vegetable vendor, the milk man, the nurses, the ward boys
  22. While we all sit smugly in the safety of homes, there are health workers who are right in the middle of the chaos, making sacrifices
  23. There is no limit to the foolishness of the humankind.  One world leader can prove it to us.
  24. Isn’t this Pandemic a great leveler? Almost like time?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A couple of days at Auroville

2019 has been the most traveled year for both J and me starting with Dubai for our wedding anniversary and then on to other locations that I have blogged about. It was in the first week of October, Dussehra holidays, soon after the Tada waterfall trip, we decided to visit Auroville. Not a planned trip and Pondicherry being just a stone’s throw away, we managed to get a last minute booking in a home stay at Auroville. Though we have been to Pondicherry so many times, this was our first to Auroville, yeah, unbelievably so.
Lovely roads and clear skies

Auroville - the sign board

A long drive needs a fresh early morning start and that’s our usual practice and we were greeted to a fine bright morning, with clear skies and soft white clouds that created a good tapestry all along our drive and reached Auroville by 10.00 am

The home stay

The home stay that J booked was within the Botanical garden of Auroville and was modelled like a traditional south Indian household with wooden pillars, red oxide floors, teak wood furniture with verandahs all around the house amid thick greenery.  This homestay was surrounded by chikkoo trees aka mud berries, that I love, though most of the fruits were unripe.  Within the compound there were lot of flowering plants like the roses,  crossandras and varieties of Jasmine which spread its fragrance in the evening.

This place had a common kitchen which we could use along with the other guests, though we used it only for our morning Tea, also had a wood fired Pizza oven, if we cared make one that is. Felt at home at this place especially with the care taker Abhi’s two little kids, who got friendly with us and would accompany us during our botanical garden trips. Since it was Dussehra, they had holidays too.

J was keen on meditation at Mathiri Mandhir and that’s why we went in there as soon we reached there.  One big miss of this trip was that due to the holiday rush, we couldn’t get a slot for meditation on all the three days we were there.

The first day hence, after checking out Mathiri Mandir briefly and their timings, a bit disappointed for missing out on meditation, we rested at our homestay before we went in for a short trip around the Botanical garden, followed by a long walk on the roads covered by green canopy at Auroville.  Most of the roads here, especially the one leading to Mathiri Mandir had these quaint cafes, which were quite inviting.

Auroville is synonymous with Pondicherry and it is a tiny town where people from around the world come over to live their dreams.  There are stories about corporate honchos, doctors, scientists and others from all walks of life who come here and turn into organic farming, becoming teachers and mechanics and living simple lives.  You see them all around here in Auroville.  This was a dry land where people feared to live earlier and thanks to the sustained efforts of the Aurobindo Ashram, this has turned into a lush Greenland leaving not a patch as a dry land within Auroville.  It also put in some existential questions in our minds.

The plan for the next day morning was a trip to the Auro beach which was a couple of kilometres away from our homestay.   A little drive to cross the ECR and we were at a lovely beach.  Sparsely crowded, the beach was literally all ours.  With the sun coming out, leaving its rays on the salty water and letting it glisten, giving us a gleam to our morning, soaking us up in the serenity only an ocean can bring. After a brisk walk, a photo shoot and some time in the water we got back to  Mathiri Mandir.  The visitor centre there has a nice restaurant that serves good continental and Indian breakfast.  That is the only place which did not demand a Auro Card – an essential there at Auroville.
The Auro beach, all for ourselves
Not wanting to waste a minute of our time there, we picked up the pass for the Mathri mandir view point.  Auroville means ‘the city of the dawn’ and was founded by a French lady who was called ‘The Mother’; and was the successor to Shri Aurobindo, a well- known spiritual leader. The town was founded by her with the aim of creating a place which was a symbol of human unity in the 70’s.

Spread across around 20 sq km the place is full of calmness and tranquility and the walk up to Matri mandir definitely refreshed our body and soul. The 1 km long walk amidst soothing greenery which also gives ample shade from the blazing sun while you listen to the sounds of birds that soothe the tantalized souls of the city.   J and I had some deep discussions about how simple life can be if only we chose it to be simple.   There is a free bus service and a shuttle service to move up this path, and we chose to walk.  There is a revered silence that engulfs this place, in spite of so many people around.  Along this mud pathway 12 slabs of rocks, each with a painting of a different colored flower, symbolizing a human quality – sincerity, peace, equality, generosity, goodness, courage, progress, receptivity, aspiration, perseverance, gratitude and humility.

The mighty Mathri Mandir

 Resting under the green awning of
Banyan tree 
At the end of the path rose up in front of us, the Mathri Mandir.  Against the backdrop of the blue sky, it looked stunning. The Mathri mandir is a golden globe like structure coming out of the earth, symbolized by the 12 stone petals. The view point was a bit crowded but we still could find a spot to sit down and stare at this marvelous structure.  On our way back, the sun burning us down a bit, we reached the great banyan tree, under which we sat for a while.   J even dozed a bit there.  

We had planned to have lunch at Tantos Trattoria Pizzeria, highly recommended by friends who travel there often.  We had to park our car under a large banyan tree grown wild and walked up to this place. It was a small open air kind of restaurant, but it had a zany elegance with roofed pergolas.  The other diners were mix of Indians, foreigners mostly young and with a nice ambiance with a wonderful vibe enhanced by the natural setting.  They had the original wood fired ovens  into which the freshly made pizza base went in and came out to be topped with our choice of toppings.  The food served was more than what J and I could devour.   Though not a pizza person, Tantos lived up to its name filling us up not just food, but with a great feel.  
Pizza in the oven
We had an unforgettable evening though.  Visiting Pondicherry beach promenade was in our list, so we went up there which was around 12 kms from our home stay.  Reminiscing our earlier memories of the place, didn’t watch the time go by and started back around 8pm.   With the GPS in place, we didn’t bother much about our route back, until we were by the headlights of our vehicle.  We had covered a good 8kms by then, and GPS told us there is just 4kms left, so J decided to proceed precariously.

I could sense J tightening up a bit and I was terrified.   I sat in complete silence, having lost the mobile signals, but the roads weren’t getting any better,  It was a plain mud road and felt like forever in the wilderness until we reached a gate.  The locked gate was not a familiar one, though GPS announced, You have arrived. Not able to reach our caretaker, the only option was to go back to a place where we got the signals back.  So we drove back through the same eerie pathway, until we got the signals back, and this time after changing our desitnation to Mathri Mandir we were able to come to the familiar roads.  That was a freaky excitement though.  

The road that scared the hell out of us
So we had an adhoc activity for the next day – figure out how and where we lost our way. J was so particular and he did.  The botanical garden is in  50 acre plot and this home stay is on the nethermost side of this plot.  There is a pathway right behind this garden, and GPS has shown the shortest route to the botanical garden and taken us through the road less traveled literally, in the opposite side.   We laughed so hard because it didn’t take us less than 30 seconds to come to the road that led us to the locked gate.  We drove through that same way in broad daylight and wondered how darkness and fear can change everything.
At one of the landscaped water bodies @Botanical garden

The guppies we caught
We went around the Botanical garden that has luxurious landscapes, formal gardens, nurseries, arboretums and also a warehouse that sells plants, garden equipment, accessories and even organic manure. The caretakers kids were around us showing us where we can pick up gardening stuff.  I laid my hands on a oval shaped terracotta tub, for a reasonable price  and J picked some equipment for the rubber estate in Kerala.

The best thing about the day was we went to a pond nearby and caught a whole lot guppies growing wild. Surprised J enjoyed catching those little fellas along with me and those little kids and we brought them home in a 5 liter Bisleri bottle.

Auroville has some genuine dairy farms that I have heard of and so we picked some dairy products including some exotic cheese from these places, which were packed neatly.  Dennu is a fan of all kind of cheese and I was sure he would give me the widest grin.

We had planned to get back to Mathiri Mandir then, and visit the meditation centre and stay there again, to experience Auroville all over.   Whenever that is.