The Holy Family & The Urban Cow

Today’s drive (in a van – no more autorickshaw for us, we thought) through the streets of Chennai brought us at lunchtime to a seaside town. Mamallapuram has incredible fish, and amazing stone, sea-washed Hindu temples.

We arrived eventually at what we assumed would be our last stop of the day, our Pondicherry guesthouse. I’d been in contact with the owner, an Aurobindu (= a nearby ashram) teacher, for nearly a year. And WE WERE TURNED AWAY (seems fitting, given the season). If I remember why, 2 months from now, you can ask me about how we became The Holy Family, although just now, I am working at repression. Or do I mean suppression? FORGETTING, that’s what I’m doing, forgetting and LETTING GO . Deep breaths…

Our day ended a few minutes ago, after a seaside dinner at “La Terrace”. We just now took another bumpy, mad-dash ride in an autorickshaw. I can hear you: “You didn’t negotiate at ALL?” Really, please, don’t even ask, or if you do, I’ll claim time of night: it was really dark, and we had only a camerashot on E’s Canon, of the sign/address on the guesthouse across the street to lead the driver to OUR guesthouse, b/c when we left, nobody speaking English was around.We had tried all the usual suspects: gestures, simple word repetition…how hard can it be to understand, “What the heck is the name, or how about the address, of this place?”

Consequently, we returned from dinner, driving into pitchblack streets that were clearly as unfamiliar to the autorickshaw driver as they were to us.When he left us for the third time to ask directions, we realized that the moving darkness surrounding our autorickshaw was…3 enormous curly-horned cattle scavenging for food. E. decided not to use a flash in the photo she took, even though, as she laughed, it probably wouldn’t bother an Urban Cow…

Tomorrow we will see this place, this Pondicherry, our home for the next 6 days. It’s a destination we’ve tried not to envisage as a relief from Real India. “If, when you think of Pondy, you think ‘South of France’ — don’t.” (Lonely Planet). Even so…

I will start my day with coffee at 7, followed by an Ayurvedic massage at 7:30. I am beginning to form an opinion about India, so am not holding out great hope for this morning session, but who knows, really?

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jansie farris
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 19:07:17

    unbelievable! Thank God you were with E.

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  2. Darcy
    Dec 24, 2010 @ 13:16:17

    Oh my! It will be much more thrilling in retrospect, I’m sure! Strong early opinions are lovely, because you get to watch them gain so much texture or change.

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  3. Diana
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 23:21:27

    The tourism slogan is “Incredible India.” you may find yourself repeating this often, with many different inflections. And yes, letting go is just about the only reasonable response one can have.

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  4. Ed Cepress
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 23:22:06

    Ma chère Mary Ellen,
    Thank you for taking us along on your journey of a life time thru India complete with the autorickshaw and urban cows. The only urban cows in the Twin Cities are in the meat counter at Cub. You’ve taken a quantum leap. I’m sure everyday is an attest to facing “culture shock.” As I always told the kids when in France: “Take a day and make no decisions about your surroundings. Simply let the world speak to you and listen carefully.”
    Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année…..

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    • mebtravelling - US to India & Back
      Dec 28, 2010 @ 06:18:23

      So, mon cher chou, still in the French City. Of course, as Lonely Planet says, “If you’re thinking South of France, don’t.” Or there is this. One afternoon I pointed w. . one hand to a canal which is really a sewer, and held my nose with my other hand, saying, “Sheesh, too bad it’s so filthy, I mean, this part of Pondicherry could look like the banks of the Seine,” Elizabeth’s response: “But it’s NOT the Seine, is it? It’s NOT Paris. It’s NOT, after all France, Mom…”
      The lessons our children teach us.
      Still, the traffic police sport those red kepis...

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  5. ammi
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 23:22:22

    Which part included our dear friend Providence?

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