Storms ruled the first thousand years of life.
By the time I claimed my room, I turned into a zombie...
Suspended somewhere between the worlds within and outside...
Vaguely aware of either...
But then, existence needs more meaning, and spectacles need a windowpane...
Right here, I found mine…

Who am I? An average woman - trying to work on my share of maze through layers of haze...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pondicherry Journal: 1 — The Road to Pondy

Originally published on The Creative Cafe.
Co-travelers (Taken by me on Oct 14, 2017 near Krishnagiri)
Oct 14, 2017 Sat 10:00 AM approx, on the way from Bangalore to Pondy.
In Bengali, ‘ghumiye kaada’ is an often-used phrase. It roughly translates to ‘sleeping as mud’ -which probably sounds ludicrous to uninitiated ears. But at this moment no other construct of words would better apply to Piku. Dear journal, my son turns two in a couple of months, and it’s his first road trip out of the city. Cozy in his hooded sweatshirt with stripes of red and white, grey lounge pants and a pair of striped pink socks, Piku is in a sleep so deep that he seems unconscious, somewhat like the formless mud that splatters all over unless contained in a vessel. I, his vessel, have gathered him carefully between my arms, chest and thighs.
My co-travelers in this journey are also the closest of my co-travelers in the journey of life.
Seated beside me in the back of our four-year old Hyundai i10 is my mother. Physically in her early sixties and mentally somewhere around an indomitable forty, Ma hasn’t let her recent knee pain stand in the way of the trip. Drifting between light slumber, chit-chat and munching on the light snacks I stocked up for the trip, her eyes look breezy and cheerful. She has awaited this trip for more than a year.
Sourav, my husband of six years and friend of fifteen, is driving the car. A man of great calm, he has so far resisted the temptation to exceed 80 km/hr on his very first beyond-city-limits highway drive, and is allowing every other car to overtake us with absolute chill.
The front passenger seat is occupied by my father. Seventy and rapidly slipping deeper into the mazes of vascular dementia, Bu (as I call him) had to be coaxed to join us. Fortunately, he doesn’t look too unhappy as of now as he sits taking in the splendid view of the hills and greenery scattered all along the stretch of road between Krishnagiri and Sengam.

These are the pillars of my life. It’s not that we’ve always been a close-knit family; one could rather say that in response to circumstances, we’ve learnt to cross the gaps between (and the silent voids within) us to extend hands of support to each other, so that we may all stay afloat in the elusive pursuit of meaningful existence.
Family is an amazingly resilient social construct — time has taught me.
For the sake of maintaining records, let me also introduce to you the route we’re on. According to the discussions on travel forums, the two most popular routes to drive to Pondicherry from Bangalore (without night halt) are the following –
1. Bangalore-Hosur-Krishnagiri-Sengam-Thiruvannamalai-Thindivanam-Pondicherry (320 km).
2. Bangalore-Hosur-Krishnagiri-Vellore-Arcott-Cheyur-Tindivanam-Pondicherry (377 km)
Posts dated 2015 and earlier report potholes near Thiruvannamalai on route 1 — which is also the shortest of all routes. Half-hoping that the road conditions may have improved by now, Sourav favored this one over the widely praised route 2 for our onward journey. We started amid a drizzle at 6:30 AM in the morning, halted at a restaurant near Krishnagiri around 8, started again at around 9:30 and so far the road has been excellent. Google Map expects us to reach our destination by 1:30 PM, though we don’t really mind being slowed down a little by a short stretch of bad road as long as the cyclonic rains forecasted in yesterday’s news do not hit us en route.

Our breakfast venue of the day (Taken by me on Oct 14, 2017)

At the risk of sounding promotional, I will make a special mention of this restaurant where we stopped for breakfast. It is named Hotel Saravana Bhavan Classic, is sufficiently well-maintained, serves its dishes (mostly South Indian delicacies) steaming hot, offers the tastiest chutneys and sambar I’ve tasted in a long time, has a huge parking space and most importantly, offers several washrooms for men and women which are clean and usable. The site also offers an unhindered view of many layers of rocky hillocks stretched across a wide horizon with no hoardings or high-rises to block your gaze. After freshening up and finishing with our breakfast, we spent quite a few minutes lazing around under the soft morning sun and taking snaps before we got back into the car.
Piku was alert for over an hour since he woke up halfway through our breakfast. Delighted at the sight of the hillocks, he insisted on calling them ‘flower’ instead of ‘pahar’, the Bengali word for mountains and hills. Repeated attempts to correct him resulted in long-drawn negotiations with both parties, soon frustrated, settling temporarily for the middle ground of ‘power’. The debate was also cut short by a sudden shift of attention to wheels, my son’s perennial obsession. We had by then joined the queue for light motor vehicles at a multi-lane toll booth, and the great assemblage of wheels all around him (attached to their vehicles, of course, but who cares about them!) set him absolutely berserk. It is easy to feed Piku while he is distracted. Stories of mama wheels and baby wheels on all sorts of misadventures were eagerly gulped down along with milk, banana and biscuits before the kid fell asleep once again.
You see, when you’re parent to a fussy eater, little else gives you more relief than seeing your kid eat. Our last two long trips with Piku, both to our hometown Kolkata and each involving three weeks of stay, were marked by acute stress as our son, a baby then, refused solids for days and weeks and ended up losing considerable weight by the time we returned home. The primary reason we chose Pondicherry as our holiday destination this time was to be able to relax. We’ve planned a stay of three nights at Hotel Treebo Grace Inn in the beautiful White Town (also known as the French Quarter), and that’s a span short enough for us to afford not to worry even if Piku doesn’t eat well. Besides, all of us have visited Pondy earlier — me twice, Sourav five times, Bu twice and Ma once. This takes off the pressure to cover the sightseeing points. And lastly, the city is modern and equipped enough to address medical emergencies if any were to arise during our stay there. Because Bu is prone to accidental falls, that’s a possibility we cannot rule out.
Personally, all I want to do in the next three days is to stroll along the Promenade Beach, try out French cuisines with unpronounceable names, breath in the grace and calm of this former French colony that cares to preserve its old world charm, and witness the blossoming of a bond between two tiny humans, Piku and Gungun, who’ll be meeting each other for the very first time tomorrow.
Let me save up the introduction to Gungun for one of my next few entries. And meanwhile, I will share some chocolates and munchies with Bu. His dementia makes it hard for him to keep track of time, and from his vague and yet persistent questions on distance and time I can sense his growing impatience with the long road.
No more now. Sincerely hope that Pondy will allow me a quiet little corner for the one more entry today.
So long, dear journal…

4 comments:

  1. I am glad to be invited to the opening sequence of a pleasant family outing. The characters of the story have been introduced in deft strokes: the protagonist and her sleepy toddler, the patient husband-driver, and the parents. I am sorry about the condition of your father. I am yet to read the rest of the travelogue, but I am sure you are going to cherish it for years to come. Perhaps, miss those moments too.

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    1. You touched a chord with that comment. Thank you Uma.

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  2. Hi Antara loved reading about your trip and your family. You have such a wonderful entertaining way with words and I absolutely admire the frankness, honesty and genuineness that shines through. A big hug to Piku reminded me of my son who too was crazy about anything with wheels. In fact his first word was 'car'. But I am rather ashamed to say that despite being a Bong the phrase Ghoomiye kaada is one that I havent heard before. Well off to meet Gungun :)

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    1. Thank you for reading this piece Dahlia. Your comments have a personal touch to them that makes me want to reach out and know more about you. Your blog is going to be my next destination :-).

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