Pondicherry is beautiful, and very hot and humid due to its close proximity to the ocean. On our arrival, police barricades blocked the street entrance the beach. Our waiter explained that was because of the cyclone that had just passed through. Everyone had wanted to come down to look at the ocean. In India, everyone, is a lot of people.
When we reached our hotel, an un-air conditioned but clean and simple work of the local ashram, they explained that the power was out due to the cyclone. We deposited our bags in our room, and then stopped to look at the meditation space, a small room filled with dusty old books and old faded pictures of the Mother and Aurobindo- the spiritual teachers who founded the ashram. The photos we saw in the hotel were not uncommon; they are plastered all over town.
There are a lot of Westerners in Pondicherry, and shops and restaurants catering to them co-mingle with typical South Indian fare. Long, wide, cobbled streets are lined with trees. Near our hotel was a popular temple with a large elephant standing out front. She had dots and lines painted across her forehead and ears. Her gold nametag read “Lakshmi,” the Indian goddess of prosperity. Kevin couldn’t resist buying her a clump of grass and feeding it to her every-time we walked by.
We went to the local ashram. Someone kindly came up to us and asked us where we wanted to be. Kevin said he wanted to meditate and so the man kindly showed us the path to take, marked private, which would lead to the Mother’s grave and meditation hall. We entered the meditation hall, to see a huge framed picture of the Mother and just past that, a stone coffin with a blanket on top. Women and men were kneeled in front of her praying. Others sat quietly in a cross leg position, meditating.
But after a while I realized kneeling in front of a grave meditating isn’t for me. Down by the water is where the magic is. Kevin and I spent several hours meditating on the rocks by the ocean that afternoon. The ocean mist cooled our face. Crows took baths in muddles puddles and crabs scurried over rocks the same color black as their shells. Watching the tide come in on the Bay of Bengal, the ocean drowns out residual noise. There, connected to the earth and the sea, I found peace in the middle of busy India.
We walked along the beach that night in the company of many families, all relaxed and having a good time. There were stray dogs, and Gandhi statues, and boys selling glow-in-the dark whirly things that went up and returned to you like a colorful Frisbee. It’s a pleasant place to enjoy the sea.