As I sit on my surfboard, looking out for a wave I’d like to think I can triumph, I can’t help but feel a sense of unique happiness. I’m actually surfing! A sport that I’d long thought was reserved for Australians with perfectly chiseled bodies. It never struck me that India has thousands of kilometers of pristine coastlines of its own. Calling to be explored. Well, until now.
The gorgeous French-Tamilian city of Pondicherry, and the neighboring Auroville, is long growing as a getaway spot for those looking to escape not only the madness of a metropolitan, but also an alternate to the madness of tourist crazed North Goa. And just one visit makes you understand why.
The French quarter of Pondicherry is home to the most popular stretch of road in Puducherry, the seaside promenade. Locals get out in numbers to simply walk the stretch, as the melodic sound of waves coupled with a fresh breeze serenades everyone. No sound of horns to disrupt the nirvana either, as the stretch is off limits for vehicles in the evening. A few rooftop bars allow you soak it in with a glass of your favorite drink and some grub, while 24×7 café let’s you enjoy a bite and a lite night cuppa should you fancy it. The many by-lanes around offer plenty of lip-smacking food options, with a whole host of cuisines to choose from.
On the other side of it, around 15 minutes from Pondicherry, is Auroville. In their own words “ Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.” The iconic Matrimandir, and the surroundings, offer a unique sense of peace and community. The restaurants and bakeries in Auroville too offer some great culinary options, while there’s a whole host of community activities you can choose to indulge in.
Eat, surf, sleep, read, and eat some more, that’s what Pondicherry is all about for me.
Bread & Chocolate near Auroville is my favourite restaurant for a healthy bite and refreshing fresh beverage
I’m quickly snapped back into my surroundings, as I’m asked to get ready for the next set of good-looking waves. The instructors at Kallialay Surf School, one of the first surf schools in the country, are also one of the best surfers in the country. Over the years, I’ve visited the school three times, and every time I’ve seen an influx of new trainers, all of whom leave you in awe when you watch them ace wave after wave with ease and elegance. Most of these, I assume, have reached here under the guidance of brothers, and founders, Samai and Juan Reboul. And before every session you can see the camaraderie between all the trainers and regulars. A nice, big, happy, surf community. And it’s not just with the regulars. First timers are welcomed with as much warmth, and quickly made to feel at ease. From doing pop ups on the shore, to battling waves in the sea, they’re always there not only to help you learn, but to make sure you’re having a good time.
I get my bearings, one eye over my shoulder at the approaching wave, and start digging my hands into the Bay of Bengal, to the now oh so familiar shout of “Paddle paddle paddle”. Once the wave’s caught up, roaring to take me down, I spring to my feet, keeping all the basics in mind “Bend forward to accelerate Karn! You’ll stop stalling.” But once I know I’ve trumped this one, my mind just clears and sense of accomplishment falls in. This was easily the biggest wave I’d ever caught, and I ride it all the way to the shore. As I jump off, I can feel a ear-to-ear smile plastered on my face. I wade back into the water, toward the next set of waves, thanking whatever it was that led me to try this sport.
After all, aren’t vacations supposed to leave you with unforgettable experiences and feelings that are hard to describe? You might tell your colleagues that your holiday was “awesome”, but you know it was a lot more than that.
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