Sep 1, 2014

Being nobody to anybody - a ride to Pondicherry seeking inspiration for art

I had an item on my bucket list ever since college. I wanted a solo vacation to some place where I have never been before, all in solitude. Being nobody to anybody. If possible, living a whole new life for a few days in that place. What if I had only enough money for travelling one way to that place and had to earn the money to come back? I can wait tables, work as salesman in bookshops or do whatever that I must/can do to earn my return ticket. Well, that grand plan is still in the bucket list. But very recently, I managed to draw a dotted line on this item in the bucket list.

Back in college, I discussed this plan with friends and a few were actually curious about the idea. One such friend who even contemplated this escape into anonymity is now lined up for a wedding and I am skeptical if he would ever get to take this vacation. Quite recently, a few rounds of routine overdose in life was pushing me for an escape to recharge and come back. Plus, I can just wake up one morning and pick up my bike's keys and go. Thus, I started riding three days back. Pondicherry was in my mind. Not a very long ride to boast for a biker from Chennai but a scenic ride along the ECR and definitely in the list for an unwinding ride. Of course, I had enough money to return back. I am not taking that adventure yet :-)

In solitude, I started riding to Pondicherry. Whenever I go on long rides like this, I imagine myself as playing a long Test match innings like Rahul Dravid. Patience and focus and enjoying the ride. I ride at a steady pace, always focussing on only the next turn and covering short stretches mentally. You need to pace your ride just like you pace an innings. I was curious about Auroville for some time and I had it in the back of my mind. I even crossed sign boards to Auroville even before reaching Pondicherry. Nevertheless, I entered Pondicherry. I rode around the streets aimlessly wondering where to go and what to do. This is where a crazy idea stuck me. Remember the part about living a new life, just for a fleeting few days?

I entered a stationery shop and bought a few chart papers and basic painting kit. I rolled the charts and kept them in my bag but still visible outside. I decided to call myself an artist. Disclaimer: Prior experience with art for me is limited to drawing the mountains and sea and the house with the adjacent coconut tree in third standard. Still, in a stroke of imagination, I became an artist in Pondicherry seeking inspiration for his art in solitude. I decided to reduce conversations with people as much as possible and experience peace. I rode around the beach and sat on the beach for a good hour. A group of youngsters asked me to take a pic of them. Looking at my bag they asked if I was an architect since I was carrying charts and all. I told them I am an artist looking for inspiration for my art. "Paathaale theriyudu boss" - they replied and went along. See? It is simple. Go to a new place. Tell them that you are a rocket scientist. They will believe. Who bothers? (By the way, as I sat there in the beach staring into the horizon, a poem bubbled inside me. I penned it in Tamil later. It might be an interesting read if you are into Tamil and poetry.)

As I was strolling, I spotted a boutique run by Auroville and I walked in to check for any accommodation. Fortunately, the man there suggested an irresistible place for me - a guest house in the middle of a quiet jungle at Kuilapalayam village en route Auroville. A few calls were made and my halt was finalized. The guest house, I must say is a step closer to bliss compared to any other place I have ever been to. That much silence! That much peace. I stayed in the first floor portion with a huge balcony, surrounded by trees and birds with one hanging rope chair tied to a tree. Wow! Of course, I introduced myself as the artist in solitude there too.

For two days I stayed in that guest house conversing mostly with trees, birds, flowers, my bike, sea and very limitedly to humans. In all, I would have spoken around fifty sentences in total. I did not switch off my phone. I wondered if I should do that, lest people spoil the adventure. I just chose to let it go and observe. In total, six people called me and just one person texted me. That's all! Two whole days. Only we think we are always busy and we will get hundred phone calls a day. Slip out of the routine silently for a short while and nobody will observe.

Living up to my new identity, I even tried my hand at art. I just enjoyed playing with colours and tried something new without bothering anything about the results with a child-like curiosity. I managed to do three abstract pieces of art - that's how I would like to call them. Art in a language that only I and the paper will understand; a language through colours and direct thoughts. It was an amazing indulgence.

The ride to Pondicherry - Art by GS

Thrice a day, for food I came out of the jungle to the nearby village and there I enquired the locals about Pichavaram Mangrove forests, a place I have only heard of. I fancied a ride to Pichavaram as a crescendo for this trip. It sounded like a short ride from there. So the next morning, I bade farewell to the guest house and the trees and started riding. Rahul Dravid mode again. Pondicherry to Pichavaram (closer to Chidambaram). I reached the boat house as early as 8 30 AM in a Kadai epo saar thorapeenga style. Boats were just beginning to go into the backwaters and I joined with two interesting men from Bangalore who were very jovial conversationalists. Our boat's driver, a strong man who rowed the boat with his hands, explained to us about the forests and the place and took us on a two hour boat ride. We spotted a few characteristic animals and birds of the mangrove forests and spent the two hours in a very interesting casual conversation with strangers. I needed this conversation to come out of the enforced silence of the past two days to fit back into the society.

By noon today, I started the ride back to Chennai with the road and my bike for company. In a decent ride of around 250 km, I reached Chennai by evening. Photo stoppages were here and there of course. Tomorrow is a monday morning and I hope this little escape will put me in good shape back into the routine. It all looks like a dream for me to recollect the trip now from my study room. The artist may perhaps emerge sometime later again in another escape into anonymity.

As I narrated all this to the room mates this evening - the silence, anonymity, artist bluff, Pichavaram, solo ride - a friend gave me a long stare and said that I need to go and visit some psychiatrist. Of course I am crazy. I am proud of that :-)