KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
The French Quarter of Pondi is a real delight. I hope you don't mind that I took so many pictures of the colonial buildings, I found them so attractive. I was especially taken with the grills on the windows. Most homes and businesses in India put bars on their windows to prevent thieves from breaking in, but the ones in Pondi seem unusual to me. The upper-half is flush with the window frame, but the lower portion is curved outwards. The only reason I can think of is that this allows the people inside to look out onto the street in either direction. Many of the buildings are painted yellow with white trim. For those of you who have seen our former condo in Edmonton, you will know that these are the colours we painted the walls. I have to say, I am reminded of our happy times in Garneau Court when I see these buildings.
On Sunday morning we decided to visit the Pondicherry Museum. It is housed in an old colonial mansion near the Governor's Residence. It was supposed to open at 9:40 am (an odd time??) but the staff didn't straggle in until almost 10:00. Then they just plunked themselves down to read the morning paper and seemed a little disconcerted to have to sell us tickets for Rs 2.00.
The museum was more interesting than I imagined it would be. There are several interesting items from the French colonial days - especially a pousse-pousse, like a rickshaw but instead of being pulled by a coolie, it was pushed along from behind. It even had rubber on the tires for a more comfortable ride. There were also a couple of coaches that were used by the Indian elite and lots of furniture from the French Governor's residence before independence.
For me, the most interesting information at the museum was the display about Arikamedu, just outside what is now Pondicherry. It was an old port that was established as early as the second century B.C. The excavations at the site revealed hundreds of amphora jars that were used to transport wine, olive oil, and honey from the Mediterranean to the east coast of India. These were traded for textiles, precious stones and shell jewellery. It seems that wine was major import even then - this means that Pondicherry's love of the grape goes way, way back.
On our ramblings through Pondi, we came upon an elephant standing in front of a Hindu temple. She was decorated with silver and brass jewellery and her forehead was painted with the flag of India. I was surprised to see that she was giving blessings to some of the people entering the temple. It was then that I realized that people were feeding her tufts of grass that they purchased at the stalls outside the temple, and that once they fed her, she would tap their heads with her trunk as a blessing. Of course, I couldn't resist feeding her. After she had touched my head with her trunk, I put my hand on her forehead and looked deep into her eye. She looked back at me and then suddenly, her pupil enlarged to a surprising size, but she didn't move. I choose to think that she recognized a kindred spirit.
We find that in spite of all the time we take exploring the city and writing in the journal, we are managing to read all the books we brought along with us. One day we passed a used bookstore and I stopped in to see if I could find anything interesting. I ended up buying two books by Canadian authors, Stuart McLean and Timothy Findlay. I smiled to myself because it seems when I am in Canada, I am reading so many books by Indian authors, and now that I am in India, I'm buying books by Canadians. I guess that I find it's more interesting to read books that take you out of your day-to-day experiences.
Later that evening as we were walking back to the hotel, we heard drumming coming from the beach. It turned out to be a free music festival organized by the Department of Tourism. We found some seats and settled into listen to two most amazing young drummers.
They each had six tablas arranged in front of them. I have never seen tablas set like this before. We listened as the young boy and equally young girl performed. They seemed to be playing improv but every now and then, their notes were coordinated in such a say that you could tell there were patterns that they were following. At the end of their performance, they were introduced by their instructor, the girl is his daughter and the boy, his student. This was the first time we have ever seen a female playing the tabla.