The pitter pat of rain and a pat on the head


Puducherry.

At the Lotus Bay View Hotel, as with many hotels in India, a breakfast is provided. The difference with this hotel is that it has no restaurant, so they have breakfast brought in from next door and you order it the night before. At 8:30 the doorbell for the room rang and I received a plate with two packages wrapped in tin foil, some jam and butter in dishes, coffee and orange juice.

The coffee turned out to be instant coffee, and the orange juice turned out to be Tang (which is really weird considering there are fruit trees all over Tamil Nadu). I opened the larger of the foil packages to find some “toast” (warmish bread) and wondered if they had forgotten the omelette. I opened the last foil package which was long and thin, expecting to find some cutlery, but instead, found my omelette. I guess I was supposed to smoke it.

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After I finished my egg reefer, I went out exploring Puducherry. There is a shopping district that is loaded with sari shops, jewelry stores, and sweets shops on the western side of town, and restaurants, coffee shops and craft stores on the east side. There is also the Sri Aurobindo ashram that has a constant procession around the building filled with pictures and artifacts relating to Aurobindo Ghose

There are also a fair number of temples interspersed among the buildings in town.

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One of the temples is home to Puducherry’s largest resident named Lakshmi, who gives out blessings in exchange for money or food.

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I watched her for a longtime, and was amazed how gentle she was, even with little children. A gentle soul who happily interacted with devotees and tourist alike. I gave her a 10 rupee note, that she gently held with her trunk, and then she patted me on the head, giving her blessing. After she collected a fair amount of coins and bills, she held her trunk out to her handler, who sat underneath her, took the money, and deposited it into the donation box for the temple.

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There is also a stall that sells fruits and bunches of grass that Lakshmi likes to eat. If she accepts your offering of food and eats it (and she doesn’t accept them all) you are considered blessed. The money from the stalls also goes towards the temple.

Lakshmi is only out in front of the temple for a limited time each day, the rest of the time she can be found near her paddock, or occasionally on the beach, walking with her handler.

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The next morning I decided to skip the Omelette doobie and search out breakfast somewhere else. I ended up at “Le Cafe” which is not to be confused with “Le Club”, “Le Gourmet”, “Le Pizza”, or “Le Mom And Pop Joint That Serves A Variety Of Foods And Doesn’t Really Know What Category It Falls Into Bar And Lounge”. Le Cafe is a coffee house right on the beach where all of the tables are open to the air but covered. I had a very nice dish of scrambled eggs with toast and a large (no really, it’s a large) cafe latte. The restaurant was almost empty except for a group of three at another table.

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As I was finishing my coffee it started to rain. Then it started to blow. Then it started to rain more. Then it rained lots and lots more, in sheets, and you couldn’t see anything outside the building. The staff of Le Cafe started to look concerned, and I started to wonder if there was a reason that the walk to the restaurant was suspiciously devoid of people… in India.

Once the rain started flying sideways and the wind was blowing debris around, the staff motioned for everybody to move into the main building where they closed the doors and shutters. I ordered another coffee from the terrified looking barista while various members of the staff started to pray. I think I heard someone say “Dear God, I’ll be a good employee if you get me out of this”.

After about 15 minutes of wind and actual torrential rains, it slowed to a breeze and a sprinkle, but the damage had been done. The street in front of Le Cafe that runs along he beach was flooded, as was many other sections of town.

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The swim back to the hotel revealed downed power lines, a lot of deadfall, and a neon sign from a different hotel smashed on the street.

The storm also washed out some roads, disrupted train services, knocked out phone and internet, and a village had to be evacuated. Many of the stores in the shopping district were using pumps to get the water out of their basements and there are many signs for flood damage sales, and the waves on the ocean were so high that all boats were grounded. Made for some lovely surf against the rocks though.

But everything has returned to normal now, so I think I’ll go back and wander the beach and maybe visit Lakshmi for another pat on the head for an apple.

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