Posts Tagged ‘Travel India’

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© Anuradha Prasad, 2017

2 coorg_anu

© Anuradha Prasad, 2017

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© Anuradha Prasad, 2017

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© Anuradha Prasad, 2017


Dubare Elephant Camp, Coorg © Anuradha Prasad, 2016


two roads diverged…and i took the one on the right that led to the cafeteria

“So, where are you from?”

“The UK. You?”


“I’ve been there. Are you studying, working…?”

“Working. I am an editor with n***. But really I am still figuring it out. I am not sure if I want to get into travel writing or creative writing.”

“I’ve travelled to several countries – Brazil, Dubai, Europe, the U.S. But you wouldn’t want to travel to a country where there is war, would you?”

His face brightens and darkens throughout our conversation as we wait for someone to come and deal with the snake. I make a mental note to check where exactly his home country is on the map. (Close to Syria and Israel – uh oh. I understand why his face darkened and why he talked about war.)

Right, the snake. I am usually shy and don’t chatter about my career dilemma with strangers. Especially gorgeous strangers. But with a snake in the room, it is hard to stay shy.

One of the first things I read in the Auroville handbook was that there are lots of snakes but they are generally harmless. I had no clue there would be one in my room that very night.


I had my doubts the previous night about travelling alone after I allowed a drunk man to chaperone me to the bus. He got me my boarding pass, carried my bags and was very helpful. He pulled out the curtains of my berth and when he saw me hesitate, assured me I was safe and there was nothing to be afraid of. With a final salute, he tottered off to see if anyone else was in need of his services.

I meditated in the Receptivity petal at the Matri Mandir, got my Aurocard loaded at the Town Hall, met a Russian doctor, a French singer, and an Indian writer, an architect couple and Vipassana meditation teachers, and an Australian couple who were planning their destination wedding.

I smiled a lot. I wrote a lot. I read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast – again. All in all, it was a fabulous day.


the path connecting the center and the mandir

After dinner, by 8pm, most guests went back to their rooms and everyone starts early here. Auroville is not the safest place to go out in the late evening because the roads are not well-lit, if at all, and are deserted. I heard from my writer friend that assaults are common as we went on her moped – with headlights that turned up towards the sky instead of the road – to get a smoke the next evening.

Anyway, back in my room, I walked into the washroom and stared at my face in the mirror – I was feeling restless. Clearly, I was not the only one. I caught a movement near the door I had just walked through. There it was: a tiny black snake, a couple of inches long, wriggling. My first reaction? Oh, fuck. It didn’t occur to me that I should be scared as I watched it. I suppose it was the size that did it. I considered letting it get on with its business. But the possibility of finding it in bed with me or stepping on it were not comforting thoughts.

This required some strategy which I hadn’t anticipated exercising on a holiday that was supposed to be about self-reflection and connecting with the peace within me, which is a rather slippery feeling. The telephone was in the other room and I didn’t want to take my eyes off the little fellow, who under my penetrating and perplexed gaze lay still, a touch of wariness in his general attitude which I thought was befitting a snake.


the backyard where babblers hopped around in the mornings

I stood at the doorway where I could both look out and keep an eye on the snake. It seemed hopeless until I saw a man heading towards the stairs. He later explained to me (and again to the guest house manager as to what he was doing in my room) that there was a funny smell in his room and he had come down looking for a match to light the incense stick. Clearly, saving a damsel in distress was not on his agenda but he rose to the occasion.

He confirmed that it was indeed a snake that we were looking at and he had seen a similar one in Brazil, and it was the deadliest snake in the world. With these reassuring words, and after suggesting I get on the bed in case the snake decides to strike, he left to find help. I was left standing on the bed, staring at the tiny and quite possibly the deadliest snake in the world with a fast disappearing incense stick in my hand.

He came back with a broom. Not the help that I had envisioned. After climbing on a chair, he gently swept the snake towards the door. The snake unfroze and sprang into action and wriggled away – not out of the door but into a crack in the door frame. We tried to smoke it out of its hideout with the incense stick. The snake liked its cosy hideout – that now smelled really good – to want to cooperate.

As we waited for the manager, we talked about my career dilemma, Auroville, and his inability to sleep…could it be all the fresh forest air? The manager, a woman of action and a sense of purpose, walked in, walked out, walked in again with duct tape, and taped the crack in the frame. Her fingers deft, not the least bit hesitant.

As they walked away, you could only hear the raucous chirping of crickets in the backyard.

© Anuradha Prasad, 2016






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© Anuradha Prasad, 2015

Yep, travel companions can make or break a trip. As a child, all I remember is being bundled into a matador or something by family and heading off to places with no names. Not having been kept in the loop about these travel plans, they always seemed so spontaneous. Of these trips, I can recollect fragments like mango orchards at some relative’s place,  a visit to a cousin’s village where they bred silkworms – a sluggish lot and its village pond by the jungle where we splashed around.

Otherwise most trips were to temples and more temples. And we didn’t go there to admire the aesthetics, culture or history…needless to say they were excruciatingly boring. Jostling crowds, craning our necks for a quick glance at an idol that was submerged in jewellery, silks and garlands and a snappy priest urging us to keep moving…

Nisargadhama – the origin of River Cauvery

Then there were the school trips which were far and in between. Nisargadhama en route to Coorg – big rabbits, monks running on the swinging bamboo bridge, bamboos, tree houses and the rock strewn water ringed with low hanging tree branches – River Cauvery’s quiet origin.

The samadhi at the Aurobindo Ashram is adorned with flowers and incense sticks offered by Aurobindo and Mother’s disciples

The other was the Chennai-Mahabs-Pondi route in the middle of a cyclone. Water clogged Chennai streets, the rough sea fed by torrential downpour. We tried to make the most of the beach before taking shelter in a gazebo where we could feed coins into a machine which gave us astrological predictions.

Mahabs with its lovely ruins and a clean stretch of beach was finished within the blink of an eye. Pondi was lovely – the simple yet tasty fare of dal and rice at the Aurobindo Ashram, placing my forehead on the cool marble of the samadhi of Mother and Aurobindo, the promenade at midnight, the sea crashing against the boulders and the spray of water from the inky blackness…

It was back to trips with the family that finally turned me off travel. There was the time in Karwar when a bunch of drunk men chased us and all of us women ended up in a room fearing the worst. The time our guide to Goa insisted that we eat only in Kamat restaurant and not try out the shacks because people who went to such places were not the right kind. The visit to Gokarana where we had to go only to the temple because Om Beach was a nudist beach (years later we found that it was not!!). Needless to say it killed the spirit of travel.

Golden Temple, Bylaguppe – the largest Tibetan settlement in India

Something has to be said about sterile trips with NRIs in air-conditioned cars to resorts – it was a grave injustice to Coorg. But stepping into the Tibetan Monastery in Byleguppe and there in the presence of the giant golden Buddha,  all complaints and fears were silenced.

Surprisingly one of the best trips was the spontaneous one to Gokarna with a brat who despite her admirable determination could not score any chillums in the three days that we were there and who tried to distract me in sneaky ways to make us miss the bus back home. I will save Gokarna for another day but it was that much more memorable owing to a certain Ms S and her pursuit for hippie-ness.