Punekar’s heart beats on Dhol Tasha

A couple of years ago a Puneri friend said she can’t miss Ganpati visarjan in Pune at any cost. I wondered what is so special in Pune Ganapti utsav. I had already witnessed the enthusiasm of cities like Mumbai and Indore but then, I got a chance this year to visit the festivities. The city is transformed into something else during the festival. There are many ingredients to perfect Punekar’s Ganesh utsav, but the key ingredient is dhol tasha. These pathaks practice several days before the festival. Each one of them want to perform their 100% be it a lady, a man, a child, an educated, an uneducated… everybody puts so much effort and when one listens to it, he can keep on listening to it forever. I felt as if I was meditating. As if it was just me, the dhol beats and Bappa. “Ganpati Bappa Moraya”

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Try this get away to Pondi…..

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This one is for those who are furious of the daily work routine and have leave crises. A 4 day trip to Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) from Pune was a real stress buster and wonderful kick off for the New Year 2017. Pondicherry was French territory before the independent India and a nice chill out- do nothing place. The moment I reached promenade beach road where most of the hotels are located in white town, I fell in love with the town. On the very first evening, on this 1-2 km beach road, we had decided that we are going to spend all the evenings here till we are in Pondicherry. The Gandhi Statue, Old lighthouse, French war Memorial are all on this very road. Also the famous Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry Museum and sacred heart of Jesus in the vicinity. These places can be visited on a rented two wheeler or on bicycle in one day.

Promenade beach is a rocky beach. This beach road turns into walking plaza from 6PM to 7:30 AM. There are many eat outs on this street and nearby and you get huge variety food here for every pocket. This place is like a community center, where many exhibitions and competitions are held by government or private agencies. Which makes the street more vibrant.

Le café, my favorite café on this beach has two level sitting garden and rooftop, and both are astounding. Live dosa counter at the rooftop while watching dance competitions made that perfect evening.

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Le Cafe P.C. Amol Mujumdar

Our hotel Villa Bayoud is on the same street and thereof we could roam on the street till late. Booking this particular hotel was a wise decision for many reasons likewise, the villa itself is so splendid and the team makes the stay very comfortable, free WIFI can be exploited as the mobile networks could be weak, they make very nice omlette for the breakfast. The best part was the discussions with Mr. Patel over breakfast. Mr. Patel owns the hotel and has spent entire life in Pondicherry doing various businesses and is a seasoned traveler. We got many insights to the city from him. Thanks Mr. Patel and Villa Bayoud.

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Villa Bayoud: Beach Side Hotel in Pondicherry.

You find it difficult to choose between so many options for lunch or dinner. If you really want to try a south Indian thali food than I insist you have lunch at Surguru’s. It’s a very simple but very clean restaurant and food is delicious….. and if you are looking for north Indian food then Diliwala 6 can turn out to be the best choice. Else there are many other restaurants which offer Indian and continental food.

A lavish all course meal at Highdesign Hotel Promenade is icing on the cake for this trip. Promenade hotel has two restaurants and a rooftop café, however, we chose outdoor sitting which was close to the beach road and we could enjoy vivacious street during meals. The service here is really slow, so you need to take out enough time.

A Day at Auroville: This is a township developed to promote humanity. A very calm and naturally beautiful place located actually in Tamilnadu state, but very close to Pondicherry. The center of attraction is the Matri Mandir located at the center of the town. However, only people who are serious for meditation are allowed for the entry in this mandir. You need to get special permission if you really want to go inside the temple. for this reason, one has to visit auroville two times. First for taking appointment and second for visiting matri mandir. There is no online appointment option available. You will find many explorers out there. Since we had time crunch we saw the temple from outside. In my next visit to Pondicherry, I will make sure that I visit Matri Mandir.

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Matri Mandir, Auroville

Auroville has some nice cafes and boutiques where you find huge variety of locally made products including home decor, perfumes, cosmetics, health care and merchandise. There are many food joints on Auroville road but I assert that you try Tantos… the Italian restaurant. It has mouthwatering food. Especially the desserts.  We were told that if you want to try north Indian food in Auroville, the Roma’s Kitchen is the best. My sincere recommendation please keep track of time for lunch as after 3 PM many restaurants get closed and they open only after 6PM, if you miss 3PM deadline, then you may end up eating a grilled sandwitch and coffee at some café.

You may visit Auroville beach or university beach on the return journey from auroville. This is a mesmerizing sandy beach.

The most beautiful and famous beach in Pondicherry is the paradise beach. There are two ways to reach, 1 by ferry to the beach and another is by road. However, going by ferry is definitely a better option. The beaches in Pondicherry are very less crowded and clean and very steep. Bay of Bengal is very risky for swimming, there are few scuba diving places though. Unlike Goa, we do not find any watersport or tattoo making or shacks close to the beaches.

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Paradise Beach

We had our flight for pune from Chennai, we chose to take east coast road and took a small halt at Mahabalipuram and saw shore temple and panch rathas… they are stone marvels.  I wish I had some more time at Mahabalipuram.

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Shore Temple: Mahabalipuram

Reached home after a very short trip on Sunday night. And hey… I was so geared up for the office work on Monday!!!!

For ladies I have some packing tips…

Mostly ladies and girls wear Indian dresses at Pondicherry. I saw few French ladies also wearing salwar kurta. You can also wear Midi dresses or skirts but if you are planning to roam on bicycle or a two wheeler then jegging or jeans and shorts will give you utmost comfort. The day temperatures are pleasant. You can pair the comfortable bottom of your choice with shirts or cotton tops. Do not forget to carry goggles and nice sunscreen lotion with you. At evenings the temperature may dip slightly and it’s quite windy at the beaches so you may like to carry a light jacket or shrug while going out.  For footwear, a nice pair of flat sandals is a very good choice.