Spent the weekend in Pondicherry. Could not help being charmed by the architecture and the odd blend of French and Tamil culture and the peace that one felt as soon as one was inside the Ashram. All this in spite of the merciles heat against which the sea breeze was powerless.And yet no one seemed to notice it except us. Made one wonder if the heat was just a state of mind or was it really that hot?

Another thing that I always find in coastal places and islands is the attitude to time. On the day we arrived, when we tried to draw up the schedule for the day Priyamvada, who is from Pondicherry, told us that the motto in pondicherry is to "take your time with time" and not to hurry about the day. I have seen the same in Goa, Mauritius, Maldives and Srilanka too. They seem to ignore the clock and go more by the calendar.Perhaps they go by the bigger picture that Life is too large to be split into minutes and seconds and worried about.Generally they are happy with what they have, do not fret too much and exhibit a great resilience to hardship and suffering.They do not brood too much and bounce back quite easily. Does the sea teach them that?

On another note, how come the same is not true of places like Chennai or Mumbai which are bordered by the sea too?
19 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    "...happy with what they have, do not fret too much and exhibit a great resilience to hardship and suffering"
    If only we could all be like this, irrespective of the place of our residence and timezones!
    PS: Pics of Pondicherry?

  2. Usha Says:

    Thanks for reminding Ravi. Uploaded the pics too..

  3. Mahadevan Says:

    Culture and mental attitude play a more active role than nearness of sea. Pondicherry and Goa have French and Portuguese influences and the other coastal cities you have mentioned are all outside India and this could be another reason for the laid back attitude.
    Trivandrum is very active though Kovalam is nearby because, Keralaite by nature are not 'happy with what they have and they do fret too much and exhibit a great deal of resilience to hardship and suffering'.

    Whether you travel, meet old or new friends or just sit near your windows, we get a lovely piece to read.

  4. Visithra Says:

    oooh photos look good - travel is always nice i tell ya ;p

  5. :O i was there too 13th-15th!? cant agree less with you, given a chance i'll like to settle there! I got 10 picks from Pondicherry up my blog.

  6. hari Says:

    Hi Usha,

    Your last question is the one that struck my mind too. If only Chennai was like that.

  7. Preethi Says:

    Good one.. Chennai and Mumbai ppl just feel that they have to race with the time...

    Isnt it a pleasure to just take life as it comes and not rush by and enjoy all the beauties along its way..?

    I actually realised during my trip to my native place that people staying in such peaceful places have a certain peace emanating from their faces. They are just so self-sufficient with what they have.. unlike us - city people who crave for more and more...:)

  8. I have lived in Los Angeles, CA, on the shores of the Pacific. To call the Angelinos hurried and active would be a gross understatement. Few drive at or below the posted speed. I have lived in Minnesota for several years, and comapred to LA, Minneapolis is a snail town! Ask a Minnesotan native though, and (s)he will call all the Californians as laid-back.

    My daughter was born in Pondicherry, and I stayed there for a whole month, not as a tourist, but as an expectant father. I didn't see anything laid-back about Pondicherry. I certainly wasn't. Now if one lived in the Aurobindo Ashram, it might be a different matter, for s(he) was probably there for contemplation and relaxation. Ask a fisherman with a sick child if he was laid-back or happy with what he has, and you'll get an earfull.

    You can't compare resort towns and tourists with ordinary working people anywhere, and pigeon-hole them into Portugese, Sea-taught, and I quote (Mahadevan), "Keralaite (sic) by nature are not 'happy with what they have and they do fret too much and exhibit a great deal of resilience to hardship and suffering".

    Life anywhere is too complex to be stereotyped into catchy phrases and labels. To do so would be risking a slippery slope to racism and bigotry!

  9. I love the island way of life. In Mauritius, I just fell in love with the way people were - it's so addictive. I slept more, worried less, enjoyed everything. I think it is the sea, Usha. And having it all around makes a big difference, I think.

    One thing though, if you have a huge deadline at work and you're all chilled out and taking it easy - it might not work out very well! :)

    I wish I could have joined you on your trip! Pas de problème... la prochaine fois, peut-etre? :)

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Chennai and Mumbai are too commercial, too cosmo, too metro when compared to other coastal places u mentioned... And the difference is obvious!

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  12. Mahadevan Says:

    George Bernard Shaw once said that a mind which is not at rest and which does not accept things as they are is always creative. A laid back attitude may bring about peace of mind, but would not be of much help to the society. It is because of this that Kerala has the highest literacy rate, has been consistently contributing to Indian Olympic teams and has produced one of the sharpest intellectual - Sankara and has been maintaining its secular fabric. Trivandrum to Kazarcode, a number of cities are on the sea coast only and yet, one does not find the influence of 'sea' in the philosophy of life, though sea provides succour to its people. Even Krishna wanted Arjuna to fight and not to lay down his arm and relax and resign to his fate. This was what I wanted to emphasize.

  13. It does not matter whether you meant to attribute positive or negative attitudes, accomplishments, etc. to one's gender, ethnicity, race, caste, etc. It's still stereo-typing, invalid, and dangerous. As they say around here, "Whichever way you may slice the baloney, it's still baloney".

  14. Alapana Says:

    Been to Pondi a few months back with my dear blogger friends:) Beautiful place,holds a lot of memories:)

  15. Usha Says:

    Ravi: I guess most people who stay close to nature in one form or another exhibit this. City life softens you a lot.

    Mahadevan: Interesting point.

    Visithra; Yes, put pondicherry on the agenda in the next visit.

    Doozie: I loved your post. How come we missed each other - I was there exactly on the same dates.

    Hari:If chennai was like that it would get named to soemthing else i think - the bustle and activity is what makes chennai what it is?

    Preethi:I too believe that city life changes your attitude to life.

    Rational fool: a friend who runs an industry in POndy for the past 25 years says that his workers are all from pondicherry and his management is from other cities and there is a marked difference in approach to work and life. The idea was not to stereotype but to highlight that staying close to nature had an influence on ones attitude to life. I think islanders and fishermen are exposed to the vagaries of nature and hence are more resilient to hardship.They value the todays more because tomorrows are uncertain. If you still feel it is baloney, i respect your opinion.

    Vaish: :). YOu feel the beauty of the moments when you stop worrying about deadlines. But then life has to go on!

    Kishore: yes, agree.

    Cat: saw pics loved them.Thanks.

    aalap: Must share your experience sometime.

  16. My baloney quote is with reference to Mahadevan's comment about Keralites, I quote, "Keralaite by nature are not 'happy with what they have and they do fret too much and exhibit a great deal of resilience to hardship and suffering'" (emphasis mine), and his later attempt to clarify that he had meant it be positive. If "Keralaite by nature" is not stereotyping, I don't know what else is.

    I do not totally disagree with your view that "staying close to nature had an influence on ones attitude to life". I live on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park, and practically inside the Sequoia National Forest. Of those who live here, the attitudes towards life of some are influenced by nature, and others have moved here because of their attitudes towards life! Japan is an island and nearly 80% of its population live on the coast. Almost no one lives more than 120 kilometers from the sea, according to this report. I have also lived for short periods of time in Tokyo and Urasa, a town nestled in the mountains, but too short to make any meaningful statement about the differences, if any, in the attitudes of the people who lived in these areas. I understand what you mean, but I still think life is too complicated to be described in terms of neat aphorisms.

    It seems that almost all of those who comment on your blog have "bonded" with you already. I hope you don't mind this acerbic "fool" barging in. If you do, please don't hesitate to ask me to get off the "property", and I will. Thanks.

  17. Usha Says:

    Rational fool: Please keep visiting and feel free to leave your comments - acerbity notwithstanding. :) No, I do not feel that way at all - the idea of starting the blog is to air my views and hope others will share their POV frankly. Contrarian thoughts and opinions help widen ones perspective. Bonding is not about having ppl say "great stuff, you are the best." It is as much about someone caring enough to say "hey that is a foolish thought!"

  18. Wild Reeds Says:

    Dear Usha,
    This is so amazing! I was in Bangalore and Sravana Belagoda (May 12-17), then in Chennai, Pondicherry and Auroville (May 17-22) myself!!
    Am going to blog about it. Agree with your observation about how relaxed they are with time. Noticed it as much with the coconut vendor ladies, their nose-rings glinting in the May sun.

  19. Ram Says:

    As someone, who has begged to differ with Usha on a host of issues, I should say that she is an amazingly open-minded artist. My first post on her blog was, in fact, in violent disagreement with the central premise of her article on the theme of parochialism. True to style, my latest one (prior to this, of course) was a disavowal of the basis for her article--a letter purportedly from Abe Lincoln, haranguing the hapless schoolteacher of his son. In fact, I have even wondered whether she'd think of me as a tiresome proposition, given the scale & frequency of our disagreement. Rather, she accords respect to even the most vehement of contrarian opinions & strives to clarify her point. If, despite this, the comments on her blog posts leave an impression of 'Groupthink', it could be due to her enviable way with words & ideas. Anyways, since she isn't holding forth on any topic from an "exact science", there is only so much that one can demur about her posts. After all, each of us sports a worldview that is a function of the tapestry of our experiences pegged to our cognitive faculty.