Posts Tagged ‘JIPMER’


A place grows on us. It offers a comfort zone which we get used to. We might dislike the place for so many things. But when we are away for some time, the gravitational pull again comes into play. We start missing the place.

Lakshmi Lakshmi

Pondicherry is no exception to this general rule. While here, we might bemoan the lack of civic sense, the streets littered with garbage, the reckless driving on the roads and the absence of adequate parking space in the town area. But take us away for some time, and we start missing it somehow. We yearn to get back to the humidity and the heat of the place.

What is so hot and happening about this quaint little town, perched on the Bay of Bengal, you may well ask.

Consider the following.

A small group of close friends

This is what makes Pondicherry so very special…

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A place grows on us. It offers a comfort zone which we get used to. We might dislike the place for so many things. But when we are away for some time, the gravitational pull again comes into play. We start missing the place.



Pondicherry is no exception to this general rule. While here, we might bemoan the lack of civic sense, the streets littered with garbage, the reckless driving on the roads and the absence of adequate parking space in the town area. But take us away for some time, and we start missing it somehow. We yearn to get back to the humidity and the heat of the place.

What is so hot and happening about this quaint little town, perched on the Bay of Bengal, you may well ask.

Consider the following.

A small group of close friends

This is what makes Pondicherry so very special. Friends who are helpful. Friends who are there when you need them. Friends who have helped us make Pondicherry a home, far away from one’s roots. Friends who offer constructive criticism. One may not speak to them or see them for quite some time. But the underground cable connections remain in place.

For a nature lover

The restless waves of the Bay of Bengal somehow sweep away all that bothers one on any particular day. Watching an early morning sunrise is an uplifting experience. Mental peace reigns.Moon

A unique experience is that of watching a golden-hued moon rising out of the horizon a day or so after any full moon day. As it slowly changes its colour from a pale yellow to a light blue and then to its customary bright silver, the shimmering waves below keep dancing in tandem. One simply marvels at the beauty of nature on offer in Pondicherry.

For a pseudo-literary buff

For pseudo-literary buffs like me, it is a cerebral delight to attend book launches which happen at regular intervals. Perhaps inspired by the literary geniuses who made Pondicherry their abode in the not so distant past, authors of all hues and genres make it a point to include the place in their launch itinerary.BookFrontCover

Home grown authors are never in short supply, ready to fling their latest works at an unsuspecting audience. Tamil, French and English books keep popping up at regular intervals.

Even yours truly has gone ahead and published a book in Portugal, and is pretty happy about the fact that he is spared the trauma of having to read his own work in Portuguese, a language he does not understand himself!

Food for the soul

For a music-appreciating person like me, a flute recital by Hari Prasad Chaurasia, or a santoor recital by Shiv Kumar Sharma, is as uplifting and purifying as a vocal concert by Kalapini Komalini.

Even though national celebrities happen to be in Pondicherry only once in a blue moon, the soft glow of inner happiness lingers on for many more years to come.

For an art lover 

Art galleries like Aurodhan and Tasmai keep the place alive and happening. Dance performances of all genres keep me hooked to the place. When it comes to theatre, institutions like Aadishakti add their own charm to the place. Auroville has eclectic performances scheduled almost every week. Screening of offbeat movies is a routine affair. Alliance Francaise also keeps organizing some exciting events.IMG_0446

Workshops on masks, outfits teaching Salsa and Zumba, Baul performances, folk dances – you name it and Pondicherry has it!

For the intellectual pigmy 

Talks of subject experts organized by the local chapter of Madras Management Association do stir up the manager within me, reigniting my entrepreneurial passion. Held once or twice a month, the talks are short, crisp and highly focused. Business strategies get discussed. Power dressing tips are offered. Management lessons from movies are put across. In short, lot of management wisdom gets shared by those who practice the art and science of management.

Improving my Spiritual Quotient

For someone who is trying to understand how businesses can be run based on sound values and ethics, listening to some charismatic speakers steeped in Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts often leaves one gasping for more. The content may be incomprehensible to someone like me, a novice in the realm of spirituality, but there is a possibility that the quest may bring about some enlightenment in due course of time.

The heartfulness program of Sri Ram Chandra Mission offers a simple way for the lay person to peep within.

Brahma Kumaris happen to be very active, as do so many other outfits of the spiritual kind.

Minimizing the Pumpkin Quotient

It is fun to work with like-minded teams and create events like workshops and??????????????????????????????? seminars which allow stressed out managers to explore the spiritual dimensions of management. This way, they get an opportunity to sharpen their skills. I get rewarded in return by minimizing my own Pumpkin Quotient.

Frequent endeavours being made by such organizations as Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research and Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Integral Management tend to increase the allure of Pondicherry.

Frequent guest lectures at academic institutions in the region also add to the gravitational pull of the place.

Keeping the body and soul together

  1. For the best North Indian food in town, the place you can head to is Roma’s Kitchen in Auroville.
  2. For vegetarian seekh kababs: Hotel Anandha Inn/Annamalai
  3. For the least greasy samosas in town: Madhu Sweets, Mission Street.
  4. For good tea (meaning not the milky tea we get to slurp otherwise): Sekar Snacks, a tiny joint right opposite Mithai Mandir.
  5. For greasy Punjabi dishes: Punjabi Dhaba off Mission Street.
  6. An eatery which transports you back to the ‘Life of Pi’ days: Indian Coffee House, Nehru Street.

Keeping alive and kicking

Howsoever oppressive the heat, a walk along the promenade leaves one feeling invigorated.

To a young-at-heart senior citizen like me, Pondicherry offers a wide array ofYoga Dhanurasana_Yoga-Asana_Nina-Mel ‘pathies’ to choose from. As a follower of allopathy, one just needs to brave the crowded corridors of JIPMER, to be able to avail of world-class medical advice. For a focused attention on dental blues, Mahatma Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Dental Sciences comes to the rescue. Eye-related issues get readily addressed at either the School of Perfect Eyesight or the Aravind Eye Hospital.

For occasional forays into homeopathy, naturopathy, yoga and ayurveda, abundant choices are available. Acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology treatments are readily available. For spiritual healing, one just needs to walk in and meet a specialist.

Perhaps a day would soon come when a national level institute of Integral Medicine comes up here. My physical form will then not have to get compartmentalized into organs and ‘pathies’, but a holistic view will get taken of me as a whole being!

An accessible government

The upside of living in a small territory is that one could walk into any government office and meet smiling and helpful seniors. The problem gets heard. If it has merit, it also gets resolved as quickly as possible.

Experience of a unique kind

The kind of aggressive driving we get to experience in Pondicherry makes us fitdrawing to be able to drive any kind of vehicle in any part of the world. The dexterity required on the roads would make a circus stuntman squirm with shame. The kind of democracy on display on the roads could easily be packaged and marketed to train our wannabe politicians.

It is a unique experience which makes one feel as if all those rushing about on the roads are ardent functionaries eager to play their part in the French Revolution, following the dictum of Liberty and Equality but sans Fraternity.

Satisfying the wander lust

If ever boredom threatens to kick in, a short picnic at Alambara Fort (on ECR, 40 kms towards Mahabalipuram) is my recipe. It has long stretches of shallow water one can wade through and a pristine beach yet unsullied by the ravages of tourism.

A day’s trip to Gingee fort (60 kms, towards Tiruvannamalai) is another attraction. Other than the steep climb, we get to meet herds of our ancestors who are more interested in the bananas and eats we carry with us.

The bliss of doing nothing!

With its scenic promenade, picturesque locations, an old world FrenchExercise 1 ambience, Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, Pondicherry offers the lay visitor a curious combination of hedonistic as well as spiritual opportunities. One could go on a spirited binge and enjoy an upliftment of a transient kind. Otherwise, one could soak in its spiritual glow and relish a bliss which lasts much longer.

Often, when relatives call up to announce that they are planning to pounce on us, one of the most frequently asked questions is this: “What is there to do in Pondicherry?” When I say “Nothing”, they get disappointed. I then proceed to cheer them up by pointing out that this, the opportunity of doing nothing, is indeed the Unique Selling Proposition of the place.

The soft power of Pondicherry is the reason I do not relish being a Non Resident Pondicherryite for an extended period of time!

(Photograph of the moon and the yoga illustration are both courtesy the world wide web)

(Published in the New Race Journal, Vol II, Issue II: New Racehttp://sacar.in/2016_NR_V-2_I-2%20Aug2016.pdf)

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As the jetliner from Paris made its way to Puducherry, I turned nostalgic. When I had left it for greener pastures abroad, little had I June 2010 99imagined that it would take me close to twenty years to return to the town! I had left it as a semi-retired private sector honcho, and was now returning to my home base along with my wife Usha and grand-daughters Suman and Shalini. Looking out of the small window, I pointed out Matrimandir in the distance to Suman, who seemed pretty excited. The bluish-green waters of the Bay of Bengal below were shimmering in the setting sun, and a flock of pristine white seagulls was flapping along below us.

Once we landed, immigration and customs formalities got over pretty soon. The swank new international terminal looked like a smaller version of the Charles De Gaulle terminal in Paris. There were sign boards directing us to the metro station two levels below. We instead decided to take a cab into the town, so the family could get a better feel of the place.

As we settled down in the cab, the driver turned and asked if we wanted to take the toll road to town. “That would cost Rs. 750, sir”, he told us sheepishly. The normal route was also fine by him, he explained, but could take about 90 minutes to get to our place in town. We decided to take the toll road, and were delighted to be whisked off on an elevated road corridor. I could recognize JIPMER in the distance and realized that a host of elevated roads had come up in the town while I had been away.

One was a major ring road which, the cab driver explained, started off from the ECR near PIMS and ended up near Kanniakoil on the southern end of ECR. On the way, it was joined by radial elevated passages, connecting the town to the University, the new IIM, Auroville, Ousteri Lake, Chunnambar and to Arokiamedu. There were clear signboards on all the grade separators, and it was a sheer delight to cruise along the elevated motorways.

We reached our place in about 20 minutes, and were pleasantly surprised to see abundant greenery around even on smaller streets in the town. There were dedicated cycle paths all around the town. Only e-bikes and electric cars were visible on the roads. CNG buses were ferrying passengers. With a complete ban on pressure horns in force, the decibel levels were pretty low for a township of about 2.5 million people.  

In the evening, we went to the promenade. We were surprised to see a sandy stretch of about 50 meters beyond the Goubert Salai, with people and families of all kinds taking a leisurely stroll and enjoying the yellow moon which was just rising out of the sea. We could notice many safety kiosks spread all along the coast. Some skyscrapers had come up in the town, but the beach front had retained its original old world charm. It was very clean and dotted with French style wayside cafes.

In place of the old distillery, we found a multiplex, a science museum and a wine and champagne museum, the latter being the first of its kind in South Asia. Near the Kargil memorial, we found the entrance to an underwater aquarium which had been set up about five years back. A cultural performance was going on at the Gandhi Thidal. All along the beach road, near cafes, individual artists were playing musical instruments of various kinds, and the sound of music wafting through the air had an unwinding effect on all of us. From the jetty near the Park Guest House, we had the option of boarding a cruise ship, for a quiet moonlit dinner and a ride into the sea.  

Next day, I decided to take Suman and Shalini for a shopping spree. To my pleasant surprise, I found that only battery run vehicles were allowed to operate within the Boulevard area. Massive multi-level parking complexes had come up at all nodal points. Beneath each complex, there were shopping areas and food courts on the ground floor. From the basement, one could easily board a battery operated vehicle, either an exclusive one or a common one. A single voucher bought for the day allowed one to have as many hip-hop trips a day anywhere in the Boulevard area. The drivers were all well groomed and multi-lingual.

While crossing major junctions of J N Street and other roads like Anna Salai, M. G. Road, Mission Street and Ambour Salai, we noticed elevated train platforms, serviced by all-glass passenger cubicles. These were monorails, zipping across in both directions, carrying up to 20 passengers at a time. We were told that this novel mode of transportation was implemented recently with the help of foreign aid.

That night, our hosts told us about the severe smog problem faced by the town around 2015. Thereafter, the Government had taken vigorous steps to mitigate the problem of traffic congestion. Road tax on all motorized vehicles had been tripled. Parking meters had been installed and heavy charges were levied on all owners of private vehicles. The system of road usage fees had been computerized, thereby avoiding the possibility of any dilution in collections.

We were also told that to promote industries, a novel scheme had been worked out in tandem with the Tamil Nadu Government. Based on incentives granted by the latter, a 25 km wide belt around Puducherry had attracted massive investments, thereby tapping its commercial potential. Per capita income was three times the national average, and there was prosperity all around. All residents had smart cards, through which several benefits flowed to the beneficiaries. Government collected all its revenues through these cards, making the territory the first in India to do so. Crime detection and conviction rates had shot up and crime rate was the lowest in India.

The next day, we undertook a trip to Chunnambar Beach Resort where a permanent water sports facility had been created. We followed it up with trips to Arokiamedu, which had been spruced up to reflect the town’s historic links with the Roman empire. A replica of the age-old Ashram of Sage Agastya had been created, indicating the likely spot where Rama, Sita and Lakshmana would have come visiting long time back. A sound and light show at the site not only connected us back to Puducherry’s glorious past but also made our trip truly memorable.

Today is the 14th of July, 2025. We have visited Shri Aurobindo’s Samadhi in the forenoon and then made a trip to Auroville, which Jan 2010 01now boasts of being a green city, dependent only on solar and wind power. In the evening, we have boarded one of the Shatabdi trains connecting Puducherry to Chennai. Our journey takes us only 150 minutes. On the way, we look forward to enjoying fresh croissants and filter coffee from the pantry car.

As the train starts rolling out of Puducherry Railway Station, we bid adieu to the City Spiritual. The cherished memories of the trip shall forever be fresh in our minds. Surely, we shall motivate our friends abroad to visit Puducherry to enjoy its unique ambience.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/reinventing-pondicherry)




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