swaying to a flicker of the heartbeat.

I arrive at the Green’s Guesthouse that turns out to be the loveliest little place in all of Auroville. An entryway dotted with pebbles and a pail full of pretty flowers greet me inside.

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Enveloped in greenery, the place has a rustic appeal to it. The walls are haphazardly dabbed with several shades of green and look more like an artist’s giant canvas.

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The staff is very friendly and welcoming. Perceiving the exhaustion in my eyes (I had travelled overnight and the bus was not kind enough!), they ask me to take a nap first and pay later when checking out. Happy surprises!

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Anyway, I ask for some coffee to snap myself out of my weariness. However, they claim to have been using only “organic” products at their cafe. So, I instead have their soy milk tea and a toast with maple syrup, and enter the dorm room, pull down the net and sprawl out on the cozy bed by the window. Peace.

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Auroville opens itself up to me at a rather calm and unhurried pace. I wake up to noisy chirping of birds in the backyard.

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Weather is unpleasantly hot but the unusual old-world charm of this place keeps me hooked.

A short walk lands me at the Visitor’s Centre that has nice boutiques where I can buy all the cute stuff that I might want but don’t actually need. I end up buying pairs of earrings nevertheless. They look super cute!

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The town exists as an isolated, dreamy world of its own kind, lined by jungles and strewn with densely canopied roads. It is not frequented by too many visitors and is fascinatingly laidback in its essence.

Its name translates to ‘City of Dawn’ and the town stands essentially to foster human unity. Admiring the concept behind its creation, I take a compulsive walk to Matrimandir (Temple of the Mother Mirra Alfassa).

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But unfortunately, I find out, it is closed for the entire month of June, so I do not get to experience any actual yoga or meditation practices there. With heat beating my spirits down, I skip the rest for later and barge out of this quaint town to head to Pondicherry.

Wandering around, I reach the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a Catholic church known for its Gothic-style architecture and cherished for the immense peace it offers. Which is true but my heart somersaults for the beaches!

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Soon I am traipsing down the long sidewalk at the Rock Beach.

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An old lighthouse stares back at me from a corner.

A towering guide to the ships during the 19th century. An inseparable part of the identity of the town in the 21st.

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A right turn later, I enter White Town, the most gorgeous part of the city. It traces India’s history back to the time when it was entwined with that of the French.

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This colony flaunting European-style streets and French architecture has villas in pastel colours of pink, yellow, rust, green and what not! These border the roads blanketed by a shade of Bougainvilleas. Exotic fonts yield recognition to these vintage buildings. Classic elegance abounds everywhere.

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Shutta_20180904_130241-01Later, on the Paradise beach, I take baby-steps into the sea.

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Waves are crashing onto the shore, curling up against me and dissolving into foam. I try to stand firm as the water recedes from under my feet, eventually merging back into the sea where it belongs. But no matter how hard I clutch at the ground with my toes, sand under my feet gets carried away with the ebbing waves and I am thrown off-balance. Swift, high waves come roaring back at me and before I can even process their intensity, I am tasting salt in my mouth, am feeling a burning tinge in my eyes, and am having an irresistible urge to scratch my ears out.

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My hair is all sand-flecked, with its tiny grains caught in my curls. Tiny lumps of salt adhere to my scalp, and refuse to come out, like they were glued there for life. Funny? Absurd? Whatever, there’s more grazing my toes, smearing my legs, smudging my feet.

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And. Yet I don’t mind any of it. I am too lost in my carefree abandon to mind any part of the mess. Isn’t that the whole point of living the moment anyway? To celebrate the unabashedly-uninhibited abandon.

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A woman clad in a gold-embroidered red sari is collecting seashells, and tucking them carefully inside folds of a corner of her sari. Notwithstanding the waves swamping her beautiful golden-brown drapes, she bends over to quickly seize any exotic shells she spots tinkling against her silver anklets or rubbing against her feet. Emboldened, I walk deeper into the water, digging my feet deeper into the sand, stiffening up against the waves.

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In front of me, the seamless horizon stands as the perfect metaphor for endless possibilities. I feel a sudden rush of happiness tugging on my heart. Turning my head back, I watch as the sky morphs into a pretty canvas for the sun playing with the clouds.

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I look up, only to find a curve of rainbow curled up in the sky.

A sweet gesture from nature, smiling back at me, in all of its raw, vast, and expansive surrealness.

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Suddenly it’s drizzling, and the sky turns darker shades of blue, that eventually escalate to grey, and soon black.

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The sea is hitting against the shoreline even more uproariously now. I spot ships in the distance, shimmering like tiny dots of light, floating against a backdrop of immeasurable darkness.
A smidgen of hope on the horizon.

Lightning and thunder trill the sky. I ride out of the place, craving for the peace and quiet of Auroville, where my cute little home awaits me, amidst the silent wilderness.

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And this wild, wide smile is exactly the one I leave Pondicherry with! 😀

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This is the 4th post in a 4-part series on my travel stories from South India. If you like this part, you can read the other parts on Coonoor, Mysore, and Ooty.

unwrapping the gift that Coonoor is.

Winding around pine thickets for the past half hour, I have been adoring the midnight-blue silhouette of the Nilgiris painted against the pale-blue skies. Looks so much like those pretty picture postcards.

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Finally, I disembark at Sim’s Park. On the board outside, it boasts of having rare plant species from around the world.

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I walk inside and roam around, breathing in the fresh air thick with an earthy fragrance.

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Having experienced the storm in Ooty last night, I find Coonoor surprisingly sunny. And so much more beautiful that I snap out of the auto midway to dash for the tea gardens flanking either side of the road.

Coonoor has acres and acres of them!

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Ambling around, I soak in the overwhelming essence of tea leaves. The Blue Mountain tea that grows here is dark and is known for its intense fragrance and flavour.

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Further up the road, I stop by the Highfield Tea Factory and watch the end-to-end process of tea being made from these tea leaves. The entire place feels immersed in a strong aroma. It permeates me. Tickles my senses. A few refreshing cups of Chocolate Tea, Masala Tea, and Green Tea later, I feel grateful for the little sips of happiness.

Walking on, I come across coffee beans being ground into powder. Feeling my love for coffee scream inside me full-throttle, I instantly pick up a handful to take back home as a souvenir.

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Few steps ahead, a sharp and pungent scent comes wafting across the room. Inquisitive, I find out, what I had just sniffed was the odor of eucalyptus oil being procured from the eucalyptus leaves lying heaped nearby.

I step out and see small shops selling natural oils and creams. Feeling whimsically compelled, I immediately buy the cucumber one. Downstairs, they are selling handmade chocolates and I don’t leave without packing all the dark chocolate that I will need for the month.

Driving off to Lamb’s Rock, past cultivated plantations, and unguarded wilderness, I uncover Coonoor more intimately on the way. Lying sheathed in clouds and mist, it is a beauty enveloped in the embrace of blue hills, that appear melting into the blue skies.

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I trek up to the highest viewpoint at Lamb’s Rock and take a fleeting glance around. What strikes me is, I am staring down into a deep, scary gorge that at the same time accommodates a breathtaking panorama of tea estates, coffee estates, and Coimbatore plains.

Surreal.

The path back meanders through a jungle and the experience is alarmingly enlivening.

Exactly how badly had I needed this rush?!

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At last, I arrive at Dolphin’s Nose. It takes me a while to register for myself how the tip of the peak resembles a dolphin’s nose. A beautiful wind blows in my face, as I stand there watching the Catherine Falls pound in the distance.

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Later in the night, I lie snuggled up under my blanket, back on my way to Bengaluru, and the moon through the window feels like a welcome trespasser.

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This is the 2nd post in a 4-part series on my travel stories from South India. If you like this part, you can read the other parts on Ooty, Mysore, and Pondicherry.

toppled utopia.

You watch the steam rising from the coffee, and you are not sure if it is trying to defy the rain, or dissolve into it. You clutch the cup harder, raise it closer to your lips, allow the warmth to permeate all your senses, unspool every thread of thought inside you, assault every cell of your being to the core, untangle every knot inside your head. Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. This is that kind of moment. You don’t bother to think right now. You just be.

The next minute, there are a thousand thoughts jostling for space inside your head. You have been looking for a job which can make your days decently bearable, you miss him, you need to pay the bills, you have to update that resume, you miss him even more, you have to finish reading that book, you have to save for the trip to Pune, you have to buy your mom glasses, you are missing him terribly! Nobody ever told you, the most beautiful thing about you is your transparency, he said that, and you fell in love.

You have been pretty confused, lately. You could not make out the difference between what’s real and what just seems to be. Your relationship of four years (FOUR years!) fell apart like a house of sand. You wonder if it had always been this weak, this brittle, this sensitive. You had met someone and it unsettled your world. You meet people everyday and nobody moves a single brick in the wall. This time, it was different. Intoxicating-different. You had never felt this magnitude of pull before. You got so torn apart between love and liking that you mistook the fling to be more tangible than it was. You feel, it is a blessing and a curse, all at once, to feel so deeply about anything and everything. It was not your fault. You had been duped by the moment. The moment turned out to be stronger than you are.

You say it all out loud, you tell them how you feel felt about them. No matter how embarrassing it gets or how much afraid you are about baring your heart to people, you say it right to their face (or into  phone!), and stomp out. You clear your head, you do it for your own contentment. You don’t expect any response, neither do you get one (sadly!), but you hardly bother anymore. Ironically, it turns out, saying it out loud diminishes the very feeling itself, and that too, very substantially. May be, it seemed stronger before because it had been reverberating all day, every day, inside your head.

You look down the balcony, and it is a riot of color outside. Raindrops are pattering against your roof, popping into ripples on the road ,dripping down the trees, encroaching upon everything, like they own the skies, the streets. You smell wet earth in the air. It gets you higher than vodka, gets you best tuned in, with your inner self. You watch a drop, streak across the glass window, knocking off dust particles in its way, the ones that had invested months into making the panes, their home. Everything is temporary. Headlights of cars make soggy roads, glisten golden in the dark. Rain is painting the streets brown and muddy all over and yet, it looks eerily beautiful.

Breakups are hard. Liking someone and not getting reciprocated in the same proportion (or not even in the slightest proportion!) is hard. Rejections are hard! Not getting what you want from your job, is hard. Not knowing what you want from anything, for that matter, is hard. Not being able to give back to your family in the way or capacity they had expected, is hard. Feeling empathy for people, things, situations and not being able to fix them is hard. Not being able to fix yourself, is hard. Life is hard. But it is beautiful too. Not constant-beautiful. But intermittently, yes, it is. May be you just need to look for it, in the right places. Outside. And inside. Inside yourself.

You are fine. You are messy, confused and sickeningly unreasonable at times. Or most of the time! But oddity doesn’t really translate into weirdness. You are an anomaly, a rare beautiful anomaly.

May be, people don’t stick around, but love never goes away. The moments you have lived already, nobody can take them away from you, they are yours to claim, to keep, to cherish, for perpetuity. So you can get by life, pricking yourself at your pain-points all the time, or you can live your life neglecting them.

You are bigger than this, than all of this. You are flawed, yes, but you have a voice strumming inside you. Follow that and you will be just fine. You might be neck-deep into this mess you have got yourself into, but this is your mess, and nobody knows you better than you yourself do. You are well acquainted with all your patterns (and unpatterned eccentricities !).

You found a way in, you will figure one out too.