I recently went on a family trip to Pondicherry. I know they say Pondy isn’t a place for family, but that’s just the common notion.
If you spend only a couple of days, relaxing and doing nothing else, Pondy — with its beach an all — is a great holiday spot. Of course, not to mention it’s the hottest spot for booze when you’re with friends.
That said, I was impressed with how the people of the city manage to maintain discipline and decorum despite the thronging crowds. Here and there, are posters and banners that prompt people to “keep the city clean.” And surprisingly, unlike in the case of other despicable Indian cities, people heed these posters. Perhaps the presence of such a vast foriegn populous is also a reason. That’s how people are; no matter how unclean they are on the inside, they want to put up a show of divinity in front of strangers.
But Pondy’s more than just a clean city. It’s the kind of city I’d want to live in. And that doesn’t happen often. We stayed at a hotel on the beach road, overlooking the ocean. It was a great experience, sitting on the balcony, staring at the waves crashing on rocks.
Seeing the waves, you can’t help but wonder at the lack of vehicles on that road. That’s because the government regulates traffic in a way that I’ve never seen anywhere before.
All vehicles, including motorcycles, should move out of beach road before 6 pm. Every evening, they have a truck moving around the street warning vehicle owners and the general public to move their vehicles out of the street. Any vehicles that violate the regulation will be locked and will be released only after 11 pm — with a court petition.
This is a safety measure for the civilians who visit the beach after the peak hour of 6 pm. The best part is that this drill is extended ‘till 7.30 am the following morning. And it’s not a vain attempt either; the beach is filled with enthusiasts during the late nights — though it does get a little quieter after about 11 pm. But there are a lot of early-risers embracing a fitness regime, as early as 5 am.
It’s one of the greatest thrills of life, to wake up to the mild noise of crashing waves, watching the sun rise, rather reluctantly, out of the clouds. And to witness all these without the smoky and noisy vehicles zooming by.
Pondicherry is a great place. The government doesn’t urge its people to “get to the safety of their homes before nightfall.” Instead, they make the city safe enough so that people can enjoy their freedom without compromising their wishes. (You can’t sit in the Chennai beaches after 10 or 11 pm; the police will get way too dutiful.)
Now that’s the kind of city I’d want to live in. I know it’s difficult to bring this control to the rest of the city, but just the beach is enough — for a start.
Pondicherry made me feel welcome; it gave me a sense of belonging. And the warmth that spread through my veins as I looked on at the beach, is something I’ve never experienced before.
It’s an experience of a lifetime.