Continuing our journey from Coimbatore and Mr M popularity over there, we travelled to Pondicherry / Puducherry (as it is called now). Puducherry was a former French region and you can see the remnants of those areas, streets, people living there. When we entered the city, Mr M commented that he was glad that he wasn’t the only foreigner around there and that he had spotted quite a few on the streets. We had a huge drama on the day we arrived in Pondicherry, thanks to the hotel we had booked and the driver we had hired for the trip. Let’s just say that we had to book a hotel then and there and also ensure we got a new driver travelling from Coimbatore overnight to ensure we still have a driver for the rest of our journey. I would have driven the car if it had come to that, but I really wanted to enjoy my vacation without the hassle of driving.
After sorting out all the problems thrown at us, we started the next day to book our Auroville Matri Mandir visit for the day after. We had no expectations of Auroville so it was quite surprising to see how huge it was. We didn’t stay there much longer as we had our visit planned to Chidambaram. We stopped by the beach for our lunch and there were two movie shootings going on. I was trying to get Mr M to appear in at least one of them, given his penchant for Indian dances and such 😉 But sadly it wasn’t his day. We were shooed away from the place because we were seen in the background somewhere in the dance scene. It wasn’t a popular movie anyway. 😛
Chidambaram is a very popular Hindu Temple. It has references to the Cosmic Science and you could see the idol of Nataraja in CERN too. My brother wasn’t quite sure if non-Indians were allowed or not (because some of the temples in South India, at least, have strict rules) so I had to check before we made the trip and it looked like we would be OK. As usual, Mr M was the only foreigner in that place and people seemed quite happy to ensure that he got a good darshan. We had a good darshan, went around the temple, took our time seeing the murti’s (idols) etc. When we were at the outer praharam (pathway) we came upon a few school kids (6th grade). So far, people went about their work, hardly bothered by a foreigner amidst them. But these kids were different. One of them (she was the gang leader) said hi to Mr M and he smiled and waved back. That was all the encouragement she needed. She called to her friends (total 6 of them, 4 girls and 2 boys) Seeing that I had a camera with me and was taking photographs of anything and everything, they gathered around us and demanded that I take their photographs too. I told them that I wouldn’t be able to send the photos back to them, but there weren’t bothered. They also wanted Mr M in the group photo and the girls wanted me in their group photos too (#GirlPower 😉 ) And then the volley of questions started. Where is he from? What does he do? Why is he here? Was I his wife? Do I have a baby? What language does he speak? etc etc etc. I was the official interpreter. It was quite funny to interact with them. Then Mr M offered to teach them some Gaelige (Irish). They were so excited. He taught them Good day (Dia Duit), Good bye (Slan) and another one which I have forgotten. Of those three things, they only remembered Slan. It was getting late for us and we had to get back to Pondy which is a 2-hour drive. We said our goodbyes and they responded with Slan until we turned around the corner. The whole temple heard their goodbyes in Gaelige. Mr M was very happy that he was able to bring Gaelige to Chidambaram even if it was just one word. We apparently made those kids day because they will have a story to tell their acquaintances about this Irish guy who taught them to say goodbye and we were glad that we met these lovely kids out there and share some good time with them and brought home memories (and photographs).
I told Mr M that any more interests in photographs/selfies with him will incur 20 Rs cost for the people. It would be a good business decision to do so 😉 In Auroville the next day after our trip to Matri Mandir and lunch etc, we decided to try cycling around the place. Auroville is home to lots of Europeans who moved there and are living there for years and years. It is a global city and has its own citizenship. He wasn’t an odd man out there. So I left him to find his way and I cycled a little ahead and waited for him. When he didn’t arrive I had to go back to check on him and found him being part of a selfie by another visitor 🙄 I knew I should have stuck to him and got my money.
The funny part is that when I try to take a selfie with him (and I suck at taking Selfies, so I have to try and take more to learn) he grumbles and mumbles. But throw in a stranger and he is alright with selfies. When asked, he said that if a photograph with him makes them happy, who is he to deny it. Grrrr!
Not just the places we visited, the restaurants we go to, there are two or three waiters are ready to serve him and then they stand close to him to attend to him. It is quite funny and freaky too. He was a little bit uncomfortable with that in a couple of places. But that goes with being a celebrity, doesn’t it? With popularity comes some awkward moments too.
Overall, he was glad to have those moments of popularity and that he could make someone’s day too. Travel is not just about visiting places, it is about these kinds of moments too and we had many such good moments during this trip.