Wednesday, March 22
YEAR: 2017 | Maison Perumal | Mugaiyur | Pondicherry
Today we travelled – and travelled – across India.
We got a wake-up call at 6:15, washed and dressed, picked up our bagged breakfast, and left Tissa’s Inn at 6:45. It took about an hour and a quarter to cross Kochi to the airport. As we approached I remembered something Anib told us: Kochi has a unique status as the only airport in the world completely and solely powered by solar energy.
We checked in, waited two hours, and boarded a plane for a one hour flight to Chennai, where we waited thirty minutes for our baggage and booked a pre-paid taxi.
We drove out of Chennai at breakneck speed, reaching the edge of town in less than ninety minutes. Once we had left the city and the small adjacent towns we drove down National Highway 49 at 120 kilometres an hour, weaving in and out of oncoming buses and trucks.
We have just passed a dead or dying man at the side of the road next to a dented car. Policemen have gathered round. “Dead, sorry”, the driver said. A couple of kilometres later, he said, very suddenly, “I need food,” stopped ten metres from a hut, and leapt out of the car.
We sit at the side of the highway, a few miles north of Mugaiyur, watching the traffic racing past us. I can see what looks like a dead cow about fifty metres in front of us, next to a road sign. In fifteen minutes time, when the driver reappears as suddenly as he left, we will drive past and give ourselves full points for correctly identifying a dead cow in the distance.
We will arrive in Pondicherry after a drive of three and a hour hours. The driver will find the hotel by a combination of satnav, wild guesses and (eventually) asking pedestrians.
La Maison Perumal, in Rue Perumal Kovil, will remind me strongly of a fictitious Louisiana. I immediately feel like a character in Michael Moorcock’s Blood, and suspect that I might receive training as a juggalo in this very building. We will both quickly decide that we like it.
We will walk down the the seaside promenade to get some French-Indian food. To our amazement we will discover that the promenade appears to be a restaurant-free zone. After some argy-bargy in which a rickshaw driver pitted himself against Irma’s hunger-fuelled fury and lost, we will drive to a restaurant we had spotted earlier called Chez Nous, which will turn out to offer pizzas and bus rides to Auroville. Both will sound useful, but neither will sound like something we want now.
We will walk the short distance back to La Maison Perumal, sit in the bar that holds ten customers, and then eat in the restaurant. Everything will serve to further my conviction that we have entered the Third Aether.
Hunger quenched, and travelling salesmen befriended, we will return to room 3, unlock it with the giant key, and collapse into sleep.