Sunday, March 26
Jawagarial Nehru Street, Pondicherry, 13:23
Yesterday evening we decided to make today a walking day. We decided to walk around the centre of Pondicherry which appears, on the map, about the same size as the centre of Borgå.
The Sunday papers proved bigger than the dailies, and so we had a long and leisurely breakfast. Then we set out from the hotel, turning right and then right again onto Mahatma Gandhi Street.
Irma spent a long time in the Hindu temple. I sat outside, my attempt to enter barefoot foiled by the fry-an-egg-here heat given off by the stone floor. We then turned round and walked down MG Street past Rue Perumal Kovil and past a kilometre or so of street market stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to second-hand chains and tyres.
The centre consists of a New York-style grid of streets: five big ’horizontal’ ones and a lot of small ’vertical’ ones. We eventually decided we had had enough of market stalls inder a blazing sun, and decided to turn left and then left again onto Mission Street.
By pure coincidence, we turned from Mahatma Gandhi Street into Jawagarial Nehru Street. Walking along I find myself having to look down frequently, because the pavement has gaps and irregularities every few steps. I also have to look up frequently, because barrows, chairs and motorbikes block the way every few steps.
While bobbing our heads up and down to avoid injury we notice rose petals scattered around. I photograph one lonely petal while Irma photographs a swirling pattern of petals.
In a few seconds Irma will notice a branch of the Indian Coffee House, run by the Indian Coffee Workers Co-operative Society. We will race in for a delicious lunch, which I will wash down with a glass of Horlicks.
We will turn right along Mission Street and stop at the cathedral which we will find half-filled with middle-class Indians lying asleep along the pews. Holy siestas!
Later we will cross Mission Street and walk down to the next horizontal street: Rue H M Kasim. We will pass The Mother’s gas station, where she left a message in 1964. I imagine it saying “5 litres of premium, and check the oil please”.
We will eat in the hotel and discover to our surprise that we face another special weekend menu. It will start with egg bhaji which, as Irma points out, seems exactly like an Indian version of the scotch eggs Auo liked so much.