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A certain genre of familial western novels and also personal essays include a chapter where the protagonist, as a child or an adult, in his present or fondly recollecting memories from his past, often mentions a personal holiday spot where the family goes to every winter maybe or a place the hero of the novel escapes to over weekends. It’s nice to have an ‘escape’ spot for that means you have found a place which will unmistakably offer you something like peace, a place where you are likely to be more comfortable if not happy.
Pondicherry, a long bus night away from where I live, didn’t instantly seem like it will turn into my escape spot. Going back, five visits back in time, I think I didn’t quite understand the place very well on my first visit. I could there was beauty all around but wrong company can render even Heaven as an inexorable Hell. I had the courage to go back to this place one more time but that was no less a mistake in terms of company. Over the years, I went back to the place over and over again, made more and more mistakes. Each time I decided to go to what will soon become my escape spot, I thought hard on whether I wanted to go there – the answer was never no but the fear of contaminating my escape with a mistake after mistake was massive. Yet, I went.
Today, I am glad that I listened to my heart each time I went to Pondicherry for the place has seen me grow through the years, maturing into my true escape spot. I knew this is a place I’d escape to when I was there a few weeks ago and felt happy to be home. I no longer needed to take pictures, I knew the streets well, needed no direction, no map. I knew my way around the coffee shops, treated friends at a new restaurant in town – as a local would. Easy conclusions such as ‘this is my escape spot’ come clearly in tiny moments of great clarity. The moment this came to me was on one of the mornings of that weekend when I stood over a window looking at the street and recognized a person walking on the street – Gopi lent me his scooters each time I was in Pondicherry. Gopi with his shop on Nehru street which is partly run by his overbearing mother. Later that evening, Lakshmi at the temple didn’t excite me, I knew she’d be there, the mood at Le Café – my most favourite 24 hour coffee shop till date had a familiar feel to it, nothing new, nothing surprising, in plain words – I just knew Pondicherry and I knew myself there.
For a change, I didn’t feel lonely or wronged in Pondicherry this time but rather, had one of the best holidays which seemed like a beginning of a new life tradition – a happy trip to the seaside French town of Pondicherry for some sea, nice breakfast and friends. I think I’ve found a new second home – what the primary will be, is still a question.