A GIANT antique key presides over the open verandah of the mansion owned by the couple Rathinam and Rajaveni, in the locality of Douceur, in Auroville, Pondicherry. Over a foot in length, and placed in a wooden frame on a far wall, the key is a harbinger of good fortune, they will tell you, in conversations over a pot of tea. The couple have many stories to share, and their tea is delightful.
Rathinam and Rajaveni are among a handful of old-timer Aurovillians who run bed & breakfast homestays, and offer you endless cups of tea. Yoga tourism gives them the majority of their visitors. You’d feel fortunate to be around the most limber travellers you’ve met, some of them from as far as Casablanca, Morocco.
The neighbourhood of Douceur, tucked away between fruit orchards and farmlands behind the Auroville Bakery, is as laidback as it gets. You can expect to be woken every morning by the calls of roosters, if not by the early riser yoga enthusiasts, while the food is assuringly prepared from local and homegrown produce. Douceur is located fairly close to Auroville’s Matri Mandir, if you’re looking to make it to the meditation sessions on time. The beach isn’t too far either; settle in with a chilled drink at one of the cafes on the Serenity or Bodhi Beach and look over youngsters paddling about on surf boards, at ongoing surfing workshops held by the popular Kalialay Surf School. Getting to the Dune Beach can be trickier, through winding trails and country roads, though, the hike is well worth it, if you’re looking for a spot of quiet by the pristine sands.
Off the self
For the artistically inclined, homestays like Wunderhaus, run by Kedar Maddula, offer a bunch of pastime alternatives, including cooking, gardening, sketching and painting (ask for canvases, paints and other supplies in advance). Maddula, in fact, promotes his home as an “artists getaway”, inviting noted designers and art practitioners to collaborate with artisans and craftspeople from his neck of the woods. Wunderhaus includes an in-house studio, where Maddula offers a selection of clothes from his own designer line; he frequently hosts pop-up studios too, offering custom clothing and styling services by request. Maddula is one among a younger lot taking to the business of homestays in Auroville. Only a few private players operate in these parts as yet, he says, as most of the guest houses are officially associated with the Auroville Visitors Centre. Maddula is positively inclined towards pro-organic methods; at Wunderhaus, the rooms are hooked up to solar power, while he encourages visitors to segregate their own garbage before disposal. He also brings in fruits and veggies from his kitchen
garden for meals.
keys and make up
The self-sustained aspect fits in well with travellers seeking a spiritual experience at the Auroville township. The bamboo cottages on stilts at the Reve Guest House nearby are a particular favourite, frequented by foreign nationals, also for its reputation of being a rather safe getaway.
By most sundowns, the groups of travellers gather around the community area for tea and biscuits. The discussions often turn to spirituality, while the youngsters readily take to musical jams, urging others to join in. The keepers of the guest house urge visitors to disperse by midnight, although, it’s quite safe to venture out on a late walk by the moonlight on the property’s grounds. A bunch of mongrels timidly trot along, keeping you company, and there’s hardly a reason for fear of being waylaid or accosted by delinquents. In fact, it’s quite common to find the guests leave their cottages unlocked. At Reve, many of the guests simply don’t bother with keys.
For Auroville guest houses contact the Visitors Centre, 9.30 am to 12.30 pm & 2 pm to 5 pm, 0413-2622704; Rathinam and Rajaveni 0413 2622322 or email email@example.com; Wunderhaus 097518 69781 or email firstname.lastname@example.org;
Reve Guest House 0413 262 2760
— Jaideep Sen