I am back from India and find myself thinking it must have all been a
dream but this blog is helping me relive my trip. .....I arrived in
Chennai on December 4th at 3am and took a lovely old white Ambassador
taxi to Mamamallapuram, only I almost did not get there as we ran out of
petrol. Fortunately the driver flagged down a motorbike and a guy
brought us a plastic bottle full of petrol, enough to get us to our
hotel. The zone turned out to be marvellous. Temples galore from the 7th
Century and all in walking distance from the hotel. One of the most
incredible sights is this huge stone which has eroded over the centuries
leaving a ball shaped rock. The other great thing about Mamallapuram is
the sandy beach where fishermen leave their boats and mend their nets
and where all the children love to play. I mangaged to capture them in
One day we took another taxi to KANCHIPURAM where I met an English girl Emma working for the NGO Ride. An Indian couple have been helping get children to go to school and stop sitting under looms where they would change the threads. I did buy some exquisite 'raw' silk as they call it in India or Shantung. Actually the silk industry is in decline and there is more effort now to stop children working in quarries. Kanchipuram is not only famous for silk but also for some more incredible temples. They are all far from each other so one needs a driver.
Another hours drive and one is in Pondicherry, the ex French colony. The street signs are still in French and Tamil. The sea front is made up of dangerous looking black jagged rocks so bathing is out of the question. The old town has a lovely feel near the sea where there are tree lined streets of old colonial houses with boutiques dotted here and there. I enjoyed hiring an old push bike, obviously left over from French days, and dressed it up with a garland of jasmine to distinguish it from all the other bikes. It is here that I found a great tailor and textile painter to help me reproduce some of my designs.
Finally I spent a week in Auroville, a land for all humanity, inaugurated in 1968 with 138 countries attending. Each one put a handful of their earth in a lotus bud shaped urn. Today there are about 33 nationalities sharing the land which covers an area of about 21sq km. Many foreigners I talked to seemed happy to live there despite the fact that they cannot own any land or property on it. The area is very green, what was once a dust bowl has been transformed into a forest since over a milion trees were planted. I saw small industries flourishing here and there in the forest. There are over 2000 people on Auroville but there is a capacity to accomodate 55,000, so they say...anyway the place has attracted about 900 Indian residents so far and seems very popular with Indians who want short breaks. I stayed in a lovely guesthouse, beautifully designed and very eco friendly with solar heated showers.
Perhaps one of the highlights which happened at the end of my trip in Auroville, was to see inside the Matrimandir, or the golden golf ball as I irreverently called it. Around it there are12 stone like petals which are actually meditation chambers (see the last sketch on this blog.) This amazing place to meditate took over 40 years to build. Walking down a steep ramp before ascending some steps I felt like I was entering a space ship. I treaded gently on the soft white carpet, slowly I ascended to the meditation chamber with a crystal ball in the middle with a shaft of light coming down on it. I sat in silence for 10 minutes, (all coughing and sneezing is not allowed)...and prayed that 2012 will be a wonderful year! HAPPY NEW YEAR!