Since Chennai, Victor & I have trundled down the coast of Tamil Nadu, whose seas are not to be swam in, only admired from the safety of the shore. First port of call was Mamallapuram, a touristy place in which to eat fish & dawdle awhile, which we did for a couple of nights. The highlight for me was making use of a posh hotel’s swimming pool (£3 for two hours), followed by a poolside lunch for another £3 quid. Inbetween dips I worked on my version of the Tirukural & felt solace once again in my choice of vocation, where another man’s vacation becomes my personal office!
After a couple of nights we jumped on a bus south. The distance between Chennai & Kannayakamari, India’s southernmost point, is a 1000 kilometres, which is more or less the length of Britain. Thus, by reaching the Pondicherry area we have gone about as far, in comparative terms, as Aberdeen. Our actual residence has been taken up about ten miles from Pondy, in the spacious international ashram of Auroville. I’d visited here for the first time back in 2002, upon which visit I had encountered a majestic & divine epic poem called Savitri, by the Oxford-educated ascetic Sri Aurobindo (born 1872).
It was the main work of his life, & is read out at the ashram once a week to devotees, an occasion which Victor & I were lucky enough to arrive for just in time. Auroville is also the world’s repositary of Aurobindo’s works, stored in a modern library on site, in which I have found a number of intersting paragraphs that have assisted me in my studies. It was while studying his words, I came across this remarkable description of poetry, which lovers of the art must enjoy.
‘All poetry is an inspiration, a thing breathed into the thinking organ from above; it is recorded in the mind, but is born in the higher principle of direct knowledge or ideal vision which surpasses mind. it is in reality a revelation. The prophetic or revealing power sees the substance; the inspiration perceives the right expression. Neither is manufactured; nor is poetry really a poiesis or composition, nor even a creation, but rather the revelation of something that eternally exists. the ancients knew this truth & used the same word for poet & prophet, creator & seer,sophos, vates, kavi.’
Across the several square miles of land that Auroville takes up, there are various places to stay, & we got quite a good ‘un called Reve (pronounced rave), where Vics got a great hut on stilts & Im in a cheaper hit on the roof of the kitchen. The place is full of young, mainly French, ashram-heads, & is a picture of perfect tranquility. To get about the place, a moped/scoooter is essential, & a steal at only a quid a day – with petrol being 70p a litre.
Vic’s even had a few goes on it, declaring it to be like riding a pushbike with a motor (well-observed that man). I love it me, for providing moments like this morning when I razzed down to the Boulangerie for chocolate croissants, listening & singing to Betty Boo – the chorusus especially startling anyone on the roadside. Also filling the roads are loads of cute birds on bikes, from all over the world, which is always good for a poet’s soul.
The word boulangerie is of course French, for ourse Pondicherry is the old French morsel of empire that carried on during the British Raj in much the same way the Portuguese held on to Goa. Cue bouleavards & avenues & white-washed villas that are positievly Marseilleian at the seafront, but then get swallowed by India street by street as one drifts inland, until about ten blocks in all traces of the French have dissappeared. It was in Pondy that Victor & conducted a little travel arranging – Vic bought a flight from Goa to Delhi for the 17th December, & we both got a ticket from Calicut to Goa for the 27th November, This gives us ten days – starting Sunday – to razz round Tamil Nadu & Kerala, about a thousand miles of travel, during which I’ll be still hunting for Jesus. It should be quite Indiana Jonesey, which is why I got into Litology in the first place, & I reckon there’s gonna be plenty to write about in the coming fortnight…