Evenings to laze away 

Our evenings in Pondi were lazy, quite different from the zestful morning plunges. Just before the sun dipped in for the night, there was an awakening of rooftop cafes. One particularly caught my attention; it had a thatched roof with collection of rustic potted plants and a display of luring cocktails. We climbed our way up to the shack, and while we sipped on our drinks, the bird angle view was a lot more delectable than the Pina Colada. The balcony staged a show of flickering passerby’s, from the fiery young teenagers blazing in scooters, nuns jauntily greeting others, and a few foreigners pedaling away with their children propped on the wicker cycle carriages. But my personal favorite was the young ladies riding cycles in their sarees. Sarees folded in such a way Bharatanatyam* dancers did during their practice sessions. It’s usually an uncommon sight, in Kochi, I always find a woman gingerly sitting sideways with her legs glued to each other. But here they were jovially taking sharp turns, enjoying the evening breeze on their face and when they rode into an unknown lane, my eyes finally lost focus of the bright orange garlands weaved into their hair.

Deeper into the night, the coastal breezes set in as much as the cocktails. Not too far away from the Rocky Beach, I spotted a teal colored home. A sari was hung from the balcony rails on the second floor and it covered their door. The house looked a lot different in the morning, idyllically framed with its yellowish green leaves and a rustic maroon bicycle. I still could not shake off the thought of the women riding in their saris. I saw it as a sign and smiled, Riya and I packed saris in our suitcases. Meanwhile, this thought was gathered as a reaction to drinks, partially.

I cannot say how much I enjoyed this project with Riya, the closest one in my life who can dissect my brain and keep up with every whim of mine fired by dopamine. This project was a gift to her for her graduation and birthday. We bonded over a sitcom where two closest friends, raided some clothes and went about a city and got themselves photographed. Our love for clothes, magazines and travel is severely similar, thus this was the one trip that stood out from our family trips. Pondicherry was truly an experience to shush all those fashion rules and we could not be any happier to have a weird wardrobe. Aghil Menon is one my closest photographer friends who joined in for this journey and can brave anything but understands my creative temper so deeply. His forte lies in how he visualizes photographs. Finally my dad, who made this trip happen.

The next morning, was a sight for many and us. White town witnessed a pair of waddling sari-draped penguins.  People who sat on the pavement, cheerily looked at us, a few shared thumbs up, we could have been such posers. Our favorite was a man who tipped his straw hat and said, “Gooooood morning.” Riya was in her regular messy bun, and she mentioned she just needed a fish basket to complete her look, whilst I put my hair up in side braids very much inspired by the market trips. Tying up our crop tops, wearing our neglected jewelry pieces, we felt free spirited and made our way to café Artika- café des artists.

We could already visualize our photographs, ten years from now, we would remember how we set off to Pondi one summer. Sometime again I suppose, I would be sauntering in eye-clashing clothes in another city, but my first one would always be Pondicherry.

Past the wrought iron gate, we moved through a narrow aisle shadowed by lush fronds. It eventually opened into a cozy space of white walls and gray marbled walls. The café had a classic Parisian café ambience with a little touch of Indian mural art. There was a chechi swiftly cleaning the pile of bougainvillea that took flight quite messily. I won’t forget the smile she had when she saw us, I still could not figure what was twinkling in her eye. While I was being photographed, there was always a curious glance and smile that peeked in. Chechi was shy to say it, but when I looked back at the photo, I knew what it was, there was a joy that someone also wore a saree beyond a necessity. By brunch time, a few more people streamed into the café,  and you could hear velvety French murmurs. Under the bougainvillea shrub, in our sarees we were eating crepes and red rice salad, and from a corner, Chechi smiled. It was not a very ordinary view I assumed. That’s what it felt like, being on the other side, a passerby who struck someone’s attention.

Pondi wound up quite slowly. Many would say that Pondicherry is a sleepy city.  At the beach, we watched glowing balls flung in the air and a long line for evening gelatos. It was lively in one's way of seeing it.  In utter honesty, this city was kind to us. We thought of all the helpful people in the market who stopped their rickshaws for us, while we were being photographed. The lit up faces when they saw colorful us strolling along. Home wasn't like that. Perhaps home has far too many rules, and there’s a joy being whimsical , but in Pondi what felt whimsical was just relaxing. Like I said, the city embraces peace. Riya and I boarded on the bus that night, very exhausted but with a newly formed memory of celebrating our clothes. We could already visualize our photographs, ten years from now, we would remember how we set off to Pondi one summer. Sometime again I suppose, I would be sauntering in eye-clashing clothes in another city, but my first one would always be Pondicherry.

Next time perhaps...

Here's the lingo guide: 
Dugbe* - A market situated in Ibadan, Nigeria 
Gele* - A type of head scarf commonly worn in many parts of Southern and Western Africa 
Malayalam* - The native language spoken in Kerala, India 
Rickshaw* - A wheel operating vehicle in India 
Chappal*- Colloquial term for sandals 
Bharatanatyam*- A major genre of classical dance that originated in Tamil Nadu, Kerala 
Chechi*- Colloquial term for sister in Malayalam 
Ammachi*-  Colloquial term for grandmother in Malayalam 
Mutta* - Colloquial term for egg in Malayalam






Run parallel, meet at intersections, skip a few lines, the line of thought has journeyed across a few latitudes and longitudes. To more miles before the big sleep. Cheers, Atheena



While he is searching for the right frame, he believes, that art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Perhaps he is lost in Pondicherry or found in Cochin.


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