Babar The Lifeguard: Pondicherry

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“Babar’s been playing the lifeguard, honey,” Sandeep called out to me as I walked towards them. He sounded worried.

“He’s been running towards the sea every time someone would dip their heads under the water. He thinks they are drowning and he keeps trying to rescue them.”

Babar greeted me cheerfully with his wagging tail as I came near him. He was completely drenched.

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“He did the same thing with me when we were in Goa. Whenever I go underwater, Babar would swim towards me to rescue me. I am anxious these strong waves would carry him to the middle of the sea, and he might not be able to swim back to shore.” Sandeep added.

I looked at the waves. It did look extra violent that evening.

“Let’s walk further away from these people,” Sandeep suggested. I saw a group of five people half-submerged in the water, holding hands to brace themselves from the onslaught of the thundering waves. It seemed to thrill them each time the waves assaulted them. A little girl kept shrieking whenever the waves hit them. In turn, we kept urging  Babar to move on when we see him turning his head towards them every time she screams.

It was then our second evening in Pondicherry, well in Tamil Nadu technically, since the pet-friendly resort where we were staying at was located almost outside the border of Pondicherry.

We were staying in an eco-resort and spa of sorts. That was our second time there. We chose to stay in this place again because they allow dogs in their property and they have a nice enough private beach. It is located about 20 km away from the main town of Pondicherry though.

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The sprawling property is vast; we have to take a short ride in their resort cab to reach our cottage. The cottages are expensive during peak season at 7500 rupees per night for nature cooled bamboo hut but drops to 5000 rupees on the lean season. The air-conditioned private bungalows could be as costly as 15000 rupees to 30000 rupees per night. If you feel like splurging, you can book the most expensive ones with private swimming pools. The most popular accommodation is the tower suite which offers gorgeous panoramic views of the sea. Breakfast buffet is included in the room rates. ( Be sure to read reviews from travel websites like Tripadvisors or Booking.com before booking your rooms to have realistic expectations of your accommodation and browse travelers photos instead of the professional ones taken by the resorts themselves.)

 

 

The resort ambiance is quaint in its rural village appeal. It has glimpses of some artistic concept, but overall, the grounds lack proper maintenance. The landscaping looks too wild, unkempt, semi-desert, semi-tropical beach-inspired. Towering coconut trees lining the pathways and giant cactuses serving as fences in between bamboo bungalows. While roaming around, I felt like a castaway in an abandoned resort where wilderness crept in and swallowed it.

 

 

 

 

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It is the nearest beach from Bangalore and the only resort allowing dogs we did not have many choices if we want to go on a quick drive to a coastal town. And the city of Pondicherry is always lovely to visit especially the French town area, though parking is often a problem. We spent our Christmas holiday there thinking that, Pondicherry is a former French colony,  the Christians in Pondicherry would be celebrating the Christmas festival more earnestly that they would in Bangalore. I saw a couple of churches with some Christmas lanterns on them, but there was none of the Christmas cheer I was expecting. The resort itself did not have any Christmas decorations. There was a magician who performed in the resort restaurant on Christmas eve, but that was it.

 

 

 

 

Ten kilometers away from the resort, we discovered a nice pizzeria serving delicious woodfired pizzas at a reasonable price. They allowed Babar to sit with us on their outdoor table, so that was a plus. 

 

 

One good thing about Babar in this kind of trips, he’ll be so exhausted playing outdoors and would snooze away while we have our meal. We never have to worry about him bothering anybody. Before coming in with Babar in any restaurant, I would always ask the owner’s permission. Babar usually slept so quietly that the manager or owner would often ask me where is the dog that came with us. They would laugh upon seeing him sleeping so sedately under the table.

The restaurant in the resort prohibited us from taking Babar there while we eat. Sandeep and I have to eat separately, one at a time. One has to stay with Babar in the cottage while the other eats at the restaurant. It’s not an unusual practice for us whenever we visit in places offering breakfast buffet meals. In our six years of travelling with Babar, we have developed an efficient routine in reducing the chances of Babar being a nuisance to other holidayers.

 

 

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In the balcony of the cottage we rented for this Christmas weekend, a fraction of the sea was visible framed by overgrown hibiscus and bougainvillaea shrubs. From a distance, the whiteness of the surf merges with the sky. If not for the movement of the waves, you would not be able to tell where the sky and sea meet.

 

 

It made me sad to see a bit of debris on the beach. It would be nice if they can keep the place litter-free. Although the sea itself does the job of cleaning the shores each push, the waves as it come and go keep the coast clean. The rubbish retreats to where the water could not reach it. It was a pity since it is a lovely beach.

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On our last day on the beach Babar, the self-appointed lifeguard of Kalapet beach, suddenly needed some rescuing himself but not from the tumultous waves. Aside from playing in the water, Babar’s enjoyment comes from meeting other dogs. The resort has a couple of resident dogs, and Babar has wanted to meet them. Sandeep, thinking the dogs were friendly, let Babar approached them. One of the dogs started growling, menacingly, as he came nearer then lunged towards Babar’s leg all of a sudden. Sandeep bolted to where they were to rescue Babar from getting bitten. Babar let out a pained whine. He felt hurt that his friendly gesture was reciprocated with violence. We examined his body thoroughly. Thankfully we did not find any bite wounds, only wounded pride.

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I was glad the unfortunate incident did not dampen Babar’s happiness.  He forgot about the mean dog as soon as he started playing in the water again, flirting with the waves as it advanced and retreated.

 

 

 

Apple And Abigail: Sunset At The Beach

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Mandy was already drunk when Abigail and Apple joined her and Sheila on the beach. Mandy was flirting hideously with two male foreigners. The taller one had his arms around Mandy tightly. Sheila appeared uninterested and a little annoyed.

“The day is just starting for us but you are already wasted.” Abigail remarked acidly.

“ This is the life! Wohooo!” Mandy shouted and laughed. The guy who was holding her lifted her up and then ran towards the water. He dumped Mandy on the shallow part of the sea and laughed at her. Mandy struggled, startled.

“ Hey! You assholes!” She shouted angrily.

The other man, younger and more brazen leaned close to Abigail. “ So…”

Abigail gave him a withering look. “ Not interested. Please go away.”

He was taken aback. “ Bitches ! C’mon man let’s go.” He snarled. He stood up and both men walked away.

Abigail gave them a cold stare but did not reply.

“ Mandy attracts the worse of them.” Abigail said looking at Mandy contemptuously. Mandy was still in the water struggling with the top of her bikini. It got untied.

Sheila stood up and walked towards Mandy. She helped tie Mandy’s bikini top.

“ I told you not to encourage those guys. They were over staying opportunistic foreigners looking for an easy lay. You acted like a prostitute.” Sheila scolded Mandy.

“ Shut up! I was bored. Don’t be a kill joy like your friend Abigail.”

“ Abigail is paying for your vacation, idiot. You begged me to let you come and you promised to
behave if I take you along. Now I regret it.” Sheila snapped.

Apple could hear them very audibly. Abigail didn’t seem to hear them at all.

Sheila sat down beside Abigail. “ Sorry about that, Abigail. This stupid idiot is a slut.”

“ I don’t deny it. I am dying to get laid. “ Mandy said and laughed. She told them about how long she had been without a boyfriend. She started telling them about lewd, but very funny experiences she had with men that after sometime they were all laughing, grudges forgotten.

“ I was like, f–k he’s been bragging how amazing he is in bed and that he bedded dozens of women but he doesn’t even know where to put it in. He kept saying, “Where is it? Where is it?” “What, you need a f–king map down there? I said. I just started laughing and laughing. I end up not having sex with him. He was a f–king virgin. I felt short changed.” Mandy said acting the scene with exaggeration.

“ That’s terrible.” Abigail was laughing the hardest. They ordered their fourth round of margaritas and now they were all drunk.

Apple blushed the whole time Mandy was speaking. She has not been with a man yet. It’s not that she was a prude but she wanted her first experience with a man who is worth it. She was not in a rush.

The sun was setting so the waiter lit up a candle on their table. The bamboo torches along the shores were also lit. Reflected in the water’s surface were golden sparkles of the light coming from the torches. There was a pleasant rustling of coconut tree leaves as the breeze pass through it, fanning the drunken ladies below.

“I think it’s sweet. “ Sheila said, dreamily. “You were almost his first.”

“Not for me.” Abigail said haughtily.” I want my man powerful, confident and experienced. We’re too young to be cougars.”

They all laughed.

Soon the sun had set and all the four girls were heavily drunk even Apple who has a low tolerance for alcohol. They laughed and giggled at the silliest things. When they got bored sitting at the beach they decided to go to a bar. They walked to a famous drinking bar where young single professionals hang out. As soon as they entered a lot of young men, locals and foreigners, turned their heads to look at Abigail. Apple saw Abigail smiling at one of them. A group of young men obviously from the city asked them to join their table. They consented as the place was packed and they could not find any vacant space. Soon Mandy was already sitting on the lap of one the guys.

Abigail was engaged in an animated conversation with a guy she was smiling at earlier. Sheila had left their table when she saw an acquaintance from another table. Apple was left with the quietest guy in the group. They both smiled awkwardly at each other. A band was playing in the bar and soon all of them hit the dance floor.. They dance crazily for hours. Hooting and shouting like maniacs at every song the band played.

Around three in the morning Apple realized they didn’t have anything to eat for dinner. Her head started to ache badly. She said goodbye to the guy she was dancing with and went looking for Abigail. She wanted to ask her if they could go. But she saw Abigail kissing the guy she had been dancing all night with. She could not find neither Sheila nor Mandy. She decided to return to their hotel by herself. She slumped into her bed without changing her clothes and slept soundly.

It was already mid noon when Abigail returned to their room. She was positively glowing despite the obvious lack of sleep. Apple groaned. Abigail was in love again.

“He‘s very nice. His parents are friends with my dad.” Abigail said. Abigail recounted their whole conversations of the night. She was besotted. After a while Abigail fell asleep.

Apple opened her laptop and checked her YM, Suraj had left a few offline messages.

005Nightcafe83: Hey party girl, what’s up

005Nightcafe83: You seem to enjoying your vacation you have forgotten about me

005Nightcafe83: Buzz me as soon as you get online. Have fun.

Apple checked her mobile phone and saw several miss calls from Suraj.

Apple smiled. Her heart skipped a bit but decided not to answer Suraj’s messages.

Apple closed her computer and took a shower.

When Apple went outside the bathroom after taking a bath Abigail was already awake and typing on her laptop.

“ Oh, you are done. I ‘ll take a bath too.”

Apple glanced at Abigail’s computer and was surprised to find Suraj’s webcam video opened on her computer screen .

Abigail was chatting with Suraj! Apple frowned, a little alarmed. She liked Suraj a lot and didn’t really feel like sharing him with Abigail.

“ I didn’t know you started chatting with Suraj. Apple said when Abigail came out of the shower.
“ Oh, he added me and one time I went online he was there so we started chatting.” Abigail looked at her.
“ You don’t mind, do you?”

“ No, not really.” She lied.

Don’t worry I’m not into him, he’s just fun to talk too. He has a lot of intelligent things to say. Besides I really like Randy. I think he’s just awesome. He invited us to a party tonight with his friends.”

Sheila and Mandy came into the room.

“So Mandy, your problem been taken care of?” Abigail teased.

Mandy giggled delightfully. “Very much! Woohoo! Oh so much. My legs are still shaking. Woohoo! ”

“ And Shiela did you hook up with anybody? You vanished as soon as went inside the bar.” Abigail slipped into a yellow slip dress.

Shiela shrugged. “Nobody interesting.”

” I couldn’t find the two of you yesterday. ” Apple raised her eyebrows teasingly.

“Oh we went to this guy’s cottage and hit some bong.”

“Yeah Woohoo tripping!”

“Yeah it was fun but now I am famished. We haven’t had anything to eat since last night. I can eat a whole octopus.”

“Let’s surprise Randy. And invite him for lunch.” Abigail said.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea Abigail. They might still be sleeping.” Apple said suddenly. Alarmed that Abigail was falling into her old pattern.

But Abigail was unstoppable. “I really want you to meet him guys. I miss him already! C’mon.”

Abigail dragged them towards station 2. It was atleast about fifteen minutes walk from their hotel.

“You didn’t tell us we have to walk this far!” Mandy complained.

” Abigail couldn’t we have something to eat first. I’m dying of hunger.” Shiela groaned.

They stopped in front of a Mediterranean looking hotel.

“ There he is. Hey Randy!” Abigail walked up to a group of young men coming out of the hotel.

“We’re going for lunch. Wanna come.” Abigail took Randy’s hand.

“Actually we’re planning to ride a jet ski.” Randy hesitated.

“Oh.” Abigail looked disappointed. Randy kissed her forehead.

“But I’ll join you for lunch. Guys I’ll catch up with you later.”

His friends hooted and walk towards the beach.

Apple stopped herself from rolling her eyes. She found it awkward to watch Abigail act that way.

Whenever she was in love she became like a little girl. Giggly and happy.

“Oh these are my friends. Shiela, Mandy and Apple.”

Shiela smiled at Randy, obviously impressed.

“ Hi ” Mandy said coquettishly.

Apple waved hi. She felt relieved. Suraj was safe from Abigail’s clutches for now.

Abigail and Randy walked in front of them hand and hand.

It took them a while to decide where to eat. A smorgasbord of succulent seafoods were on display in front of most the restaurants along the beach. Apple liked seafoods a lot especially crabs. It made her mouth water looking at those delicacies. There were grilled giant squid, boiled crabs, grilled fish of all variety and prawns cooked in coconut milk. There were also side dishes of green mango and shrimp paste fried eggplant and chopped tomatoes mixed with salty eggs.

After finally choosing an outdoor restaurant they all had a generous serving of grilled squids, steamed crabs, steamed rice and a side dish of green mango salad with shrimp paste. They washed down the delicious meal with beer. Before long they were all drunk again. Randy was sitting in between Abigail and Sheila. Sheila kept hitting Randy on the thigh every time she laughed with what Randy was saying. Abigail did not appear to notice. Mandy was talking on her mobile phone and giggling uncontrollably. Apple tried to join the trio but found their conversation a little shallow and dull. She just observed the people passing by instead. Mostly they were Asian foreigners, probably Koreans or Japanese.

The party that they went to later that evening was held in a private house owned by Randy’s friends. Mandy did not come with them but instead went out on a date with a guy she met the night before. It was a loud party and the air was thick with smoke. A mixture of cigarette and hashish. Apple felt lost and out of place every time Abigail dragged her in this kind of parties. She feels like being inside a surrealistic dream where she was the only one awake. She had always preferred gatherings where guest can somehow talk to each other. Not sprawled out in sofas, passed out or making out.

Apple saw groups of youngsters hanging out slumped on carpets or bean bags all over the house with dazed expressions on their faces, passing joints to each other or taking hit from a bong made of soft drink bottle or a long wooden pipe. Apple didn’t know where to go or who to talk to. She pretended to browse the collection of CDs on a shelf while sipping a glass of wine. Once in a while she would attempt to start a conversation with anyone who would be looking in her direction but it was in vain. Most of then are either too high or too drunk to make any sense. She gave up eventually and sat on a dimly lit corner by herself.

It was getting very late in the night when Abigail burst out from one of the rooms crying. She took Apple’s hand and dragged her running away from there.

“ What happened?” Apple asked bewildered.

“That bitch Sheila! I can’t believe it!” Abigail wailed.” She went after Randy. “That ungrateful bitch! I saw them doing it in there.”

“I thought you were with Randy the whole time.”

” I was. Sheila was hanging around us like an idiot. She wouldn’t leave us alone. I was alarmed at first but didn’t think much about it but then Randy introduced me to a group of friends. And we started snorting coke, I got so high, I didn’t even notice they were not there anymore. I was going to pee and I went into the room and there they were cavorting like rabbits.”

“You are doing coke?”

“Don’t look at me like that. I don’t need that now. But for your peace of mind, it was my first time. I did it because Randy asked me too. That bastard! Oh why, why do I always attract losers!”

Apple helped Abigail out of her clothes and into a hot shower. After she tucked Abigail into bed she peeked at Sheila and Mandy’s room.

Sheila was there angrily putting her clothes in her suitcase. She saw Apple and started ranting against Abigail.

” She’s so self righteous as if she had not stolen one of my boyfriends before. Why should she always have to get the best guys?”

“Where are you going?”

“Randy invited me to stay with him. He liked me better. He said Abigail is too clingy. Tell her I’m paying for my room, so don’t worry about it. Mandy will stay with Leo. We might stay here longer.

Then Sheila looked at her coldly and said, ” I’m sure you’re happy now that you have Abigail all to yourself. Ever since she met you, she started hanging out with me less anyway. ”

Apple was taken aback. She had no idea that Sheila was jealous of her.

The next day Abigail and Apple flew back to the city. Abigail was doubly depressed. She had not even recovered from her break up with an ex boyfriend yet, the primary reason why they took the vacation and losing one best friend over a one night stand was more devastating.

“ I guess she was always been envious of me since college. I was always more popular than her. But what can I do? I can be insensitive at times, I know. But I will not knowingly betray a friend.” Abigail lamented.

Apple frowned thinking about Suraj. She know that was a lie. She wondered what kind of friendship the four them had fallen into. Sighing, she wondered why relationships with girls her age are so complicated.

©JMKhapra

*image from google