Babar with my niece Nicole enjoying music together
Watercolour and Ink on cold press paper
Babar with my niece Nicole enjoying music together
Watercolour and Ink on cold press paper
first wash of watercolour
Indigo ink outlines
This watercolour illustration is inspired by our hike in a small village in Sangla, Himachal Pradesh.
first wash background
painting the shadows
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was watching him nervously. It was his first time to be on the boat. I could feel his excitement and anxiety as he tried to decide what to do. The boat rocked as he leaned on the edge. I was afraid he would tip the boat over as he leaned closer and closer to the water, it seemed to be calling him, urging him to come to them. His water-dog genes over powered him finally. The blasted canine did it. He jumped in the water! In under a minute Babar, our beloved Labrador, was already thirty meters away from us. I laughed nervously, so did my husband as we watched him propel his body through the water guided by some primal instinct. I felt proud too though, seeing him swam with ease like an Olympic swimmer. He looked so graceful, so beautiful.
Because it was Babar’s first time to swim when he retuned to his senses he got overwhelmed. He swam back apprehensively towards the boat. Sandeep helped him climb the boat. He happily shook his thoroughly drenched body once he was safely aboard sprinkling lake water all over us.
We were then on a boat at Bhimtal Lake in Bhimtal, where we were spending our three day holiday. Bhimtal is in Uttrakhand, India and is just about 7 hours from Delhi by car. It is a nice, green and hilly place with several lakes in the vicinity. This sleepy town remains peaceful and quiet despite it being a popular tourist destination. The weather was nice and cool especially on the hillside where we were staying, just outside the main town area.
We found a very nice pet friendly accommodation by the hillside. A pretty cottage with is own huge backyard with a fence. The fence was helpful as Babar could roam around freely without troubling the other guests. The cottage that we rented was the owner’s holiday place suited for living with his own dogs.
Emerald Trail Homestay offers more rooms in the adjacent two-storey house. We were relieved to find that these two properties were separated by a fence and a gate. Babar will not able to scare the other guests who are not fond of dogs. All our meals and Babar’s as well were included in the 3,500 rupees per night room charge (as of August 2014).
After this trip, seeing how Babar loved swimming in the lake, we wondered if he’ll enjoy swimming in the sea too. So we took him to Pondycherry and Goa. Did he love it there? Well that’s another tale for another time.