In Pondicherry we stayed
at a hotel run by an organisation that follows the Ashram spiritual
culture. This did not mean much to us, but it was cheap and clean. Most
people said they stayed there for spiritual reasons, whatever that
meant, and some meditated on the lawn. Apparently the organisation was
founded by a couple who preached simplicity and that individuals should
have no personal belongings but just work for the good of the
community. The founders had many large houses and expensive cars bought
from the proceeds of those that gave up everything.
the map, the coast road north looked scenic, but was very flat and
boring especially as we had a strong headwind for 70 miles before we
even saw the sea at Mamallapuram. The town of Mamallopuram was very
touristy as we expected, and had been hit by the tsunami. This had
caused some damage but most looked fairly superficial and easily
repaired. The local people seemed to have done nothing to help
themselves as all the damaged walls and scattered debris had been
untouched. A crowd of local people sat all day next to a sign appealing
for donations for repair and in the midst of piles of rubbish littering
the beaches. Nobody attempted to tidy up as the caste system prevents
Most of the time the new road follows the old road and when it goes through villages the old road has been widened to the requisite width cutting houses and buildings in half as necessary. The result looks as though a 50-yard wide bulldozer has gone through the village.
People were still living in the open halves of houses facing the new road. Worst still, villages had been completely cut in half by a two-lane motorway with a central reservation and barrier. Villagers had of course demolished parts of the barriers for access where necessary. The total result of all this modernisation was a 200 mile corridor of destruction with at present random stretches of completed dual carriageway and most still under construction with diversions over dug up stretches.
attempt had been made to go around villages, but larger towns had been
by-passed. The affected villages were, we were told, "compensated". It
was obvious that their village life was ruined by the huge intrusion,
as many had to cross the motorway to get to shops and to sell their
wares. It was chaotic with ox-carts and cyclists going the wrong way up
the fast lane, as each carriageway was treated as a separate road. Even
away from villages on completed stretches of dual carriageway it was
very common to see traffic of all sorts, including buses, using the
wrong side of the dual carriageway.
Dave and Joan Wooldridge