Aravind – Pondicherry Trip

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 @ 3:19 pm | Uncategorized

Pondy OTMore hiking and a weekend away… Two weekends ago Sushil, Ashwini, and I went for a hike on our Sunday off. Traveling about 20 km from Madurai yet another temple that is over 2000 years old. Alagarkoil is a temple to Vishnu that is located on a forested hillside. It seems the supply of ancient temples and hillsides is endless, and as usual, monkeys provided additional entertainment while we hiked.

 

A break from the noise and chaos of Madurai was in order, and as this Monday was Diwali, I thought it would be perfect timing to make a trip to a Tamil Nadu city with heritage from its French colonial days. Puducherry (a.k.a. Pondicherry). I took the overnight was an eight hour trip from Madurai to Pondicherry, made slightly less painful with the company of two English girls (Zoe and Amy) on the same trip. Little did I know, the idea of a sleeper coach is slightly deceptive. The road was bumpy and there were several times the driver laid on the horn and swerved suddenly. The Indians must be used to it, but none of the westerners sat at the back of the bus got any sleep!

 

Arriving in Pondicherry early Saturday morning, I briefly refreshed and went to the Aravind Hospital branch there. This is the newest addition to the Aravind system, built in 2003. There are 600 beds, the hospital is located on 20 acres of land and is 200,000 square feet of space. Renjith, the Manager of Outpatient Services, took me on a tour of the hospital. It is clear that much emphasis is placed on high-output and efficiency, a good reason why Aravind is a case study for the Harvard Business School. We went from step one, when the patient enters the hospital, through all the necessary screening, and on to the operating theaters of the largest specialty hospital in Asia.

 

I also got to meet with Dr. Venkatesh, who had kindly invited me to visit Aravind Pondy. We talked about what there is to see and do in Pondicherry and he asked if I would like one of the residents I met in the operating theater to show me around that evening. Of course I was happy to meet up with Sunny, who showed me around Pondicherry that evening and took me for dinner at a local French restaurant, Rendezvous. It was surely the best food that I’ve had in months. As a resident, he also had some interesting insights into the differences between American and Indian systems of training as well as a brilliant quote: “There are bumps in the road and bumps in life; here in India we are used to them, dealing with bumps comes naturally to us.”

 

The next day I got up early to meet the Britts for breakfast and a little tour of Pondicherry and a couple museums. There is not a lot to see in the main Pondicherry museum, but it is interesting to learn about all of the various cultural influences (i.e. Greek, Roman, French, etc.) that have touched this coastal city over the years. We also found out that most of Auroville would be open that day, but not during the Diwali celebration on Monday.

 

So I headed over to the “Universal City”, Auroville. It is an interesting enclave that is dedicated to unity and peace. The most interesting thing I found there was the Matrimander, a sphere with gold disks covering it, which is reminiscent of the Epcot center in Florida. You need to make an appointment to go inside, which Renjith from Aravind helped me out with, and it was definitely worth it. There is a spiral staircase around the lower half leading to the upper chamber. That room is for meditation, and is lighted with a beam of light focused on a huge crystal ball in the middle of the room. Interesting…

 

I spent my last day in Pondicherry exploring the town. The beach on the Bay of Bengal was beautiful, but you can’t swim on the main beach because of the rocks. However, the Auroville beach is nice and saw plenty of people enjoying the water there.. I also went over to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Gandhi Statue on the beach, and the School for Perfect Eyesight. Besides the constant bombardment of fire crackers for Diwali, many of which are more like bombs than the blackcats that I remember back home, it was a nice, relaxing weekend.

 

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