I reached Chennai after thirty five hours of train journey form central eastern part of India passing across all the eastern coastal regions of Indian peninsula. It was pre-dawn around 0130hrs. Though it was midnight I got a bus to Pondicherry. I felt lucky. It took around 4hrs to reach and I rushed to Maison Raja in an auto which overcharged me. I was new to the city and the language was completely different. When I reached to my accommodation I was sleepy but eager to meet the batch mates but I could not find anyone there. Later in the noon I woke up with the sound of a group chitchatting and I rushed to the balcony. Almost all of the batch mates have arrived in which two were Indians and the rest were Scandinavian. Everyone was jetlagged but warmly greeted each other without any lagging.
People there had empty pocket so we went for an ATM where Gitanjoli, an Indian student helped them to get the Indian currency. There was a batch mate from Norway who got old banned note of Rs. 500 from an ATM at airport which she later realized after meeting us. After that we went for lunch. It was a big group, raiding a restaurant. For many of the people it was the first encounter with the Indian menu. The Indian mates helped in ordering food for Scandinavians. We played games to introduce ourselves while waiting for the order. We had mutton biryani, paneer tikka masala, paneer butter masala, roti, naan, juice. After the lunch we raided to buy SIM card for the foreign friends. The gathering there was a chance to involve more with each other. It was difficult for everyone to remember each other’s name but personally for me it was extremely difficult as I am bad with names and even the names were very new to me to pronounce.
On 3rd of September our study started with a Puja Ceremony. Our lecturer Dr. Sudha Ramachnderan beautifully explained the beliefs of auspicious ceremony. It was an interesting experience for even many atheists (as it is common for Scandinavians to be an atheist) including me. The first week was introduction to south Asia.
The first week was a happening week. Everyone was new in the city looking for the place of interest. We were settling down as well as exploring the space around. We went to beaches. A day we went to Quiet beach and on another day we went to Paradise beach. I don’t know swimming so I was scared to go in waves higher than my knees but the Scandinavians were very good at swimming so they went deep. Seeing me alone they helped me to come along with them. Their warmth and expertize helped me to overcome my fear and I went in deep and my trust deepened in them.
A day we had a Saari show (a traditional Indian dress worn by females) by Sita cultural center. Though I am a born Indian but got to know so may new types of saari worn in different styles. Some prints have some special meaning related to the phases of female’s life. We had a demo of wearing of sari and the Scandinavians were very enthusiastic.
We got our welcome dinner where we had our first group photo. Later we went to beach at night and the boulevard of sea-side Street was spectacular. On a Friday we went for lunch at an Indian restaurant where we had Indian Thali (a cuisine with a lot of variety of dishes). It was interesting to tell about the dishes to the foreign mates.
On one weekend evening some of us went for a concert ‘Naghma-E-Hindustan’ and some went for a Malayalam film screening. I was in the concert and it had Malayalam, Hindi, Kannada, Sindhi, Sufi, Punjabi and Bangla songs with the same band. It was a beautiful cultural evening for us. Definitely the Scandinavians didn’t understood the lyrics and even I couldn’t understand some lyrics but music is beyond the language which I experienced while I saw the Scandinavians enjoying the Mehfil (Concert).