Postcard from Pondicherry, India

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By Jonathan Holtzman

Dear Forsythia Bush, from Margaret Brent,

How are ya, hon? I miss your long tangled branches terribly, and I’m sure you miss me too. But try not to shed too many leaves, I’m having a delightful time this semester in Pondicherry. I feel like I am well settled into a routine at this point, but life is anything but boring. Yesterday I awoke to an inter-species symphony of dogs baying at chirping birds in my hostel. On some days if I’m lucky the dogs will drop a gift outside of my door – regrettably yesterday didn’t have such an auspicious start.

It’s off to classical Indian philosophy at 11:30, the professor rolls up on her motorcycle at ten after twelve: perfect. Once more my mind was blown apart in a long, fascinating lecture on the illusory nature of our existence and of most everything that we are able to perceive.

All this talk about liberation from the bondage of empirical reality worked up quite the appetite in me, so I headed off campus to a fantastic fly-infested roadside restaurant where I’m fed masala dosa (think “crepe” but crispier and bigger, with saucy savory potatoes and vegetables inside of it; spicy coconut chutney is served on the side for me to dip it in), a fried egg with a pleasant Old Bayesque seasoning on top and homemade lemonade. Oh yah.

Since I’ve just stuffed myself, I decided that I ought to begin considering what I will be cooking for dinner – fried rice would be about right. So I hop onto a bus that is going into the city and without much fanfare I arrive at the supermarket. Cooking oil! Peppers! Onions! Garlic! Eggs! Soy Sauce! Rice! (duh!) With a whole afternoon lying before me I walk towards the park in the French quarter. A grizzled man and I cross paths and he joyously yells “Cowboy!” at me which I appreciated dearly as it reminded me of my cattle ranch back in Baltimore. I then arrive in the park; I crack open a book but the sky cracks open too and the peaceful respite from the city is promptly shattered.

I figured by this point my adventure was through: time to catch a bus back to the uni. I jump into a rolling behemoth and it’s packed with all of humanity inside already – I managed to awkwardly semi-plant my feet on top of the gearbox and found a bar to hold on to. I’ve been here long enough that I’ve come to enjoy the bus being driven like a bat out of hell, with a driver that treats the horn as a better alternative to the brake. Tragically I think the bus fumes have caused a neural erosion of sorts – when I stepped into the kitchen that night it dawned on me that I had left half of my groceries at the supermarket a convenient hour away. Fortunately dosas and lemonade were good enough for a second round.

Stay well and marvelous, oh bush of my dreams!

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