Pondy Shondy VI: The Retreat's own queen mother

An old lady walked into the dining hall the night of our arrival as we hogged supper. Solo, in a confident slow gait, the wrinkled demeanour did not succeed in veiling the beauty she must have surely been of her time. In her pale pink salwar kameez and well set salt and pepper hair, she settled alone on a small table to dine. We noticed in her plate unusual portions for a woman that old and that petite. Even we ate less!

“Please,” I said, holding the door gesturing for her to pass first at the reception later that night as I made to go for a stroll with Twara after our meal. “No, no,” she insisted I pass through first. After a short battle with the obstinate old woman, I relented. It was embarrassing of course, but the beginning of a rendezvous that would last the duration, at least of our stay at The Retreat.

And of course we invited her to join us for breakfast next morning. Over the period of our time there, we ate several homely meals together at the guest house dining hall. Conversations revealed that she has been a regular to Pondicherry now for 11 years and spends a full two months beginning each December.

But here’s where this ancient relic became an indelible memory of my second trip to Pondy. I got shamelessly greedy for an extra birthday wish on my birthday and let it slip over breakfast. Not only was she the loving Punjabi granny to embrace me on the morning of my 27th, but when we returned from our jaunt the next day at lunch, we found a plum cake from Grand Bakery waiting for us at the reception, the tag said “Best wishes from Indira Kapoor, R. 211”.

The ways of knowing someone’s name…

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