Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Pondicherry: A little piece of France in India

Pondicherry is an old french colony situated on the east coast of Tamil Nadu. It has to a large extent preserved a very French ambience, especially in the blocks near the sea.

A typical most un-Indian Pondicherry street. In general Pondichery is filled with tree lined boulevards, actual sidewalks (a rarity in India), little cozy cafes and nice town houses. In other Indian cities, by contrast, the poor live in slum like conditions whereas the rich hide away in big mansions hidden behind big gates and tall walls with barbed wire. Pondicherry is also generally much cleaner, less trafficed and less crowded than any other Indian city.

Rob and Mike walking down the beach promenade of Pondicherry. This could be any mid sized french mediterranean or atlantic coastal town.

In many other Indian cities most English place names have been changed to Indian names (even the cities themselves, Bombay now being Mumbai and Madras now being Chennai). However in Pondicherry, which is an independent Union Territory, the french street names have been kept. All names are displayed in French and Tamil as the picture shows.

Another example of Pondicherry's Gallic heritage. Asterix is a familiar cultural icon here being used in this wall painting as an advertisement for a take-away diner. Notice the french product description in the top left corner, while Asterix is speaking to us in Tamil.

A beautiful and typical French style town house covered by blooming flowers.


amitsinha said...

Pondicherry MY Favourate place

The first trip I made to this french land in India was in january 2003, during my sixth semester in Bachelor of Planning in School of Planning and Architecture , New Delhi. We were making the master plan for Pondicherry District. I remember when we were crusing through the East Coast Road while going from Chennai to Pondicherry. I could feel the air of the city, the charms it possess, the freshness it offers and a sense of distinguished ambience.
We reached around 5.30 in evening on 25 th january and started looking for cheap accomodation. The girls were very finicky about the accomodation , so the girls and boys stayed at separate hotels adjacent to each other. We were staying on the road parallel to M.G Road , around 100 meters from Surya Hotel . We were happy to see the cheap bars located at around every 500 m in the main market area. I along with my friends used to visit the bars continuosly for the next 17 days . The liquor was damn cheap and the food was awesome , especially the sea food.
We were regular surfer at Auro Beach , though most of us were novice swimmer and I was almost drowned. I still thank to Anshul , one of my close friend who got the attention of all fisherman to save me. I am thankful to those fisherman who saved me , and the irony is that I had made an argument with them on the issue of having beer on the beach.
We had hired 12 scooters as we were 24 of us and two of us were sharing the scooter. I was sharing with Navin , and he did not know to drive a scooter , so I was having the solo fun of zooming around the city.
We also met a friendly fisherman guy who arranged a big boat for us to go in middle of the sea, then he took us to show his basti and his jelly fish factories. He gifted us some big fish and squids which we asked sm chinese women working in Hotel Ellora to cook for us.
Well , the city is mix of french and Indian outlook with lot of europeans visiting and staying for long periods.We made some gud frens like Nathan from London, who was learning Tabla there, then Ludo from France and the unforgettable Clauria from Belgium with whom I did get sentimental and we shared some great time discussing on Vikram Seth and Salman Rushdie, as she was an english graduate from France University. She also tried to teach me swimming but I could not learn. There are streets with french name , french architecture and as well as french restaurants like Rzendovou. I liked a bengali restaurant called Bamboo Hut on the same raod where Surya hotel is located. The restaurant offers good food, nice green ambience on the roof, and cheap liqour.
I also went to Aurbindo Ashram and spent some peaceful time there minus my food, liqour ,beaches and friends.
we also had a long discussion on thfound it a unique thing which needs to be refined a lot. They want to sustain it on natural energies and they are making huge grand temples which does not jell with each other. It could have been a simple monument , but may be they have some other idea in their mind. Well , the representatives were not able to justify the idea.
I am writing about Pondicherry after long , becuase a recent visit to the city with my IIFT friends rekindled my old memories. I went there again recently for just a day , but it felt as if I am back to my home, with everything as fresh as i was living there for years.
I invite comments from ppl who are travel enthusiasts like me , and they love cities and cultures.0AI invite comments from ppl who are travel enthusiasts like me , and they love cities and cultures.

Sait said...

This is Sait Propreitor of afnatravels,Pondicherry. I am very happy and proud of my city .still many more to see in pondicherry.
Lion.Mohd.Aboobacker sait

Sait said...

For your information Pondicherry has been changed to Puducherry since last month


fatima said...

hi Isben,
ur post on pondicherry was very informative. could you please tell me where you found the poster of asterix?I am a film maker doing a programme on pondicherry.
i would love to add the asterix angle into the programme.
with regards,

Esben said...

Hi Fatima

Wish I could help you, but to be honest I simply don't remember exactly where that picture was taken. All I can say is that it was somewhere in the french quarter, that is the blocks close to the sea.

Maybe someone would know it locally? Good luck with it.

Sait said...

Hi fathima,
the astrix picture is posted ambour salai and bussy street jucntion further u need any info about pondicherry pls.call me on 00919894050351