Pondicherry is unique. A Union Territory divided by a small canal into very different Indian and French sides. The French side of the city still maintains a genteel European turn of the century appearance. Tree-lined boulevards, good roads and gracious colonial buildings. Not the case on the other side of the canal, full of bustling bazaars, awful traffic and dangerous pot holes on the pavements – well, it’s India!
TheEye and husband had Ashok Panda of the Pondicherry office of INTACH ( Indian National Trust) as their guide. Knowledgable and passionate, his active team are responsible for maintaining architectural and planning standards.
The active Heritage Society oversee renovations and keep a beady vigil over new buildings. This doesn’t prevent unscrupulous developers from putting up ugly new apartments when they can get away with it.
SRI AURIBINDO AHRAM Hostel
Designed I950’s by George Nakashima including all the furniture’
Although the French left in the 50’s their influence remains strong.
A large French Lycée and Alliance Francais. More French spoken than English and excellent baguettes and patisserie.
Many European artists, writers and creative people in general come for part of the year lured by Auroville, a meditation campus famous for the Matri Mandir in the shape of a golden globe. A huge crystal prism hangs in the middle to enhance concentration during meditation.
In a very few days we met some fascinating people including Tim Supple, former director of The Young Vic, who directed one of the most imaginative productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a cast of Indian actors, dancers, acrobats and musicians, all speaking in their own dialects. His Indian wife played Titania, writer and poet, Tishani Doshi. Multi-talented artist – painter, writer and film maker Desmond Lazaro and his wife, dress designer Agathe, who owns a great clothes and lifestyle store, O0 La La. Sculptor Stephen Cox is another artist spending time there for the peace and tranquility it offers.
The Pondicherry Heritage Festival was in full swing so the French Ambassador and Cultural Attaché were in town.
Pondicherry is truly special.
Not enough time – but there’s always next year!!