Pondicherry- More than just French

What is it about Pondicherry that the world doesn’t know yet?

What is it about Pondicherry that is still waiting to hog the limelight?

Why would anyone read this when one can simply go to the Wikipedia page?

When I began writing about Pondicherry, these questions proved to be a setback. The answer to the above questions was a different question altogether. Is Pondicherry worth all the hype without its French connection? Well, you will know.

The ‘art deco’ style was dominating France during the mid 20’s and the 30’s. So when the French invaded Pondicherry, they added a splash of colour and geometry to the otherwise sleepy town of Pondicherry. Hence, you see those fences, those walls, those roofs, those pointy apexes of churches which happen to be an unusual sight in other parts of the country. I can dedicate a whole paragraph on how it is also the best place apart from the uber-cool eateries of South ‘Bombay’ where you can relish on mouth-watering French delicacies.

I will not talk about the French quarters or the beautiful monuments or the lavish restaurants boasting of roasted beef, Rillettes or dainty crepes and croissants.

My trip to Pondicherry was a hushed one. I started on a Friday evening and by Monday morning I was back in Bangalore.

Pondicherry is one of those places, where Mother nature has been extremely generous.  Let me begin with the Goubert Avenue. Yes, it wouldn’t have been what it is without the French style boulevards and buildings on one side of the Promenade. But had all that mattered, had there been no sea? While I was sitting on the rocks and staring at the sea, the ambiance reminded me of Marine drive from time to time. Although, Marine Drive is way too humid and the Promenade can certainly boast of a pleasant weather. I felt fortunate to actually feel the sun beams on my face which made its way through the dusky clouds. You can sit on those rocks for hours and stare into absolute nothingness. I suggest you visit the place during the wee hours of the day. The chances of being poked by fellow tourists, requesting you to click a picture of them are relatively less at that time. Your state of trance can be disrupted by the commotion in the nearby Le Café.

Le Café is analogous to that brand of clothing which used to have an edge on style and uniqueness about itself in the past. There is nothing extraordinary about the menu. But the idea of sipping coffee and eating brownies for breakfast while admiring the Bay of Bengal is definitely worth the hype. If you are lucky you might get a seat on the terrace. What could be more fulfilling than resting your foot on the railings and looking at the clear blue sky?

While you make your way out of the Café, you can’t help but notice the hoopla around the Gandhi statue. It is the favourite spot for children to roam around and make merry. The sight will certainly put a smile on your face.

My next stop was Paradise beach. If you have visited any beach in Maharashtra before, the sight is bound to make you nostalgic. But if you are visiting a beach for the very first time, you won’t be disappointed.

Afternoons are not really the best time to visit the beach. It will be scorching hot and walking on the white sand can burn your feet. But if you wish to take a dip and then soak in the sun, it might work out just fine. The beach is clean and serene. It is a picturesque location for couples honeymooning, wanting to capture a lovey-dovey pose. I did see a fair number of couples. Mostly, married and coming here for the first time. Too much mush! You can rescue yourself by taking refuge inside one of those tiny shacks that sell fish fries. Don’t expect it to be some kind of gourmet fish preparation. It is just pieces of fish dipped into a spicy batter and then deep fried in a huge pan. A plate of oily and spicy fish fry, and coconut water, I was done with my lunch. I had travelled there on a scooter. The place is approximately 8 Kms away from the Cuddalore main road. One more way to reach this place is to take a boat from the Chunammar boathouse. I suggest you opt for this route; you will also get to enjoy the sight of the backwaters.

All in all, there are 9 beaches in Pondicherry including the Promenade beach. Spoilt for choice, eh? I did not have much time in my hands. Hence, I could make it to only two of them. The second beach I visited was the Auroville alias the Auro beach. It is a lot cleaner than Paradise. It is approximately 12 Kms away from Pondicherry and falls on the opposite route to that of Auroville. The magnitude of the tides is comparatively lesser than what I observed in Paradise, making it an ideal place for swimming enthusiasts. I being a lazy bum chose to sit on a secluded corner and observe the people around. The place is a lot calmer than Paradise. The best time to visit is before sunset. A lazy stroll and good music, a perfect way to walk down the memory lane. All you need is a friend or maybe a bottle of beer 😉

My Saturday was well spent, courtesy, the sea, the fish fries, a good cup of coffee and a few good clicks with the help of my android phone. I hadn’t planned my Sunday. But I did have some things on my mind. Auroville was on top of that.