Pondicherry, a certain sense of Gallic glory gone by.

On a whirlwind trip to Pondicherry, I visited a quaint little museum in its old parts to better understand some of the charm the city exudes for the hordes of tourists it attracts. From the tiniest bits of Greek and Spanish clay pottery dating back to the Roman Empire to French chariots and carriages from the 19th century donated by old Tamilian families who inherited this past, I was at once unhappy that I had no time to visit the deserted archaeological site of Arikaedu where most of the ancient collections come from. After all, it was just 7 km away from the museum. Ah well.

That notwithstanding, I was happy to shoot some of these pictures of the surrounding area near the museum. Shooting inside the museum was prohibited though I have seen some pictures on the net taken by those who don’t take rules seriously. Good for them!

Pondicherry or Puducherry is a town that loves it's past. As seen in this picture of an old Fiat much celebrated in the 1950's. Being lovingly brought back to its old glory at a mechanics or maybe a DIY project of the owners.

Pondicherry or Pondy is a town that loves its past. As seen in this picture of an old Fiat being lovingly restored. The Fiat was a symbol of style back in the 50’s and 60’s all over India.

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz. The dream car of the 60's is here being restored on the streets. Love is in the air here, even if for the material. It's a sign of the good times a family had.

Another dream car of the 60’s being given a facelift. It must’ve been great when the going was good. For now it ain’t going anywhere, not until the tyres are found!

Street Graffiti is subtle and detailed. The French street sign has an Indian twist. Any guesses why Ganesha is so loved the world over?

A French street sign with an Indian twist. To me this detailed and subtle graffiti seemed to suggest a contemporary European sensibility.

Here's the detail. I haven't seen anything so artistic by way of stencil graffiti in Mumbai.

I haven’t seen stencilled graffiti of this nature in Mumbai, hometown of the Lord Ganesha. Interesting typography.

The graffiti in Pondicherry adopts Banky's style and attitude. This was on a wall next to a garbage dump. It's a me too but adds to Pondi city's connect with Europe in modern times. I'm glad I captured this art.

Graffiti in this case adopts Banksy’s style and attitude, further illustrating Pondy’s connect with Europe in modern times.

The old city is full of little details such as this decorative sculpture which is as Indian as its European in its appeal.

The old city is full of little details such as this decorative sculpture which is as Indian as its European. Bohemian chic or new age cum old world charm? It’s hard to decide.

Pondicherry became a part of the as recently as 1954 when On July 16, 1954, the administration from the French administrators marked the end of 224 years of French rule.

Pondicherry became a part of India as recently as 1954. The transfer marked the end of 224 years of French rule in this tiny part of Tamil Nadu.

Another view of a colonial home which will probably become a hotel given its colonial appeal.

Another view of a colonial home lovingly preserved. The French quarter of this city is quiet, clean and shady. The cobbled streets are lined with charming townhouses like this one.

That is one big door, it opens completely only when you are a known visitor to this mansion. The portion open is for the security to pop up to check your creditionals and intention.

That is one big door; it opens completely only when you are a known visitor to this mansion driving up your vintage car. The partial opening is for the security to pop-up to check your credentials and intention i.e if you come walking.

Most of the old mansions facing the sea are now budget hotels run by locals. Surprisingly, they're the  least expensive

Most of the old mansions facing the sea are now budget hotels run by locals. Surprisingly, they’re the
least expensive. Their interior design aesthetic is a bit like a Tollywood movie set. Very kitsch and i don’t mean bohemian.

There's a certain romance in walking around the streets in Pondicherry. Plenty of nice places to eat some fusion food.

There’s a certain romance in walking around the streets of Old Pondicherry. Plenty of nice places to eat some fusion food. The beer here is dirt cheap as it’s a Union territory. I didn’t realise until we drove back to Auroville, else I would’ve carried a carton for the night.

The horse carriages I saw in the museum were larger, grander version of this cycle rickshaw.

The horse carriages I saw in the museum were larger, grander versions of this humble cycle rickshaw.

Graffiti everywhere. Especially on abandoned Tempos or should I say Goods carriers.

Graffiti everywhere. Especially on abandoned tempos or should I say ‘goods carriers’

Beautiful architecture everywhere. Though a weekend here is enough to imbibe the atmosphere. Unless of course you are spending time at the Aurobindo Ashram.

Beautiful architecture. Though a weekend in the city should be just about enough to imbibe the atmosphere. Unless of course you are spending time at the Aurobindo ashram learning yoga, meditation or even incense making.

This is the beach front that was badly affected by the Tsunami. Its pretty windy on a normal day, swimming is not in the culture around here.

This is the beach front that was badly affected by the Tsunami in 2004. Its pretty windy here on a normal day, swimming is not in the culture, so don’t pack that 2 piece bikini yet. Instead enjoy a stroll in your yoga pyjamas, breathing in the sea air.

The streets have seen some agitations since India gained independence. The French didn’t leave here with the British. This lane where this facade is located is so peaceful, it was hard for me to imagine any anguish, leave alone feeling it.

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About shabnamphoto

I'm a graphic artist with a passion for photography. I like to tell a story with my pictures. Sometimes a picture may speak on its own and at other times it may need an explanation. I'm intrigued by the ordinariness of life and enjoy documenting my life in the light and shadow of what surrounds me. Be it people, landscape, flowers, architecture or birds, the camera helps me see what I wouldn't with my naked eye.
This entry was posted in Documentary, Photo essay, Street Photography, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Pondicherry, a certain sense of Gallic glory gone by.

  1. ashokbhatia says:

    I wish to use the rickshaw photograph for a blog post of mine. Hope that would be fine by you?!

    Like

  2. ferjcano says:

    Reblogged this on DesignCrazzie and commented:
    Just recently TOM assisted to a Classical Auto Show, this one could easily become a winner in its category.

    Like

  3. LaVagabonde says:

    I love all the little details that make this quarter unique. Thanks for the stroll.

    Like

  4. Geeta Rao says:

    hey shabnam super blog and pictures !

    Like

  5. Uttam says:

    Lovely. Some buildings remind me of Panjim and Margao — that Continental touch.

    Like

  6. zanyzigzag says:

    I came here via ashok bhatia’s blog… I’ve always loved the sound of the name Pondicherry, so it was wonderful to find out that the place seems to be as quirky and charming as its name! I was also amazed by the graffiti in the first two photos – clearly India has a much higher quality of graffiti than Europe!

    Like

    • shabnamphoto says:

      Thank you so much for your comment zanyzigzag, am equally curious about this graffiti art… maybe another subject for interrogation on my next visit, “the garaffiti arists of Pondycherry”

      Like

  7. Lovely place and beautiful photos…some of pictures are nostalgic, it brings back old world memories…choice of photos are mystical.

    Like

  8. ashokbhatia says:

    Reblogged this on ashokbhatia and commented:
    On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the De facto merger day of Pondicherry with the Indian union, here is a fresh perspective on the territory from the eyes of a shutterbug par excellence. Happy Liberation Day!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great photos story of Pondicherry. Looks very colourful!

    Like

  10. Suresh iyer says:

    Sorry.. Shot it out before identifying…

    Like

  11. Anonymous says:

    Such an enchanting slice of photo beauty shabnam…. and This is such déjà vu… Spent a whole week here and auroville … I was early for the post afternoon timing of the museum but decided to hang around as I did not want to miss the remnants of the roman connect. I hd rented a bike and went around the quarter like a crazed teenager circling the house of his imagined beau… Cannot forget and you have awakened again this about to be recessed memoir.. Kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Rondje says:

    Great writing to go with your colorful photos, very interesting to see and read about this place!
    (and great to see you back as well!)

    Like

  13. ashokbhatia says:

    You have brought a fresh perspective to the place where I happen to live. Thank you!

    Like

  14. suej says:

    What a fascinating, colourful place….

    Like

  15. Your photographs are always so interesting. And beautiful.

    Like

  16. Pondicherry seems like such a colorful place.

    Like

  17. Nice set; good to see you again!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Gorgeous, detailed prose and I love the photographs. Thank you for creating this lovely post!

    Like

  19. lovely stories these tell!

    Like

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