Pondicherry or Puducherry as it is now referred to, is distinctly divided into two. One side of the local canal ‘Pondicherry’ still retains much of its French flavour. This part of the sometime capital of French India is the setting for Aurobindo Ashram, the roads are called Rue and the local Bazaar is on St. Laurent Street. It is one of the last sites of a certain European genteelness that most of India has lost. On the other side of the canal, you’ll find ‘Puducherry’, a small time South Indian town where the flavours aren’t basil and thyme but curry leaves and roasting rai seeds.
When the French handed over this enclave to India in 1954, the Union Government took over the responsibility of its administration and till date the territory of Pondicherry, which consists Mahe, Karaikal, Yanam and Pondicherry, is a Union Territory. Among other things, that somehow translates into cheap beer! Travellers head here for that, and of course, more. Auroville – an organisation that experiments with international community living was set up just outside the city by The Mother, a disciple of Shree Aurobindo.
As far as tourism goes, its quiet beaches are an attraction too, as is JIPMER, one of the best medical colleges in the country. The facilities are state of the art, the services are very reliable and there are beautiful murals on the walls. ‘Pondicheri’, ‘Puducherry’, ‘Pondicherry’, or plain “Pondi”, this neat town where the last traces of French perfume and baking croissants waft in the breeze, is witnessing the passing of an era. Catch it now, before that special flavour fades completely.