Pondicherry, India is a destination to the past as well as the present. Located on India’s Coromandel Coast, Pondicherry celebrates its French Colonial history, blends it with the local Tamil culture, and fills the senses of visitors with a rich and varied heritage blended with grace and hospitality. Such a place tempts the theme traveler. The theme: Find traces of the French East India Company.
An Excerpt from “The Star of India”
The Dupons beheld a recently established botanical garden in the French Quarter about two blocks west of a magnificent palm tree-fringed promenade. Romantics walked there to enjoy the warm sea breezes. There, spectacular red sunsets were framed by the gentle sea of the Bay of Bengal. The town was in harmony with nature and its heavenly bodies. The name of every street began with the word rue. Dumas kept the Dutch-designed grid. The streets intersected at right angles. The current governor did add his hand to the local engineering when he encircled the entire French Quarter with a spectacular boulevard. Now, the French portion of Pondicherry was softened into the shape of an oval.
The carriage stopped at a colonial house with large windows. The shudders were constructed of teak, and teak doors, twice the size of average house doors, hung in their traces. This house featured a spectacular veranda on Rue Romain Rolland. The veranda was adorned with wicker furniture. The Dupons were provided with a pair of rooms in that expansive place, including one with a small private balcony that offered a view of the Bay of Bengal.
A light wind caught the high fronds atop the tall thin trunks of Pondicherry palm trees, to rock them gently like babes in their mother’s arms. The same breeze carried delicious fragrances of food that tempted the nostrils of Ignacio and his teenage son. They walked down well-engineered and remarkably straight Mahe De La Bourdonnais Street, in the French Quarter. They walked toward the Bay of Bengal. The Dupons had come out to socialize and find dinner. It was their game not to plan such outings. Instead, they preferred chance encounters and clues to steer them where they were supposed to dine. Ignacio thought they both liked that because so much of their lives had become structured. The evening time was their time for élan…to enjoy. Jean-Louis simply thought it fun to try new things, and he relished this daily time with his father. It seemed to him that they had become closer now that the father believed that his ambition for his child would be realized.
“What food is that?” Ignacio asked as he lifted his head slightly to catch with his nose more of some delicious sweet-scented aroma that wafted by. Jean-Louis decided that it was a crepe that his father smelled for he knew that Ignacio was most fond of sweet things to eat. He detected coffee on the wind, as well. Thus, his guess was that should they seek the source of the sweetness they would find an India coffee house at the end of it. That sounded like a suitable goal to Ignacio, who would be willing to forego a main course if he could have two or three desserts in place of it.
No more than two turns around a block they found it. The coffeehouse had French doors open wide in welcome. White sheers danced on the wind, drifting in and out of the eatery. The coffee aroma grew stronger as father and son approached the house. Ignacio saw an India man hand-grinding coffee beans fished from a sack. About forty people sat at an array of small tables inside the coffeehouse or outside either of the three French door entrances. The strange thing about coffeehouses, like this one in India, was that because European knowledge of coffee origins was associated with the Middle Eastern desert regions, the coffee houses in France tended to be decorated like the ones that the Arabs frequented. Yet, here in Pondicherry, the coffee houses packed in the trappings of France and India more than Arab.
Jean-Louis pointed out the thing that Ignacio wanted. Two workers busied themselves at a griddle making light crepes filled with sweet and savory chocolate or raspberry sauces and dusted with cinnamon or powdered sugar. Hungrily, Ignacio ordered a plate of each variety while he had his son to get the coffees and go outside to snare a table for two out under the fading blue India sky. At the table, they split the spoils so that each of them would have a chocolate and a raspberry crepe.
“The Star of India” is my novel that will be published in the summer of 2014. It is the second of a three novel story that began with “A Voice from New Mill Creek: The Methodists.” If you would like to see surviving photographs of French India, click http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-19596190 . If you would like to read a Trip Advisor report on Pondicherry, click http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g659792-Pondicherry_Union_Territory_of_Pondicherry-Vacations.html . Those who love to see worldwide beach photography will enjoy the blog site of Don Charisma. Click http://doncharisma.org/
I will put aside my weekly writing and blogging to celebrate Easter with my family. I will write again on or about April 25, 2014. Thank you for your attention and support. Bless you and your families – Tony.