There was a brief period in my life, around my late teens and early twenties, when I visited Pondicherry once a year at least. The last trip I made there was with VC a month after we got married in 2008.
So I’m coming back here after nearly ten years, and like every tourist place in the country, Pondi has changed. And I’m saying Pondi for convenience sake, but I specifically mean the heritage parts of White Town in the heart of Pondicherry. This isn’t the Pondi I remember, this Pondi has changed, but it’s so refreshing to see a good change, for a change.
For one, the Heritage Town is hugely spruced up, clean for the most part and chock full of little cafes, boutique hotels, galleries, stores and the like. Most places tastefully and respectfully keeping the original structures intact.
Cafes full of character, serving basic to elaborate all day menus, offering free wifi, and basically doing their best to get people to spend as much time (and money) as possible in there.
The two gardens I strolled thru were lush, clean, green and beautifully maintained. I saw locals and tourists alike, using and enjoying the public spaces like they’re meant to be. lounging on benches, picnicking on the soft grass, taking pictures alongside the pieces of art installed in there.
The narrow alleyways had vehicles neatly parked, and the main sea facing promenade itself was blocked off on Sunday evening, to create a walkway for pedestrians and tourists to enjoy. I walked down after sunset — the pavement newly redone, with sufficient seating and brightly lit, it was alive and buzzing with music, food stalls and people enjoying the outdoors.
The next morning, I took an Ola Cab to get to my hotel. Coming from Goa where I was stranded for the most part because I refused to be robbed in broad daylight just to avail cab services, I was beyond thrilled to see this transformation. My cabbie informed me it’s been in service for three years, and many auto drivers have upgraded to cabs. The few that haven’t tend to create problems through their unions, but it hasn’t deterred the entry of services like Ola.
I have to say, these are very superficial observations made based on a coupe hours of walking about a tiny part of the town. But it is the heart of the tourist part, where all the action is. It really reminded of Fountainhas, and made me rueful about what could have been, and what isn’t.
I’m not sure about the politics of it all or what was lost, or who was pissed off in order to make all of this happen but I’m mighty impressed to see a tourist place cash in on what they have, building around a culture and atmosphere of tourism that already exists, rather than making harebrained elaborate plans to bring in new and innovative plans that are at cross purposes to its inherent culture and style.
Clearly tourism is thriving. It’s there for the taking and it’s visibly on the rise. I saw it in the streets, in the cafes, in the throngs of people bustling about.
Pondicherry, I’m so impressed.
Same time, last year: Day 299: Book quandary