By: Akash G.
Looking for your next cycle trip in South India? Then the experiencing cycle tour of Pondicherry is must for you.
It was a little past 7 in the morning, the early risers were out on the streets for their morning walks and the vegetable vendors had already laid down their fresh vegetables out on display. There was a chill in the early morning breeze, which gently kissed my face, as I slowly rode through the empty streets of Pondicherry, now known as Puducherry, on my colourful vintage cycle. My 15 days trip to South India had two nights in Pondicherry with one full day for peddling in town of Pondicherry. Mathew, my local guide was a cycle enthusiast, a painter, a photographer and a travel buff himself. He was already waiting for me at my hotel lobby, a little surprising against Indian style of reaching late. Wonderful, I could sense a good move-on-up day.
I had started from the Muslim quarters in Ville Noire or ‘Black Town and explored paths, which would have been very difficult to visit when the city was awake and cars were running down the beautiful roads of Pondicherry. Interestingly, unlike the West, I was crossing the temples and churches as the city was still asleep.
Mathew recommended a stop at a local Tea shop. “These are called gossip corners of the town”, he said. “Will you try Masala Tea?”
“You know, this is the best tea shop of the town, even better than your hotel.” I was not very sure, but tried the tea. More interesting was to see “How to make perfect Indian Tea”.
By now we are entered into another interesting part, The White town”. Oh, Ville Blanche! As we crossed the French quarters, I couldn’t help but notice, how much this town was influenced by the French culture. With all the signs written in French, I was pretty glad I had a guide with me.
The plan of the city, was based on the French grid pattern and features perpendicular streets. In the French quarter, the buildings were typically in colonial style, with long compounds and stately walls. The Indian quarter consisted of houses with airy verandas, large doors and carved grills. “These French – and Indian-style houses are preserved from destruction by an organisation named Intact.” He continued.
It was my second day in Pondicherry and I was already immersed into the city culture. “This city certainly deserves two days”, I exclaimed, while I was riding through a contrast of cultures.
It was almost 10, and the roads had started to get crowded again. Though, one can still ride a bicycle during the most crowded hours but we chose to end our wonderful experience. We stopped at a local café for breakfast. I was really amused to see the menu in French. I inquired, and found out that the owner had a French passport and was a citizen of France. At the time of Pondicherry’s transfer to India in 1954, the people were given a choice to become Indian citizen or remain French. Those with a French passport, chose French citizenship. I sat in the café enjoying my breakfast. I was a little tired after hours of cycling.
The beauty of the town was truly in the contrast of its cultures. It made me think about how beautiful a united world could be. Everyone says it can’t work, different cultures staying together. Well, in Pondicherry people make it work every day. The world surely can learn a lot from this place. This city has changed me. It taught me to trust the soul of a man rather than the look of him or the place where he comes from. Sure, there will always be disagreements, but before we reach for hate, we should always remember this small town, “Pondicherry”.