Mitra's Adventure with a Slice of France in India

New team member Mitra joins our London office coming all the way from Toronto. He shares one of his travel stories to the French influenced Indian city of Pondicherry.

I ventured out to India for my first solo travel 6 years ago and was shocked in the most splendid ways by what I had experienced. First arriving in Chennai at 4 in the morning, I was immediately immersed into the Indian environment. When you step off the plane, the predominant smell of petrol (alongside many other unique perfumes) enters your nostrils. The mind processes this olfactory input and instantly relays to your conscious that you are not geographically home anymore. This and the sudden heat stop you in your tracks.

Outside, hundreds of people were waiting to get to the bus terminal which opened in two hours and were literally lying down on the pavement. It was one of the most bizarre and arresting scenes I have witnessed and I still had not even left the airport yet.

Leaving Chennai on what I hoped was the right bus, I ventured to meet my group in Pondicherry. Pondy, as it is commonly called, is a slice of France in India. The buildings are beautiful and of French Colonial architecture. You can go down the beach and see Pâtisseries along the boardwalk, hear French being spoken, all while gazing out over the Indian Ocean. Once again, not something that fit with my preconception of what the south of India was.

The hostel we stayed at was 50 paces from the beach which we used to swim in, only to find out on the second day that people without indoor plumbing used the water for an ulterior motive. We spent many evenings walking on the beach ending up in surrounding villages and constantly being stopped by all the curious locals who wanted to know where we were all from. Travellers can expect a 5 minute walk to the store to get a plastic pouch of water to take longer than one would expect. Depending on how rural the community is directly correlates to how famous of a celebrity you become. One cool afternoon we walked towards a spot on the shore that was glimmering with a silver sheen. With nothing else to do, investigated and saw it was thousands of fish being laid out to dry. We walked for more than 10 minutes to get from one side of this makeshift drying rack to the other.

When our two weeks in Pondy were up, some of us still had a few days before leaving so we rented motorbikes and scooters and travelled North up the coast. One hotel we stayed in came with a warning from the front desk, "Be cautious around the monkeys". At this point I had not yet seen any and this tip-off was welcome. Waking up the next morning to odd sounds outside the room, I cracked the door slightly and was presented with a monkey sorting through my trash. After he or she left I peered down the courtyard and found it was lousy with monkeys trying to find anything edible in the leftover rubbish. The noise was hard to forget, like what you hear in a nature documentary but much more realistic.

After a few bright nights lit up by full moons, I boarded a bus similar to the one that took me to Pondy and trekked back to Chennai International Airport. Before arriving in India, I would never have believed a place like this even exists on Earth. There are innumerable differences from the banal to the outrageous juxtaposed alongside familiarities. One just has to give in to enjoy the sudden change.

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