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Posts Tagged ‘INTACH’

Mairie hall b4 collapse

Governor Bontemps gave me a glorious life in the year 1870,

I had a long innings of 144 years, serving all of you aplenty.

 

Just a year after I was born, the French Parliament gave you representation,

Panon Desbassyns de Richemont had the first honour by your recommendation.

 

The first seeds of your emancipation he and Ponnu Thambi Pillai alone pooled,

The latter walked into the court wearing shoes and established equality between the rulers and the ruled.

 

Local governance brought in better degree of autonomous gaiety,

When the first ever Municipal Elections were held in 1880.

 

The novel concept of Renocants was introduced through the 1881 decree,

A beginning of assimilation of two diverse cultures I could then see.

 

In 1892, setting up of the Gaebele (Bharati) Mill was a historic event,

The starting up of the Rodier (AFT) Mill in 1898 was no different.

 

As the farmers started acquiring industrial skills, making different work ethics align,

Of the faint stirrings of a home-grown ‘Swadesi’ movement there was a clear sign.

 

Subramaniam Bharati soon arrived and ignited your patriotic fervour,

1910 saw Sri Aurobindo come in and assume the role of a spiritual saviour. 

 

V. S. Aiyar and Va. Ra. shortly followed, giving an impetus to the freedom movement,

The French rulers were aware but did not think it worthwhile to comment.

 

I watched in horror as the twin disasters of two World Wars unfolded,

I salute those who made the ultimate sacrifice with my hands folded.

 

The year 1947 made me rejoice as the Indian Union awoke to its tryst with destiny,

I watched in quite sorrow as 1948 saw a farce election being held with impunity.

 

I was a dumb and mute witness to Monsieur Menard’s brutal repression,

Leading to a complete hartal in 1954, giving the natives’ wish an expression.

 

Our de facto transfer to India came about on the 1st of November, 1954,

The rich tapestry of French influence of 280 years became a part of history and folklore.

 

I witnessed the dream of Auroville manifesting itself in a manner grand,

With quiet dismay I saw the promenade losing its lovely stretch of sand.

 

Matri Mandir added to the golden-hued spiritual ambience of the town,

Enthusiasm of people from all over making Pondicherry their home could never be put down.

 

Having people who use 55 diverse languages and together face a tsunami-like adversity,

It sets a fine example, a testimony to cultural harmony and unity in diversity.

 

I did play an important role in making Pondicherry what it is at present,

An oasis of peace in a vast desert which is turning increasingly turbulent.

 

I breathed my last this day in 2014, hoping I shall be reborn soon,

A new body received in a spirit of harmony and utility shall be a boon.

 

My soul continues to hover unabated, shining through many of you,

I hope that you shall overcome your differences and rebuild me with a holistic view.

(Historical facts quoted from ‘A Concise History of Pondicherry’ by Prof. P. Raja, ISBN 81-87619-03-1)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks)

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Winds of hope and change appear to be sweeping the skyline of Pondicherry these days.Sydney_Opera_House

Here is my humble take on what the denizens of this quaint little territory can wish for by way of reinventing Pondicherry.

Entertainment

1. A Sydney-like Opera House could come up at the Old Distillery on the Beach Road. The terrace could be designed in such a way so as to serve as an open air theater. An exhibition hall and a food park could be planned.

2. A sound and light show devoted to the rich history of Pondicherry, starting from the Roman connection and endingAgasta with its independence from French rule. The narration could include the story of Sage Agastya, Ayi, Subramaniam Bharati and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The show could be in three languages every day – Tamil, English and Hindi. Can be planned either at the Old Distillery or at the Botanical Garden.

3. Developing Arikamedu into a heritage walk park.

4. An Oceanarium could be set up. People could walk in and have a look at the rich diversity of undersea marine life.

4. A special tourism circuit showcasing the locations where ‘Life of Pi’ was shot.

5. An annual event of international importance, concerning theater, movies or literature could be planned. Can also capitalize on Ashram and host an international spirituality event where well-known personalities from diverse streams of spirituality could be invited.

6. Existing museums to be upgraded. Interactive museums to be set up, dedicated to our oceans and the Bay of Bengal.

7. A Planetarium would add immense value to the education of young and adults alike.

Infrastructure

8. A six-lane highway bye-passing city areas, starting from near PIMS and ending near Kanniakoil.pondy movie Life_of_Pi_2012

9. Railway link to Chennai via Mahabalipuram.

10. Introduction of Shatabdi-like trains to and from Chennai, with a journey time of less than two hours.

11. A mini golf link near Auroville.

12. Battery operated vehicles in the White Town area.

13. Closure of shops jutting on to Ambour Salai.

14. Convex mirrors at corners of all street junctions in the White Town area.

15. Beautification of the twin canal roads.

16. Feasibility of (a) Metro connecting the General Hospital to far-flung reaches of the territory and (b) An elevated monorail within the boulevard area.

Smart City Project

17. A broadband roll out, backed by IT infrastructure which is designed to assist citizens from cradle to grave. Appsinternet image 2 for traffic conditions, crime reporting and for all other citizen services.

18. All public services to be available on-line, with system being managed by an organization like TCS, just like the Regional Passport Offices.

19. Introduction of re-chargeable Parking Fee cards which can be swiped by vehicles entering such areas as J N Street, M G Road and Mission Street.

20. A new Master Plan for Extended Pondicherry Region (EPR), comprising Villupuram, Tindivanam, Cuddalore and Marakkanam, along the lines of NCR around Delhi.

21. All schemes to include EPR, wherever feasible.

22. Implementation of a scientific garbage disposal plan for EPR.

Would you like to add a few more ideas to this list? Go ahead!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/puducherry-2025-a-traveller%E2%80%99s-memoirs)

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The recent collapse of the 144-year old Mairie at Pondicherry has raised a basic question – can the stream of Civil Engineering be re-engineered to include a specialization in heritage structures?Mairie hall b4 collapse

Since the advent of civilization, humanity has attempted and perfected the art of building magnificent structures. The pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Brahideeswara Temple and the Taj Mahal in India are some of the outstanding examples of craftsmanship, architectural design and structural robustness.

Much before the modern stream of civil engineering came up, structures which are labeled as heritage ones today came up. The discipline of civil engineering has evolved over the last 150 years or so. Many advances have been made in building technology and materials. However, what has perhaps not progressed much is the capability of the so-called modern-day civil engineer to understand the basic science and technology of building structures in the past. This has led to a situation whereby assessment and certification of the structural stability of a heritage structure has become a highly subjective area. Called upon to do so by governments and other organizations, a vast majority amongst us are rendered clueless. Gizah_Pyramids

We apply criteria which appear to be untenable. We try to assess the structural stability of a building based on the clouded vision of our own education and experience over the years. In many cases, it proves to be an educated guess which, to the outside world, sounds like an ‘expert’ opinion. The result is often disastrous. Buildings certified to be ‘safe’ by some of us collapse like a house of cards, unable as they are to face the fury of nature at some point in time.

Let us not rush to blame our education system and our academicians for this drawback. Perhaps the fault lies more in our attitude and mindset. Sure enough, there is a serious deficiency in the tools, techniques and tests that we apply to assess the robustness of a heritage structure. Great_Wall

Even at the risk of appearing to be digressing from the main subject, let us draw a parallel from the field of medicine. How do we judge the level of sickness of a patient? Once we ascertain the extent of the ailment, we are in a better position to prescribe a cure for the hapless patient. If allopathy offers a wide array of diagnostic tools, we are surely wise to use the same. But when it comes to medication, allopathy may perhaps end up treating only the symptoms. A real cure may come only from an alternative system of medicine, say, from ayurveda, homeopathy, etc.

In a similar vein, when we apply the modern-day tests and techniques to ascertain the stability of a heritage structure, we get good information. But what we lack is an ‘alternate’ stream of civil engineering which would provide a cure for the ailing structure. Brihadeeswara_temple_Thanjavur

The challenge before us today is to develop an alternate stream of this exalted branch of engineering. What we need to undertake is an in-depth research project which would apply modern-day techniques to heritage structures the world over. Obviously, this has to be done in a non-destructive manner. Right from the structures which came into being more than 5,000 years back to the ones which were built just 150 years back, we need to understand their structural elements, their materials and their building techniques which have gone into making them withstand not only the vagaries of nature but also the abuse by people over centuries.Taj_Mahal

This alone can help us to develop our in-depth understanding of the art and science of heritage structures. A global research project of this nature, if taken up, would help us to re-engineer and reform our present day stream of civil engineering. By bringing in a specialization in heritage structures, we shall lay the foundation of an alternate stream of knowledge.

This would ensure that future civil engineers would be better prepared to assess the stability of priceless heritage structures which have survived so far. This would also ensure their being able to prescribe ways in which the longevity of such structures could be improved upon. Such structures would then be preserved for posterity, enabling our coming generations to marvel at their beauty, aesthetics and stability.

(Thoughts of Mr A K Das, a prominent expert in the realm of Civil Engineering; images courtesy Wikipedia)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks)

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For 144 long years, suffering neglect, I served you all,
Elements of nature eventually took their toll, making my frail body fall.

Mairie hall b4 collapse

Lofty hopes of your rulers once soared in lime and stone,
The best materials gradually became my flesh and bone;
The architecture was flawless; of ingenuity in design there was no dearth,
To only serve you was I visualized and made to spring up from the earth.

Mairie Hall Pondicherry

Celebrities, dignitaries, citizens and visitors marveled at my grace,
On the sands of Puducherry’s history, I have left many a trace;
The creaking body of mine gave you several hints in the past,
Your apathy made me crumble, leaving a gap in the Promenade vast.

My soul continues to hover unabated, shining through many of you,
I hope that my passing would give rise to a united fervour and view;
For the sake of posterity, Puducherry’s heritage is yours to preserve,
I yearn to be reborn; beseech you to restore others which also deserve.

Mairie hall after restoration

All over the planet, many structures like me seek care and restoration,
Connecting you with your glorious past, we cannot survive merely on adoration;
Like ageing human beings, we also need love, nursing and tender care,
Let others not meet the same fate as befell me, leaving the earth barren and bare.

[All those who are fond of taking a brisk walk on the beach front of Puducherry would henceforth be sourly missing an imposing structure – the Hotel de Ville, also known as the Mairie Hall.

Built in 1870-71, the Mairie (French for town hall) building was an important part of an ensemble of sea-facing landmark structures, including the old lighthouse, the Chief Secretariat and the French Consulate.

A landmark building with a unique architectural style, it was a majestic structure which one passed by casually, often marveling at its splendor and beauty. On the 29th of November, 2014, owing to heavy rains which lashed the coastal town of Puducherry over the preceding week, it collapsed.

This composition is dedicated to Mairie Hall.]

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/the-soul-of-mairie-recounts)

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With its scenic promenade, picturesque locations, an old world French ambience, Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, Puducherry offers the lay visitor a curious combination of hedonistic as well as spiritual opportunities. One could go on a spirited binge and simply freak out. Otherwise, one could soak in its spiritual glow and get mentally uplifted.

True to the innate character of Puducherry, most of the films shot in the town also reflect a somewhat similar bipolar tendency. Amorous endeavors get captured on celluloid. Themes with a spiritual strain also find Puducherry attractive. Occasionally, one would find the town getting mentioned in a block buster!

Here is a quick recap of the Hindi and English movies which have had a Puducherry connection.pondy movie Jism

Jism (2003, Amit Saxena) was an erotic thriller. Obsession with the pleasures of the flesh and greed for wealth eventually drive the main protagonists towards a tragic end.

pondy movie black 1

Black (2005, Sanjay Leela Bhansali) was based on the life and struggles of Helen Keller. Ayesha Kapur from Auroville played the childhood role of the main protagonist and went on to win several awards and critical acclaim for her performance.

pondy movie 3_idiots

3 Idiots (2009, Rajkumar Hirani) argued in favor of innovative thinking and showed us the perils of learning by rote. It also exhorted us to follow our hearts when choosing a vocation. No part of the movie was shot in Puducherry. However, one of the main characters, Chatur Ramalingam, declares having gone to school at Puducherry.

pondy movie Aashayein-

Aashayein (2010, Nagesh Kukunoor) was about a compulsive gambler learning to live to the hilt within the limited life time available to him. It captured life within a rehabilitation center for those with an incurable disease in a poignant manner.

pondy movie 7 Khoon Maaf_poster_ver1

7 Khoon Maaf (2011, Vishal Bhardwaj) belonged to the black comedy genre. It also had a couple of steamy scenes. Having killed six of her husbands, the heroine finds redemption, solace and true love in Jesus – at Puducherry.

pondy movie Talaash_poster

Talaash (2012, Reema Kagti) touched upon various ills plaguing our society. A mystery thriller, it also described the state of happiness one reaches upon overcoming one´s guilt.

pondy movie Life_of_Pi_2012

Life of Pi (2012, Ang Lee) put Puducherry on the international map. The hero was shown to be a Hindu who also goes on to embrace Christianity and Islam. The film spoke of the need to remain connected with oneエs inner self so as to be a winner in the vast ocean of life. Truth, perception and belief were brought into focus, thereby putting the theme on to a spiritual plane.

There are several Tamil movies which have also been shot at Puducherry. To movie makers, the town offers a smart choice as a location. The place is small. It is not very pricey. With a friendly government, it is easier to get all the permissions to shoot. Parks, heritage churches, water bodies and French cuisine simply add value to the quaint place.

A unique feature of the town is its rich architectural heritage. Organizations like INTACH do try to salvage a part of the same. Sadly, much more needs to be done.

Puducherry is also known as “The French Riviera of the East”. For someone who lives in the real place, it is delightful to connect with the reel place as well.

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