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Posts Tagged ‘Pondicherry’

ashokbhatia

Many amongst us chug along in life somewhat dissatisfied with our life partners. A neighbour’s wife always looks smarter. A friend’s husband sounds more dashing and practical. Our own spouse invariably sounds duller and listless in comparison. We are never quite satisfied with what we have. We often yearn for what we do not have.

What do we expect from a soul-mate? An unqualified acceptance by the party of the other part, perhaps? A companionship which comforts and soothes? A fulfillment of some of our basic needs?

At a deeper level, the illusory search for a perfect soul-mate, The One, begins with a realization that we cannot become more perfect all by ourselves. We need another person’s help to chisel ourselves better. To do so, we search for a person who is perfect in more ways than one.

Some Bollywood movies have dealt with this aspect of our relationships…

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It is fashionable these days to speak of our beloved city metamorphosing into what is euphemistically referred to as a Smart City. Here is a contrary view which may find resonance with some of its residents.

These nameless denizens may instead like to lead a leisurely life in a city where:

  1. The need to jump out-of-the-way of a speeding vehicle gets minimized – in other words, hapless pedestrians and bicycle riders have the right of way; the use of horns and loudspeakers attract a hefty fine, leaving the offender crying all the way to his bank.
  2. Warehouses and hotels are not permitted within the boulevard limits, leaving the narrow streets peaceful and resident-friendly. Elderly and ailing residents need no longer complain of being startled at times – either by the incessant growling of commercial vehicles during days or by the sound pollution generated by tourist vehicles during nights.
  3. More parks, where citizens could stretch their limbs and try to fight off such lifestyle diseases as diabetes and hypertension, thereby warding off cardiac blues. Likewise, a denser coverage of main streets by trees with thick foliage, with water dispensing kiosks, toilets and garbage bins dotting the landscape liberally. What Pondicherry needs are more Ashe Marsons (of ‘Something Fresh’ fame) who are fond of brisk walks and Larsen Exercises in open spaces.
  4. All crossings within the boulevard area have convex mirrors at corners, thereby avoiding speeding-bike-enthusiasts routinely crashing into other vehicles, thereby putting life and limb to grave risks.
  5. All crossings across the canal are made obstruction free, avoiding blind spots and congestion on Gingee Salai and Ambour Salai. (As of now, the Vysial Street crossing is the only good example of a blind-spot free crossing across the canal.) Mandatory mini parks could be planned at all these corners. Shops peddling terracotta articles near the Ashram can be relocated to other suitable places, so the road on that stretch becomes clearer for traffic.
  6. The dependence on tourism alone to prop up the local economy is given a lower priority; where the powers that are exercise their grey cells better, hold consultations with business leaders so innovative ways to augment the territory’s revenues get planned and implemented. A concerted drive towards industrialization by using SEZ-earmarked and other parcels of land available could help. So could a hefty increase in registration charges for petroleum-driven vehicles, with substantial rebates for those who go in for greener vehicles.
  7. A multi-modal public transport system gets implemented in a mission mode, with battery operated vehicles alone being permitted within the boulevard area.
  8. Water channels and aquifers get revitalized, with the single aim of making Pondicherry a model in reversing the trend of increasing ground water salinity. A long-term plan to ward off the ill effects of rising sea levels and to tackle incessant rains also needs to be put in place.
  9. Strict ban on plastic bags of all kinds; a scientifically designed garbage collection and disposal system, duly backed by latest technology.
  10. Cooperation and collaboration at the top, leading to a visionary development of Pondicherry.

Call it a ‘smart’ one or a ‘dumb’ one, but the above features, if worked upon by those in charge of making things happen, would surely make the denizens of Pondicherry a healthier and a happier lot in the long term.

These would retain the essential character of the territory. What the planners would do well to avoid would be adopting a soulless materialistic ‘smart’ plan which would leave the residents gasping for clean air, yearning for sparkling water and ardently wishing for a sound of silence which would enable a person standing on Ambour Salai to hear the unmistakable melody of ocean waves on the main beach road.

(Notes:

  1. A version of this article can also be found at https://www.pondylive.com/2018/08/smart-city-pondicherry-why-some-of-us-prefer-a-dumb-city;
  2. Pondicherry montage courtesy www;
  3. Pondicherry street scene illustration by Emanuel Scanziani for Le Club, Pondicherry)

 

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/reinventing-pondicherry

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

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

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ashokbhatia

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…

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P G Wodehouse and the little town of Pondicherry in India could both boast of a French connection.

The former began his stint in France in 1934 at Le Touquet, but was detained and interned by the advancing German army in 1940. When he was released in 1941, he went on to live in Paris from where he left for USA in 1947.

As to Pondicherry, it was in 1674 that the French East India Company set up a trading centre there. This outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India. With some intermittent breaks, Pondicherry remained one of France’s colonies in India till 1954.

 

Policemen surely play an important role in many of Plum’s narratives. A majority of them happen to be in the service of the Queen. Some are also of French origin. Thus, to a lesser mortal like yours truly who happens to be a fan of his and is normally found polluting the Pondicherry landscape, a museum showcasing the history of our gallant policemen there does hold some attraction. Add to this the allure of looking up policemen’s helmets of various kinds at closer quarters, and the gig becomes a must-do.

The challenges

The police force in Pondicherry comprises not only the higher rungs of officers in Central or State government services but also the humble constabulary which ensures that the laws in force are rigorously implemented without a flaw on their personal reputation and character.

 

While tracking down criminals, they spare no effort. It is their upright and proper conduct which upholds the might of the Law. Their career pursuits may not be of much interest to either the Scotland Yard or the DGSE, but they happen to be meticulous in their approach. The force believes in gender parity and has exclusive outposts (wo)manned by the delicately nurtured.

Much like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, often they face the challenge of walking the thin line between performing the duties assigned to them and kowtowing to the wishes of their political masters, much like a cop in Plum’s narratives who has no recourse but to yield to the wishes of his Justice of Peace.

Yet another serious challenge the constabulary in Pondicherry has always faced is that of keeping a strict eye on its multi-ethnic society. In order to be able to understand the psychology of the denizens under their watch, its members need to be fluent in several languages. In a write-up dating back to 1943, Monsieur Le Chef d’escadron Petignot, the then Commandant les Forces Publiques de I’Inde Francaise, speaks of the Indigenous police constabulary being entrusted with ensuring administrative police and judicial police in most parts of the territory where all the castes and almost all races exist, having to make enquiries in as many as eight different languages – French, English, Tamil, Hindustani, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali and Oriya – indicating the extraordinary situation which this police force was required to function in.

Of French policemen and weapons

Fans of P G Wodehouse fondly recall the pursuits of Pierre Alexandre Boissonade, Commissaire of Police, in French Leave, as also those of Monsieur Punez, one of his underlings. They would be disappointed to learn that the former never made it to the coveted post of a Directeur de la Police at Pondicherry. Had he done so, he would have found himself on familiar ground, what with the place being akin to the fictitious French resort of Roville, duly infested with troubled lovers, impoverished aristocrats, millionaires and servants. To his surprise, he would have also found expatriates of all hues, sizes and shapes, spiritual aspirants, retired French army personnel, the annual July shoppers which descended on the town with sackfuls of the green stuff, the weekend youth who popped up merely to soak in the spirited ambience of the place, heritage enthusiasts, environmental activists, busy physicians, egoistic academicians, robbers, swindlers and argumentative fishermen.

The deftness with which Psmith handles a situation which involves the use of a revolver in Leave it to Psmith does make one wonder as to the kind of weapons which the police force in Pondicherry used to rely upon to keep the ambitions of its criminals under check.

The enticing proposal of a pinching technique

A saunter down the Police Museum at Pondicherry does clarify some such doubts, as the photographs accompanying this write-up amply demonstrate.

Of particular interest to yours truly was the display of various kinds of ‘kepis’ in use by the police force in Pondicherry. One could not pinch any, of course. But a soft glow of inner satisfaction was surely experienced at being allowed to fondle one for a few minutes.

A close examination revealed what could perhaps be a better technique of pinching one of this kind, if ever one’s Guardian Angels offered an opportunity to do so – the backward shove, followed by a vertical anti-gravity push, while using one’s non-twiddling thumbs to hold the desired object from the front side.

Bertie Wooster would surely approve.

 

(Note: For a history of the Pondicherry police force, please refer to http://police.puducherry.gov.in)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/of-a-mom-bassett-and-the-allure-of-policemens-helmets)

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There are indeed times when one is feeling rather chuffed and believing that God is in heaven and all is right with the world, and it is precisely at times such as these that life plays a cruel joke on one. Residents of Plumsville would agree that it quietly sneaks up behind one and strikes at the not-at-all-bulging-at-the-back head of one with a hollow lead pipe, duly stuffed with cast iron pellets.

A straight forward person like yours truly would never aspire to walk in the footsteps of someone like Soapy Molloy or Sid Marks. But life recently played a prank and made me come very close to such an experience.

I had just returned to my home and hearth in Pondicherry, India, from a lovely trip to Europe, full of sweet memories of the time spent with my children and grandchildren who inhabit that part of the world. The door bell rang and, to my utter surprise and horror, I found a stern looking policeman eyeing my humble abode with a suspicious gaze. I mustered some courage and peeped out of the main gate.

‘Ashok Kumar Bhatia?’, he asked, giving me a supercilious look which would have met with hearty approval of someone like Bartholomew.

Having had a great deal of experience with dominating bosses, I did what I know best – I nodded in quiet affirmation.

‘There is a warrant for you’, said the policeman.

Even at the best of times, the long arms of law leave me twiddling my thumbs. The declaration that there was a warrant for me left me shuddering from the top to the base of my frail frame.

‘Warrant?’, I bleated.

Ignoring my nervousness, the policeman proceeded to clarify that I was wanted in the court on the given date, though not as a criminal but merely as a witness. Given that the local language is as alien to me as is Latin and Greek, and that the party of the other part had never progressed beyond the first lesson of a correspondence course in Queen’s English, the dialogue between us was sporadic.

Eventually, it transpired that I was expected to appear in a court in connection with a crime which had been perpetrated by four criminals in respect of some property of a company I had worked for more than a decade back. The wheels of justice do move rather slowly. Sixteen years after the crime took place, I was supposed to pop up and testify that the crime indeed took place.

Well, as a duty-bound citizen, I had no other option but to receive the warrant. The soul was left all of a twitter. There were sleepless nights till the date of appearance. Dark circles formed below the eyes are yet to disappear.

An encounter with Ma Bassett

When the day dawned, a hurried breakfast was put down the hatch. A rush was made to the court complex. After parking blues were faced with a chin-up attitude, the challenge of locating the court room specified had to be braved. A climb of three floors left one’s heart thumping even more than the agitated state in which the poor thing already found itself on that fateful day. Once the court room concerned had been identified, the long wait for the honourable judge began. The gang of four criminals, standing in a corner with a furtive look on their not-so-pretty faces, kept giving me dirty looks at frequent intervals.

A stern looking lady judge shaped along the lines of Mom Bassett finally arrived. I confess I have no information as to the physical features of the lady who had brought into this world a unique specimen of the tribe of the delicately nurtured, namely Madeline Bassett. Unlike her daughter, she was neither soupy nor blonde. Nor was she a breath-taker that takes one’s breath away. If her daughter was mushy and fanciful, the lady beak in question was surely not. She had a perpetual frown on her visage, leaving me wondering if she suffered from dyspepsia.

The court was called to order. Several other witnesses got called, with each one getting cross-examined by a lawyer bloke who looked at witnesses as if they were the dust beneath his chariot wheels. The local language was in use, and yours truly could hardly understand precisely what was transpiring.

When called to the witness box, the soul was in torment. I confess I felt weak in the knees. An oath of truthfulness was administered. The lady beak had to be requested to accept my use of English, to which she very graciously consented, but not before eyeing me with unmasked contempt. The typist assisting her with the help of a vintage typewriter was duly instructed.

The lawyer concerned then pounced upon me with all ferocity, desperately trying to establish that I was not present on the scene of the crime. I meekly assented, because that was indeed the case. After each of my answers, the lady beak turned to the typist clerk and repeated what I said at a very slow pace, thereby enabling the typist to do justice to the transcription. After what sounded like a few hours, but might have merely been a span of twenty minutes, the questioning ended and I was asked to get off the stand.

The allure of policemen’s helmets

The ordeal over, I heaved a sigh of relief. I was asked to wait, so I could sign my statement typed out by the court clerk. While waiting outside the court room, I ran into two friendly cops who kept me engaged with their small cross-talk in the overcrowded corridor. Unlike Sergeant Edward Voules, they were rather slim and trim and were surely not built on the lines of the Albert Hall. Possibly, they could have made a cut as his nephews, Dobson 1 and Dobson 2, in search of their respective heartthrobs.

I was sorely tempted to request them to allow me to try out their toupees, but the sinister ambience of the court complex thwarted my ambitions. Pinching was out of the realm of feasibility, simply because it entailed the risk of their apparent friendliness getting quickly transformed into a disastrous viciousness.

This was not the first time, though, that I had missed an opportunity to lay my hands on a copper’s helmet. Even earlier, while at the Amsterdam airport, I had once spotted a pair of young policewomen who sported gleaming headgear. Their smartness merely added to the gravitational forces of allure which fans of P G Wodehouse generally experience when in the vicinity of policemen’s helmets. But the steely look in their opaque eyes and the manner in which they were wielding their batons had then stopped me in my tracks.

When it comes to making court appearances and pinching helmets, I guess I need to work further on my nerves and try to pour some chilled steel into them. I wonder if there are surgeons out there who wield a scalpel and are good at such transplants.

Or, my Guardian Angels need to send in a Stephanie Byng who would keep prodding me in the ribs at frequent intervals, exhorting me to pinch a policeman’s helmet as and when the next opportunity presents itself.

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Recently, your truly had the privilege of addressing members of the Rotary Club of Pondicherry Mid Town. Business lessons from some of the cartoons created by the inimitable R K Laxman and Mario Miranda were presented.

Since the orange juice served before the talk was not laced with an appropriate tissue restorative, yours truly was all of a twitter. At such occasions, one tends to get tongue-tied, much like a Gussie Fink Nottle when he runs into a Madeline Bassett. Nevertheless, the Wooster policy of a chin-up attitude comes to one’s rescue. Services of one’s nerves of chilled steel have to be called upon. It also helps not to have any giggling girls in the audience.

This is how yours truly was introduced to the audience.

“Mr Bhatia is a management guy by profession and a romantic at heart. He did his MBA in what he labels as the pre-Jurassic period of management education in India.

In the 42 years he has spent unlearning management theories in the private sector, he spent quite a lot of time with Tatas, Hidesign and HCL. Whenever he left these companies, the managements there were absolutely relieved and delighted. He has been a promoter director of several companies, all of which you will never hear of.

As a speaker, he has already been hooted out at several IIMs and other leading management institutes. Whichever city he speaks in, he makes the vendors there very happy, because the audience buys rotten tomatoes and eggs in bulk, so the same may be thrown at him. Organizers of his talks are invariably on the lookout for body scanners which can be used to screen the audience before they enter the auditorium.

He still has some grey cells left. These keep the flow of creative juices going on. He creates movies on topics of family interest. He has a regular blogger on various subjects – management, movies, P G Wodehouse, etc.

We may call him a wordsmith and a management thinker. He has even published a book entitled “Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’ – first in Portugal, then in India. He claims he is not a descendant of Vasco da Gama.

He claims to suffer from two maladies – Professor-itis and Wodehous-itis. He is not wanting to be cured of these.

He is a non-resident Puducherryite. He is a harmless creature otherwise.”

The talk ended with some brilliant questions posed by the attentive audience getting handled by a jittery speaker.

A Drones club atmosphere prevailed thereafter, what with a lavish dinner getting served and some bread-crumb-throwing getting practised by those present on the occasion.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/about-me)

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Just in case you ever feel that you have evolved into a headless chicken and have ended becoming a zombie chasing deadlines and goals with not even time to breathe, try coming over to Pondicherry.

For many of us, our lives are so much filled with stimuli, not to speak of the onerous responsibilities we carry on our slender shoulders. It is not possible for us to sit still and do nothing, much less relax, even for a few minutes. We have no time for meditation. Nor do we have time for some simple yoga exercises. We are always doing something or the other. How proud we feel in telling someone that we do not have time for this or that. Our fragile ego gets a much-needed boost. In place of being ‘human beings’, we have become ‘human doings’.

Often, relatives from distant parts of the world call up to check as to what they can do if and when they land up in Pondicherry. When they are told that the beauty of Pondicherry lies in the fact that they have the option of doing nothing here, one can either hear an astonished gasp or just suffer a long silence over the phone.

There are times when life becomes too exciting and one yearns to get a wee bit bored. The good news is that a brief spell of boredom does lead to a feeling of inner peace. And once we get used to it, with little practice, we could learn to really relax. Then we start enjoying our chance to have a real conversation with ourselves. We ask ourselves where our lives are really headed. We wonder as to what our goal in life is, and whether we are really working towards that or have we got trapped in the quicksand of our materialistic ambitions. The payback is tremendous.

Most of the times, our anxiety and inner struggle happen to be a product of a restless mind which is forever looking for some diversion, as if it is afraid to allow us to be calm and be with ourselves.

While rushing to office, we are wondering if we shall make it for that crucial meeting on time. When we enter the conference room, we are anxious as to which colleagues would be puncturing holes in our image by raising some obnoxious concerns. At lunch time, we shall be worrying about the maid who might be stealing something from the bedroom cupboard at home. Every ten minutes, we shall check our messages or mails, just in case that critical one we had sent to the big boss the other day has elicited any response.

By evening, we are a bundle of frayed nerves. Upon reaching home, we shove some morsels down the hatch so as to keep our body and soul together. Some phone calls get made. Then we slouch in front of the idiot box and try to improve our track record of being a couch potato. The day ends. The next one begins. The cycle gets repeated ad nauseam. We end up becoming a zombie.

You can be said to have attained the exalted state of zombie-ness when you go through the motions of life in a lifeless manner; when you have surrendered your free will to your guardian angels, who have been allowed to take decisions for and on your behalf; and, when instructions received from the boss during your working hours make you spend sleepless nights in the comfort of your bed.

The beauty of doing nothing is that it teaches us to clear our mind and relax. When the mind is rested and stilled, it becomes sharper and stronger. It becomes more focused. Creative juices start flowing freely.

The art of nothingness does not make sense logically. But when practised, it propels us on the path of spirituality. The resulting bliss is something to be personally experienced.

Let all this not scare you off. Pondicherry has a lot on offer – sea breeze, exotic food, tissue restoratives which lift your spirits temporarily, cultural events, book launches, off-beat movies, dance classes, horse riding, scuba diving, heritage walks…….the list goes on. But if you simply wish to give your life a break, it is the place you would do well to head to!

 

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