Pondicherry (officially known as Puducherry) is a former French colonised city which has since been subdivided into the White Town (French part with fabulous architecture and leafy streets) and the Indian part separated by a very smelly canal.
Like the budget travellers we are, we were trying to look for a free walking tour but didn’t have any luck so the next best thing was an architecture tour with INTACH (their own version of the National Trust, an advisory body for maintaining the French architecture and making sure that people don’t ruin the lovely city). We spent 3 hours walking around just the French district and it was fascinating to see so many old buildings are being refurbished to ensure the old style of architecture is not lost. However, when we asked how long it takes to renovate just one building, he replied “that is the one question you never ask in India!”
Pondicherry was great for its local market on Mahatma Gandhi Road and it didn’t take long for us to source the local grog shop (still blame the Aussies for the slang) for extra cheap alcohol. Its affordable because Pondicherry is one of only four Indian Union Territories (their own City State) in India where the federal government sets the rules which means the alcohol is subsidised…great for Jack!
Pondicherry housed several firsts for Jack! He bought his first lungi in the local market (a traditional attire for the working Indian consisting of a 4m cloth wrapped around their waists like a skirt). Only later would he realise how life changing this simple piece of material would be, especially whilst sitting in an auto rickshaw (what the Indians actually call a tuk tuk, turns out that’s what they call them in south east Asia not India)! Ah, feel the breeze! Jack also drove his first tuk tuk and stroked his first elephant…over to you Jack to tell the story:
J: Firstly, lungis are brilliant, I don’t care whether someone says it’s just a skirt (because to be frank that’s exactly what it is), it feels great! I don’t know what women have been complaining about, it’s so liberating, and I think I pull it off (in my dreams). There is a downside however, the lungi is becoming less and less popular with the younger Indians and is now seen as outdated especially in the cities. I have gotten a lot of stares from a lot of folk as well as thumbs up. But being pale and a head and shoulders above everyone else I certainly stick out!
It was our initial plan to buy an auto rickshaw in India and travel the length of country in it. Obviously, we haven’t done that, and the reason is simple, rickshaws aren’t made for people of my height or stature (cough, polite way of saying I’m fat, cough). I found this out when I went on a little trip to Pondicherry by myself, whilst Georgina was having a girly day with her mother. Anyway, a couple of beers later and a few games of Carrom (basically pool but with chequers and you flick the pieces rather than use a cue), I decided to ask my rickshaw driver (who by this time was sat with me in the bar) whether he would let me drive it. 50 rupees lighter and we were away. I could barely bend my neck low enough to see out of the windscreen and my legs were sticking out either side of the cab. I must have looked a mess, but it was a laugh and I found out that driving a rickshaw wasn’t for me.
Next: our first WorkAway in the Yelagiri Hills.