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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

A walk through the past in Pondicherry’s shady lanes

We have the Tamil Quarter as well as the French Quarter, and they’re equally important, so you have to visit both…

By Bishwajit Banik
Freelance tour guide

This small town holds so many fascinating secrets that you’d miss if you walked around by yourself. As you know, the British conquered a massive part of India. Pondicherry, however, was ruled by the French, so the whole ambience and culture is completely different. We have the Tamil Quarter as well as the French Quarter, and they’re equally important, so you have to visit both to get a clear picture of this town.

There is architecture, of course. There’s the beautiful French colonial architecture, which has nothing to do with the French architecture in France. So on a typical three-hour walk, I take guests along the promenade and show them some of the French houses and explain their unique design. Then I take them to the Indian side and show them some Indian houses and explain step by step how they’re built and why, which involves science, superstition and religion put together in a fantastic mishmash. 

The town’s spiritual side is just as eclectic. We go to its most famous temple, dedicated to Ganesha; we visit the renowned ashram; and we go to a couple of churches. Along with the sights, there’s a lot of storytelling to help people understand something of the ethos of Pondicherry. Over time I’ve learned, though, that sometimes it’s the small things that clients appreciate the most. For instance, I always take my guests for a coffee, a South Indian filter coffee made with chicory and coffee and served in a bowl with a small glass. It’s just coffee, so simple, but it brings together the French and Indian influences and is a classic South Indian experience.

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Alfred & Bishwajit Banik

Bishwajit Banik was born in Kolkata, but has spent all his life in the picturesque South Indian town of Pondicherry. He has a passion for meeting and interacting with people from all around the globe, hence his interest in being a tour guide and leader. Currently a building contractor by profession, he continues to conduct heritage walks in Pondicherry in an attempt to share his beautiful town with the rest of the world.