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19 January 2017
At Pondicherry (now Puducherry) we did the Pondi Heritage Trail organised by the National Trust of India – INTACH (the leaflet we used is online here). It was all fascinating, especially the way INTACH (which Persephone Books has joined) has no legal status (ie. there is no system of conservation area or planning permission) but manages to entice people into renovating old houses rather than pulling them down through free advice and friendly persuasion. We were even shown a house that had been going to be demolished and rebuilt but they suggested that the owner add a second storey, keep the courtyard garden (of which he is now deeply proud) which was about to be built over and so on and so forth. They also organise old lamp-posts! And we found a shop like LASSCO. Here is the link for INTACH overall and here for the Pondi branch (stunning photographs). But the Heritage Trail leaflet has a depressing list of dates: Dutch rule was 1693-1700, French from 1700-61, British from 1761-65, French from 1765-78, British from 1778-83, French from 1783-93, British from 1793-1815, French from 1815-1954. All that fighting! All those deaths. All that misery. It’s kind of unbelievable. But anyway, now Pondi is an independent state, proud of its French Lycée and French architecture and Le Café on the beach (the former customs house) and no one seemed to hate us for being British…
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