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The legacy of French rule in India (1674-1954)

Animesh Rai


Animesh Rai

For my Parents

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1I cannot thank enough all those people to whom I am indebted for the evolution of this work. What was initially a doctoral dissertation has grown into a book due to the formidable assent of Dr. Jean-Pierre Muller, the Director of the French Institute of Pondicherry who enabled me to acquire the intellectual backing of my prized mentor, Professor Edouard Glissant, whose preface sets its tone and the privileged financial contribution of Professor Francesca Canadé Sautman on behalf of the Henri Peyre French Institute of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

2At the French Institute of Pondicherry, I would like to particularly thank the contemporary Tamil programme, the dedicated and thoroughly efficient staff members of its extraordinary library, Mr. G. Jayapalan for his meticulous proofreading and Ms. Kamalambal who did the elegant typesetting. I would also like to thank Professor Y. Subbarayalu for his very enthusiastic reading and approval of the text and Professor François Gros for his superlative articulation of his understanding of it. I am most grateful to my very good friend Kannan M. of the Indology department who was a dynamically resourceful contact and an excellent sounding board when I visited Pondicherry and eventually, when we collaborated on every aspect of the publication of this book.

3At the CUNY Graduate Center, I would like to thank Professor Antoinette Blum for her support and Professor Hermann W. Haller for his very enthusiastic appreciation of my thesis. I would like to express my gratitude to the Henri Peyre French Institute for a travel award to India in 2003 when this project was in its early stages. I am also most grateful to the Office of the Provost which honored me in no small measure by awarding me a Distinguished Scholars’ Dissertation Prize for this project: the Geoffrey Marshall Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities for the 2004-2005 academic year.

4I am indebted to the numerous scholars who have written about various aspects of Pondicherry before I did. I carefully analyzed their works and synthesized some of their findings to develop my argument. The novelty of this book, as I see it, is not principally in having unearthed a plethora of new historical or contemporary facts that may not already be known about the former French territories of India but rather in initiating a debate around the notion of creolization as they apply or may not apply to these territories. As part of this debate, I also enlisted the participation of an enormously large number of people whom I spoke to when I visited these territories and am indebted to them for their considerable input. My formulation of the conclusion was largely due to this very interesting enquiry and conversation which I initiated both with the scholars whose works I read and with the people to whom I spoke. The nature of creolization being ambiguous by its very definition and for this reason all the more interesting, the reader may have other opinions on the matter but I hope that what I have said may trigger further comments or enquiries which would perhaps build on what is found in the following pages. I have not yet come across a person to whom I spoke or with whom I have corresponded about this topic who has either not found the topic interesting or who did not have an original, contentious or in some way provocative comment to make about it. The aim of this work is thus to enable this debate to continue and I would like to thank in advance all those who might in one way or another prolong the debate after consulting this work.

5It goes without saying that I am indebted to my parents, Rajendra and Rani Rai, and my sister, Mridu, for their interest, support, encouragement, input and assistance in every way possible. I would also like to thank my uncles and aunts, Mr. and Mrs. K. B. Sinha, Dr. and Mrs. R. P. Sinha, Dr. and Mrs. A. K. Sinha as well as the long time friends of the family, Mr. and Mrs. Sam and Prema Isaac, for their interest and moral support. A word of thanks also goes to the Qualithe Bar in Pondicherry where I met all kinds of very interesting people : foreigners, Indians and Pondicherrians. Additionally, I would like to thank Dr. Nallam for the use of the reading room of the Historical Society of Pondicherry in the Nallam Clinic in Pondicherry.

6Lastly, I must say that Pondicherry was, for me, a discovery. It is not the India that I had previously known. I want to therefore thank Pondicherry for being what it is and Pondicherrians for their originality and uniqueness. I salute all Pondicherrians who are either living there or spread out across the world.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2008

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