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

Animesh Rai

Chapter 3. The Twentieth Century

Identity and the French patterns

Texte intégral

  • 1 Chandernagore et le swadeshisme au début du XXe siècle-L’affaire Charu Chandra Roy by Georgette Da (...)

1The French enclaves could not remain unaffected by the movement for independence starting to pervade British India at the beginning of the twentieth century. But the enclaves did not revolt then against France; very astutely, they used France against British imperialism. The dramatic events which took place in Chandernagore around the year 1908, a crucial year in the history of nationalism, are very revealing in this respect.1

  • 2 Georgette David.

2Chandernagore was no longer, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the flourishing enclave which it had been at the early stages of its founding. As in the case of the other enclaves, in the case of Chandernagore too, the setbacks and defeats of France at the end of the eighteenth century (the Treaty of Paris, Napoleonic wars) had inflicted upon it a deadly blow. But it also suffered from a major handicap which had been specific to it since it had lost its commercial supremacy; this handicap was the distance of Pondicherry. The headquarters were no doubt distant in space, Chandernagore being three days’ journey away by sea or land; but there was a distance in the minds of the administrators too, which made of it a kind of colony of a colony. The inhabitants of Chandernagore were proud Bengalis who chafed at being administered by civil servants coming from Pondicherry. They bitterly complained about the lack of clean drinking water, which regularly led to epidemics of cholera, the flooding of the Hooghly river due to the absence of dykes, and of the insufficiency of police forces stationed there. They argued their case but in vain to the General Council that Chandernagore made large contributions to the revenues of the colony and that in return they received only a meager portion of the allocated budget. Later, they would even go so far as to claim, in vain in Paris, financial autonomy. Chandernagore seems to have been the unloved, abandoned child of French India.2

  • 3 Georgette David.

3Young, ambitious people all studied in English and would leave to look for employment in Calcutta. Gradually, Chandernagore, formerly an independent town, came to be slowly absorbed by the neighboring big metropolis, and was nothing more than a suburb of Calcutta; that is the image which it projects today. French education had almost uniquely for its clientèle the poor population whose children could obtain scholarships; with time, the value of this education declined. These poor students would learn French with the intention of subsequently taking up studies in English at a higher level.3

  • 4 Georgette David.

4The inadequate knowledge of French was responsible to a great extent for increasing the gap between Pondicherry and Chandernagore. The Chandernagorians complained about not having access to administrative posts, of not being able to go to work in Pondicherry and of being administered by the Tamils, the “Madrasis” as one used to say with a certain amount of contempt. One would then tell them in reply that the administrative competition was open to them as for anyone else in the colony. Certainly but how could one appear at these competitions without having either the required knowledge or the degrees? The people of the enclave would ask. At the sessions of the Conseil Général, the delegates of Chandernagore who did not have the remarkable command of the French language as their colleagues of Pondicherry such as Gaebele, LaPorte or Tamby, hardly had any influence on the deliberations. On the other hand, the Swadeshi spirit with which they were imbued, which was completely alien to the representatives of Pondicherry was responsible for creating between them a climate of mutual contempt and suspicion. In other words, there was not much understanding between Pondicherry and Chandernagore.4

  • 5 Georgette David.

5However, people were beginning to take an active part in local political life. In fact, in 1908, the big local event was the municipal elections. The mayor at that time, a French businessman, Tardivel, was very controversial. He was accused of being interested only in his own personal affairs. He was said to have allocated free of charge for his jute factory a plot of land which had been denied to many others but most of all, he was blamed for his attitude towards the local population. He faced stiff competition from Bolomath Dash, the Bengali leader. There was a heated verbal exchange between them and the local population was also fired up in the argument. In April, a bomb was thrown into the dining room of the mayor when he was getting ready to eat. There were no victims but this led to great excitement among the local European population in Chandernagore as well as in Calcutta. However, the throwing of the bomb did not indicate that a war had been declared between the Bengalis and the French. It was mainly against someone who was generally hated and it was a sort of trial run for other attacks planned for British India. The governor, who had come to make an on the spot inspection, understood that French authority was not threatened in Chandernagore and he said it in his report of April 24, 1908. The local population was not hostile towards the French government. It just kept its distance, enjoying at the same time all the political rights they were entitled to. When there was a threat about a possible cession of Chandernagore in 1910, the revolutionary newspaper Matri Boumi would protest against the plan and would say that the French were fairer, more polite, and less racist than the British and that the local population had the possibility of making complaints in Paris and of removing undesirable civil servants, that it elected representatives who had power and who voted on the budget.5

  • 6 Georgette David.

6In order to properly understand the feelings of the inhabitants of Chandernagore and of the political issues which agitated them in 1908, one must place them in their Bengali and Indian contexts. The movement for the independence of India, of which the birth happened in 1857 with the revolt of the sepoys, has its roots going back even further in the nineteenth century in different parts of the peninsula and with heterogeneous perspectives. But it is towards the end of the nineteenth century that the movement would take a real shape, unity and force. It is then that was created in 1891 in Bengal the Swadeshi movement which essentially meant the boycott of all products of foreign origin and of the development of national industries.6

  • 7 Georgette David.

7The movement was sparked off by the partition of Bengal in 1905. A new province was created consisting of East Bengal and Assam with Dacca as its capital. The major portion of the Muslim population of Bengal was located around Dacca, the ancient city of the Moghuls (18 million Muslims out of 31). Bengal had 53 million people of whom 43 million were Hindus and 10 million were Muslims. Since 1903, the announcement of this measure had provoked the agitation of the revolutionary leadership. By the time the partition became effective in 1905, the movement expanded into a mass movement. It consisted of young people from good families, students, who constituted the spearhead of the movement. Bengalis did not accept the dismemberment of Bengal, their nation.7

  • 8 Georgette David.

8In 1907, the movement, so far peaceful and lawful, took a new turn and became violent. In 1907 and especially in 1908, bombs exploded everywhere leading to strong concerns among British authorities and to real worries among the White population. In November 1907, two aborted attempts were made against the train of the lieutenant governor, Lord Fraser, near Chandernagore. In December, another, partially successful one took place in Midnapore. On April 11, 1908 a bomb (as we saw earlier) was thrown into the residence of the mayor of Chandernagore and on April 30 was the famous assassination attempt of Muzzaffarpur.8

  • 9 Georgette David.

9It can be asked why Chandernagore was one of the key places for the revolutionary movement. It was due to its exceptional situation of being a French territory which gave it three major advantages. Firstly, being French territory, it was a land of refuge where revolutionaries who were wanted in British India found shelter and enjoyed peace and relative liberty of action. It is thus that Sri Motilal came and settled down in Chandernagore where he founded an ashram during his life time. This ashram became a center of welcome for revolutionaries who were wanted in Calcutta. Sri Aurobindo lived there hidden for thirty nine days before embarking for Pondicherry. Pondicherry also, of course, was a land of asylum. The famous poet, Subramania Bharathi, stayed there for ten years and continued the publication of his journal, India. The second advantage was its special postal service. The French post was largely used by the revolutionaries, not so much for their correspondence as nowhere can mail sent by post remain secret, but for receiving literature considered to be seditious by the British authorities of India. It is thus that the Indian Sociologist and the Gaelic American, whose import into India had been banned in 1907, were introduced clandestinely into Calcutta through Chandernagore. Finally, in Chandernagore, the purchase of firearms was free. A network of importation of arms of Saint-Etienne, especially revolvers, was established. Emotionally, these revolvers represented much for the revolutionaries. Nirad C. Chaudhuri would recall ironically, in retrospect, in his autobiography: “The revolutionary and terrorist movement in Bengal rested entirely on a romantic vision of the revolver, invested with an unlimited potential for political agitation, a kind of Aladin’s lamp of liberty.” The arms were sent simply by mail. Due to vehement British protests, the government of Pondicherry issued an order on September 18, 1907 forbidding illegal carriage of arms. This order led to an outcry in Chandernagore. The inhabitants were worried about the insecurity of the town which would, if one were to believe them, be invaded at night by the gangsters of Calcutta. They claimed the right to defend themselves and underlined also the insufficiency of the police forces. In the face of these protests, the order was rescinded but a ruling strictly limiting and taxing the carriage of firearms was put into place soon after.9

  • 10 Georgette David.

10The Charu Chandra Roy affair raised passions in Chandernagore in 1908 and ripples in Pondicherry and even in Paris and in London. An embarrassment for the administrators and diplomats, this incident brought out the ambiguity of the situation of the enclaves, of the play of forces between France, the colony and British India. It shows the difficulty for the administration to reconcile the practical considerations of good relations with Britain with the requirements of the respect for persons and for the law.10

  • 11 Georgette David.

11On May 29, the Government of Bengal asked the administrator of Chandernagore to arrest Charu Chandra Roy, who was “residing at that time in Chandernagore,” to search his house and to hand him over to the carrier of the message. One must note the astute choice of the phrase “residing at present in Chandernagore,” which seemed to present him as a British subject who had taken refuge in Chandernagore and not as a French citizen who was a native of the town. Far from complying, the administrator referred the matter to Pondicherry. By a cable of June 14, the Governor gave the authorization of expulsion and of search of the house. The administrator did not seem to be satisfied; he agreed to arrest Charu Chandra Roy, but asked the British authorities to complete the arrest warrant. The arrest finally took place on June 19 and, on June 23, Charu Chandra Roy was suspended from his duties as deputy director of the Dupleix High School. It was an officer of the British police who executed the arrest and who searched the house, the French policemen assisting with the operation, which raised a great deal of criticism. This arrest provoked a wave of protests with ample repercussion in France. The points taken up were the innocence of Charu Chandra Roy, his honorability, the circumstances of his arrest and the fact of the extradition of a Frenchman.11

  • 12 Georgette David.

12Charu Chandra Roy was here described as a French “subject,” a term which was adopted to designate the natives of the Establishments who were electors, but who had not renounced their particular personal status. The fact that he was a Frenchman of Indian origin and not a Frenchman by race weighed in all along in this affair in the decisions and steps taken by the French administration. Hence the Governor, in his telegram informing the minister that he had authorized the extradition of Charu, specified that this servant was a native, something which would be underlined in pencil at the ministry. Reports, telegrams, demands for explanations came and went between the Governor of Pondicherry, the Ministries of the Colonies, Foreign Affairs, Justice and the French Embassy in London. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs clearly expressed its desire of being consulted beforehand in delicate matters of this kind.12

  • 13 Georgette David.

13In the mean time, new elements were added to this already voluminous dossier: the British government asked the administrator of Chandernagore to submit to it the attendance registers of the college to verify the comings and goings of Charu. Incensed at this, the administrator refused. Even more serious, the charge against Charu was changed: from murder to one of conspiracy against authority, that is, a political crime for which it was usual to refuse extradition. There was considerable confusion within the French administration about what to do in this matter. It was finally decided that the French government would intervene in London but only in case of sentencing. The Foreign Office was contacted in this matter by the French ambassador in London. In the event, there was no sentencing. As the extradition had been sought on the basis of charges other than those confirmed by the court, the tribunal declared itself to be incompetent. Charu Chandra Roy would resume his political and professional activities and a few years later would abandon teaching to dedicate himself entirely to politics. From then on, Chandernagore vibrated in unison with the rest of India. Forty years later, it would be independence. Then, very naturally, Chandernagore would take its place in the mother country, even before the integration of the other French enclaves with the Indian Republic.13

  • 14 L’Inde Française en Sursis 1947-1954 by Patrick Pitoeff.

14After the independence of India and Pakistan from Britain on 15th August 1947, it became self-evident that the future of French possessions in India was uncertain. With a total area of 500 square kilometers, the five enclaves had barely 3,00000 inhabitants, as against 436 million Indians according to the census of 1951. They suffered from the disadvantage of being dispersed: around one hundred kilometers of Tamil country separated Karaikal from Pondicherry; Mahe was four hundred kilometers away in Kerala; the distance of Yanam in the Godavari delta was six hundred kilometers and Chandernagore in far off Bengal was at a remove of one thousand six hundred kilometers. French India resembled pimples on the map of the Indian Union, as was remarked in an article in the Times of India in 1952. Justifications for retaining these possessions appeared very tenuous: the smallness of the territory did not admit of a plantation economy, and if the textile industry in Mouttalpett and Modéliarpet, northern and southern suburbs of Pondicherry, provided the livelihood of forty thousand people, its production of six thousand tonnes of cloth and yarn represented only a miniscule portion of that of the entire French Union. By far the largest enterprise, the Anglo-French, with a market share of 60%, was mostly owned by Indian capital, while Savana, with a market share of one third represented the interests of four thousand stockholders in France, a drop in the world of French capitalism. If, finally, one adds that the French Ministry of Overseas Territories had only 676 Europeans and 4600 other Francophones at its headquarters, one will see that, as opposed to Indo-China or Algeria, there could be no colonial lobby to weigh heavily on the decisions of the French government in relation to French India. Besides, after the renunciation of fortifications in 1814, Pondicherry had ceased to have any strategic value.14

  • 15 Patrick Pitoeff.

15During British rule in India, the continuance of the five enclaves of India could be ensured through the overarching political balance between the two great colonial powers and by the rediscovered and long peace between the two. The modus vivendi, however, was not without innumerable difficulties and occasionally even quite humiliating for France, so that she, a micro power in India, would deem it preferable to disembarrass herself of these possessions. From 1825 to the eve of the Second World War, various schemes for the exchange of territories with Britain had been debated by diplomats without ever coming to fruition. But the independence of India signified the end of this interplay of forces between Britain and France. Nehru, who came to Pondicherry as a leader of the Congress Party at the end of 1936 to support the striking textile workers had at that time dealt with the French authorities with tact, because of his sympathies with the Popular Front government. But his conviction, reiterated in many conferences, was that the populations administered by France belonged to the Indian nation by natural law. This was not without reason as through the porous frontiers of the five establishments circulated the same men and women speaking the same languages, having the same customs, united for a long time by family ties and solidarities of caste. Chandernagore was the most striking example of such an osmosis: the town served as a residence to a working population whose daily migrations took them in large numbers to work in Calcutta, thirty kilometers away, for which the French establishment had already become a distant suburb.15

  • 16 Patrick Pitoeff.

16In this respect, the value of French India to France was essentially political: France took pride in establishing a plurisecular political culture, in introducing its political values, creating a representative system and associating the diverse population in a common republican, democratic and nationalist design. As for the public opinion in metropolitan France, such attachment as there was to these territories was of a sentimental nature. For the political class which had just founded the Fourth Republic, questions of principle outweighed pragmatism which was suspected of having at that time impelled the British to take precipitate action. Pondicherry could not be ceded without a last manifestation of its French ideal. One would thus state that article 27 of the Constitution be respected, which laid down that no cession of territories could be made without the consent of the affected people, an argument which very naturally led to a decision about a referendum.16

  • 17 Patrick Pitoeff.

17French leaders were not ready to leave India. In Paris, the French Ministry of Overseas Territories became the bastion of resistance. Behind the official discourses, a strategic defense of French India was decided upon and its planning was entrusted to the Inspector General of the Colonies, Tézenas du Montcel. Sent to India in the autumn of 1947, he suggested engaging France in a long war of attrition. In a decisive report, this civil servant analyzed that if Chandernagore was lost the rifts of the newly born India would be exploited to the full. For the establishments of the South, a policy of waiting while resorting to the old methods of manipulation would be adopted. Someone capable of defending the idea of these territories remaining French would be promoted to a position of power and be made Governor. Given the circumstances, one needed an authentic leader, an ambitious person who was gifted at the same time with a strong personality and a great doctrinal flexibility. This providential man would be Edouard Goubert, a Franco-Indian veteran of the Great War, chief clerk of the Court in Pondicherry and who, at the age of fifty-nine, had a solid political following and a seat in the representative Assembly as well as in the Council of Government. He would reject neither India nor France and his socialism would be without a face.17

  • 18 Patrick Pitoeff.

18From then on, all the elements were in place for the supposed referendum not to take place and while, for three years everyone talked about it, no one really wanted it. Reading the summaries of dozens of meetings, most often at the Quai d’Orsay, between civil servants and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Overseas Territories, one is struck by the absence of the political will to succeed. Hesitations grew in number and in strength: at times one complained about the intransigence of India and at others one worried about possible retaliations against the pro-French in case of an Indian victory, as everyone knew that “the secrecy of the vote in the establishments of India is pure fiction.”18 France thus slid towards its departure from India in a welter of confusion over its policies and objectives.

  • 19 Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs français après Dupleix, pp. 364-365.

19As a preliminary step towards the eventual abandonment of all the enclaves, France agreed to give up its lodges. This was in effect a purely symbolic act as these lodges were of not much use to France. In a recent study, Hugues Jean de Dianoux has shown that this cession had led to a series of errors and of irregularities. Firstly, these lodges being French territory, there was no question of offering them-and to give them-without a vote in Parliament, as in other cases of cession of territory. Secondly, the inhabitants, being French citizens, should have been consulted. Thirdly, these lodges were not formally designated. It would have been proper to at least name them rather than merely describe them vaguely showing that the donor did not even know what it was giving. Lastly, and even more seriously, some of these lodges were located in Pakistani territory. Because France could not in effect hand over to India the lodges of Dacca and Jougdia, the factoreries of Chittagong and Sylhet and the fields of Serampour and Sola, which were then in Eastern Pakistan, now Bangladesh, theoretically these territories are, contrary to reality, still French.19

20Preceding the eventual transfer of the French territories, the French ambassador to India, Count Ostrorog was authorized on July 30, 1954 to convey the following propositions:

21The de facto transfer would take place before the de jure transfer;

22French economic and cultural interests would be preserved;

23The Indian government would take charge of the lost territories that is those occupied by the partisans of Dadala, Subbiah and Goubert;

24France would renounce the referendum; the representative assembly and the municipal assemblies would meet in conference to make a statement on the de facto transfer and on its conditions;

25In case of a vote in favor of cession, it would take place immediately;

26It is only after this that a treaty would be drawn up, signed by the two governments and submitted for ratification;

27During the negotiations, the Indian authorities relaxed their blockade of these territories. On October 11, 1954 as a result of a diplomatic breakthrough between the two countries a Franco-Indian treaty was signed in Delhi. Ostrorog had obtained everything that France could hope for:

28The Indian Union would guarantee large autonomy to the former French enclaves, which would preserve their representational and judicial institutions;

29The status of civil servants, their salaries, pensions and retirements would be preserved;

30French would remain the official language as long as the elected officials would not have taken a contrary decision;

  • 20 Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs français après Dupleix, pp. 396-397.

31The educational institutions would be maintained; a French institute would be created.20

32Article 1 of the 1954 treaty stipulated that the former French territories would maintain the distinctive administrative status which existed prior to the transfer of the territories. In effect, this article has ensured that the former French territories were not amalgamated into the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. People in these territories were not in favor of merger mainly for economic reasons. When in 1979, the Morarji Desai government floated the idea of merging these territories with neighbouring states, there were widespread riots in Pondicherry. Since then, no government in Delhi has tried to set aside the guarantee contained in this article. Article IV of the 1956 Cession Treaty stipulates that French nationals born in the territories would become Indian nationals at the coming into force of the treaty in 1962. Article V of this treaty allows those who wish to do so the option of retaining their French nationality by making a written declaration within six months of the commencement of the treaty.

  • 21 Interview on July 14, 2003.

33An Indian citizen21 who did not opt for French nationality in 1962 when Pondicherrians were given the option lamented his decision. He said that he was young and idealistic in those days and that it did not make sense for him to become a French citizen when India not too long ago had won a freedom struggle against the British. He said that now his family members were reproaching him for not having chosen French citizenship, as he would have been better off financially if he were a French citizen. He remarked, ironically, that many of the Indians who opted for French citizenship then do not speak a word of French and are totally ignorant of French culture. He also said that on the final day in 1962 when the people were opting for French citizenship, there were long lines outside the Consulate General of France in Pondicherry. The gates remained open until the early hours of the morning and many people kept receding behind in the queue because they could not make up their minds whether they wanted to be French or Indian citizens. He felt that people were ill informed about the advantages of becoming a French citizen and that some people were not at all informed about it.

  • 22 Interview with Mr. Jean-Baptiste Pinai, a retraité militaire, July-August 2005.

34For Indians of French nationality, integration into the larger Pondicherrian society is not always easy. When they leave France to come and live in Pondicherry, they find that there is an ever widening gap between their outlook developed while living in France and that of the local people living in Pondicherry even if both categories are Tamil. Many of them feel dissatisfied over a number of problems of daily living. What follows is a typical series of complaints. While many of them as pensioners from the French army are very rich relative to the local population, the reality is that they feel their wealth is soon depleted. The local people are quick to exploit them. They are usually made to pay more for items of daily consumption such as vegetables, fish and meat purchased in the local market. Furthermore, some of them, having lived in France have also developed tastes and lifestyles that that they feel they need to maintain to some extent in Pondicherry. For some various kinds of French food, not easily available locally, such as steaks, cheese, salami and sausages are regular necessities. (An interviewee, for example, said that he would go crazy if he could not eat his “steak frites,” that is, steak and French fries, at least once a week). According to one person, Nilgiri’s, a local grocery store which caters to the affluent class, sells such items at very high prices if it has them in stock. However, not everyone has such complaints. One Franco-Pondicherrian22 now temporarily settled here requests his sister who lives in France to send him salami, for example.

  • 23 Interview with a Muslim Franco-Pondicherrian, a retraité militaire, July-August 2005.
  • 24 Michalon, p. 88.

35For one Franco-Pondicherrian,23 unfavorable circumstances forced him to leave France and to live in Pondicherry. For him, life is not a bed of roses either. He sits everyday on the Goubert Avenue facing the sea, contemplating whether or not to leave and go somewhere else. This person is truly in a state of limbo. He even feels let down by his progeny. He misses their filial attachment which is such a prominent feature in most Indian families. Even though he considers himself to be French rather than Indian and has developed all manner of French tastes, he also desires that his children develop an Indian attitude towards him. Paul Michalon, in an unpublished dissertation on the Franco-Pondicherrian community, had suggested that the social relationships of the French population seem to be moving towards Indianization from the bottom and towards “francization-marginalisation” from the top of the socio-economic ladder.24

  • 25 Interview with Mr. Bichat, a Franco-Pondicherrian, a retraité militaire, July 2005.
  • 26 Pondichéry-des comptoirs français à l'Inde d'aujourd'hui, 2004, Georgette David, Kailash Editions, (...)

36The eighteenth century canal originally constructed for the purpose of draining the city’s flood waters into the sea, ended up dividing Pondicherry into a White Town and a Black Town. This division suited the natives as the Hindus viewed the Whites as outcastes because they consumed alcohol and beef and breached other Hindu taboos.25 In present times, the White Town with its many buildings of European architecture is conveniently used by Pondicherry in its efforts to project its image as a former French town in order to boost tourism. According to Georgette David, tourism is an important activity in the town: many Indians from all over India, attracted mainly by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and a large number of foreigners, attracted by the magic of the town’s name and of its colonial past pass through Pondicherry in a continous flow. Some of them settle down in Auroville. Pondicherry is probably the Indian town with the highest proportion of Westerners. Hence it remains faithful to its tradition of being mid-way between India and Europe.26

  • 27 Interview with Mr. Marius, a retired civilian Franco-Pondicherrian, July 2005.

37According to one Franco-Pondicherrian27 who has come back to take care of his mother, there are practically no more ethnic, original Pondicherrians in Pondicherry. They left after the departure of France. He feels that now there is too much noise, the town is too crowded and commercialized. In his view, the contemporary inhabitants of Pondicherry are in reality people from elsewhere who have migrated to Pondicherry as, being a Union Territory, it is economically better off than surrounding areas. In general, these migrants come from different parts of Tamil Nadu.

  • 28 David Annoussamy, pp. 192-193.

38At the time of Independence of India, democracy was more advanced in Pondicherry than in the rest of the country and France was engaged in improving the system without regard to what was happening in the immense British India. When the British left India, it was clear to everyone that France would have to do the same. The Indian government promptly proclaimed it. France was not in such a rush. She declared that she was in favor of self-determination in the establishments by way of a referendum, a solution which was accepted in the beginning by India which viewed it as nothing but a formality. But, in French political circles, there was a tug of war between those who did not want to dismantle the colonial empire and those who were in favor of the people determining their own future.28

  • 29 David Annoussamy, p. 193.

39For the Pondicherrians, the turn of events was problematic. They had become used to their dual identity; it had become natural for them. They had economic and human ties with France as well as with India. The thought of breaking these ties with France was weighing upon them. They accepted the idea of a merger with India but desired a period of transition so that integration would take place gradually without any group of citizens having to suffer. France tried to profit by this situation and prolong its presence.29

  • 30 David Annoussamy, p. 193.

40But India could not understand the Pondicherrians’ reservations about rejoining the mother country. It could not understand that Pondicherry would not be integrated as easily as the princely states of India as it had its own history of nearly three centuries with its own institutions functioning in its own language. The distancing of Pondicherrians in the negotiations of the agreements between France and India resulted in weak guarantees for the maintenance of the institutions. This regrettable lacuna enabled the Indian government to complete political and administrative integration at a hectic speed. The territory acquired a political status which was very close to that which it had under French dominance before the transfer but it was made to function in a completely different context. Within a span of fifteen years the essence of the French heritage had disappeared. Most of the Francophone section of the population preferred to leave the territory. The enclaves became barely distinguishable from the neighboring territories. The politicians of Pondicherry who allowed this to happen so as to bolster their standing with Delhi, realized that a political identity could not last without a cultural identity. They set about creating one artificially.30

  • 31 David Annoussamy, p. 194.

41Political integration has been supplemented by demographic integration. If the Indian administration nullified the French system, it took care to win the population over by improving its material well being. It found a way of being accepted in the economic and social development and succeeded in it. This policy led to a large influx of population from the rest of India and the original local population was submerged. This double integration which has erased the old character of Pondicherry is giving it a newer one, less defined but visible still. Pondicherry has become a converging point for medical care and higher education. Businessmen and scientists coming from other parts of India have made of it an intercultural home. France brings its contribution by the institutions which it maintains. Young people dream of going to France and learn French. Some Francophone Indians who have remained there ardently carry the torch and overseas Pondicherrians periodically return to rekindle the flames.31

  • 32 L'intermède français en Inde, 2005, by David Annoussamy, L'Harmattan, Paris, p. 190.

42According to David Annoussamy, Pondicherry is not an old French colony, which has become independent and developed its institutions based on what it has inherited. It has been integrated with the rest of India, modeling itself on Britain through the adoption of the English language and British institutions. French plays a much more important role than in any other Indian town. Due to its insertion in India, Pondicherry, even if it is small in size, has acquired many institutes of higher learning, research, industrial firms, hospitals, shops and of centers of spirituality: it is the work of people who have come from other parts of India. It is this new population which sets the tone of social life and which directs the economy. This new population coming from various parts of India gives Pondicherry a pan-Indian character. This richness coupled with the remaining presence of France makes Pondicherry an inter-cultural home.32

43It may be argued that this is what makes Pondicherry unique and different from other parts of India and defines its cultural specificity. Historical circumstances have led to the intermingling of French and Indian cultures. However, this intermingling has gone beyond the mere state of hybridity. There has been a qualitative transformation which has led to creolization: something new has resulted from the interaction of the heterogeneous French and Indian cultures. The results are unpredictable and occurring at an exponential rate.

44During my visit to the former French enclaves in the summer of 2003, a questionnaire containing 12 questions with three parts to each question was distributed to a random sample of people in the five former French enclaves. The first question asked whether they spoke French, a variant of French or no French at all, the second one whether in their opinion French was flourishing, disappearing or steady, the third one asked whether they thought that the interaction between French and Indian cultures had led to a very different culture, a slightly different culture or to no difference in the existing culture, the fourth one asked if there is a very different or a slightly different culture whether it was constantly changing, changing very slowly or if it was steady, the fifth one asked whether they felt that the traces of French culture in Pondicherry were readily visible, marginally visible or invisible, the sixth one asked them to rate the position of French in relation to all the other languages and cultures of India as being important, marginally important or not important at all, the seventh one asked if they thought that the effects of the new culture were predictable, predictable to a certain extent or unpredictable, the eighth one asked whether they thought that there were literary publications such as novels, short stories or drama in French and if so whether there were many, few or none, the ninth one asked if French appeared in the media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television frequently, rarely, or never, the tenth one asked whether they thought that the issue of French had been politicized and if so whether it had been politicized heavily, moderately or not at all, the eleventh one asked who they thought had a greater say over the question of French in Pondicherry: the central government, the government of Pondicherry or the neighboring state governments of each of the respective enclaves, the twelfth question asked whether they thought that the influence of France in Pondicherry was important, moderately important or not important at all and the last question asked them for additional written comments about any other issue which they felt would throw further light on this study.

45The total number of respondents was 126: 38 in Pondicherry, 18 in Karaikal, 28 in Mahe, 18 in Yanam and 24 in Chandernagore. The respondents in Pondicherry were representative of a wide range of the population (and also included a few French Ph. D. students from universities in Paris), those in Karaikal were principally the teaching personnel of the Alliance Française, those in Mahe were the teaching personnel and students of an evening class for beginners at the Alliance Française, those in Yanam were mainly the administrative and technical personnel of the Regional Administrator’s Office and those in Chandernagore were mainly the students and teaching personnel of an evening French class for beginners at the French Institute/Museum.

46The results of the questionnaire were computed by making a numerical count of the three choices in each of the twelve questions. The resultant response for each of the questions was determined by the response of the majority to each category of every question. There were very slight variations in the responses in each of the enclaves in comparison with the overall responses for all five enclaves taken together. A total of 74 respondents (17 in Pondicherry, 5 in Karaikal, 23 in Mahe, 13 in Yanam, 16 in Chandernagore) added their personal comments at the end of the questionnaire.

47The numerical results of the questionnaire showed that, overall, the perception of the inhabitants of the five former French territories of India was that this coming together of French and Indian elements had resulted in a slightly different culture which was changing very slowly and whose effects were predictable to a certain extent. The traces of French culture, according to the people surveyed, were overall marginally visible. Their overall perception was that French was steady and that the influence of France in these territories was important. Furthermore, they were generally not aware of any literary publications in French, they felt that French appeared rarely in the media and that the issue of French had not been politicized. They also viewed French as being important in relation to all the other languages and cultures in India.

48The resultant slightly different culture demonstrated by the results of the questionnaire implies the existence of a creolized culture. However, this creolization, because the culture is only slightly different, is at a minimal level. It is not a case of hybridity, which is a static condition, because the slightly different culture is changing very slowly. French is perceived to be steady. If it were flourishing or disappearing, the rate of change of the slightly different culture would be different. The minimal creolization has resulted in, overall, marginally visible traces (and readily visible traces in Pondicherry).

49The written responses demonstrated, overall, a favorable attitude on the part of the respondents towards French language and culture and a keen desire that concrete steps be taken to promote them. Some of them viewed French as being important for tourism and for getting jobs in India and abroad. Many of them said that they loved the French language due to its beauty and musical qualities. Mr. Alain Thomas, the Director of the Alliance Française, pointed out that there was an identity of viewpoints on the part of France and India on big international questions and a similarity in the manner of approaching them. He also pointed out that both countries were struggling for their cultural identity. A resident of Pondicherry who had lived in France for twenty years said that the town reminded her of France due to French street names, the French people who were present all year long and institutions such as the Alliance Française which transmitted French culture to the Indian people. An official representative of the French Pondicherrians thought that relations between France and India can and must be developed through Pondicherry. Mr. Lalit Verma of the Aurodhan Art Gallery pointed out that the French influence has now been submerged in other elements such as the Ashram and Auroville among others. However, it should be remembered that the founder of the Ashram was a refugee in territory that was French at that time and that Auroville was conceived by his French companion. Auroville is also actually located in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. Mr. C. Anebarassou, a resident of Karaikal, said that it was a wonder to hear some illiterate people use some French words such as “bonjour, bonsoir, étagère, etc.” A native of Yanam very interestingly stated that he felt that his mother was India and that his father was France. This statement is very symbolic in the context of questions of legitimacy of these territories.

  • 33 L'intermède français en Inde, 2005, by David Annoussamy, L'Harmattan, Paris, p. 90.

50David Annoussamy says that Pondicherry, during the course of its short history, has seen the evolution on its soil of people from different countries. It has known periods of abrupt demographic expansion as well as periods of passivity which are as brutal. It has been for many a point of transit. Others, having come in pursuit of wealth, settled down there. Many of those who were born there are now spread all over the world. What is, however, constant about it is that it has always been cosmopolitan and that its destiny has been in the hands of those who have come from elsewhere.33 This implies that the French character of Pondicherry is perhaps a particular case of the general situation of Pondicherry. Its Frenchness could be viewed as a special articulation of its general cosmopolitanism.

  • 34 Michalon, pp. 26-28.

51Paul Michalon has said that from 1947-1954, the attitude of Pondicherrian militants towards a possible referendum in favor of integration into India was characterized by a certain nebulousness. However, Michalon attributes this attitude to the Hindu’s notion of the relativity of truth which is in sharp contrast to the cartesian notion of a clear choice between yes and no offered in a referendum. For the Hindu, he says, there are multiple levels of truth. It would be absurd to resort to the referendum in India, and especially in South India. One can ask a particular country from Europe to determine its choice in a definite manner. The Bengali is still able to decide in a formal manner. But one cannot ask the same of the South Indian who is averse to categorical affirmations as well as to absolute negations. In his soul, and the whole history of his thought attests it, there are no air tight compartments between a yes and a no. In his yes, there is always some place for a no, and his no never excludes a yes. There are various plausible explanations for the religious foundations of such an attitude. The Hindu conception of religious truth is essentially pragmatic and subjective. For the Hindu, there is no absolute truth; consequently, there can be neither exclusivism, nor incompatibility of principle, but relativity. In this light, it becomes easier to understand the difficulty involved in making clear decisions as was required by the referendum. It is a philosophical attitude among cultivated people, it is an atavistic bent of mind among the masses which are used to maintaining a prudent reserve in the face of great problems which his ignorance makes it difficult to understand. If the Indian, by temperament, always hesitates between two absolutes, his confusion could only be greater when it came to a choice like that between India and France. The civilized Indian of the former Indian French territories knew that India was his country and that he could not disown his land nor his brothers. But he also knew that he owed much to France which had brought to him the benefits of its administration and of its civilization. There are many who owed it their moral personality and material situation. Furthermore, the Indian is above all sentimental by nature. And the feeling for France was very much alive everywhere: an infatuation, a weakness and spontaneous sympathy. In this light, how would it have been possible to tell the French to leave? To ask him whether he wanted to be Indian or French was a question which for him had no meaning. This bent of mind originating from the difficult confrontation between the Hindu notion of relativity in which one conception of truth always gives way to a feeling that there might be another possible truth and the very cartesian reality of a referendum probably explains (as much as the equivocations of French and Indian politicians) the attitude of Pondicherrian militants in the years 1947-1954.34

  • 35 Michalon, pp. 40-41.

52In Pondicherry, in the nineteenth century, there was a lively debate on the theme of citizenship, some people considering it unacceptable if it meant the preservation of the personal status. One was content to recognize to the electorate of India a hybrid status of “subjects with voting rights.” The decree of 1881, in this context, aimed to present the candidates as “French citizens.” The metropolitan ideal of assimilation was perhaps part of a more long term strategy, which was not very naive: to weaken British India by the flowering of citizenship and democracy in the scattered enclaves. Where there was no scope for arms, the French relied on the destabilizing virtues of universal suffrage and of the “reign of equality”–to which Robespierre had aspired–on the doorsteps of their powerful neighbor. In other words, this grand design went, so one believes, beyond the desire of a large section of the population of the establishments (where the untouchables are very numerous) to emerge from the humiliating condition of an inferior being or a pariah, in a society where the links of domination-subordination are so old and so implacable. In such a society where infractions of caste rules are believed to affect the dharma which governs the entire cosmic order, there is often a temptation—and the history of relations between Hinduism and other peripheral religions shows it—to escape.35

  • 36 Michalon, pp. 57-58.

53The “optants” have some basis for feeling “doubly French because they have chosen to be so,” and sometimes show it quite ostentatiously (that is the case of the retired military personnel) by the decoration of their houses, the tricolor badges on their scooters or their large signet rings of blue-white-red stones; whatever their hesitation might have been at the time of choice and the ambiguities of their present situation, from their swagger it becomes evident that they know that they are French. Without making any value judgments, according to Michalon, one can say that for the majority of these Frenchmen, nationality does not correspond to anything intimate like the feeling of belonging to the French nation. The great majority (60 to 70%, according to the general opinion) is not Francophone (which is, in fact, a very delicate point) and many are unaware even of the name of the French President and of the colors of the French flag.36

  • 37 Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs français après Dupleix, p. 418.
  • 38 “Les Pondichériens dans l’administration coloniale de l’Indochine” by Claude Marius in Relations e (...)
  • 39 Ibid, p. 396.
  • 40 “Emigration indienne et commerce maritime: les facteurs externes du progrès” in Pondichéry et les (...)

54As many as 95% of the optants of 1963 were descendants of renonçants37 those inhabitants of these territories who gave up their personal status in Hindu society in favor of French citizenship in 1881. Given that the renonçants belonged principally to the lower castes in the very hierarchical Hindu society, French citizenship also meant an escape from their downtrodden condition. Conversations with some of them during the summer of 2003 revealed that there is a subconscious fear among them of being rejected by France and of losing their citizenship. As a result, they firmly assert their French nationality. At the same time, they express their deep reverence for their indigenous culture. Many of the renonçants who did not reap the full benefits of French citizenship in the former French enclaves due to preferential treatment given to Europeans and to descendants of Europeans decided to migrate to Indo-China principally in the region of Cochin-China and found employment in the French administration there.38 After 1957, however, they were repatriated, some to metropolitan France but mostly to the overseas departments, principally the Reunion Islands. Many of the magistrats were repatriated to French territories in Africa where the presidents of tribunals were Pondicherrians at the time of Independence.39 This complex link between the French enclaves, Indo-China and other French territories can be viewed as another component of the identity of the inhabitants of the former French territories of India. There is yet another important link of Pondicherrians: with their ancestors who, in the nineteenth century, went to overseas Francophone territories as coolies, in particular to the sugar plantations of the Reunion Islands, French Guyana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.40 People travel to and from these far-off territories to visit their ancestors and these distant links may have a bearing on the identity of present day Pondicherrians. The Tamilian coolies or the indentured laborers from Pondicherry were not allowed to speak their native language in the Reunion Islands, forcing them to speak in the local créole. This is in sharp contrast to Pondicherry where people spoke either just Tamil or just French but did not mix the two.

  • 41 Michalon, p. 61.

55Contrary to the various reports on this question, the fate of Frenchmen of Pondicherry is not determined in the tight space of the “White Town” (the former colonial quarters) nor in “somnolence, boredom, provincialism.” The rapid growth of the local population, of the main infrastructures, of traffic and of buildings is a witness to the fact that the former French enclave is not a decrepit museum of colonialism, but a real “boom town” with a promising future. The present and the future of the French community must be understood in this context.41

  • 42 Michalon, p. 83.

56Generally speaking, the French microcosm of the territory, which is largely inactive, appears to be immobilized in the face of the employment question, subjecting its standard of living to the declining value of the rupee or to some financial assistance, and thus always dependent on external agents. One can ask oneself if this life with a safety net even at a modest level prepares young people, in particular, for a lucid and responsible vision of professional life. Furthermore, because it is engaged very marginally as an active working population, the French community, submerged in the maelstrom of movements, of noise and of sweat of functioning Indian towns, wields no solid economic influence, and thus very little social or political weight. Not very numerous, and definitely on the fringes of active life, the Franco-Pondicherrians undoubtedly see, in the eyes of public opinion, their caricatured image with the features of the richest—and of the most visible—among them. At the risk of becoming isolated they also risk becoming unpopular and to arouse jealousy.42

  • 43 Michalon, pp. 84-85.
  • 44 Michalon, p. 91.

57It is striking to notice, through daily conversations, the association which the man in the street makes between French and soldier: public opinion is not based on statistics but on realities which are most easily grasped—even though, of course, it is done in a simplistic manner. Whether he likes it or not, therefore, the retraité militaire represents for many the community of Frenchmen—or rather, as common usage reserves the term Frenchmen for the White population of the colonial quarters, the community of “Indians with French nationality.”43 Caught between an expatriate minority “confident of itself and dominating” (and withdrawn into itself outside its place and time of work) and most of the Indian population which denies it even the title of “French,” the Franco-Pondicherrian community feels left to its own devices, being compelled to find within its bosom reasons and means to come to terms with the accidents of history. The internal social life of the French in India can obviously not be described or qualified in a few pages. The essence of its traits and its rites come from the Tamil world from which its members originate, and where they remain submerged, most particularly in the case of families of the most modest among them.44

  • 45 Michalon, p. 142.

58Caught between two false and simplistic visions of worlds which are so fundamentally different, the Indian-French youth experiences a real acculturation at an age where one needs solid foundations. A young woman living in the Parisian region was of the view that an adult’s life is constructed on the basis of questions which arise during these formative years, of the orientations and choices which are then made. It is also perhaps the time when the double cultural and linguistic belonging of an individual is the source of revelations, demystifications and of conflicts which have been assumed or not resolved.45

  • 46 Michalon, p. 144.

59France, in this daily contact, carries the suggestion of unusual liberties: those of speaking up in class, of having responsibilities, of making personal plans for the future, of interacting freely with certain teachers, and even of going to the “boum” organized twice a year by the Foyer du Lycée with the aim, according to the Proviseur, to enable these girls to come out of their homes! While the stuffed noises of the party are heard, the fathers’ mopeds await, aligned along the pavement.46

  • 47 Michalon, p. 155.
  • 48 Michalon, p. 156.

60But how can one be a Franco-Pondicherrian today? Before attempting to answer this question, one must say and repeat that, contrary to the presentations that are made by the French press, Pondicherry cannot be summarized as the “White Town” dozing off at the time of siesta, but appears as a small regional capital with a feverish activity and a very rapid economic development. In this context, the French are viewed as being doubly marginal: very few among the inhabitants of the Union Territory of Pondicherry (one to two percent of the total population), they hold a very subdued place in the economy, which makes it a not very influential group… in the land of “arrangements.”47 Being second class citizens, they are allowed only residual political activity, like what the colonial era had to tolerate—or sometimes support. A docile and manipulated electorate (that is, despised), but often discouraged, the French of India would seem to deserve a better treatment from metropolitan France, which intervenes only halfheartedly.48

  • 49 Michalon, p. 157.

61One could imagine (and hope) that, under the weight of their isolation, they would constitute a well knit microcosm, eager for unity and solidarity. It seems that this is not the case. Michalon says that after having used all along in his study the term community, for facility of language and for lack of a better word, his conclusion is that the French of Pondicherry do not form a community: they present rather the aspect of a society characterized by cleavages of caste, religion, levels of education, wealth, sex and clientelism. Rather than being a minority united in the face of its difficulties (which are real and very specific), the observer, however little attentive he may be, discovers a microcosm which does not permit simple characterization.49

  • 50 Michalon, p. 160.

62Michalon has said that having come to the end of his study, it seems to him legitimate to suggest a different image of these Frenchmen of India from that which the press presents. There is something indecent and unfair about attempts to dismiss these few thousand French nationals at one end of the world as inveterate impostors, drinkers and pétanque players. Michalon says that in his interactions with these people he found a microcosm which is not dozing off under the tropical heat, but anxiously searching its way in a tortuous situation. Being the ultimate metamorphosis of the colonial adventure, the Franco-Pondicherrians are the inheritors of a largely defective treaty, and for the most Europeanized among them, of a destabilizing cultural confrontation.50

  • 51 Jacques Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs de l’Inde après Dupleix, p. 411.

63Paul Michalon has been quoted so extensively because his insights are applicable to my own interactions with members of this community. The Franco-Pondicherrian community is a crucial object of study when trying to resolve or define the notion of creolization in the former French territories of India. They are really the gauge of the French presence in these territories. According to Jacques Weber, more than l’hôtel du gouvernement, the Sacré-Coeur, l’hôtel de ville and the statue of Dupleix, the Franco-Pondicherrians, the descendants of the renonçants of the statut personnel, remain the living witnesses of the long French presence in this country and, sometimes, the spokesmen of French culture in the subcontinent.51 For while political treaties have determined the present whereabouts of members of this community who are now largely settled in France or in other Francophone territories with a very small number still remaining in Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam, one can be led to ask the following question: who are the real Pondicherrians? As mentioned earlier, one prevalent view is that the Pondicherrians have all left except for a handful and that Pondicherry is now a town of people who have migrated from elsewhere. In that case, the real Pondicherrians would be defined as those inhabitants who belonged to the French Indian territories during the era of French colonialism. In the rest of India, which was colonized by the British, the relationship with the former colonizer is defined mainly by the use of the English language and of the adoption of the institutions which it left behind. Decolonization in the case of British India did not affect Indians’ relationship to their motherland. Besides, hardly any Indian living in India adopted British nationality. In the case of Pondicherry, decolonization led to an uprooting of Pondicherians of French nationality and to their migration and exile to the land of the former colonizer.

64In the study of creolization in these territories, the Franco-Pondicherrian community can be viewed as a variable of considerable importance which will define the nature of creolization there. In particular, members of this community can concretize the relativity of the notions of deculturation, acculturation, assimilation and creolization which are key concepts in cross-cultural interactions. They occupy the spectrum which extends from deculturation to creolization. While these are theoretical concepts where, in particular, assimilation and creolization apply to cultures as a whole, when studying this community one realizes that when they are viewed as variables the notions of deculturation and acculturation are no longer as airtight as they appear in theory. In theory, deculturation is a total adoption of the cultural elements which have been introduced by outsiders whereas acculturation is a partial adoption of these elements. The Franco-Pondicherrians in Pondicherry certainly retain their native roots as they are Tamil speakers and follow the norms of Tamil culture. As Michalon previously pointed out, their French nationality does not carry the same connotation of intimacy as belonging to the French nation. This raises questions about the process of deculturation and acculturation itself where it needs to be known whether in these processes the adoption of whichever elements have been introduced must be qualified by the yardstick of intimacy. To what extent must extrapolations be made to the location of the colonizing culture for these processes to be successful?

  • 52 Brigitte Sébastia, pp. 70-71.

65In Île-de-France today, among migrants from Pondicherry, for example, the Tamil language has witnessed a revival of interest for several reasons. On the one hand, educational institutions modify their discourse and tend to attach value to the learning of the mother tongue among the young children. On the other hand, many adolescents regret having neglected the study of the Tamil language and blame their parents for not having insisted enough on their learning the language. This complex surfaces especially during their visits to India where their accent and their syntactical variety are subject to mockery, making them feel like outsiders to the Tamil community. An important factor which triggered among the Franco-Pondicherrians an awareness of the loss of value of language and culture was the mass exodus of Sri Lankans in the years 1980-1985. Franco-Pondicherrians all of a sudden found themselves facing, physically and culturally, people like them, who, in addition to having conserved their cultural markers speak a more authentic Tamil, less embellished with words of English or French origin. This purity of the Tamil language led to the rise of discourses valorizing Tamil language and identity advocated by regional movements which had been opposed to Brahmanical hegemony by actions such as the expurgation of Sanskrit words from the language or the opposition to Hindi as the national language. Thus, following the example of the Sri Lankans, some Pondicherrian associations in France cite as their objectives Tamil language classes for children and some Bharata natya dance classes.52

  • 53 Brigitte Sébastia, p. 71.

66Another index of the revival of interest in Tamil language in Île-de-France is in the field of the Catholic religion. The celebration of ordinary or extraordinary Tamil masses is necessary for Pondicherrians who have only a weak knowledge of the French language but Pondicherrians see in them another perspective, that of creating among their children a revival of interest in their mother tongue. This is even more possible in the sense that the religious sphere, for Indian communities, is an important area of socialization for children. Several years ago, some Pondicherrian communities had the idea of integrating some young people into their choir by giving them the text of songs in Tamil language transliterated in Roman characters in the hope of arousing their curiosity for learning to read and write in the language. But this experience turned out to be a failure and, today, the choirs are composed exclusively of adults.53

  • 54 Brigitte Sébastia, Les Pondichériens de l’Ile-de-France, p. 81.

67Brigitte Sébastia says that to be Pondicherrian in Île-de-France is to share a common culture which consists of the language, the practice of rituals, the observance of certain prescriptions based on the notions of purity and impurity, hierarchy between members of the community, the conception of the family and so on. Also, even if all the Pondicherrians do not speak Tamil or do not know the caste of their ancestors, in everything which touches upon social and family life, they have conserved their cultural practices while absorbing those which they found interesting in the exogenous cultures. Hence, the aperitif, the place given to meals, the dancing evening or even French dessert served with champagne are part of most of the Pondicherrian ceremonies even of those which are branded “identitairement” as the feast of nubility. Even if the preferred daily food and even more so on special occasions, is rice cooked the Indian way, hence its prevalence in ceremonies, Pondicherrian parents and children appreciate the variety of French cuisine. Yet they would not consume meats forbidden for the caste to which they belong.54

68We see in the Pondicherrians of Île-de-France the reversal of the process of acculturation. In some cases, even of deculturation. Perhaps in the older generation, it is more acculturation since they are bound to more easily retain some or all the characteristics of their native culture. Deculturation would be more easily accomplished in the younger people as is the case of the children who have neglected to acquire solid foundations in the Tamil language. One can say that there is constant negotiation taking place about which elements of the exogeneous cultures they wish to appropriate. A gentleman whom I met in Pondicherry described the Franco-Pondicherrians as being Indian in France and French in India. Perhaps this description is not entirely accurate as the Pondicherrians of the Île-de-France are not completely Indian and the Franco-Pondicherrians in Pondicherry are not fully French.

  • 55 “Intellectual origins of Nationalism in South India” in French in India and Indian nationalism by (...)
  • 56 K. S. Mathew, pp. 640-641.
  • 57 K. S. Matthew, p. 641.

69It can perhaps be inferred that a common reaction to the process of acculturation is to reinforce one’s native roots, a little bit like the law in physics which states that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the twentieth century, Tamil intellectuals reacted to the process of acculturation by asserting the merits of their own culture. This can be witnessed in the writings of C. Subramania Bharati, the eminent Tamil poet and promoter of nationalistic ideas, which eulogize how great India is and, in particular, extol the merits of Tamil culture. The resurgence of Indian nationalism is coupled with the special articulation of Tamil values. Bharati’s vision of a new India was “founded on the concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity and reinforced by love of humanity and love of God.”55 For him liberty and equality were building blocks of life and like Shelley he was enamored of the political philosophy of the French Revolution. He also held American democracy in high regard especially its egalitarian aspects.56 Tamil intellectuals were aware of the disparities, both social and economic, which were present in the society of that time. They were especially sensitive to the economic condition of the downtrodden: farmers, workers and poor and hunger-stricken people. One can see Western influences on their notions of democracy and their social concerns are geared towards promoting equity and political justice.57

  • 58 K. S. Matthew, p. 642.

70The interplay of tradition and modernity can best be brought out through the concepts of Swadeshi and Swaraj which were similar aspects of the nationalist ideology propagated by the Tamil intellectuals of the twentieth century. These intellectuals sought an inward inspiration by advocating the values of an Indian pre-British golden age. They did not seek a departure from Western influences but rather espoused a synthesis of ancient ideals with the benefits of Western thought and philosophy. Swadeshi had as its aim a literary and cultural revival which would be inspired by the glory of India’s past. Their influence was confined not only to the Tamil region but to other regions as well. Swaraj pertained to developing a self-governing India on the Western model. This was a direct result of India’s experience with colonialism and of its disapproval. The transition of India from a cultural agglomeration to the beginnings of a new nation can be viewed through the intellectual debates about nationalism in South India.58

  • 59 Interview with Ange, a Créole Franco-Pondicherrian, July 2005.

71One could perhaps, for the sake of argument, say that there was no creolization in the former French enclaves. From a certain point of view, the demonstration of a hypothetical lack of creolization in these territories would maybe not be very problematic, if by lack of creolization is meant a simple intermingling or juxtaposition of heterogeneous cultures without the emergence of a new reality. One need only observe the town and make inferences. To the naked uninitiated eye, Pondicherry can be said to be just like another Indian town. One Franco-Pondicherrian, however, said that he had visitors from the northern state of Gujarat who told him that after they had visited the town, they found something unique about Pondicherry, there was a certain calm about it, something difficult to explain which made Pondicherry different from other parts of India. However, the Franco-Pondicherrian said that if one were to ask him, he would not be able to either notice or explain this difference as he was from Pondicherry and that his roots were too entrenched in the place. The same would apply, according to him, to other Pondicherrians whom one spoke to.59 The original people who inhabited it were from Tamil Nadu and hence, can be regarded as the real inhabitants of the place. When the French arrived in 1674, the Mughals were the dominant power in India. French colonization was an interlude in India’s history. While initially the French East India Company followed by the French Government were interested mainly in trading, they also came to establish a French educational, administrative and judicial apparatus. If Pondicherry can be said to have been Frenchified during this period, the merger process in 1962 led to the dissipation of a sizeable segment of the Francophone population. Integration into India led to its Anglicization.

  • 60 Interview with Mr. Pierre Eluard, owner of Satsanga Restaurant, Pondicherry, July 2005.
  • 61 Interview with Mme Yves Huttin, August 2005.
  • 62 Michalon, p. 88.

72Indian culture is too strong for anyone, let alone the French, to have distorted it.60 According to some opinions of people who have been interviewed, the already existing traditional, classical and highly developed Tamil language in Pondicherry did not allow the French language to deform Tamil. The French language was thus essentially filtered by the strength of Tamil. Furthermore, the French territories were but a speck in the vast Anglophone India. There is a White town and a Black town separated by a canal. There are many old European colonial buildings in the White town. There are French street names running through the town and the tourism office map lists all the street names by calling them rues. According to the wife of a French expatriate, who is a doctor working in Chennai and who lives with his wife and children in Pondicherry visiting them mostly on weekends, Pondicherry, even if small in size, forms a distinct part of the collective unconscious of Frenchmen living in France. She also thinks that the inhabitants of Pondicherry tend to segregate themselves into metropolitans, expatriates, Franco-Pondicherrians, Aurovillians, Ashramites, foreigners and Indians. She attributes this segregation to the legacy of French colonization.61 Paul Michalon says that the relations between Franco-Pondicherrians and “Whites” (to employ a simple and straight term) appear charged with ambiguities and implicit meanings, precisely because the latter invariably occupy the positions of power: the consulate, lyçée, the Alliance Française and Center for Professional Development and, for that matter, even the parish of Notre Dame des Anges.62

  • 63 Interview with a Research Scholar of Ecole Française d’Extreme Orient, Pondicherry, June 2003.

73A local Indian resident of Pondicherry viewed the French element in Pondicherry as being a very tiny and insignificant part of contemporary life. He saw the principal official instruments of the propagation of French, namely the French Institute, the Alliance Française and the French Consulate General as being islands by themselves with little contact and interaction among them. His opinion of the Franco-Pondicherrian community was that it was very narrow-minded and self-centered with a distorted notion of its own importance.63

  • 64 Interview with Mr. Albert Rollin, June 2003.
  • 65 Menu Card viewed in June, 2003: There is, for starters, an “oeuf mimosa (egg yolk and mayonnaise b (...)

74According to Albert Rollin,64 a Franco-Pondicherrian, the following were the influences of French culture: alcohol, buildings, restaurants, the streets of Pondicherry and churches. For one thing, alcohol is very easily available in Pondicherry in contrast to the adjoining areas. It is true that because Pondicherry is a Union Territory, alcohol is cheaper than in the adjoining areas and, hence, people flock to Pondicherry to consume alcohol. But, according to Rollin, this habit of drinking is a legacy of the French and even though it is not red wine that readily flows through the streets of Pondicherry, local liquor is available in plenty. This is especially in sharp contrast to the fact that drinking is taboo among the more conservative and traditional Indian families. In a traditional Indian family, one would not drink especially in front of one’s elders but in Pondicherry it is not uncommon to have bottles of beer lying in the refrigerator to be consumed readily as refreshments irrespective of the presence of close family members and so on. With respect to the presence of restaurants, Rollin characterized Pondicherry as being a very gastronomic town with a wide variety of cuisines and where, in general, people like to eat well. This, he attributes also to the legacy of the French. In a typical restaurant menu, there are a wide variety of cuisines to choose from. For example, a typical Pondicherrian family may eat traditional food during the week and eat out during the weekend trying out the variety of continental and other cuisines available in restaurants. The menu card65 of Seagull’s, a local restaurant in Pondicherry, displays a large number of dishes with a French sounding name. The Tourism bureau of the Government of Pondicherry manages Seagull’s.

  • 66 Interview with Mr. Lourdes Rassa, July 9, 2003.

75According to one Indian citizen of Pondicherry,66 the elements of French culture in Pondicherry could be summarized as the monuments, the Lyçée Français, the French Institute, the periodical Trait-D’Union, the “Ecoles Indiennes à Programmes Français, the “Association des amis de la langue et de la culture française,” whose aims were two-fold namely to organize conferences and to teach French to adults, the churches such as Notre Dame des Anges, the statue of Jeanne d’Arc, the French street names, the statue of Dupleix, the Ashram where French is one of the principal subjects which is taught even though now it has become very commercialized, the Hotel d’Orient and the Rendezvous hotel where French meals are served, the Alliance Française, a monument in front of the palace of the governor which symbolizes the “Arc de Triomphe” in Paris and a water fountain which is located in a place which earlier used to be called the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Romain Rolland library where there is, among other things, a photograph of Romain Rolland and Mahatma Gandhi, and the ancient Roman ruins in Arikamedu (located outside Pondicherry).

  • 67 Interview on July 12, 2003 with Mr. Rajen de Sama.
  • 68 Interview on July 12, 2003.

76In Karaikal, a local resident who was a professional notary was very cynical about the situation of French.67 According to him, French in Karaikal had almost disappeared. He criticized the way French was taught at the Alliance Française of Karaikal. According to him, French language classes were taught in Tamil and the Alliance had been very politicized (the premises of the Alliance were shared by the Alliance and a branch of the Consulate General of France in Pondicherry). The President of the Alliance68 when told about the criticism that French language classes were being taught in Tamil said that the students were adults and that if one spoke only in French, they would not understand anything and would give up their attempt to learn French. The notary also said that only one student had passed the language exam and that too because the student’s father was a French teacher and had given his son French lessons. He said that the students at the Alliance already have French nationality and that they learnt French before going to France so that they might acquire some knowledge of useful expressions to use at the time of their arrival in France. He also said that Pondicherry had always been part of the tourism axis of French people but that was not the case for Karaikal. Since Karaikal is surrounded by the same state as Pondicherry (Tamil Nadu), everyone flocks to Pondicherry and hardly anyone to Karaikal. As a result, Karaikal feels neglected and this has been the case since the time of the French presence there (he told me that even in French India there had been only six or seven French people in Karaikal).

  • 69 Interview on July 12, 2003.

77However, there is one place in Karaikal where French education is of a respectable standard: the convent of CLUNY. The person who is in charge of the convent said that there are 110 students and 6 teachers (2 of French nationality and 4 Indians).69 She said that she was very strict about following proper procedures for instructing French (such as, for example, speaking only in French in class). She also said that many students in her school (especially the male ones) have asked her to find girls of French nationality whom they might marry.

  • 70 Interview on July 10, 2003.
  • 71 Interview on July 10, 2003.

78Mahe is truly the “ravissant petit village” (charming little village) as it is described. There is a church on the main road called St. Teresa’s Church. It is known for its secular character where a festival held once a year in October gathers people from all religions. There is also an Alliance Française. It was initially founded in 1982 as a branch of the Pondicherry Alliance. It then became independent in 2001. It holds French language classes for beginners and its President is an Indian. According to Mr. Palingden,70 President of the Union des Français de Mahe, there are 85 persons of French nationality (32 families, 26 military and civilian retired persons, 15 widows, 10 anciens combatants). There is also an “Ecole centrale et cours complémentaires.” It is a school, which teaches students from classes 1 to 10. It was founded in 1805, has 75 students, 8 regular teachers (4 of whom have consolidated pay and 4 of whom are part time). All subjects are taught in French. The students who graduate from here go to the Jawaharlal Nehru Higher Secondary School and later, to the Mahatma Gandhi Arts College. According to the instructors and the principal of the school,71 they were facing many problems due to lack of support from the government. There were not enough teachers and the building was in bad shape.

  • 72 Interview on July 27, 2003.

79Mahe has produced an eminent writer, M. Mukundan. Mr. Mukundan used to be the deputy cultural attaché at the French Embassy in New Delhi but has now resigned from the post. Apart from that, he is principally a writer who has written 27 works of fiction in Malayalam, the language of the state of Kerala. He has received numerous awards and is the only (according to him) contemporary writer of fiction in the entire Union Territory of Pondicherry who has written about the presence of the French there. Two of his books have been translated into English: On the banks of the Mayyazhi (which has also been translated into French: Sur les rives de la rivière Mahe) and God’s Mischiefs. The first one is about life in Mahe during the time of the French. The second one is about life in Mahe after the departure of the French and treats extensively the plight of the métisses in an independent Mahe. According to Mr. Mukundan,72 Mahe was initially bought for 16,000 pannams from a landlord to trade pepper and spices. According to him, it is the only enclave of Pondicherry where any intellectual activity thrives at all: there are small pockets in Mahe where people gather and discuss intellectual matters. He says that the state of Kerala is very politically conscious. When the French people left, according to him, the local people were crying and were nostalgic about the departure of the French as they had been very generous to the local people. However, soon after, there was a backlash against the French. The local people mutilated the colonial buildings and the statue of Marianne (located in a small park overlooking the confluence of the Mahe river and the Arabian Sea) was destroyed twice as national sentiments began to be expressed. The theme of decolonization is thus a major theme in his works of fiction.

  • 73 Interview with Mr. Gautam Reddy, Administrator of Yanam, July 15, 2003.
  • 74 Interview on July 16, 2003.

80Yanam is located on one of the branches of the Godavari river, and surrounded by the state of Andhra Pradesh. Its area is 30 square kilometers. Due to the relative prosperity of Yanam vis-à-vis its adjoining areas (as it is a Union Territory), there had been a fourfold migration from the adjoining areas to Yanam thus making Yanam like the rest of Andhra Pradesh.73 In these conditions, it is easy to understand the exponential erosion of the traces of the French presence there. The visible remnants of the French presence in Yanam are: the St. Ann’s Catholic Church built in 1846, the cemetery with tombs of French nationals, the Administrator’s building, the Court building and another building. Also, French is taught as one subject in STPP Junior College. There is a lecturer from Pondicherry in this school. According to a native of Yanam,74 local people are generally proud to say that they had a French past.

  • 75 Interview on July 16, 2003. The translation of the quotation is as follows: “Yanam is a small Fran (...)
  • 76 “In order for the small colony of Yanam not to forget the culture and French presence in India, as (...)
  • 77 “The Indian government of today is not the same as that of 1954-they are motivated by selfish inte (...)

81When I met an Indian of French nationality, Mr. Madhyam Shetty Ventana, one evening at his house he broke into tears saying that Yanam is, “une petite France oubliée, abandonnée par la France.”75 Furthermore, he dictated to me the following paragraph: “Pour que la petite colonie Yanaon n’oublie pas la culture et la présence française en Inde, comme il n’y a personne pour apprendre la langue française presque oubliée il faut ici une Alliance Française et un instituteur français qu’on doit affecter ici de Pondichéry. L’Alliance Française à Yanaon a marché pendant un an-1999-2000 mais c’était fermé parce qu’il n y avait personne pour s’en occuper. A Yanaon, il y a toujours les souvenirs de notre France. Pour bien dire, la présence française de trois siècles en Inde et pour ne pas oublier les Français de Yanaon, il faut ici n’importe comment établir une Alliance Française à Yanaon.”76 He had been giving French lessons to his granddaughter who was going to France in two months. He also said that, “le gouvernement indien d’aujourd’hui n’est pas le même que celui de 1954-ils sont motivés par des intérêts personnels.”77

  • 78 Interview on July 16, 2003 with Mr. Rafiuddin Mohammed.

82A Muslim gentleman78 who was a “magistrat en retraite” said that at the time of the transfer of power in 1954, the inhabitants of the former French territories had not been given a fair deal. He said that given a free choice, the people would have opted to remain part of France. In his opinion, also held by many other people in these territories, this betrayal is summed up by the term “la farce de Kijéour.” Kijéour is a village located a few miles from Pondicherry. According to him, one of the leaders of French India, Mr. Goubert, was allowed by the then Indian Consul General in Pondicherry Mr. Kewal Singh to smuggle goods. However, apparently, Mr. Kewal Singh then got Mr. Goubert arrested. In exchange for the latter’s liberation, he armtwisted him into organizing an election where people would vote for merger with India. According to the Muslim gentleman, the people in these territories would have preferred to remain a part of France due to the economic benefits which they would reap from it in the same manner as their present desire to remain a part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry rather than merging the enclaves into neighboring states.

  • 79 Interview on July 16, 2003 with Mr. Chanta Subba Rao. Translation of what he said: “You feel like (...)

83A retired “inspecteur des trésors”79 in various French embassies around the world who had also spent some time in Madagascar and in the Reunion Islands said that “vous vous sentez comme un étranger ici.” He had very few, if any, interactions with the local people. On that occasion, his grandchildren had just arrived from France on vacation. They spoke only French and interacted only among their own French speaking family members.

  • 80 Interview with Assistant Curator of the Museum, Mr. Makar, on July 18, 2003.
  • 81 Visit to evening French class on July 18, 2003.

84In Chandernagore (the local name for it is now Chandannagar), there is a French Institute/Museum. The Insitute was a legacy of the Indo-French treaty signed in 1951. Its aims are threefold namely to maintain a museum, to provide a library and to hold French language classes for adults in continuing education.80 There is a great eagerness among the students about learning French and the facilities available to them in terms of audio-visual material to supplement their classroom activities are meager.81 The Institute has 19 part-time staff. INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) started work on the building of the Institute/Museum in 1990. In 1994, Government of India stopped the work by INTACH. The ASI (Archaelogical Survey of India) completed it but the funds were depleted in 2000 and so only sixty percent of the work was completed. It has now been declared a Protected Historical Monument. A committee consisting of the Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the French Government has been set up to restore the building.

  • 82 Interview with Dr. Basant Kumar Das on July 19, 2003.

85Additionally, French in Chandernagore is taught at the St. Joseph’s Convent, at the Dupleix College and at the Kanailal Vidya Mandir (English and French sections). In the latter school, the medium of instruction is Bengali, the second language is English and only the third language is French. One of the sections is called the French section because of a French bias. It also prepares the students for the C.E.P.E. (Certificat d’Etudes Primaires et Elémentaires). French is also taught at the Shitol Prasad Ghosh Adarsho Shikalaya, at the Durga Charan Rakhit Banga Vidhalaya and at the Krishna Bhavani Nari Shikha Mandir. According to the person who is in charge of French education, the syllabus should be revised, as it was too old (dating to the time of independence) and the books did not reach the students. According to a former freedom fighter,82 the West Bengal Government does not care about allotment of money to Chandernagore as it calls it a “foreign pocket,” even though during the struggle for independence against the British many freedom fighters had taken refuge there.

  • 83 Interview with Mr. Nilmuni Kumar on July 19, 2003.
  • 84 Interview with Mr. Deva Datta Ray on July 19, 2003.

86A retired teacher83 in Chandernagore said that the syllabi followed by the schools were outdated. A retired professor84 of philosophy at Calcutta University, whose father was a revolutionary said that there was only one person in Chandernagore with French nationality (the others were all dead). According to him, the French government has given five million rupees for the renovation of the French Institute and that the French Consulate General in Calcutta (the oldest French Consulate in India) was abolished recently. He said that even during the colonial period, the majority of people (ninety nine percent) used to work in Calcutta thus being obliged to learn English. Only one percent could find jobs in Chandernagore. This is in sharp contrast to Pondicherry which was a larger place and so more people found jobs, hence French was more prevalent. Furthermore, the inhabitants of Pondicherry found jobs in other French colonies such as Indo-China and thus there were more people speaking French there. According to him, there are no more “bacheliers” (those who have a baccalauréat) in Chandernagore. He remarked that even in Laos, Cambodia etc. French is disappearing due to the American influence and that it had already disappeared in Chandernagore.

  • 85 Brigitte Sébastia, p. 7.
  • 86 Brigitte Sébastia, p. 8.

87According to Brigitte Sébastia, Pondicherry, as the headquarters of the former French enclaves, has a very French appearance whereas the other enclaves have been completely Indianized. Even Karaikal which was the most French town after Pondicherry hardly displays any traces of its French past in spite of its proximity to Pondicherry distance-wise but also in terms of the common Tamil language which it shares as well as the family ties which unite the inhabitants of the two towns.85 Brigitte Sébastia also says that the statistics of 1988 reported by William Miles (1195, p. 18) show that out of a total of 12,364 Franco-Pondicherrians residing in the Union Territory of Pondicherry, 11,569 live in Pondicherry whereas only 699 live in Karaikal, 46 in Mahe and 50 in Yanam. These numbers illustrate in a very clear manner the predominance of natives of Pondicherry among the Franco-Pondicherrians of Paris.86

88Creolization implies the dissipation of an atavistic culture. The atavistic culture defines notions of legitimacy and, hence, that of identity. Thus, creolization can be said to dissipate notions of legitimacy and of identity. Furthermore, the dissipation of the atavistic culture can lead to the creation of a composite culture. Therefore, creolization can lead to the composition of a new legitimacy and of a new identity. In the case of the former French territories, the notion of legitimacy has taken a relative connotation. Because the present day notion of who are the real Pondicherrians cannot be divorced from the link with France, Francophone cultures and the French language, one can say that the present second or third generation Pondicherrians are the legitimate Pondicherrians. The others can be termed as migrants who have settled there. Since many of the second or third generation Pondicherrians have migrated to France and to other Francophone territories, one can say that the links with their motherland are real in the sense that it legitimately belongs to them. On the other hand, since Pondicherry was colonized by the French, the legitimacy of a French link with Pondicherry can be called into question.


1 Chandernagore et le swadeshisme au début du XXe siècle-L’affaire Charu Chandra Roy by Georgette David.

2 Georgette David.

3 Georgette David.

4 Georgette David.

5 Georgette David.

6 Georgette David.

7 Georgette David.

8 Georgette David.

9 Georgette David.

10 Georgette David.

11 Georgette David.

12 Georgette David.

13 Georgette David.

14 L’Inde Française en Sursis 1947-1954 by Patrick Pitoeff.

15 Patrick Pitoeff.

16 Patrick Pitoeff.

17 Patrick Pitoeff.

18 Patrick Pitoeff.

19 Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs français après Dupleix, pp. 364-365.

20 Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs français après Dupleix, pp. 396-397.

21 Interview on July 14, 2003.

22 Interview with Mr. Jean-Baptiste Pinai, a retraité militaire, July-August 2005.

23 Interview with a Muslim Franco-Pondicherrian, a retraité militaire, July-August 2005.

24 Michalon, p. 88.

25 Interview with Mr. Bichat, a Franco-Pondicherrian, a retraité militaire, July 2005.

26 Pondichéry-des comptoirs français à l'Inde d'aujourd'hui, 2004, Georgette David, Kailash Editions, Paris, pp. 40-41.

27 Interview with Mr. Marius, a retired civilian Franco-Pondicherrian, July 2005.

28 David Annoussamy, pp. 192-193.

29 David Annoussamy, p. 193.

30 David Annoussamy, p. 193.

31 David Annoussamy, p. 194.

32 L'intermède français en Inde, 2005, by David Annoussamy, L'Harmattan, Paris, p. 190.

33 L'intermède français en Inde, 2005, by David Annoussamy, L'Harmattan, Paris, p. 90.

34 Michalon, pp. 26-28.

35 Michalon, pp. 40-41.

36 Michalon, pp. 57-58.

37 Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs français après Dupleix, p. 418.

38 “Les Pondichériens dans l’administration coloniale de l’Indochine” by Claude Marius in Relations entre la France et l’Inde de 1673 à nos jours, under the direction of Jacques Weber, p. 393.

39 Ibid, p. 396.

40 “Emigration indienne et commerce maritime: les facteurs externes du progrès” in Pondichéry et les comptoirs de l’Inde après Dupleix: la démocratie au pays des castes by Jacques Weber.

41 Michalon, p. 61.

42 Michalon, p. 83.

43 Michalon, pp. 84-85.

44 Michalon, p. 91.

45 Michalon, p. 142.

46 Michalon, p. 144.

47 Michalon, p. 155.

48 Michalon, p. 156.

49 Michalon, p. 157.

50 Michalon, p. 160.

51 Jacques Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs de l’Inde après Dupleix, p. 411.

52 Brigitte Sébastia, pp. 70-71.

53 Brigitte Sébastia, p. 71.

54 Brigitte Sébastia, Les Pondichériens de l’Ile-de-France, p. 81.

55 “Intellectual origins of Nationalism in South India” in French in India and Indian nationalism by K. S. Mathew, pp. 640-641.

56 K. S. Mathew, pp. 640-641.

57 K. S. Matthew, p. 641.

58 K. S. Matthew, p. 642.

59 Interview with Ange, a Créole Franco-Pondicherrian, July 2005.

60 Interview with Mr. Pierre Eluard, owner of Satsanga Restaurant, Pondicherry, July 2005.

61 Interview with Mme Yves Huttin, August 2005.

62 Michalon, p. 88.

63 Interview with a Research Scholar of Ecole Française d’Extreme Orient, Pondicherry, June 2003.

64 Interview with Mr. Albert Rollin, June 2003.

65 Menu Card viewed in June, 2003: There is, for starters, an “oeuf mimosa (egg yolk and mayonnaise blended with seasoning served piped in egg white).” There are two soups: “Consommé Julienne (clear consommé with Julienne strips of vegetables)” and “French onion soup (clear consommé served with egg drop and garnished with browned onion rings).” Among the stews, there are “chicken and vegetable fricasse” and “chicken and vegetable ragout.” In the Continental Aroma section of the menu, there are the following dishes: “Poulet à la Sandaman (Pan Fried Chicken with Brown Sauce topped with red wine),” “Poulet Rôti (Pan Fried Chicken served with Brown Sauce),” “Poulet Sauté Mexicane (Pan Fried Chicken served with Brown Sauce,” “Poulet à la Maryland (Crumb fried chicken served with boiled vegetables, potatoes and banana fritters),” “Fish Mornay (filet of fish steamed and served in a cheesy white sauce),” “Prawn Thermidor (prawn served in mustard flavored white sauce),” “Steak au poivre (Filet of Beef cooked to order topped with pepper sauce served with boiled vegetables),” “Bifteck (a delight of Franco- Pondicherry popular locally),” “Vegetable au Gratin (boiled vegetables served with a cheesy white sauce),” “Mushroom à la Robert D. King (mushroom, tomato, capsicum in a red sherry flavored cream sauce served with a ring of rice).” For dessert, there is “soufflé.”

66 Interview with Mr. Lourdes Rassa, July 9, 2003.

67 Interview on July 12, 2003 with Mr. Rajen de Sama.

68 Interview on July 12, 2003.

69 Interview on July 12, 2003.

70 Interview on July 10, 2003.

71 Interview on July 10, 2003.

72 Interview on July 27, 2003.

73 Interview with Mr. Gautam Reddy, Administrator of Yanam, July 15, 2003.

74 Interview on July 16, 2003.

75 Interview on July 16, 2003. The translation of the quotation is as follows: “Yanam is a small France forgotten, abandoned by France.” (contd.)

76 “In order for the small colony of Yanam not to forget the culture and French presence in India, as there is no one to teach French which has almost been forgotten, an Alliance Française is urgently needed here as well as a French teacher that one must allot here from Pondicherry. The Alliance Française in Yanam worked for a year in 1999-2000 but it was closed down because there was no one to look after it. In Yanam, there are still memories of our France. To reiterate, the French presence of three centuries in India and in order not to forget the French of Yanam, it is necessary to set up an Alliance Française in Yanam one way or another.”

77 “The Indian government of today is not the same as that of 1954-they are motivated by selfish interests.”

78 Interview on July 16, 2003 with Mr. Rafiuddin Mohammed.

79 Interview on July 16, 2003 with Mr. Chanta Subba Rao. Translation of what he said: “You feel like a foreigner here.”

80 Interview with Assistant Curator of the Museum, Mr. Makar, on July 18, 2003.

81 Visit to evening French class on July 18, 2003.

82 Interview with Dr. Basant Kumar Das on July 19, 2003.

83 Interview with Mr. Nilmuni Kumar on July 19, 2003.

84 Interview with Mr. Deva Datta Ray on July 19, 2003.

85 Brigitte Sébastia, p. 7.

86 Brigitte Sébastia, p. 8.

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