Bastille Day in Pondicherry: Part 1

By Reita Hutagalung, Global MBA student 2013-2013, Indonesia

As a student in France, I want to experience important French events and festivals held in France. One important day for France is Bastille Day, France’s national holiday.  It commemorates the 1790 Fete de la Federation, a symbol of the uprising of a modern nation and the reconciliation of all the French within the constitutional monarchy preceding the First Republic during French Revolution. Since we are doing our project in India, I thought I could not experience Bastille Day. But hope came when news from other French interns spread: the chance to celebrate Bastille Day in India! One part of India was a French colony: Pondicherry. If you watched the recent movie “Life of Pi”, you can see some parts of Pondicherry in the initial part of the movie. Because it was a former French colony, Pondicherry had a Bastille Day celebration on July 14, so most interns coming from French universities planned to go there together. Amidst the hectic project and complexity of big group arrangements, approximately 20 interns went to Pondi!

Our adventure starts with a new experience: Indian AC (air conditioned) sleeper train. I have never been in a sleeper train before so I was curious how it would be. This is how it turned out: in one car, the inside was divided into several berths. In each berth there are three walls on which three “beds” could be installed vertically on each wall. When it wasn’t yet time to sleep, the lowest and middle part could be turned into seats. When the person with the middle “bed” wants to sleep then he just needs to lift what was once the cushion, put the chains that are connected to the top “bed” hung from the roof and voila! You have another bed =) We actually found it unique and for a long ride, it’s quite ok instead of having to be in seated position all the way; on the bed you could lay down and if you’re tired enough, you’ll fall asleep.  As we were beginners in this experience, we didn’t know that the air conditioning was very cold! We also didn’t know that once you get in you have to take the bed sheets and blankets from storage (if you opt for that when purchasing the ticket). We only realized it after some time when people showed up with sheets and blankets that had the same motifs and they started to go to bed. We started our hunt for blankets and bed sheets; unfortunately, our cart had run out of the inventory. With some determination we went all the way to the end of train, but no luck, we didn’t get enough for everyone. I was lucky to be given the blanket, so at least I didn’t feel cold and could sleep. It was a funny experience, trying to sleep in the train. It was basically comfortable and we even had our own electric socket if we want to charge our mobile phones or laptop; it’s just the snores of other people that you have to bear. If you were wondering how long the ride was and why we took the sleeper train, let me tell you: it was 10 hours! The distance between Bangalore and Pondicherry is 306.9 Km; but the train speed was slow and it stopped at many stations.

In between the state of sleeping and awake, we heard the announcement: we finally arrived the next morning. Our young adventurous souls were up again and we pushed ourselves to be awake. As the train approached Pondi, we couldn’t wait for the following: French pastries, French food, Pondi’s beaches and temples, and just getting to know the city!

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