Doors of Puducherry
by Manik Sharma
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
Earlier this year I happened to be in Pondicherry (now called Puducherry) for a short visit. Famous for White Town, a small expanse of French colonial buildings, most of which now serve as outlets of French cuisine and a mosaic of assorted cultures from across the globe, Puducherry was liberated from French rule after a referendum in 1954. As with the history of any colonized country, the history of Puducherry is a stamp-sized document of what the colonizers cropped and corrected from a much larger design; pretty much all of what is now considered as history of the place is what then the French East India Company considered was adequate to be known about the place. But there are things beyond the control and agency of structure and cement. These are things, perceivable through the rapport between observation and selection of the object.
As I moved along the one-and-a-half-mile long stretch of White Town, dallying through wide alleys, at times cutting across pavements that seemed like they hadn’t been walked upon for ages, I noticed the doors. Almost as if staged as part of a biennale, each wall had its own story, its own imagination to present. Each door fronted, what seemed a concoction of emotion, as an agent of change.
The door, for whatever it conceals or reveals is a limit of extraction we apply to this structure we so fondly call home. It is the door that predicates, insofar as it doesn’t become the indicator of something – which in this case, somehow rings true.
These doors, walls, windows exist within a mile, and yet they seem to have popped in from different corners of the world, each perspiring from the baggage of a different story, each rotten in its own unique way, yet each beautiful with a varying sense of eternity.
The history of Puducherry is a document like any other, but the streets of White Town, and these walls for their proximity to each other, feel like a short-hand brick-wall poem, seminal only because of its length, and abruptness.
The ubiquitous story of Puducherry is a word-of-mouth transaction not far away from the grasp of the internet or a hotel booking website. Its history, now sells it. But of this history who is now the speaker and conductor – in a non-academic sense? To the person walking doggedly, unperturbed by the commotion of pages unfurling in history’s most recent publication, or unmoved by the need to graduate from a sense of knowing before arrival, observation is really the only document.
About the Author:
Manik Sharma is a freelance journalist and published poet based in Shimla.