Sunday, October 1, 2023

Atlanta Quilt Festival part 2, and Mr. Jimmy's 99th

Before I resume my post on the Atlanta Quilt Festival, I'd like to celebrate former President Jimmy Carter 99th birthday today. James Earl Carter, Jr. was born in Plains, Georgia, on October 1st, 1924, and this is where he still lives now. Plains is a small town of about 776 inhabitants, 2 1/2 hours south of Atlanta, and found among pine trees, peanut farms, and magnolias. The whole town is celebrating the 99th birthday of their beloved Mr. Jimmy, as they call him. Below, the National Park Rangers holding a birthday sign, courtesy CNN.
The Carter Center in Atlanta created a mosaic from the 15,000+ birthday greetings that have been received, so far, for Jimmy Carter. These came from celebrities, politicians, regular folks, from every state in the USA, from Europe, Australia, Africa and more.
In the last several years, Pres. Carter overcame a brain tumor, a broken hip and several falls. He entered hospice care last February. We thought the end was near but here we are celebrating his 99th birthday today. President Biden had a large happy birthday sign placed on the lawn of the White House. (Courtesy Atlanta Journal Constitution.) (Click on collage to enlarge.)
In my last post on the Atlanta Quilt Festival, part 1, I explained a bit about U.S. Congressman John Lewis (1940-2020,) a Georgia Representative, his life and achievements. There is so much more to tell about him as he accomplished a great deal. He had a fascinating life. He started in humble beginnings in cotton fields of the segregated American South. His parents' house had no plumbing or electricity. He ended as one of the finest Americans who ever lived. His life had not been easy, but he persevered. It was a joy to see him celebrated in colorful happy quilts. In my last post I showed quilts in the adjacent building to the Atlanta Southwest Art Center. In this post I'll show those exhibited in the main building, and there were many. Below is a quilt in honor of John Lewish' mother, Willa Mae Lewis.
In 2011, President Obama awarded Lewis the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This was in gratitude for his more than 50 years on the frontline of the civil rights movement.
John Lewis wrote several books. I have some of them including his memoirs called "Walk with the Wind." I have not finished reading it yet, it's about 500 pages long. At the start of Covid I bought a mask showing part of one of his quotations "Good Trouble."
. The main building was filled with many other colorful quilts of various designs, floral, geometric and traditional. It was a feast for the eye and I took many photos, too many to show here or my post would be 6 pages long or more. I'll show some below while I'd like to address John's optimism and joy of life.
With all the horrible violence, hatred and injustice Lewis encountered you would think that he might have turned bitter or looking for some revenge, but on the contrary, he was always kind, generous and happy. He worked well in the Congress on both sides of the aisle, the Republicans and the Democrats. They all had the highest esteem for him and called him "the conscience of Congress."
My mother was also very optimistic all her life. I rarely heard her complain. She had been with my father when they had their head-on collision with a drunk driver. Both her knees were completely smashed and she could not walk. Then she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and became partly paralyzed. Every time I called her on the phone, she always said she was feeling great and happy (even though all alone and unable to get out of the house for years.) But there are so many people who enjoy complaining. I remember as a child in France, we had a neighbor who was never happy. His wife had died several years earlier of lung cancer, even though she never smoked - but he did. He felt that cancer was her fault and it was not fair that now he had to take care of her little dog. We would see him in the street walking the dog; my mum would say "How are you, Mr. Vardin?" "Terrible, I could not sleep all night... must have been the food I bought at the grocery..." another time would be "I tried to weed my garden, it was muddy and I brought mud all over the house and there is no one to clean it ..." another time "I have an infected toe and now have to walk that stupid dog..." He had a sister close by but he said he had not spoken to her in years. He claimed she was nasty and it was her fault that they did not speak. Even looking at a lovely quilt, I think he would have found some fault in it.
I remember my mum telling me to stay away from people who are negative and constantly talking about their misery or bad luck. She said it could become contagious. I asked her "like a cold?" yes, she had answered. I thought she was kidding. But I found articles saying just that. "Emotions are contagious," wrote the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Studies suggest that other people's moods may be as easy to catch as their germs. You can be infected with someone's happiness - or sadness. It is called emotional contagion (EC.) They found that upbeat emotions such as enthusiasm and joy, as well as negative ones such as sadness, fear and anger, can easily be passed from one person to another, often without either party realizing it. In addition negative emotions are more infectious than good ones. Dr. Elaine Hatfield, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii said "Emotional contagion happens within milliseconds, so quick you can't control it, and so subtly that you're not really aware it's going on." Some people have clinical depression certainly, but that is a mental condition that needs medical care. I'm just talking about the people who see everything black, often depressed, stingy with their money or feelings, are critical of others and are, in a way, asking for your commiseration or for you to recall one of your own problems.
Negative, complaining people would not see the joy of life in the above quilts, what we call in France Joie de Vivre. Instead they tend to be more anxious, and their anxiety prevents them from noticing the little moments of delight that could change their mood. If a family member or a friend is always whining about something, someone, or the state of the world, chances are that you'll soon feel down too. Both President Carter and Representative Lewis were kind, without malice, seeing the good in everyone and very optimistic. "Rejoice in the sky, in the sun, in the grass and trees, in the animals and people," said Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian writer.
As for me, I feel happy and lucky. If I am blue, it is not because I am down in spirit, but like yesterday, it is because I was wearing blue. The day was lovely, not too warm only 85 F (29.4 C,) and the sky was blue. I wore a printed cotton blue top, light blue trousers and blue sneakers. My daughter and family took me to a southern "family" restaurant (I'll post on it next time) in a historical building. The food was delicious, the company was fun and it was a very enjoyable day. Blue reminds me of the sky and the sea rather than grief and bad mood.
John Lewis said "Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Never lose that sense of hope." He also said "Hate is too heavy a burden to bear. If you start hating people, you have to decide who you are going to hate tomorrow, who you are going to hate next week." As Lewis saw it, the answer was: "Just love everybody."
Here is another good quotation: "The Happiness of your life depends on the nature of your thoughts." Marcus Aurelius, (AD121-AD180) Roman Emperor and philosopher.
So keep happy thoughts, find joy in your life. Listen to music and dance in your mind. You may think that this is corny advice, but it has worked for me. When my late husband was toward the end of his Alzheimer's disease and could no longer speak, I'd bring music close to him on my iPad. He would listen and smile, and that made me smile, too, and still feel some happiness.
President Jimmy Carter and Representative John Lewis have had incredible, ethical lives. Georgia can be proud to have had two illustrious men serving the public - Jimmy Carter as Governor of the state, then as 39th President of the United States followed by decades as a worldwide humanitarian. John Robert Lewis was successful as a Georgia Congressman representing Atlanta in the United States House of Representatives for 33 years, until his death. They served their fellow citizens with diplomacy, compassion, honesty and skill. These are qualities to celebrate in politicians.
Before his death, on July 17, 2020 (from pancreatic cancer) John Lewis had penned an essay for the New York Times. This was published on the day of his funeral, on July 30, 2020. It was moving, filled with understanding and hope for the future. It was also a call to stand up for justice, to be motivated by human compassion. He eloquently had written: "Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe." With inspiring words he told that each of us had a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. His last sentence was "So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide."
Both of these men are selfless role models who showed us the way to justice and a better society. Now it is our turn to continue their work - are we capable of the task? (Below quilt by Veronica Mays, called "Madame President.")

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Quilts for John Lewis, with joy and gratitude - Atlanta Quilt Festival, part 1

Last week I was in my house in Georgia, again. For those who have not read my prior posts - my house has an address in Marietta, however it is located about 10 miles outside the center of town and city limits. It is nearer two other towns, 6 miles each from Kennesaw and Acworth and 6 miles even from Dallas in the next rural county, Paulding. There is an article in The Discoverer blog mentioning Marietta - read it here "8 of the Most Underrated Cities in the South." I have visited five of these eight - including Ellijay, Georgia; I wrote several posts including Ellijay, look here and here. Below is an overview of Marietta center. My house is west of it, at the base of Kennesaw Mountain, in West Cobb County (where I placed a red mark.) (photo coursesy The Discoverer.) The bottom photos are about a couple of miles from my house.
While there I wanted to go on a small outing, not far. When checking, I found several exhibits in greater Atlanta including a quilt show. I enjoy visiting quilt shows and have posted several from Bulloch Hall, in Roswell, GA - you can find them by clicking on the side of my post. When I saw that this was a special exhibit in honor of our late Georgia Congressman, John Lewis, of course I had to go. It was in Southwest Atlanta, off Cascade Road, at the Southwest Arts Center. Arriving there in mid-morning, two visitors were leaving, and then I was the only one, having the show all to myself. The center is immaculate and well landscaped.
The Atlanta Quilt Festival honoring John Lewis is a trilogy started in 2022 with "Good Trouble Quilts - Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Congressman John Lewis" followed in 2023 and 2024 by quilts focusing on the accomplishments and the life of John, and the power of joy and gratitude expressed by quilters who benefited from his work and sacrifices.
The side building had two large and sunny rooms with the John Lewis quilts.
Most of the quilts in these rooms had small labels next to each quilt with the quilter's name and the meaning of the work. (Please click on collage once or twice to enlarge and be able to read.)
John Lewis was a magnificent man, a good man, an inspiration, a Civil Rights giant. I believe he is one of the most admired and respected Americans in the nation, and frankly, he is a hero of mine. John Lewis (1940-2020) was among the original Freedom Riders (the Black and white activists who challenged segregation in the South in 1961.) He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker. On March 7, 1965, John lead a group of 600 who were marching to demand the right to vote in Selma, Alabama. As they were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge they were met by state troopers in riot gear. As they would not disperse the troopers threw tear gas and attacked the marchers with bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped with barbed wire. There, a trooper cracked John's skull with a club and beat him again while he was on the ground. Some of the quilts below depicts this.
Between 1960 and 1966 John Lewis was arrested 40+times, and beaten repeatedly by Southern policemen. He was left in a pool of blood in Montgomery, Alabama, in a bus terminal where white people had beaten him. He spent many nights in county jails including 31 days in Mississippi's brutal Parchman Penitentiary.
Here in Nashville, John Lewis in February 1960 led a group of students to sit-down at the Woolworth's lunch counter, where only whites could be served. The counter was closed one hour later and the students arrested. John Lewis kept pursuing civil rights equity for the rest of his life. The early movement in Nashville was the start of desegregation of lunch counters and restaurants across the US. (Below vintage photo courtesy The Nashville Tennessean.)
A couple of years ago I had heard that this Woolworth building downtown Nashville had re-opened as a lunch and dinner restaurant after a $6 million renovation. The owner, a Nashville native, had found and assembled many vintage historical artifacts to place in this building, such as the "Black only" sign near a water fountain. The original mezzanine with terrazzo floors and metal railings had also be uncovered. Archival photos were hanged on the wall. I was going to drive there for lunch but then Covid happened. Just now, trying to see if it was still open for business I found out that it closed after the pendemic and was sold. It was re-opened by entrepeneurs after being remodeled into a theatre, Las Vegas style, with a "for adults only" show called "shiners," with some X-rated scenes, and all of it very much insensitive to minorities. Historic Nashville had recommended that a Civil Rights Movement trained preservationist be included in the remodeling to ensure that items of historical value be preserved. This was not done and most were tossed away in a dumpster. Last fall the building was even rented for the premiere of the controversial right-wing film "The Greatest Lie ever Sold: George Floyd and the Rise of the Black Lives Matter." Well, I have no words... Below top photo the building after renovation in 2018 then after remodeling as a theatre in 2020, courtesy Nashville Scene.
It is quite painful for me to see this happening to such an historical building, but then again I am not surprised. In Atlanta there are few historical Civil Rights buildings left, and those that are still standing have received little recognition and are in disrepair; not much for future generations to visit. After having lived in the US many years I realized that this country is not interested in preserving its historical buildings if they have to spend their money, and certainly not for Black History... I wish US tourists would stay here and spend some of their money preserving their own old buildings than crowd European cities like my home town, Paris, France. I checked and in 2022 the US Government funding for the arts (and that includes historic preservation, museums, theatres, etc.) was about $4.40 per habitat. Per comparison France in 2023 is funding the arts in greater Paris 139 Euros per habitat, or $150.21, and 15 Euros, or $16.21 for the rest of the country. If French tax payers did not pay for the arts, by now all the old castles, churches and all the museums would not be worth visiting, as entry fares alone are not enough to maintain them, and churches don't even charge. I have been a member of the American Historic Preservation for many years. Yearly membership is less than a fancy meal at a restaurant. I don't know anyone else who belongs. Here is the latest issue I received.
There were a large amount of quilts in the main building, and I'll show them in part two of this post. More to come ...

Monday, July 31, 2023

Indian Regiments marching in Paris Bastille Day Parade, 14 July 2023

(Notice: I have not written a post in almost three months, but am making up with this post...) Time has gone by very quickly since my last post in early May on my trip to the North Georgia Mountains. When I returned to my house in Cobb County, GA., the water heater needed to be replaced. Then in June I traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to spend time with my daughter Celine and her family. I had planned to write a post on this visit but had to return to my house in Georgia in early July because two trees had fallen on the roof.
As I am writing this post my air conditioning unit stopped working on Friday in the upper part of the house in Nashville. My bedroom temperature went up to 97 F (36 C,) making it difficult to have a good night sleep. The Weather Forecast Channel on TV just told us to expect more warm days coming up - feeling like 117 F (47.2C) in Nashville. Scientists are saying that this month of July 2023 has been the warmest on record so far and might even be the warmest the planet has experienced in 120,000 years! But, no fear, my hairdresser in Georgia told me last week that there is no climate change, it's just a "liberal" plot ... (Cartoon courtesy New Orleans The Times Picayune.)
Through the plantation shutters next to my laptop desk I can see little birds getting a relief from the heat in the small water dish I placed on the front porch. It is the bottom dish of a large planter. I also placed a "Mosquito Dunk" tablet in it to avoid mosquito larvae (non toxic to birds, pets, animals or humans) that I purchased on Amazon. I like watching all the different birds having a good time, sometimes up to 6 or 8 of them at a time.
In spite of my house problems I was able to watch the Paris 14 of July celebrations on the French Military Armed Forces website and also on the Mayor of Paris website. The French National Holiday is called "Le 14 Juillet" (14 July) but English speaking people call it "Bastille Day" after the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 during the French Revolution (however, in France, no one would know what you mean if you asked about Bastille Day.) What people don't realize here is that there were only 3 prisoners in the huge Bastille jail then. The people had stormed it because it contained arms and ammunitions, not to free the 3 prisoners. In previous posts I explained the history of the holiday; please look under Bastille Day on the right side of my blog.
The celebrations start on the evening of July 13 with a torchlight procession, that is, participants in many cities and villages walk down streets holding torches or lanterns/lampoons in their hands, following a local band, then go on to a public square for public dancing. On the morning of the 14 there is the traditional Défilé Militaire du 14 juillet, or Bastille Day Military Parade, down the Champs-Elysees. Started in 1880, it is one of the oldest military parades in the world. It is the main official event honoring French military regiments and includes each year different invited foreign guests and regiments. This is one of the main occasions when you will see many French flags all around. French people respect their flag but the rest of the time they don't have it on their cars, or flown from their houses, etc. You will see it in official places like schools, police stations, customs check-points, and in support of the national teams during international competitions but you won't find it in front of a commercial business, or on tee-shirts, baseball caps, clothes or other decorative objects. As in many European countries (apart from the UK that is a constitutional monarchy)people placing out too many national flags are frown upon and considered to be extreme-right extremists, or uber nationalists. In addition, there is no "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag" in France like in the United States. Again, most European citizens of democratic countries would find it quite bizarre, not saying undemocratic, incredibly creepy and borderline fascistic.
For 2023, the Bastille Day parade included 6,500 people (5,100 of them marching,) 64 planes, 28 helicopters, 157 ground vehicles, 62 motorcycles, 200 horses and 86 dogs. Nearly 15 countries were invited to the parade including India, this year guest of honor. Prime Minister Norendra Modi watched the parade alongside French President Emmanuel Macron. It was also the 25th anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership and the 70th anniversary of the Patrouille de France. The Patrouille had their traditional aerial display that included French-made Indian war planes. Vehicles on display included the Caesar anti-missile batteries that France is providing to Ukraine, and Ukrainian officials were also invited to join Pres. Macron in the VIP seats. Below Patrouille de France (courtesy Ministeres des Armees.)
Another highlight were students from partner African military schools (Benin, Congo-Brazzavile, Gabon, Madagascar, Ivory Coast and Senegal) marching with residents of French military schools. Below photos of two of the African military schools in the parade, from Madagascar on top photo and Ivory Coast on the bottom. (Courtesy Madagascar Tribune.)
In tribute to the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of Jean Moulin, the French civil servant hero who created the National Council of the French Resistance, musicians played the "Chant des partisants," a song that is a symbol of indomitable spirit against evil. This was the French Resistance anthem during World War II. Jean Moulin, 1899-1943, the leader of the Resistance, was tortured by the Nazis in one prison after another and died in 1943 in a train taking him to Germany. An international orchestra, made up of 80 musicians from France and 14 partner countries (Canada, The Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States) played for the parade until the Patrouille de France flew over.
The parade included a 269 member tri-services contingent of the Indian Armed Forces with 77 marching personnel and 38 band members (including the Rajputana Rifles Regiment Band,) led by Captain Aman Jagtap. The Indian Navy contingent was being led by Commander Vrat Baghel, while Squadron Leader Sindhu Reddy lead the Indian Air Force contingent. The Punjab Regiment had been selected to represent the Indian Army for this Bastille Day celebrations. The Punjab Regiment, one of the oldest Infantry Regiments of the Indian Army that traces its origins to 1761, had participated in both World Wars as well as post-independence operations. Historically, 107 years ago, the Punjab Regiment had marched down the Champs-Elysees for the 14 July 1916 parade, after taking part in some battles of World War I. (Photos courtesy Ministere des Armees, La Ville de Paris, and the Élysée Palace.) Please click on collage to enlarge.
Below are vintage photographs and postcards of the Punjab Regiment at the 14 July parade of 1916 and at the rail station Gare du Nord (below right.) Top left photo is a French lady pinning a flower in gratitude on one of the Indian soldiers' lapel.
World War I began on August 4, 1914, after Great Britain declared war against Germany. When the British Army requested military support from their Indian colony, Sikhs, Pendjabis and Gurkas arrived in Marseille, France. On September 26, 1914, the British Punjab's 20th troop of the Lahore Division and of the 129th Baluchis of pre-partition India were the first colonial force to deploy in Europe. They trained in Marseille while waiting to be sent to the front lines. Below are vintage postcards of the Anglo-Indian regiments in Marseille, France in Sept. 1914.
Then these Anglo-Indian troops went to Toulouse and Orleans, France, on their way north. Between September 1914 and October 1918, 140,000 Indian troops arrived to fight in France and Belgium. Below are vintage postcards of them in France.
As you can see there were quite a few Indian troops in the First World War, but I have never heard about them in the US - they must have been forgotten here. I tried to find books in English on this subject, but could not, but I did find books published in France. Below a couple of them plus an article on the Excelsior Journal published in France on December 14, 1914, showing injured Indian soldiers.
In the north of France they took part in an offensive near Neuve-Chapelle from March 10 to 13, 1915, earning the Battle Honors "Loos" and "France and Flanders" - over 8,550 were killed and as many as 50,000 more were wounded. In total about 10,000 Indian soldiers died in France during the First World War. Several monuments in their honor were erected in France, notably the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial. It was inaugurated on 7 October, 1927, by Marshal Foch, and attended by the Maharaja of Karputhala, Rudyard Kipling and a large contingent of Indian veterans representing units that fought in France, including Sikhs, Dogras and Garhwalis. Marshal Ferdinand Foch (French, 1851-1919,) the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces (and generally considered the leader most reponsible for the Allied victory,) gave a speech, including this: "Return to your homes in the distant, sun-bathed East and proclaim how your countrymen drenched with their blood the cold northern land of France and Flanders, and how they delivered it by their ardent spirit from the firm grip of a determined army; tell all India that we shall watch over their graves with the devotion due to all our dead. We shall cherish above all the memory of their example. They showed us the way, they made the first steps towards the final victory." Speaking after the war, Marshal Foch said the Indian Army had delivered the war's first decisive steps to victory; they were critical in stemming the tide of the German invasion of Belgium and France. Without their early arrival, the port of Calais would not have been saved, the Western Front would have been breached and the British Expeditionary Forces annihilated. Below photos of the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial.
Again in World War II, 1.5 million Anglo-Indian soldiers (including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs) came to defend Africa and Europe. 130,000 of them came to France where thousands died or were wounded. They earned 16 Battle Honors and 14 Theatre Honors. On May 28, 1940, 300 Indian soldiers (all of them Muslims) and 23 British troops evacuated the city of Dunkirk, but their story has been mostly forgotten, as well as in movies about Dunkirk. Read about it here or on the BBC report here. (World War Two: The forgotten Indian soldiers of Dunkirk.) Numerous soldiers hailing from former French trading posts in India - now in present day Pondicherry/Puducherry - also fought in France. France never forgot the suffering and heroism of all these men. President Macron tweeted "This 14 July, soldiers and Rafale aircraft from India are marching and flying alongside our troops. We honor the memory of those who fough with the French in the two World Wars." Photo below British Indian Army Service Corps on parade in France in 1940 (courtesy Wikipedia.)
Another unsung hero coming from India was Noor Inayat Khan (1914-1944) the descendant of Indian royalty. She was the daughter of an Indian Sufi mystic, Inayat Khan, born in Bombay. He lived in Europe as a musician and teacher of Sufism where he became the head of the "Sufi Order of the West." Her mother was an American, Ora Ray Baker, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Noor, also known as Nora Baker, was an SOE agent under the French Resistance, her code name was "Madeleine." She was the first female wireless operator sent from the UK to aid the French Resistance during World War II. She was betrayed, captured, tortured then executed at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. On January 16, 1946, French President Charles de Gaulle awarded her the Croix de Guerre (highest civilian honor.) She was also honored with the British S. George Cross. There is a plaque (shown below) outside her family home in Suresnes, France. A band plays there every year on Bastille Day. A square in the city of Suresnes has been named Cours Madeleine after her. Photos courtesy the National Archives and Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust: top left Noor and her mother Ora, next to Noor playing her veena instrument; bottom photo of Noor's family.
A school in Suresnes, a city 9.3 km (5.7 miles) from the center of Paris, is named after her.
French history with India is a long one, over three centuries, from 1674 to 1954. I remember when I was a small girl studying in Paris public primary school, France still had trading posts in India. I had to memorize their difficult to pronounce names. They sounded so exotic - I dreamed of visiting these far-away places. I have not yet, but it's still on my list... In 1673, under the reign of French King Louis XIV, France purchased Chandernagore from the Mughal Governor of Bengal. The following year France purchased Pondicherry from the Sultan of Bijapur, and other parts of south India. After the Treaty of Paris of 1763 France only kept five "comptoirs" (or trading posts) in India: Pondicherry, Chandernagor, Karikal, Mahe and Yanaon. (I still remember their names!) When India obtained its independence from the UK in 1947, talks were taken to return four of the French comptoirs to the Indian Union. This was done on November 1, 1954. However the people of Pondicherry were pro-French and feared the overpowering weight of the Indian administrative machinery. After several years of negotiations, an agreement was reached between France and India and a treaty was ratified by the French Parliament in July 1962. By this treaty Pondicherry became Indian Territory and its inhabitants Indian nationals. However, France gave them a six-month opportunity to obtain French citizenship - 8000 of them signed up. It was difficult for them to decide as they were Indians but also went to French schools, spoke French and had been imbued with French culture.
Of course, now sixty-two years later, the French influence in Pondicherry is fading away, but retains some French culture, for example the headgear of the policemen represents the design adopted in France. There are many French-style houses left along the Bay of Bengal. Pondicherry has a large "French" area in town, with French city streets, cobblestones, restaurants, etc. French is one of the official languages of the Pondicherry's government. A French church, built in 1855, offers mass in three languages - Tamil, French and English. Many streets have retained their French names. There are still 5,500 French-Indian and French people living there, many retire there from France as well. A few years ago the film "The Life of Pi" was filmed in Pondicherry, starting with a scene in the shaded and peaceful Jardins Botaniques. (Photos courtesy Pondy Tourism.)
Pondicherry, Pondichéry in French, Pondy for short or Puducherry, as it is officially known, is not a large town. It is about 150 miles from the large city of Chennai (was Madras) on the south eastern coast of India. It's a little bit of France in India. The French Quarter is reminiscent of the New Orleans French Quarter. There is a French Consulate (see their sign in the heading photo) French school and college, The Alliance Francaise, French bakeries and shops and, of course, the celebrations of the 14 of July, or Bastille Day in India.
Bastille Day is a yearly festival in Pondy. On the evening of the 13th there is a lantern march along the Beach Promenade followed by a public dancing for 600 people. Several buildings are illuminated in blue, white and red after the French flag. The police band plays national songs of India and France as part of the celebration. On the 14th, there is a march to the monuments honoring French-Indians and Indians who died in the wars and also to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi (that is illuminated in the tri-colors.) In the evening of the 14th traditional fireworks are fired in front of the French Consulate. I don't think another foreign country in Asia (or anywhere else) sponsors an official French Bastille Day.
Meanwhile, in Paris, on this July 14, 2023, the crowd attended the usual free concert followed by the fireworks shot from the Eiffel Tower. (Photos courtesy City of Paris.)
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