Comments on Post-Colonialism from a Little French Town in India: Pondicherry
“Just as a man would not cherish living in a body other than his own, so do nations not like to live under other nations, however noble and great the latter my be.”– Mohandas Gandhi
As I walked the “Heritage Walk” in Pondicherry city (also known as Puducherry) in India, I noticed how the “heritage” seemed so far removed from other Indian cities and villages that I have visited.
A Walk Down Pondicherry, India
It seemed like I was transported to Europe. Like the British who had colonized the other parts of India, the French had colonized this region. Pondicherry had been the capital of French India from 1673 until 1954 (just over 50 years ago). It’s also known as the French Riviera of the East.
I admit that the French colonial architecture is magnificent and beautiful. It was very calming and pleasant to walk down the Heritage Walk.
I found it very strange however to find that the town was divided into 2 distinct sections, including the French Quarter called Ville Blanche or ‘White Town’ while the Indian Quarter is known as Ville Noire or ‘Black Town.’ Along the Heritage Walk, you’ll notice clean streets, few cars, a quiet and calm atmosphere.
On the fringes of the ‘White Town’ and beyond it, however, you then discover beggars and homeless Indians lying on the street. Tin roofed shanty houses and shops line the streets. Busy cars and motorbikes zoom past with their honks and beeps.
Living in a Post-Colonial World
While I personally disagree with the historic concept of colonialism, because I believe in the importance of self-determination as suggested by Gandhi’s quotes in this post, I dare say that the buildings, roads and other structures that were brought by the French left a beautiful look and feel to the places where they built.
I would agree with Gandhi, however, when he points out that “however noble and great” other nations may be, “nations do not like to live under other nations.”
In our modern world, colonization no longer happens – well at least not in the same form as it once did.
Pondicherry, like the rest of India, belongs to the Indian people. Other parts of Asia and Africa also experienced decolonization after the Second World War.
Yet in the year 2000s, how can developed countries share their ideas and technologies with emerging and developing countries like India without colonization?
Sharing Ideas & Technologies from Developed to Developing Countries
I would suggest that international cooperation, international trade, and technology transfer could be more beneficial than the more forceful impacts of colonization.
In our world today, India, like other post-colonial societies, now must harness their own cultures, heritage and leadership to develop themselves, while fusing concepts and technologies shared by more developed nations.
This, in my opinion, is the current challenge for post-colonial cities and states, including India and many other Asian and African countries.
Perhaps that’s why, after strolling past the French colonial architecture of the Heritage Walk in Pondicherry, you’ll discover a large statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Perhaps the monument is a reminder that while the French and British brought some great ideas and technologies during the colonial period, today it is the local Indian people who must put forward their own ideas into practice to make a positive difference in their communities.
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.”– Mohandas Gandhi