I bussed south from Chennai and passed walled plots of coconut plantations, pine trees, an occasional rice paddy field and gained a taste of the old India. But resorts were encroaching on this farmland to the point where some farmers had signs plastered on boundary walls, “This property isn’t for sale.”

Inner courtyard of a Puducherry building

After hectic Chennai, Pondy seemed like heaven. I didn’t need a police escort to cross the road as I had on my escape from the Tamil Nadu capital and few buildings needed painting as they had in Chennai.

There were old neglected buildings, but most were well-maintained. And even though a sign read, Clean Pondicherry, and I sarcastically thought, good luck with that one, it was way cleaner. The beach appeared to be swept of litter and I spied city workers sweeping streets.

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