Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mahe - Petite France in Kerala.

Who will win the 2007 French Presidential election - N. Sarkozy, S. Royal, F. Bayrou or JM. Le Pen? In the laid back atmosphere of Mahe, a beautiful seaside little (9 Sq.kms) town in Kerala 33 French citizens who are eligible to vote discuss this question and keenly watch news bulletins and features on French TV channels. They have to travel 650 kms to Pudducherry (Pondicherry) on the east coast of India to personally exercise franchise. But they can, alternatively, nominate someone there to cast the votes on their behalf.

In 1724 the French East India Company constructed a fort in Mahe with the permission of the local rajah. There were several wars, particularly between the French and the English for possession of the settlement. It changed hands a few times. Finally the French retained Mahe till 1954 when it was de facto integrated with India. At that time the people of Mahe (as well as the other French possessions in IndiaPondicherry, Yanam, Chandranagore and Karaikal) were given the option to select either Indian or French citizenship. Today there are 72 French citizens in Mahe.

For decades, the French influence lingered on. Now only traces of it are left. A classic Malayalam novel, ‘Mayyazhi Puzhayude Therathu’ (On the banks of Mahe River) by M. Mukundan, a son of the soil, makes great reading. I don’t know whether it has been translated into French or English.

Mahe is a must visit destination at any time, but preferably from November to February. It is a land of great scenic beauty and hospitable people. The place has ancient temples, cultural events and the famous shrine of St. Teresa of Avila. The excellent cuisine specializes on lobsters, mussels, fish and other seafood.

And, in this small territory, there are over 60 bars!


Also read:

Indian who could have been the King of France?

The Indian 'King of France'.

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