Stories from the Road: Gandhi in Pondicherry

Stories from the Road is a collection of stories about my own photographic adventures in South Asia. Sometimes the stories are exciting and sometimes mundane and at times emotional. This section deals with vernacular photography and the way we all experience the photographs we see. What they meant when we took them and what they mean over time.

In many cities across India there is a statue dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and the city of Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu is no different. I was recently in Tamil Nadu for a little weekend get away with my friend Meropi and my mom Jennifer. We decided to take a daytrip down to Pondicherry because of its interesting history as a French colony. Beyond this, I had heard I could get delicious French food including beef. As a native Texan I like beef and I miss it here in Rajastan. (No offense to my non-beef eating readers.)

I had read there was a Gandhi statue in Pondy, however, we were not really looking for it. We were headed down the beach looking for the lighthouse. My mom loves lighthouses. Anyway, The statue is located diagonally across the street from the lighthouse. The statue is on the beach side of the street. Gandhi’s back is to the ocean and he faces the city. Across the street and across a large courtyard stands a Catholic church. It is an interesting dichotomy. I was impressed by the scale of the statue which you can see in the photograph above.

I took this photograph in particular because of its Martin Parr quality. Martin Parr is a contemporary photographer who always finds the odd or off-balance moments to photograph, thus his images are usually humorous. I thought this composition was interesting because all the tourists have seemed to turn their backs on Gandhi. Me, I have an odd sense of humor. The tourists could represent bored tourists or if you want to read more into it, they could represent the British Empire, turning their backs on India.

Now I tried to make the photograph as symmetrical as possible but the powerlines and street lights are screwing everything up. Damn modernity and all! I hate for modernity to spoil my composition but I really wish I had more modern luxuries here in Udaipur. Mainly air-conditioning. Anyway, back to the photograph. This photograph, for me, represents the beginning of the beauty of Pondicherry. We had wondered around for a while not really finding what we wanted to see. However, when we saw the lighthouse and the statue we had arrived. From there we all found many nice things to photograph.

All around it was an amazing day. We made some nice travel photographs and a few photos in the spirit of Martin Parr. We did a little shopping and had some delicious food. I would not have wanted to spend my time in Pondicherry with anyone other than Meropi and my mom. I also hope to go back in the future because I had some delicious beef and an amazing Tuna sandwich on a French baguette.

If you are ever in South India, you must go to Pondicherry! You can run around town making photographs, eating and shopping!

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By |2018-10-12T16:14:45-05:00April 5th, 2017|India|1 Comment

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

One Comment

  1. Jennifer Wooten April 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful time it was in Pondi with Betsy and Meropi. Yes, I love lighthouses and it was fun to photography my first one in India! Woohoo!!! Prior to departing for India, Betsy had mentioned she wanted to eat her way through Pondicherry. I would say we did a pretty good job of that in addition to taking photos and having a blast roaming its streets. The French Bakery didn’t disappoint either.

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