February 28, 2014 heralded its official 125th anniversary of the Alliance Française de Pondichéry, a day replete with festivities, fun and merriment amid the students, teachers and its members.
Photo by Lydie Asselin
This day was set in motion with the staff of Alliance Française baking a cake to commemorate the attainment of 125 years of its operations in Pondicherry. The preparations for an animated street spectacle were next on their agenda. By early evening, a large crowd had started to congregate in front of the French Consulate. The spectators were delighted to see the students, teachers and staff of the Alliance Française attired in bright red T-Shirts, proudly flaunting the inscription ‘AF 125 years’. These T-Shirts were graciously sponsored by Amaranta Entertainment. Children participating in the event were dressed in bright costumes of tigers, peacocks and bears, many of them sporting face masks, head gears and matching accoutrements. This event was sure to kindle the spirit of fun, frolic and fanfare for a street party. The director of the Alliance Française welcomed the public to a colourful spectacle. He was also given a warm reception by the representative of the French Consul. The minister for tourism did the honours of ceremoniously cutting the red ribbon that spanned across ‘Rue de la Marine’ followed by an exultant Mr. Mongiat who dotted the air with multi-coloured confetti, inaugurating the street pageant as ‘officially opened’.
An ambulant van carrying Kavita, Fantasio, Paul Jacob and an ensemble of accompanying musicians led the street parade with children, students, teachers and members, trailing behind and attired in an assortment of rainbow hues, frolicking and cavorting as they meandered towards the beach road. The street procession skirted the eastern side of the park and reached the Chamber of Commerce Headquarters on ‘Rue Suffren’, which coincidentally was the first building of Alliance Française de Pondichéry. The people were held spellbound and broke into a thunderous applause, filling the air with laughter, whistles and squeals of delight, all orchestrating into a heady celebration of praise and appreciation. The highlight of the parade was the brass band christened ‘Imperial Kikiristan’, conspicuously clad in neat and smart uniforms. An excited group of children beaming with cherubic smiles, belonging to the Annai Velangani orphanage and Santhosha Nanban, were dressed in their festive gear. Other than that, a dance troupe from Karagam with accompanying musicians accentuated the true spirit of the Indo French Festival, from costumes to music, from people to art: the Indo French flavour was clearly evident!
Thereafter, the procession momentarily paused to suggest a symbolic halt in front of imposing edifice of Alliance Française, as the participants took a breather to hydrate themselves and relax. The merriment resonated distinctly in the otherwise quiet lanes of this heritage town, bringing back memories to the elderly citizens positioned at their window sills and reminiscing of the glorious days when such events were more frequent. On the last leg of its journey towards ‘Maison Colombani’, the multitude of people thronged the beach road as this was just the beginning of a very long evening. Finally the parade reached its destination, the august, pristine and elegant French architectural symbol, ‘Maison Colombani’, the operational center of the justifiably worthy institute, the Alliance Française.
Photo by Lydie Asselin
The grand pageantry culminated at the beach road, which was ornately illuminated. As the people gathered in the streets and the musicians were testing their sound systems and lighting, Maison Colombani was aglitter once again. A clear night sky and a glowing moon added to the breathtaking decor. As Kikiristan performed, it seemed as though the waves in the Bay of Bengal lilted gracefully to the music. Nature was in harmony with man, synchronously in step with his music and songs. The remaining half of the evening was vibrantly animated with the energetic encouragement from Kavita and Fantasio, the crowd swaying and singing to popular melodies from contemporary film songs, as if under a celestial charm. Fantasio enthralled the spectators with a song, which he had composed especially for this event.
As the annual celebrations of the Alliance Française came to its finale and the music gradually grew fainter over the coastline, it was apparent that 125 years was merely an onset for this noble institution to cover more milestones, not only in chronological years, but also in the hearts of the people.