Pondicherry diaries with Hidesign
Get enchanted by the quaint, former French colony
By Neha Salvi
Blue waters, clear skies and endless sunshine; what’s not to love about Pondy? No matter how many times I visit this former French colony, I am transported to a different era. A short drive from Chennai, along the Coromandel Coast, Puducherry, as it is officially known, has beautiful colonial buildings, churches and well-planned avenues in the French grid pattern. So when luxury leather brand Hidesign invited me to celebrate 35 years of their heritage with the launch of the ‘Icons’ collection, I was excited; it was a win-win situation for me.
Through my visit, I stayed at The Promenade, A Hidesign Hotel, located at the heart of the French quarter in Pondy, with its long verandas, stately columns, huge doors and arched windows (the colonial French influence). As I stood on my balcony facing the sea, taking in the soothing sound of the ocean and the multilingual sights and sounds of the busy avenue, I felt instantly calm and rejuvenated.
But I was here on work – to mark the launch of the ‘Icons’ collection, visit the Hidesign factory and chat with brand president Dilip Kapur – though if all workdays were like this, I’d be a happy camper. The factory was really a large spread of scenic beauty – flora and fauna, with small calm ponds surrounded by curved boulders – and Kapur took me through the history of the brand and the process of leather bag-making. To mark their 35th anniversary, Hidesign procured the original bags from its owners and re-launched the label’s popular designs under the ‘Icons’ collection. Lunch was a casual affair; the entire team gathered under the shade of old trees and enjoyed Kapur’s homemade bhindi sabzi and maa ki dal, chatting about everything except work, which, I’ve been told, is a tradition.
After a daylong visit to the Hidesign workshop, I was looking forward to a quiet dinner and an unwinding session in my cosy room. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from: beautiful French-style Blueline with its eclectic menu; exotic leather lounge Risque with its pool view, groovy music and cocktails; and charming rooftop Lighthouse with its sumptuous barbecue and grill menu. I decided to go with Blueline for its wide range of authentic oriental and Mediterranean dishes and an exciting bar menu, but most importantly, for the incredible view it offered of the ocean. After poring over the mouth-watering menu, I decided to go with grilled prawns with parsley potato and side salad; I sipped on my delicious green apple margarita while I waited for my dinner. The soft breeze, the gentle rushing of waves and a sumptuous meal – what better way to end a perfect evening?
The next morning, Jacqueline Kapur welcomed me their home for breakfast. I’d mentioned to her that despite travelling to Puducherry several times, I had never managed to visit Auroville, and she instantly took it upon herself to show me around. She took me to the local organic bakery where I bought truckloads of delicious Auroville-made cookies, enough to last a month.
They say that Auroville belongs to nobody; it’s a place where one realises humanity. Visiting the Matrimandir and strolling along the by-lanes of Auroville, definitely felt like that – a spiritual experience. From learning the heritage of India’s only luxury leather brand to experiencing peace and connect with nature – my time in Pondicherry wasn’t merely a trip or vacation; it was a journey.