I’m quite skeptical when it comes to government institutions, but even I was amazed when I visited the city of Pondicherry.
It’s an infamous French Colony, yes. But it doesn’t end with that. The great thing about the city is Le Cafe, a government-run coffee shop. As for the best part — it’s open 24 hours a day.
I would have liked nothing more than to sit on one of the stone benches, stare at the raging sea and cross off the stuff on the menu one thing at a time. But my father woudn’t hear of it, and I had to retreat to our hotel.
Nevertheless, I heard the waves calling and sensed the caffeine luring me. I woke up at six the next morning and went out to the cafe — boy, what a sight.
Le Cafe stood like a rectangular block of mud cake, with another smaller block perched atop. The vintage-looking menu board, and its flowing handwriting, the accolades the cafe had received over the years, and age-old photos framed in clear wood all seemed to testify to one thing: this cafe is the best one out there that an Indian government manages.
It was just after the monsoon, so the weather was cool enough without being chilly, and warm without the heat. And there was plenty of flowers that accommodated the previous night’s dew, reflecting the early morning sun, while looking to the skies for some of the daily bread.
The first time I had walked into the cafe had been the pervious night. It was half-way through to the full moon day and the entire sky seemed illuminated by the half-moon that only elevated the beach view. But I had missed the little ponds homing fish the size of half my finger and flowers almost as tall as my knee. Those I noticed the following morning.
And then there were the stones themselves. I’ve never seen anything so solid, and so inviting at the same time. After the cold night of sea breeze, the benches jarred my teeth as I took my seat.
And all the while I walked around, pointing my camera in random directions, the waiters didn’t bother me at all. I went to one of them and wondered aloud of I could take photographs. He smiled wider than anyone else I had seen there and gestured his approval with wide open arms.
No matter what anyone says, for me, Le Cafe will always be the most important tourist attraction in Pondicherry. Because everything’s better with a good dose of caffeine.