Let's Talk About Shopping
Pondicherry is a favourite stomping ground of the passionate shopper. It's a perfect destination for everything from cars to consumer goods. In addition, there is an enticingly low sales tax. The shops casually down their shutters for a siesta, which only makes the entire shopping experience more enjoyable.
TEXTILES FROM PONDICHERRY
Pondicherry has long been a centre for the production of household linen and garment textiles in satin, twill, corduroy, poplin, chambray, oxford and cambric. Khadi (a home-spun fabric) comes through as nice, easy-to-care-for clothing. Crisp, printed cotton fabrics, smelling of fresh dye roll out at great pace from the Anglo-French textile mill in Pondicherry. With a work force of 5,000, fabric from this 100-year-old company are sold throughout Europe, the US, Australia and the Middle East.
Excellent ceramic artists and artisans work in Pondicherry and Auroville. They keep a keen eye out for the right kind of clay and glazes and make the kilns appropriate to the local environment. Lending their signature an elegant simplicity and a unique decorative flourish.
Various studios have evolved distinctive styles, such as "Golden Bridge" and "Rhinestone Art" which are both contemporary and Pondicherrian.
THE BOUTIQUES OF PONDY
Shop-hoppers will relish the pleasant ambience, which the boutiques of Pondy provide. There's one almost down every street. Upon entering, the fragrant whiff of incense and the glow of perfumed candles draw you further in.
They cater to a wide range of tastes, offering stylish garments, semi-precious stones, perfumes, hand-made incense, candles embossed with real petals, marbled silks and aromatherapy products. With something for everyone, the merchandise begs for ownership. French antique furniture bedazzles. There are also quaint Tibetan handicrafts on offer.
Making leather the forgotten way, with exacting attention to detail, is what separates the Pondicherry brands from the rest. Carefully finished, innovative products with quality brass buckles and locks come for a steal.
Since 1959, the Aurobindo Ashram factory has popularised the use of handmade paper. Its scope of textures and colours has made it one of Pondicherry's best-loved products in markets all over the world.
THE PRINCIPAL SHOPPERS' STOPS
The principal "up market" shopping street is J.N. or Nehru Street, particularly the stretch between St. Louis Street and M.G. Road. Close behind is Mission Street, which has good shops along its whole length.
Other shopping arteries are M.G. (for Gandhi) Road and Anna Salai (the western boulevard). They bustle with buyers and sellers for whom low over-heads mean a lot.
The strategic shopping intersections or junctions are Nehru and Mission, and Nehru and M.G. Road. Some of the side streets have two names - one long and formal (and variously spelled), the other short and used in conversation.
The Street Name Game
Major instances of the Name Game are to be found in the streets parallel to and north of Nehru Street.