If you asked me when I last visited Pondicherry, I would have to think a minute or two, and if you asked how many times I’ve been here, I’ll admit I have lost count. What I can say rightaway is that every trip puts a spring (sometimes even a sprint) into my step. So as I stood by the wayside at the start of the scenic East Coast Road out of Chennai, waiting for one of the so-many rattling buses that ply the route, along came the driver of an old Qualis returning from a pre-dawn airport drop, inviting the gaggle of Pondy-bound passengers to hop in for a faster ride. Off we went at 80kmph, wind whipping and FM radio blaring, to be deposited less than three hours later in beloved Pondy. Hurrah! It was providence, I tell you. Pondy wanted me back quicker and longer. I had a three-page itinerary of recommendations drawn up for your delectation, dear reader, but there’s only one of them that you really need to remember. To understand and experience Pondy’s creative and resourceful nature better, you will have to keep coming back. Like me, you will find the city hovering irresistibly between la francophonie (the community of French-speaking countries) and sentamizh (pure or good Tamil), where the perfect symmetry of an expertly drawn kolam frames the entrance to a laidback café serving the best croissants this side of Mediterranean. As for the rest, here’s our story.