Friday, May 30, 2014

'Vive La Difference' by K.J.S.Chatrath

The mega store Printemps in Paris

It is time to clear the confusion created by the French ‘Faux amis’ meaning false friends. No, it does not mean that France is not a true friend or that one should be cautious of friends. It would really be blasphemy even to suggest so with France and India enjoying such an excellent rapport.

“Faux-amis’ in fact refers to the expressions in French language which give a totally skewed meaning to those of us used to Anglo-Saxon phrases. It is a word or a phrase which does not mean what it appears to be meaning.

For example, the French have solved the notoriously ticklish universal problem of the ‘in-laws’ in an extremely sophisticated manner. But before tackling the in-laws, let us first examine the word notorious itself. When the French talk of ‘notoriete’ they are meaning fame and not bad reputation as notoriety in English means.

Coming back to the ‘in-laws’, take the mother-in-law first. What a crude and obnoxious way of addressing a dear one! You are mother not because I perceive you as mother, but because the law forces me to consider you as one. The French have, in one wonderful masterstroke silenced all the mothers-in-law.

Wife’s mother, and so also husband’s mother, is the ‘belle-mere’ or the beautiful mother. Similarly, a father-in law is a ‘beau-pere’ or the handsome father, a brother-in-law is the ‘beau-frere’ or the handsome brother and of course a sister-in-law is a ‘belle-soeur’ or the beautiful sister. This is the delicious French way of tackling even acquired relationships in a polished and sophisticated way.

If you are looking for a library in France and enquire about its location, chances are that you would never find it as the word ‘librarie’ in French means, not a library but a book shop, the word for library being the ‘bibliotheque’.

France is well known for its culinary excellence but here too the pitfalls for us are many. The famous French gastronomy has quite a few surprises in store for lesser mortals. Many of us have been initially shocked to find ‘crudite’ listed as one of the items in the menu-cards of classy French restaurants. “Crudite’ means crudeness and coarseness in French as it does in English. It is arelief to discover that it does not mean any crude dish but a bowl of salad.

One other item in French restaurants which never fails to intrigue foreigners is the famous ‘hors d’oeuvres’. No, it has nothing to do with the horse. ‘Hors d’oeuvres’ really means a starter and is something like a cold meat salad. Of course horse’s meat is considered a speciality and one often comes across a meatshop called the ‘Boucherie Chevaline’ selling only horse’s meat.

A Frenchman talking of a ‘chou’ pronounced like the English word shoe, is not referring to footwear, but the lowly cabbage. Calling the beloved a ‘Chou-chou’ is also a term of endearment. Try calling your beloved a cabbage here in India and watch the fun.

‘Chouette’, a somewhat similar sounding word in French, also confuses us when we hear it being used frequently to describe a wonderful person or thing even though the word really means an ‘owl’. What a way to praise someone! But then the French are different and, as someone said in a different context, ‘Vive La Difference'.

The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, August 17, 1995.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

' China to send police 'to help patrol Paris streets' by K.J.S.Chatrath

'Police in Paris will draft in reinforcements from Beijing to help protect Chinese visitors to the city this summer, according to reports this week. Chinese tourists have been the target of some recent high profile muggings and attacks.

Chinese police will help patrol tourist destinations in Paris this summer after a rise in muggings and attacks on Chinese tourists, a source in France's interior ministry told AFP this week.

The ministry source said the Chinese police would help their French counterparts in Paris tourist spots but declined to give numbers. More than one million Chinese visitors come to France every year and there have been concerns over a number of muggings and attacks against them.'

For full article in 'The Local-International' click at the following link: . . .

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

'Coup d'Etat' by K.J.S.Chatrath

The Little Venice-Colmar in France. (Photo source: French Govt. website)

My son, who is a great travel enthusiast, was visiting Thailand last week when I saw the news of a Military Coup there. My thoughts went back to a small piece which I had written in 2000 and was published in a newspaper. Let me share that with you.

In the Nineteen sixties and seventies, this phrase used to come up in the news with frightening frequency. Mercifully, there has hardly been any occasion to use this phrase during the last decade or so. But after the recent events in one of our neighbouring countries, this dreaded word is back in currency.

Consulting my old faithful dictionaries, I found that ‘Coup d’Etat’ has been defined in a somewhat general way as an ‘illegal stroke of state policy’ or a ‘violent or subversive stroke of state policy’. Not fully satisfied and hoping to refresh my memory and pick up finer nuances of the phrase, I turned to my 166 page French-English/English-French dictionary in small print.

I was rudely disappointed as the relevant entry describing that French expression ‘Coup d’Etat’ as ‘coup (d’etat)’ in English did not say anything much. However my attention got diverted as I came across a large number of usages of the French word ‘coup’. For some strange reason, as a general rule, the last syllabus of French words is not pronounced. So ‘coup’ meaning a knock is pronounced as ‘koo’.

The common usage of coup is in the sense of a physical shock of hitting. It is also used in the sense of a moral shock, for example, ‘un coup dur’ means a stroke of bad luck, ‘dur’ meaning hard. ‘Donner un coup de telephone’ means giving a tinkle to someone.

Another usage of coup has something to do with an activity with which the French are universally and undisputedly associated with- love. ‘Coup de foudre’ in French means falling in love at first sight.

No, ‘coup de grace’ does not have anything to do with grace- it has a fairly negative connotation meaning the final blow.

While ‘coup d’oeil’ means having a quick look, ‘coup de soleil’ is something which the French normally do not get while they are in France- a sunstroke!

Chiffon in English may be used as a piece of fine cloth, but in French, it means only a rag. A ‘coup de chiffon’ denotes a bit of dusting with a piece of cloth.

Another word which is pronounced in exactly the same way, but has different spellings and means something quite different is ‘cout’ denoting the cost of something.

Last year (1999) the entire France had gone almost hysterical with joy and excitement when its team had won the Football World Cup called ‘Coupe du Monde’. ‘Coupe’ here is pronounced as ‘koup’ and means a cup. Yet another similar word is ‘coupe’, also pronounced as ‘koup’ which is derived from the French verb ‘couper’ which means to cut.

The American Secretary of State Ms. Madeline Albright is reported to have remarked pithily about Europe last year (1999), “To understand Europe, you have to be a genius or French”. Borrowing from the above, may we say that too understand the French language, you have to be either French or a genius!

Bon chance!

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'Cannes Film Festival, 2014, France'

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"Grace of Monaco” by the French director Olivier Dahan opened the 67th Festival de Cannes.The world preview took place on Wednesday 14 May, 2014, in the Grand Théâtre Lumière of the Palais des Festivals, in the Official Selection category, Out of Competition. Grace of Monaco follows on from The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann.

The film portrays a period in the life of American Actress Grace Kelly (played by Nicole Kidman) who became Princess Grace of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) in 1956, in what was dubbed “the marriage of the century”. An Oscar winner, she was already a huge film star, having worked with the very greatest (John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Fred Zinnemann) and acclaimed the world over.

Six years later, amid occasional difficulties in fulfilling her role, she was invited back to Hollywood by Alfred Hitchcock, to play in his new film Marnie. At the time, France was threatening to tax and even annex Monaco, the tiny Principality whose monarch Kelly had become. Was she still an actress? Was she really Princess of Monaco?

Produced by Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Uday Chopra, YRF Entertainment production and Arash Amel, who also wrote the screenplay, Grace de Monaco sees Nicole Kidman play the role of Grace, with Tim Roth as Prince Rainier. (I wonder if the producers Uday Chopra & YRF Entertainement Production (Yash Raj Films?)are the Indian film personalities?)

Born in 1967 in La Ciotat, Olivier Dahan previously directed La Vie en Rose (2007) which garnered Marion Cotillard the Oscar for Best Actress in 2008.


You may also like to see:

Indian Actor Rahul Vohra felicitated with French Award

Actor Rahul Vohra, who has acted in films like 'Monsoon Wedding', 'Swadesh' and 'Bheja Fry', was felicitated with France's biggest award for his contribution towards French theatre. The function happened at French embassy where in French ambassador Francois Richier conferred the Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres to Rahul Vohra.

After receiving the award, Rahul said, "I never expected to get such a prestigious award. I am happy to be the part of list of legends who have received the award earlier. I am thankful to France government for recognising my hard work towards French theater and Arts." . . .

'Visit Reims in France'

Notre Dame de Reims.(Photo source Wikipedia) ..............

Reims is a French town located in the Champagne-Ardenne region, northeast of Paris. The town of Reims has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, museums and landmarks which bear witness to a rich and glorious past. The town is the gateway to the Champagne region. From Reims, visitors can visit great champagne houses such as Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, Pommery and Ruinart. There are several landmarks of interest in Reims, namely the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Tau, and the Saint-Remi Basilica

‘France's bustling, modern Reims greets travellers with cellar doors wide open. As the capital of the Champagne region, it features a lively centre, a historic cathedral, and, of course, Champagne tasting. And thanks to France's slick high-speed rail, it's just 45 minutes from Paris -- making it an easy day trip. Reims (pronounced like "rance") has a turbulent history… …’.

This short extract is reproduced from an article in Edmonton Sun, Canada “Sip, savour and celebrate Reims” by Rick Steves. For full article click at the following link:

For more information on Reims, click the following link:

Champagne Pommery (Photo source: Reims Tourism)

TGV (Trains a Grande Vitesse, pronounced tayjayvay) trains to Reims leave from Gare de l’est in Paris all through the day. Direct trains cover this journey of 143 kms in just 46 minutes.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

'Visiting Paris for the first time...'

"If visiting Paris for the first time… Begin with a coffee on the Champs-Elysées, then take a gentle stroll down to the Eiffel Tower along the avenue Marceau, passing the famous flame of the Pont de l’Alma. From the top of the Tower, you’ll be treated to an unrestricted view over Paris. Then, hop onto one of the river boats moored just below and glide down the Seine as far as Notre-Dame. When you’ve finished your visit of the cathedral, it’ll be time for a lunch break. The Louvre is just half an hour away and awaits you for a made-to-measure tour around the major works of art. As you leave, the day will be drawing to a close over the Pont des Arts footbridge, the Pont Neuf and the Institut de France… Cross over the river and make your way to Odéon metro station which will lead you straight to the Butte Montmartre where you can enjoy an exceptional panoramic view of the city and its monuments, which light up at nightfall." (Source: . . .

‘A visit to Lourdes, France’ by K. J. S. Chatrath

I am not a Christian. For that matter I am a non believer of all religions and an athiest to the core. However, the profound faith of others fascinates me and makes me conscious of my total inability to give myself into the hands of a superior power. Maybe it is sheer arrogance on my part to believe, albeit indirectly, that there is no one superior to me and hence there is no need to give myself up to the mercy of some other body or power. It is this fascination which drove me to visit Haridwar some time back and more recently to Lourdes, near the France-Spain border in Southern France. Lourdes lies at an altitude of 420 m (1,380 ft) and in a central position through which runs the fast-flowing river Gave de Pau The border of Spain is just 80 kms from Lourdes.
St. Bernadette Lourdes is associated with the story of Bernadette, a little poor girl, illiterate and sick. As the story goes Bernadette along with two other girls went to collect firewood and suddenly saw a light in the cave and there was the apparition. After three days Bernadette went to the cave again and saw the Lady. In all there were 18 apparitions and then the authorities closed the access to the cave.
Bernadette went from Lourdes to Nevers in Bourgogne on 7th July, 1866, covering a distance of over 700 kilometers. In Nevers she joined the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. She had a very short life- she was born in 1844 and died in 1879. Her body is on display in the Chapel of the Convent of Nevers. She was canonized and made St. Bernadette in 1933.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes or the ‘Domain’ (as it is most commonly known) is an area of ground surrounding the shrine (Grotto). This ground is owned and administrated by the Roman Catholic Church, and has several functions, including devotional activities, offices, and accommodation for sick pilgrims and their helpers. The Domain includes the Grotto itself, the nearby taps which dispense the Lourdes water, and the offices of the Lourdes Medical Bureau, as well as several churches and basilicas. It comprises an area of 51 hectares, and includes 22 separate places of worship. There are six official languages of the Sanctuary: French, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and German. It is estimated that over the last 150 years over half a billion people have visited Lourdes.
Devotees partaking the holy water Although never formally encouraged by the Church, Lourdes water has become a focus of devotion to the Virgin Mary at Lourdes. Since the apparitions, many people have claimed to have been cured by drinking or bathing in it, and the Lourdes authorities provide it free of charge. The faithful also take it in plastic bottles for those who have not been able to make this pilgrimage- just like a visit to Haridwar.
The other places to visit are the Museum of Lourdes which is just 3 minutes from the shrines, via the ‘Lift of Equality’ and where one finds the portrayal of the story of St. Bernadette. The ticket to the museum is 6 euros. Just next to the Museum is the cemetery. There is also a funiculaire which takes one to the Pic du Jer where one finds the highest grottos of France and a 360 degree panorama of Lourdes. The Mass is performed in various international languages, besides in French. But I was surprised to find that the notices for the Mass next day were in French as well as in Tamil! Yes there is an Indian connection. L’Eglise De Notre Dame Des Anges in Pondicherry has been designed on the model of Lourdes. Many Indians, especially from South India visit Lourdes as a holy pilgrimage.
Ah, that's me!

 There is an impressive and very dignified candle light procession at 9 p.m. There is a direct 24X7 television telecast of the Mass as well as other areas of the Domain which is available at the following website in English: A night view Lourdes is located at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains at the border between France and Spain. Three sites close to Lourdes must not be missed when visiting that area – the Gavarnie Cirque, the Pyrenees National Park and Pic du Midi. There are daily bus tours from Lourdes, covering these areas during summer. A visit to Lourdes in France is recommended for all- fifty+ and those even younger than that. Fact File: By road: Lourdes is about 9 hours drive from Paris via Toulouse and the highway A64. By train: Perhaps the most convenient way of travelling to Lourdes from Paris is by train. The Lourdes train station is just a few hundred metres from the City Centre as well as the ‘Domain’.The small SNCF (French railway system) station offers minimal services, but there are free toilets (a rarity in France!), a small coffee/pastry counter and some soft drinks vending machines. SNCFs website in English is: By Air: The nearest airport is Tarbes-Lourdes and the return air ticket for Paris Orly- Tarbes Lourdes is around 300 euros. Delhi-Paris-Delhi airfare starts at around Rs.38,000. Conducted Tours: There are some conducted tours from Paris to Lourdes in summer. For tour by TGV train see, for example and for conducted bus trip Paris-Lourdes-Paris. Hotels: Lourdes is a small town and every place is in a walking distance. Hotels of various types are available. One can hope to get a room for around Euros 50 a night at many hotels (for example Hotel du Petit Languedoc and Hotel Mediterranee Lourdes). ...  …

 Text, photographs & copyright by K.J.S.Chatrath …

This article was earlier published in my website .. . . .

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mother's Day- Fêtes des Mères - - May 25, 2014 By Sue Aran

"In a place where food is worshipped, it was not easy to find a simple meal on Sunday, May 26th, last year. While some friends were visiting from the States, my husband and I decided to do a little sight-seeing with them in search of a wonderful out of the way auberge or restaurant in a picturesque village on the eastern edge of the Gers department. We had no idea it was Mother's Day since it had already been celebrated in the United States. We took a leisurely drive through the bucolic countryside to the village of Mirande and arrived at out favorite Italian restaurant at 11, with what we thought was enough time to make a reservation for midi, noon, and walk around the village proper. When I opened the door to the restaurant I was met by a hostess who immediately said, "Nous sommes complets." We are full. Sticking her head out of the door, she pointed directions to two other restaurants, saying we might find a table with either. Disappointed, I told my friends the restaurant was completely full and the hostess said we might find something around the corner. At both of the restaurants around the corner we were met with the same hasty response, "Nous sommes complets." Hustling back to the car we checked the map for the nearest village and drove off for Mielan. There were no restaurants in Mielan nor any in Trie-sur-Baïse that had room for 4 more people, though at the last one we tried, we finally were told, emphatically, it was Mother's Day, with an attitude of, what bumpkin truck did you fall off of after the aliens dropped you from their spaceship - don't you know it's Mother's Day?! Well, pardonnez-moi, bien sur, of course, we were bumpkins dropped from a space ship in the middle of southern France without a calendar of holidays. Realizing we might not have enough time to find somewhere to have lunch before the clock struck 2 and kitchens closed with synchronistically slammed doors, we consulted the map again and drove to Masseube. The parking lot was full, so my friends idled in the car while I checked inside. The hostess said they had one table for four left. I told the hostess we'd take the table and went back outside to park the car and hurry everyone inside. Once seated we were given menus. The special Mother's Day meal was a prix fixe, set price, which included an appetizer, first course with three choices - chicken, beef or fish - salad and cheese plate, wine, dessert and coffee for 25 euros per person. We all thought this was highway robbery for the countryside, but considering we didn't think we had any choices left, we decided to splurge and hoped it was worth every centime. When the waitress approached our table ready to take our orders, I asked if I could skip the main course since I was a vegetarian and have everything else. The waitress raised one eyebrow and scurried off to the kitchen, returning with an emphatic, "Non!" I repeated, "Non?" I said I would pay for the entire prix fixe meal regardless. The waitress scurried back to the kitchen, we heard a few plates crash, then she returned and promptly grabbed our menus while pointing to the door. We were speechless. All four of us rose from the table shaking our heads in disbelief and quietly left. In Seissan we passed a pizzeria. It was open, but there was only one car out front which didn't bode well, so we continued down the road to Lasseube-Propre. We drove through the village without seeing any services, let alone a restaurant, before we could even pronounce its name. We were all hungry, fed up, and in need of a bathroom break when we approached Pavie, the last village of any note before reaching Auch, the capital of the Gers department. The time was 10 minutes to 2. Off to the left I saw a large sign that said Les Tapa Restaurant and pulled the car into their lot. My husband went inside this time and came back almost immediately. The hostess said they had room, the time didn't matter and even though they also had a prix fixe menu, they would be willing to let me choose a salad from their regular menu. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. After we were well sated and the plates were cleared we read our placements, which in honor of Mother's Day in France, Fête des Mères, the restaurant had printed with a history of the holiday. A French law since 1950, Fêtes des Mères originally dates back to the ancient Greeks who honored Rhea, the mother of the gods, Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Hestia, Hades, and Demeter. In 1806, Napoléon, declared a holiday in spring to honor his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino, as well as all mother's, who raised citizens for the future of France. Roses became the favored gift for Mother's Day after Pierre-Joseph Redouté painted exquisite botanicals from Napoléon's wife, Joséphine's gardens at Malmaison. The holiday fell into disfavor after Joséphine died leaving Napoléon without any sons and wasn't revived until a century later in the village of Artas situated in the Isère department. In1906, a union was founded there, called the Union Fraternelle, in order to pay tribute to large families in and around Artas. Twelve years later in Lyon, a holiday was organized to honor all of the women who lost sons and husbands during WWI. A few years later, Mother's Day returned, but this time with an emphasis for women to have a lot of children in order to repopulate France after the astonishing loss of male lives during the war. During WWII, Marshal Pétain launched another campaign to repopulate France, but the holiday was controversial because it was initiated under the reviled Vichy Regime. And finally, on May 24, 1950, Mother's Day, was officially written into law by Charles de Gaulle and fixed as the last Sunday in May unless it falls on Pentecost, when it's moved to the first Sunday in June. This year in France, Fêtes des Mères, Mother's Day, falls on Sunday, May 25th. Customary gifts include, flowers, cakes, chocolates, poems, perfume and special meals at restaurants…reservations required." (Source: . . .

'Ah..The French politesse!' by K.J.S.Chatrath

The headline of a small news item made me chuckle. It read "A kiss gives away French jewel thief". Let us read what happened.
A jewel thief in France who kissed the owner of a jewellery shop during a robbery was nabbed after police analysed the DNA on the victim's cheek.
The robber had kissed the 56-year-old woman apologetically after gagging her for hours.According to the French newspaper Le Parisien,two masked men tied the jeweller up in her home last year.The men reportedly poured petrol over the woman's head and threatened to light it unless she cooperated. Then one of the thieves went to the shop,stealing cash and jewels,while the other stood guard over the woman. Then before releasing her,the man planted a kiss on her cheek.
She then alerted the police.A forensic team swabbed her cheek and the mans DNA was found in the national genetic print database.He was traced to a jail in Nimes (in France) where he had been arrested on suspicion of thefts.
Only the French and the Francophiles will understand it and say softly 'Ah..Quelle Politesse!' or 'C'est normal!'
I too had my taste of the French 'politesse', though not of the kissing type, decades back when my pocket got picked at one of the Metro stations in Paris. Within seconds a young person appeared and handed me back my purse, sans money of course. Incidentally there was no money in it.
I then came to know that when someone's wallet gets picked in France and the wallet contains the passport or the French Carte d'Identite', the thief drops the passport in the nearest letter box, while keeping the cash. The equally polite French postal department delivers that passport to the Embassy of the concerned country. Which in turn returns it to the tourist of their country who lost it.
You may like to see my write up on 'The Pickpokets of Paris:
. . .

May I invite you to visit my websites & blogs?

'Pssst...Want to learn French?' by K.J.S.Chatrath

Boards pointing towards a French coaching centre in Ludhiana, Punjab, India. . .

'Paris, Oh Paris!' by K.J.S.Chatrath

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Friday, May 23, 2014

' The amazing story of the first lighthouse in Orissa, India, old British graves and a sunken French ship' by K.J.S.Chatrath

Orissa is a place full of surprises! Some time back I visited one such place called “The False Point”. It was the unusual name that attracted me to the place. One has to travel by boat for over two hours from Paradip Port on the eastern coast of Orissa to reach this place.
(Channel-on-way-to-the-False-Point.) ‘False Point’ is an old harbour with a lighthouse in the Kendrapara district of Orissa, on the north of the Mahanadi estuary. It takes its name from the fact that it was often mistaken by ships for Point Palmyras (Palmyras is a sort of palm) one degree farther north. Point Palmyras was the spot from where the ships moved towards the Ganges. In fact the incoming ships used to take sailors from Balasore town as guides as they were considered well versed in navigating the tricky mouth of the river. At the ‘False Point’, the ships had to anchor in a comparatively exposed roadway, and loading and unloading could only be carried on in fair weather. However a considerable export of rice in sailing ships, chiefly to Mauritius and Ceylon used to take place from here.
(Batighar-or-lighthouse-at-False-Point.) This is the first lighthouse installed on the eastern coast of India. It is around 45 kms from the District Headquarterrs Kendrapara. It is situated in a village named Batighar, on the other bank of river Kharinasi. Batighar, as the name suggests means a lighthouse. It is surrounded by pleasant natural beauty. It is said that in olden times it was known as ‘Kaudia Dweep’ and used as hunting ground of Kujanga Kings. Construction of this lighthouse was started on 6th December, 1836 and finished on 16th October 1837. A plaque at the lighthouse informs that the first light was exhibite3d on 1st March 1838 by H. Righly, 2nd Lieut., Executive Engineer.
(Lighthouse-started-1838.) The stones used were transported from Barabati Fort, Cuttack. The height of the structure is 125 feet and the foundation wall is 15 feet thick. The diameter at land level is 10 feet. To reach the top, one has to climb 138 steps made of cement concrete and a 16-step ladder. The speciality of this lighthouse is that it is operational from the date of its lighting.
(Grave-Conservator-of-Ports-Harris.) Just next to the boundry wall of the Light House, in the shadow of trees, is a small cluster of graves. These are the graves of the English Superintendents of the Lighthouse, their assistants and the families. There is the grave of Madeline, daughter of Capt. A. Smith, who died in the prime of her youth on May 18, 1880, aged only 24 years. Inscription on another grave reminds us of Capt. H.A. Harris, the Conservator of Orissa Ports who died by drowning on 8th May, 1877. The tombstone on the grave with the inscription was got erected by his Assistant J. S. Black.
(Graveyard-next-to-the-Lighthouse.) A young child Winifred Daisy Geary who died on 23rd July, 1882 lies buried nearby. She was aged only 5 years and 7 months and 11 days at the time of death. Nearby lies the infant Annie Marie who left this world on 16th May 1888, having lived only for 4 months. It leaves one sad but baffled. What after all was the urge that motivated these people to come thousands of miles away from their country, in a hot and humid climate, live in isolation loose one member of the family after another and still hang on to the place. Surely it was something more than the desire to earn some money! About an hours further boat ride lies the island of Hukitola. Near this are reportedly visible the remains of a sunken ship. The ship is believed to be ‘Velleda’ a French ship. John Beames who served as Collector of Cuttack from 1875 to 1878 and later as Collector of Balasore district from 1869 to 1873 has, in his autobiography, ‘Memoires of a Bengal Civilian’, described this ship. Unfortunately his description of the ship and the happenings have not been correctly reported in some recent articles. These articles informed that according to Beames the French cargo ship, measuring 250 feet by 50 feet, sunk in a severe cyclone in 1875 near Hukitola. The ship was carrying food grains, sugar, liquor, wine and other goods from France to India. Some crew members of the ship also drowned and their bodies were reportedly buried in a cemetery near the light house. On the visit to the False Point I found that there is a Light House there. However there is no lighthouse in Hukitola and the reference must have been to the lighthouse at False Point. I visited the cemetery near the Falsepoint Lighthouse and found that it has only 11 graves and none of those, from the inscriptions, appears to be of a Frenchman. Beames’ book makes a very fascinating reading and what he wrote about the sunken French ship and the False Point is quite different from what has been quoted by writers in the recent past. He wrote, “One day one of these ships, the Velleda, was driven ashore in a storm. The sagacious police, for some reason best known to themselves-the workings of a native policeman’s mind are dark and tortuous and hard to understand- arrested the Captain and the crew, and put a guard on the vessel as she lay on the beach at the mouth of the river Daya. The latter precaution was wise and saved the vessel from being plundered.
(John-Beames) John Beames' photo taken from the above cited book. The Magistrate of Pooree, an eccentric person, Joseph Armstrong, telegraphed to me for orders as to what he was to do with the men. In reply I instructed him to supply them with food and anything else they might require, and to get carts and send them to Cuttack at once. After a few days they arrived, a hungry, dirty, ragged, dishevelled party of about a dozen Frenchmen. We accommodated them in the Police Barracks, and gave them food and clothing and medical aid. The Captain, named Semelin, was a merry, little, round Sancho Panza of a man and amused us very much while he remained at Cuttack.” Beames then gives a fascinating description of the private provisions being carried by the French Captain of the ship, “he had on board a small stock of provisions for his sown use, and these he got up from the coast (it was about fifty miles from Cuttack that the vessel was wrecked) and offered them for sale. Needless to say they were eagerly bought up- champagne, Sauterne* (*French dessert wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux), Burgundy wines, and the most delicious preserved fruits, fish, cheese and other provisions. My wife laid in a good stock and we fully enjoyed them. They were cheap too.” Later on Beames sent all the papers required by French law for reporting ship wrecks, to the French Consul-General at Calcutta, subsequently sent down a request to sell the ship and remit the money to him for transmission to the owners in France. This was got done by Beames who writes that a rich merchant in Cuttack bought her as she lay and broke her up and reportedly made a good deal, by selling the timbers and other things. Semelin, being part- owner kept his share of the money, and the rest was sent to the Consul.” It was not easy for the Europeans to tolerate the climate of coastal India and this took its toll on the French captain. Beames narrates this toucing end in a simple but effective way, “Then poor little Sancho Panza Semelin fell ill, and the doctor said he had better be sent to Calcutta, where he would find a French doctor who could understand him. His disease was some internal ailment of an obscure nature. So I shipped him off and his crew to Calcutta, whence, I was informed, they shipped on board various French vessels and so got home. Poor Semelin, however died in the hospital in Calcutta, and I received a touching letter of thanks from the Consul-General for my kindness to him.” So all this makes it clear that the Velleda was broken up and sold and therefore the ship, parts of which are presently visible near Hukitola is not Velleda. Furthermore there were no casulalities of French sailors when Velleda ran aground and the there are no Frenchmen lying buried in that area. The graves near the Lighthouse are of Englishmen posted there and of their families. I am sorry to have taken the romance out of the exercise to discover the remains of the French ship Velleda near Hukitola but then facts need to be shared. Of course that area was notorious for shipwrecks and who knows, the researchers might find something even more fascinating in the remains of the ship near Hukitola. Thus ends my story of the first lighthouse in Orissa, the False Point, old British graves and a sunken French ship ... Text and photographs by K.J.S.Chatrath ... Copyright K.J.S.Chatrath ... ( This blog does not sell any hotel rooms/air tickets/packages/insurance cover etc. It is intended only for providing information to travellers and sharing of travel experiences.) ... (A shorter version of this article of mine was published in The Tribune, Chandigarh on May 9, 2010 as 'The True story of False Point' and in my website . . .

Quai d’Orsay, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris

Quai d’Orsay, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Source of the photo: . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

'First Photo studio in Peru set up by a Frenchman' by K.J.S.Chatrath

Walking around in Lima, the capital city of Peru, I came across this building. It turned out to be the place where the first Photo studio of Peru was set up in 1865 by a Frenchman Monsieur A. Debreuil. . .


(Source: The Hindustaqn Times, May 2, 2014) . .

Friday, May 16, 2014

'The mystique of Marianne' by K.J.S.Chatrath

Please click at the following link to access the photo article:// .

Thursday, May 15, 2014

'Eiffel Tower, Paris, France' by K.J.S.Chatrath

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France is one of the most photographed monuments of the world. Here is my modest take:
‘Thank you for preserving the beauty and cleanliness of this place and the walkways. Here, everyday 38 gardeners and caretakers as well as 17 personnel of security and information from the Mairie of Paris take care of this garden of Paris.’
On a nice lawn in a public space you are likely to find a stern, stiff upper-lip order in English ‘Keep off the grass’. But the French make the same order sound so poetically polite – ‘Pelous en repose’ meaning that the grass is resting.
You may also like to see my earlier photo-blog 'Eiffel Tower, Paris, France is 125' by clicking at the following link: . .

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

'Notre Dame de Paris' by K.J.S.Chatrath

Notre-Dame de Paris is a historic Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France. Construction started in 1163 Height: 96 metres. Hours: Vary- Generally 7:45 am – 6:45 pm. Architectural style: French Gothic architecture. Architects: Peter of Montereau, Jean de Chelles, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus
The coronation of Napoleon I on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame in an 1807 painting by Jacques-Louis David. Source:Wikipedia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Useful information: Metro Line 4 Station City or Saint-Michel Line 1, 11 Station City Hall Line 10 Station Maubert-Mutuality or Cluny - La Sorbonne Lines 7, 11 and 14 Station Châtelet RER B Line Station Saint-Michel - Notre-Dame Line C Station Saint-Michel - Notre-Dame ... . .