Text & Photography ©Nayan Sthankiya
Though very small, Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for rather pleasant mix of East and West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East (La CÃ´te d'Azur de l'Est). If you've spent some time in Tamil Nadu and approached Pondicherry by land, you'll very likely experience mild culture shock on discovering French architecture and restaurants serving steak and good wine. Pondicherry is very much a city with a dual personality: crossing from East to West of the central canal reveals two cities with very different characters.
One can cover all main points of Pondicherry on a day-trip (about 8 hours) if you have private vehicle. Two days are more than enough cover all spots leisurely. Anything more if you want to take things very slow and enjoy the city.
There is not much one is expected to do at Pondicherry. You would understand this better once you get there and understand the pace of life.
But you will find some activities to do thanks to local associations such as SITA Cultural Center, a Pondicherian association which offers you a whole range of activities for tourists and inhabitants of Pondicherry. Inspired by the cultural mix of Indian and French cultures, SITA Cultural Center proposes Indian dance classes (Bollywood and Barata Natyam) but also dances from other countries like Ballet, Tango or Hip Hop. SITA Cultural Center also offers you the possibility to take Indian cooking classes, Circus classes or KalariPayat (ancient martial art from Kerala), Singing Bollywood classes or Voice Yoga to improve your voice technics. You can also participate in Tanjavur painting workshops, initiations to Ayurvedic massages or reflexology, discover Kolams and Mehendi but also enjoy a fresh and funky and wealthy rides early in the morning thanks to cycle tours. SITA Cultural Center also proposes different types of massages for wealth and well-being. Openings: 9am-12am; 2pm-7.30pm Sita cultural center
You can also do some serious meditation at the Auroville, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, or going to Bharatanatyam performances that are often organized there by the Auroville Cultural Exchange  in the local temples, or at major hotels. Do keep in mind that Auroville is NOT a tourist place, and its best to go directly to the Visitors Center for more information instead of intruding into people privacy. It is also not a 'meditation center' even though everyone will tell you that. So please read up more about that place before rushing into and gawking at the place.
You can also go fishing in a Catamaran or while away your evenings at the Rocky Beach. You can also hire mopeds and go on long drives for the sandy beaches that dot the coast line.
You can also experience staying in a traditional 'Parapachai' house - an affectionate name given by connoisseurs to traditional green colored houses. First class experience.