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An important trading outpost since the time of the Romans, the former French colony of Pondicherry saw its hey day in the 1740s under the flamboyant governorship of François Dupleix. Dupleix competed with his British East India Company counterpart, Robert Clive in Madras to carve out a French empire in Asia. He failed, ultimately, but a pervasive Gallic ambience endures amid the leafy streets of Pondi’s old European quarter, the ‘Ville Blanche’, where you still come across policeman wearing a red képis and houses whose colour-washed facades wouldn’t look out of place in Provence.