In the center of the lovely French Quarter of Pondicherry was the location of our next NGO visit, PondyCAN. The organization invited us all for tea, samosas, and a wonderful presentation on the Pondicherry Heritage Festival. The purpose of this yearly festival is to explore Pondicherry’s culture and it’s many forms of arts, crafts, architecture, dance, music, and more. But why exactly is this fun and festive event important for Pondicherians and their future? Well, we live in a time where the takeover of modernity leaves community members slowly forgetting the true value of their heritage. Western ideas and practices have spread around the world, introducing other cultures to the multifaceted iPhone, popular sports like wrestling, updated tools to get chores done faster, and the general digital transformation. Of course, there are many positive aspects of modernity and its contribution to society, for example, the implementation of technology features in villages that may not be familiar with it. This semester, I studied Information and Communication Technology for Development and weighed the pros and cons of this form of development. After some thorough research, I found that ICT4D actually benefits developing communities and works well in areas such as education, health, and governance. I, however, did see the aspect of modernity as a negative impact for reasons such as losing cultural identity, which is what PondyCAN aims to tackle.
(Pondicherry Heritage Festival 2015)
By focusing on heritage conservation and restoration, this festival is allowing the Pondicherry community embrace their culture and history. After the collapse of the Marie building, which is a Pondicherry Heritage building and is said to be nearly two centuries old, it was decided by the city and the government to not demolish the building, but instead, restore it. This restoration of heritage is a prime focus on the festival and this reconstruction reflects the idea of conserving and restoring Pondicherry’s heritage.
One of the festival’s goals is to get to local residents involved as much as possible to create a sense of community. In my Development Communications course, I explored the importance of community involvement when it comes to development and how, without this factor, it becomes difficult to practice development. I think this festival is a form of development as it brings empowerment to the Pondicherry community and allows them to proudly share their beautiful heritage so the aspect of community involvement with PondyCAN was very interesting and admirable.