A Story of Restoration
Puducherry is a sea side town about 160 km south of Chennai. Its history dates back to being part of the Cholas and the Pandyas, and in later times with the Portuguese followed by the Dutch before finally becoming a French colony. After India gained independence, Pondicherry as it was then known was declared a Union Territory. Divided in to the French quarter and the Tamil quarter, the town is quaint and peaceful and continues to retain the Franco-Tamil spirit.
Gratitude’s history can be traced back to Abraham Guerre (1695-1736) who came from Switzerland to work as a hospital administrator with the French East India Company in the early 1700s. It is from his descendants that the current owners bought the house from in 2004.
Gratitude is a home and a place of retreat. It has been restored lovingly over a period of three years maintaining the authenticity of the architectural style and method of construction that was prevalent when this house was built.
Know Your Host
Having a long spiritual connection to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Jyoti Cariappa Saikia had long wanted a place of her own in Pondicherry when she stumbled across the beautiful but dilapidated house. Kakoli oversaw the painstaking restoration process which took over three years. She stayed at the property...
Having a long spiritual connection to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Jyoti Cariappa Saikia had long wanted a place of her own in Pondicherry when she stumbled across the beautiful but dilapidated house. Kakoli oversaw the painstaking restoration process which took over three years. She stayed at the property in every room as it was completed which is how each room came to have its own unique style. Jyoti’s son Siddarth joined in a few years after opening to take over running Gratitude and the business side of the partnership.
It is rare to find a place of quietude inviting one to contemplation, an inner journey without compromising on comfort. The home has been restored closely to the original with the assistance of INTACH. Gratitude is spotlessly clean and decorated with impeccable taste in the style of the period when Puducherry was a French colony. The furniture is mainly antiques salvaged from homes of that period and restored to much of its original beauty. The Anglo French furnishings reflect the love for natural, authentic textiles.
Rooms are divided over three floors with three rooms on the ground floor, five on the first floor and one on the second floor. All the rooms either open into or have a window facing the central courtyard with its majestic Mango tree and lush garden. There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms, which maintains the wonderful peace. Being an old home, no two rooms are alike in size and décor. Vintage furniture sourced over the years adds to the charm and quirkiness. All rooms come with air conditioning, Wi-Fi and en suite bathrooms with modern facilities.
Breakfast is served on a long wooden table in the dining room, which fosters interesting conversation and meetings between the different guests, there are also smaller tables in the courtyard for those who prefer more privacy. The food is a combination of French and Tamil influences, with fresh croissants from the local bakery and eggs to order combined with a hot South-Indian dish which is different every day. Fresh seasonal fruit, often from their own organic farm when possible is also provided. Coffee is locally sourced every week and freshly ground in the morning. While Gratitude does not have a restaurant, it offers guests private dining on an ad-hoc basis, which can be anything from a simple home cooked meal to a more extensive four course Creole feast served on banana leaf; all cooked by Shanthi, the wonderful in-house cook who has been with Gratitude for years.
There is a complimentary tea and coffee facility in the dining hall round the clock for guests to help themselves with.
While there are no televisions, the whole house has high-speed fibre internet for guests to work or use as they please. A small massage area is located on the terrace where guests can get in-house massages. The terrace also has a small open space for yoga (with yoga mats) and a local yoga teacher can be called in upon request. A small library is open in the private wing of the house for guests to borrow books or board games to while away the quiet afternoons. The Front Desk is open during business hours and is always ready to provide basic concierge services, arrange tours, transport, and special requests.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter (colloquially known as White Town), there are over 80 restaurants and 13 tourist attractions within 500 meters. Everything from Sunday flea markets, special boutique stores, cafés and bars to the colourful Goubert market, the Basilica and the Église Notre-Dame des Anges can all be found within walking distance. The famed Promenade and sea-front is less than 200 meters from Gratitude, and makes for excellent walking in the evenings or mornings when it is closed off to all traffic and made pedestrian only.
Gratitude guests can use the Pool at the sister hotel, Kariappa House for a nominal charge.
Gratitude is ideal for artists, authors, designers, couples, single travellers or families with adult children and for small reunions. The WiFi makes for a perfect work from remote location opportunity. It is perfect for anyone looking for a peaceful retreat in a historic setting with unique charm. To maintain the peaceful ambience, Gratitude is a place for children over the age of thirteen.
Gratitude is open all year.
Gratitude is strong in some areas like heritage, culture and single use plastic reduction, however in other areas are unfortunately constrained due to location and the size of property as there is dependence on the local municipality for waste disposal. Efforts are on to lobby the local government, and to find a workable waste management system.
Gratitude is categorised as a Category II Heritage building and was restored over three years with the help of INTACH, an organisation that specialises in conserving heritage across India. The preservation and restoration process included use of local tradecraft such as Madras terracing along with hiring local carpenters, Athangudi tile makers and stucco workers to preserve traditional techniques and make the restoration historically accurate and be a "True Heritage" property.
Disposable wrappers and plastic bottles are not provided, with water served in refillable glass bottles. Soaps are wrapped in butchers paper and are from a local non-profit organisations Voluntariat that works with marginalised communities. Shampoo is provided in ceramic dispensers and are refilled every day. Bathrooms have brass buckets, ensuring saving of water with a bucket bath. Towels and linen are changed every fourth day or on request. Water is heated with solar energy and waste bins are lined with recycled paper. The slippers provided for guests are made of rubber and are sanitised after each check-out. The coffee, milk powder and sugar that is provided in the common area are filled in glass containers. Gratitude has a small local organic farm and most vegetables are sourced from there and the cuisine reflects the Franco-Tamil influence with a mix of French, Tamil and Creole cuisines.
The staff are local and are hired to work from a long term view. They are trained, fostered and looked after in ways such as supporting their children’s education and help provided for medical or financial emergencies. Local businesses are supported and guests are encouraged to visit community centres such as the Cluny Mission Embroidery Centre. Activities include heritage tours from a local perspective, walking and bicycle tours and promotion of local arts. Gratitude hosts events every year as part of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival.
by Architectlalith on 09/21/2021
We have had an incredible experience right from the time we stepped in. The house is an experience to keep coming back to. Kudos to the team who have conceived / realised and continue to maintain...
by vfrancis1998 on 09/19/2021
I consider myself lucky to have come across Gratitude on my recent trip to Pondicherry. I've stayed all over Pondy, in hostels, in beachside resorts etc. but none come close to offering the...
by Tarun_Singh735 on 09/19/2021
If you are looking for some solitude away from the city life then this is the place to stay. It's also surrounded by numerous cafes and beach ( walking distance of 400-500m). Every corner of this...