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An Indian innings

The Consul General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai, Michel Seguy, and his wife Martine share their passion for places, people and cultures with DEEPA H RAMAKRISHNAN, as their tenure in India comes to an end


MADE FOR EACH OTHER Consul General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai Michel Seguy and his wife Martine Quentric Seguy

He has an international pilot's license but it remains unused. She has a driving license for heavy bikes but for the past four years, she has been driving just a scooter. Michel Seguy, the Consul General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai (with jurisdiction over Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry), and his wife Martine Quentric Seguy share their passion for bikes, travelling and meeting people.

As part of his consular duties they have been to Jakarta, Brussels, Pakistanand now at the end of his second tenure (which they term as their "adventure in India"), they are preparing to move to Cameroon in Africa. Talking about his tenure, Michel says, "One of the major achievements of this Consulate in the past four years is to solve the problems regarding the registration of marriages between French nationals and Indians. Of the 2000 and odd marriages registered in Pondicherry in the last three years, around 40-50 were awaiting clearance from the French government for registration under the French civil law. Only the bride or the groom had signed in the municipality to register the marriage and that is not accepted in France. As for the Indian Government, after quite a lot of correspondence, it consented to having only one signature along with those of the witnesses. We are now awaiting final clearance from the French government. I cannot say that it is because of my effort alone, the staff in the consulate worked together on the issue." As the Consulate General of France in Pondicherry, Michel has had to interact with the Pondicherry Government and has developed a good relationship with it.

"We have made a lot of friends whom we will miss when we leave. I took up this job because I like to travel. I entered the foreign service in 1971. First as a technician and then gradually rose to the rank of an engineer. Later I shifted to management and consular affairs. I came to India for the second time as the Consul General in 2002 and the adventure is now coming to an end... we leave in August."

About his job, which allows him to move from one country to another, he says, "I like to meet people. I am interested in places but to get to know people is a more difficult task because you have to study them for quite a long time to learn how to behave with them and to know what they are, because we are all different. But then, of course we are all similar because we are humans. The cultures are different and the sense of humour is different, so it's interesting. We try to come back to India and Pakistan because it's a kind of love affair with South Asia."

After the tsunami struck, the Seguys formed an NGO "Children of the World India" along with Dimitri and Gilbert. The NGO now runs a vocational academy in Chennai. They teach six courses including tailoring, making leather goods, English and computers to children of tsunami-affected families. They also run a free medical clinic and also help in the desalination of farmlands. "We didn't just want to give boats, nets and build houses. We didn't have the funds for that. The first batch of students from the vocational academy has passed out and all the 102 of them have been placed in jobs," say the Seguys.

Challenges motivate Michel and this is one of the reasons he enjoys his work. "Every morning when I wake up, I cannot definitely say what I will be doing for the day. I cannot follow a strict agenda. Never. I don't know what is going to happen in the next five minutes. That is a challenge. I like challenges up to a certain extent." Having been a teacher of mathematics and a computer programmer, Michel loves solving mathematical puzzles. He also likes swimming, diving and, when he was young, he used to play rugby, badminton and volleyball.

His wife Martine Quentric Seguy is an achiever in her own way. She is a storyteller, artist, writer (she has several Vedanta books to her credit) and psychologist, who also loves to globetrot. After studying public relations and journalism, she switched over to anthropology. For seven and a half years she interacted with a tribe called Kafia Kalash in Pakistan to understand their ethos. It's during her research work that she met Michel.

"And since he was not to be posted forever in Pakistan, we left for France, Indonesia ... the usual travelling all the time. Then I got a diploma in psychology and worked as a psychologist. And then there was an opportunity to come to India and stay in New Delhi. During that time, I met my Guru Swami Brahmananda in Rishikesh. I studied the Vedanta under his guidance for 12 years, not continuously of course. Then, we went back to France, where I just had psychology workshops. It so happened that I was always telling stories and I got into it seriously," she says.

Talking about her books, Martine says, "I have penned a few on Vedanta. They are either in the form of essays or stories. The stories are the ones narrated by sages to explain Vedanta. I have one storybook for children. The books are to help Westerners understand Vedanta and the relationship with the Guru. I write in French but some have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, English and someone has proposed to translate them into Tamil."

The Seguys have three children. "They are married and have children. When our children were growing up, moving around had its own problems. But the beauty of it was knowing many cultures, learning languages, meeting different kinds of people and realising that their point of view may not be the only good one. The price to know all this — every three years or so you have to move to another place. Now, we miss seeing our grandchildren growing up," says Martine.

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