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Holistic time

Kailash Resorts is a delightful mix of everything French and Indian

Charming ambience The architecture is a mix of Chettinad columns and the open elegance of a French brasserie

Confluence. That’s what Kailash Resorts should have been named. It’s at the end of the track branching off Puducherry-Cuddalore Road, a couple of kilometres after the Chunnambar bridge.

Outside its seaside gate, the forking Chunnambar river joins the Bay. The scattered, earth pink buildings of the resort stand in a forest of green trees, flowering bushes and tiny lawns.

Its architecture is a happy marriage between Chettinad columns and courtyard and the open elegance of a French brasserie.

Indo-French story

The owner, Raj de Condappa’s wife is French. It took Raj and Elisabeth 12 years of hard labour to convert the barren sandy track into one of incredible serenity. Coming to this Kailash was no easy journey, says Elisabeth.

Raj grew up in Vietnam, was a tour operator for a while and opened a French publishing firm in Kathmandu. A visiting French culture minister suggested that they operate out of Puducherry. They met in Kathmandu, married, and she came to live in Raj’s Puducherry family home.

But, she wanted a place of her own in the countryside. In 1996, Raj found these acres of sand and no tree. “Raj is a romantic. He planned a huge house, I didn’t want it; we decided to start a Foundation.” The CRZ came into effect and stopped construction. They started planting trees — coconuts, peepal, gooseberry — till, funds ran out.

Why not a resort, said friends. “I bit my fingernails, but Raj made up his mind.” The basic design was by a French architect and the colours were hers. They began the Devataras Foundation too.

When tsunami hit, they were spared. “Miracle,” she says, “five km down the shore, the Cuddalore coast was devastated.” Foundation activities include music, silambu, embroidery, soap-making and screen printing for book covers.

Raj shows me around the Foundation. Walking through the charming rooms on the first floor built to “pay for the work below”, I gawk at the spots where “Jism” and Nagesh Kukanoor’s “Aashayein” were shot.

We sit in the breezy sitting area to talk — of Raj’s uncanny eye for value in discards. Says Elisabeth: “Many times Raj brings broken sticks home and restores them into beautiful period furniture and displays them in the best place.”

Raj laughs. “In Chettinad, old stuff is sold to foreigners. I wanted to preserve them. When the structures came up, I ran to Karaikudi to forage for old doors and furniture, to Tanjore, Trichy Jodhpur, Jaipur and Pondicherry for wooden and granite pillars, Kerala for oil lamps, Cochin for other things. This is a live museum.” .

Why Kailash? “We translated Swami Pranavananda’s book on Kailash Manasarover into French when we started the business here. The name stuck.” It’s an Indo-French relationship story, says Raj.

His regular French visitors bicycle to nearby villages, bathe in the sea, enjoy the French cuisine and wines. When you’re there for a weekend, talk to the French-speaking waiter, compliment Kannan from Salem on the excellent food, ask Rajiv about his experiences as store manager for American troops in Iraq.

And cadge an invitation to Elisabeth’s lovely home.

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