Puducherry (or Pondicherry as the world still knows it) is a slim slice of France, deposited neatly besides the azure waters of the Coromandel coast. Stroll around its seafront promenade and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a Provencal village. Bright plaster houses lining neat, narrow lanes; flower-laden grillwork balconies; blue enamelled street signs; and staying carefully out of the sun, even policemen in red kepis.
This is, of course, the old French Quarter, justly famous, celebrated in literature and legend, and arguably, the only Puducherry most visitors ever see.
But enter a little deeper towards the heart of town, away from the neat occidental geometries of the seafront, and you come into quite a different world. Not France with a touch of the Orient. Indeed, quite the reverse. The Tamil Quarter of Puducherry is a place where cultures not only met, but melted and gave birth to a way of life found nowhere else in the world. Maison Perumal is a tribute to that way of life. A sepia serigraph of another time - dusted off perhaps, but not retouched.
The Maison Perumal experience is minimal only because it is completely sincere. As unvarnished as the Cuddapah stone floors, yet as alive and colourful as the sunlit stained glass of the balconies. It took more than a year and a half to restore the building itself, and to refurbish it with a studied attention to detail.