Office of Union des Francaise de Mahe here wore a festive ambience on Friday evening as its members gathered there to receive the French Ambassador who was on a visit to the erstwhile French enclave to meet this closely-knit community of French citizens.
Francois Richier, Ambassadeur de France, was visiting here to meet 60 French citizens of Mahe, including the first generation French loyalists who opted for French citizenship when this French territory was handed over to the Indian Union in 1954. “My visit here coincides with the 60th anniversary of the handing over of Mahe to the Government of India,” Mr. Richier said while talking to journalists at the office of the union. “The number of French citizens in Mahe has come down as children of the first generation citizens prefer to settle down in France,” said Panagadan Balakrishnan, former president of the union. The French nationals here belonged to 32-odd families, he added.
They are an affluent community as the first generation citizens who had served in the French Army still get monthly pension from France and their children are either studying or working in France.
“Normally members of such a group are likely to experience an identity crisis because of their dual identity as Indians carrying French passport,” said writer M. Mukundan. “This community, however, does not feel any such identity crisis because they are otherwise content today.” It is true that they are content because they are affluent and face no discrimination here. That does not mean they are not without their own share of problems. One of the problems they told the Ambassador on Friday was the difficulty they faced in getting their French passports renewed.
The lighter side of the visit was when the Ambassador’s speech to the French citizens was translated into Malayalam as the community includes some third generation French citizens who do not know French. Mr. Richier, who was surprised when he was greeted in French by local fishermen here earlier in the day, showed no sign of surprise, according to participants at the meeting.