Puducherry turns a maze, as women zapped through its streets, figuring out clues

They took some wrong turns, they knocked on gates that stood locked, they quizzed unsuspecting people for directions and even skipped traffic signals by special permission. In a Sunday morning ridden with some hilarity, drama and plenty of adventure, 300 women zapped through the streets of Puducherry, putting together pieces of the old town’s history, in The Hindu’s all-woman two-wheeler treasure hunt.

More than 150 teams revved up their scooters at Le Café on Beach Road, eager to crack the ten clues that pointed to ten spots that they had to cover, in a span of less than two hours. One of the first clues: ‘the old recreational place open in 1889 for Europeans, now open to all’— Cercle de Pondicherry — was deciphered at quicksilver speed.

“I am new to Puducherry and I could not have asked for a better way to get to know the town,” felt Mahalakshmi, a professional. For Maheswari and Nivonitha, B.A. French students from Bharathidasan College for Women, some textbook knowledge stood them in good stead. They got the answer to ‘the life-size statue of a white marble lady erected in 1923’’, — Joan of Arc — just off the bat.

Many working women echoed the sentiment of Swithraa, a postgraduate medical student, who felt that it was a huge relief from daily duties.

“It was a thrilling way to spend a Sunday,” said entreprenur Akila Srikanth, who had organised a similar hunt, some years back. Some like Shazeeda, and her teammate, even shopped for the same clothes to appear in-sync for the contest!

But it wasn’t all a cake walk. The symbol of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (EFFO) had many baffled. ‘The institute opened in 1826 that imparts education to hundreds of Puducherrians’ had the women driving to institutions like Alliance Francaise and Petit Seminaire instead of Lycee Francais.

“We went to a government building and insisted they stamp our clue sheet, till we realised too late that we misread the clue,” said Veena, sheepishly.

For some extra bonus points, participants raced up to the showroom of the presenting sponsor, Sony Center, Puducherry, on Nehru Street, one of the spots on the list, for a game of darts. The excitement culminated at a ‘premier property with a lush lawn in a street named after a Russion communist leader’— Hotel Bon Sejour — the hospitality sponsor. The event was held in the run up to International Women’s Day on March 8, when winners would be announced.

The associate sponsors were VLCC, Sree Nivas Buildtech and Integra Software Solutions, which brought in the single biggest contingent of teams. The Indian Women Network is the knowledge partner and Be Well Hospitals, the health partner. Water was sponsored by Classique and gifts by Harappa.

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