A day that started with solemn tributes to war heroes at the French War Memorial on Goubert Avenue found its denouement in a blaze of fireworks and lively ballroom dancing as French expats and Franco-Tamils celebrated Bastille Day, or the French National Day on July 14.
In this city which shares strong historic and cultural ties with France, it was as much a commemoration of brave soldiers who laid down their lives in World War I and a re-dedication to the principles of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ that drove forward the French Revolution, as a celebration of Indo-French relations.
It was no coincidence that as guests who filed into the brightly illuminated Consulate General building on Promenade settled down for the evening, instrumental versions of the national anthems of India and France set the tone for the bilateral bonhomie of several hundred years.
“We are thankful to India for making so many French citizens here feel at home,” Consul General Philippe Janvier-Kamiyama said.
What made this Bastille Day all the more special was that it coincided with the centenary of the First World War, Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama noted.
He said he wished to carry forward the sentiment expressed recently by visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius while meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also inviting him to ‘Paris 2015’, on further strengthening bilateral cooperation.Short film
A short film on France projected the place as much more than the Eiffel Tower or the Moulin Rouge; France also had other thrilling attractions, flight connectivity, high speed trains and great luxury hotels, seemed to be the message.
How does it feel to celebrate Bastille Day so many miles away from home?
“It is a very different experience celebrating the French National Day here. While we are so far away from France here, it is very moving to see the community come together to celebrate this special day,” says Aline Charles, Principal, Lycee Francais, a French school.Festivities in France
Back in France, there is the Military Parade on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées which people watch on television and of course the fireworks. “Each town has its own local celebrations, and it is considered a civic function,” she added.
“In France, the National Day is celebrated as a ‘bal populaire’ (public dance party) with every city filled with music and dance, much like a festival.
The parties are open to everybody and it is a good day. Tourists visiting France at the time are especially interested in participate in the festivities,” says Veronique Glass, a staff member at the French consulate.
Being in this city of all other places in the region was perhaps next best thing to being at home where ‘La fête nationale (French National Day) is featured by parades, fireworks and parties.