Heritage buildings give Kolkata a special character: French CG Didier Talpain – Times of India

Kolkata News

The T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan was on when newly appointed French Consul General Didier Talpain walked into a city hotel for the Good France dinner. “I’m neither a fan of cricket nor,” he told us in a post-event chat. “I rather like fencing. When you’re a child you often want to become one of the three musketeers,” he laughed, adding, “Fencing is a beautiful game, but it’s not as spectacular as football or cricket. It’s fast. The game starts and even before you realise, ‘tak-tak-tak-boom’! It’s over in 30 seconds.” The diplomat also spoke to us about his plans in Kolkata, his impression of the city and shared his knowledge about wine. Excerpts:
You arrived in Kolkata ahead of the festive season.
Yes, the streets were full of colour! It’s just how we see India from France or Europe. I sent some pictures to my friends in France and they said, ‘Wow, everything is so yellow!’ (laughs). It was very nice. But it also feels a little strange when you arrive at a new place during a festival.
Is this your first visit to Kolkata?
Yes. I visited Delhi a long time ago for a diplomatic mission. That was only for three days.
You’ve been here a couple of weeks, so have you started exploring the city?
I came when we were about to host Good France, so I’ve been meeting people. I’ve also started shopping, visiting my bank… have started discovering the real city. Moreover, this extended monsoon may be inconvenient for many people but it has painted the city green. I was so pleasantly surprised by the greenery all around. Another thing I found interesting in the city are its heritage buildings. I knew about Kolkata’s colonial history, but it was good to see so many heritage buildings still standing in the city. I live in Alipore and I see more such buildings than I expected. These buildings give the city a special character. Heritage buildings are very important in France too. The third interesting aspect are the serpentine alleys in certain areas. This is something that is pretty rare in many capital cities. I find it quite attractive.
And when will you be visiting Chandannagar?
Chandannagar is definitely on my agenda. It’s funny but my generation has a strong connection with the town. Maybe it’s true for us and our previous generations but the five French colonies in India — Pondicherry, Karikal, Yanaon (Andhra Pradesh) on the Coromandel Coast, Mahé on the Malabar Coast and Chandernagore in Bengal — were very famous. In school, we had to know the names of these places by heart (laughs). For several years, the French Consulate office here took keen interest in the restoration drive in Chandannagar. I was looking at some of the heritage building restoration plans by an architect and those were beautiful.
Earlier, you mentioned a part of your family is in the wine making business.
(Laughs) Yes. I come from the east of France, a place near the Switzerland border. And later, I moved to a place in the north, called Alsace. That place is very close to Germany. Germany and France fought over this place. After a minimum of three wars, Alsace is fully French now. In this place, some of my family members own vineyards. This wine is not so famous internationally. The wine bloggers and writers talk about Burgundy, Bordeaux. Anyway, Alsace produces only white wine with just one red variety.
What would be your tip to find a bottle of good wine?
I am not a connoisseur. But in my experience, if you buy expensive wine, the chances are high that you will get good wine. There are very few exceptions to this rule. The more you pay the better the wine you get. The real game is to find a good bottle of wine at a reasonable price. In France, a bottle of basic wine is between €5 and €6. But the specialty of French wine is, if you spend €10 to €15, you get really good wine.
In this new posting, what are the areas you’d like to focus on?
As Consul General, our primary duty is to take care of the French community. We don’t have a large community here, not just in Kolkata but in the entire jurisdiction. Then the second job would be to promote the ties between two countries and engage in cultural cooperation. That is the basic framework. I’ve been in the cultural sector for a long time. I was cultural consular, director of French Institutes, etc. Among the diplomatic things, cultural initiatives are really my thing. We have a big asset here — Alliance Francaise du Bengale. We will discuss what’s possible, meet people from different sectors — music, books, language etc — and move forward.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/heritage-buildings-give-kolkata-a-special-character-french-cg-didier-talpain/articleshow/87327113.cms