A Frenchman's love for India

EXPAT SPEAK

A Frenchman's  love for India

Within 10 minutes of landing in India, I deci­ded to live here,” says Francis Wacziarg, co-chairman, Neemrana Hotels, who came to India in 1970, after completing an MBA in France. Metrolife met the suave Frenchman during the recent opera Don Pasquale which he has also produced and was intrigued enough to delve into his 42 years of life in India, after hearing him speak fluent Hindi.

He came here as a traveller shortly after completing studies, with the intention of spe­nding only a month but ended up staying for four.

“Before coming he­re, I was had read about J. Krishnamurti and Sri Aurobindo. I landed and remained awake all night in excitement. In the morning I had my first breakfast at Taj, facing the Gateway of India and then moved on to travel. Like any other Frenchman, I had a romantic vision of Puducherry and thus went to stay in Aurob­i­n­do Ashram but I didn’t like the elitist approach because I had just experienced a stude­nt revolution back home and thus moved out.”

“I spent time in a small village in Karnataka with blanket weavers and travelled to the Southern states.” He then decided to live here and shared his intention with the French Consulate. “In those days, there was no such law apart from quota for foreigners in Delhi. Fortunately, there was a vacancy in French Trade Company in Bombay. So I went back to France and applied for the job.”

Subsequently, he headed the representative office of the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) in Delhi. “After about eight-and-a-half years I asked RBI to let me live here for all I knew was Indo-Fre­n­ch relationship. I was fortun­a­te enough to get permission which was unheard of in 1978.”

Though there were a lot of strings attached to this permission, he struggled hard and set up a small office in Westend. “I used to pay ~ 2,300 as rent then. Now you can add two more zeroes to the figure,” he smiles.

His love for India is not for the usual reasons. “I love this country because of its people. I met India in local trains, buses and railway stations. And my lungi helped me manage because it can be everything  – from a bedsheet to a mattr­e­ss.”
Having spent his all life here, Francis can read and write Tamil and likes all art forms of India. Not only that, he has also dabbled in the world of films in his own way.
“I have given French

sub-titles for Kumar Shahani and Shyam Benegal’s films and also organised a film festival of Indian films in Paris!”

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