Pondicherry has until recently been a tax free zone and even now the taxes are much lower than the other Indian States.
Feeling a little parched in the hot tropical sun I asked an expat, where I could buy some of the grape juice that the French are partial to, assuming it would be much cheaper in Pondicherry and also readily available for the thousands of thirsty French tourists who arrive every year.
He suggested I try the local wine shop but said that they didn’t have much selection, mainly having Indian and South African wines.
After pausing for some thought he mentioned that there was a place where I could get some very good French red wine but I would need to listen very carefully to his instructions as it wasn’t strictly legal.
Feeling thirstier by the minute and my tastebuds salivating at the thought of quaffing back some of France’s finest, I paid close attention ( my school teachers would have been proud if I had paid this much attention in class).
That evening I turned up outside the shop described to me by the helpful expat. A big sign saying “Duty Free” was above a shop window filled with aftershaves, perfumes and a selection of plastic toys.
Waiting til the appointed time of 5.30pm, ( any earlier and the owner’s school age son would be behind the counter and not aware of the fine liquids otherwise available from his establishment), I pushed open the door and walked in, followed by my equally dehydrated brother in law. We approached the counter nervously and gathering up all the bravado we could muster ( but still feeling a little stupid saying this in a toy shop) announced to the man behind the counter that we had come to buy some red wine.
Frowning he looked at me suspiciously and then looked at my brother in law with even more suspicion ( he can be pretty dodgy looking). After what seemed like an eternity he glanced towards the door and then sighed. Pushing back his chair he reached down below the counter and slowly pulled out a dusty bottle of French Merlot. It had a label from a fancy French vineyard and seemed to be of a suitable age.
As I eagerly reached for it, thoughts of an evening on the roof top terrace gazing out over the Indian Ocean, cool sea breeze wafting over me and a glass of Merlot in my hand, I felt that something was not quite right. As I feverishly grasped the bottle my fingers pressed indentations into the bottle.
It was plastic!