City of Love

 

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Did I ever mention how I fell in love with Paris, the City of Lights…The City of Love? Yeah it’s called all this but names are just nomenclature until they mean something to you personally. And strangely Paris meant all this and a lot more to me. The moment I stepped out of the hotel room I fell in love with the city. Sitting at a little cafe outside the hotel, sipping a hot cappuccino, all I could feel was …well not just love but joy, peace and, well, freedom! Why? I really don’t know.

That very evening, after a cruise on River Seine as we went to the Eiffel Tower, I told my BFF rather matter of factly – “I love you. I love being here with you. But someday I’d like to come here with my soul mate.” That she didn’t fling me down the Eiffel Tower is to her credit. Instead she just rolled her eyes and gave me one of her exasperated yet cocky looks- “The only soul/sole mate you have is me…like it or lump it!”

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Ever since that trip almost a year ago, I’ve been wondering once again about this entire construct of a “soul mate” that we all, especially the women, yearn for. Is there anything remotely like that? If yes, is it only for a lucky, chosen few? And if there isn’t anything like a soul mate, do we in fact waste our lives hankering after a mirage?

My wise teacher, who regularly surfaces to give me a fresh perspective on life, had said long ago – Love is over rated, fidelity more so. Freshly reeling under the magic of DDLJ, she had sounded like a Prophet of Doom and the voice of cynicism rather than of sanity. Strangely it was her words that rang in my ears on that cool night on Eiffel Tower as we looked at the beautiful city of Paris spread out like a map below. It was at this uber romantic place that Tom Cruise had proposed to his lady love Katie Holmes I believe. For the rich and the famous, proposals at the Eiffel Tower are pretty much a cliché! And so are divorces – How that fairy tale ended we all know.

And that once again brings me back to my “soul mate” question. Is there really another soul out there, our other half that you are meant to be with? And while it takes you a few lifetimes to find that particular one, you blunder along the way with others…is that how it is? Or is this yet another “construct” of the human mind? Another attempt to put the onus of one’s happiness on someone else? While the desire for companionship is perfectly understandable, what I fail to understand is why we end up handing the key to our lives, as it were, to someone else. Why do we become a de facto puppet in someone else’s hands? Before this is written off as some kind of a feminist rant, my question is addressed to all the men as well who pine away for their lady love’s approval. Why do we homosapiens, the most intelligent of all species, do this to ourselves?

After being shocked by “Love and fidelity are overrated” at the age of 20, today at 40 I’m finally convinced of it. In fact I’d say everything in life is overrated…everything except self-love. Self-love not of the narcissistic, egotistical selfish kind but a love and respect for one’s own life and self. The attention we shower on another, often bordering on the stifling, what if we were to show the same love, respect and concern for ourselves? Wouldn’t we make better lovers, companions, and in fact better human beings if we could show such kindness and consideration to ourselves? Instead of being so very critical of yourselves, your bodies, your roles in family and society, your achievements and failures, how about just loving yourself as you are? No doubt you aren’t perfect, but you are YOU…and that is something no one else can be. And well, if you can’t love yourself, no one else can.

So it is, that after almost a year of my love affair with Paris, the joie de vivre I experienced there, is beginning to make sense. After a life time of fighting with myself, rejecting myself, being over critical of myself and my failures, deprecating myself, I had finally started falling in love with myself, with my life. Am I perfect? Am I sorted in the head so to speak? Far from it. But I am me. And I am my soul mate- something no one else can be. Yes the promise to go back to a magical evening on Eiffel Tower with my soul mate stays, only that the soul mate is much nearer than I could ever think and the love affair has just begun!

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Moulin Rouge Snooze

 

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In one of my recent posts on Melbourne I mentioned an escapade involving me singing on the streets of Paris. This, until now, was a rather well-kept secret between me and my BFF, but now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag, let’s just empty out the entire bag.

The incident happened  the night we went to see the 11 pm show at  Moulin Rouge. In our eagerness to get there on time, we were on our way by 9 pm. The seats are on first come first serve basis and we definitely wanted the best view. We were already in rather “high spirits” by the time we hopped onto the metro. As we tried to make sense of the map in our hand and the stations we were crossing, we suddenly realised that all was well except that we were headed in the opposite direction. In my defence all I can say is that this is something that is often witnessed on New Delhi Metro and need not be necessarily blamed on our high spirits. To those of you familiar with the travails of apni capital’s metro, finding someone wanting to go to New Delhi Railway Station ending up in Gurgaon instead, isn’t an unfamiliar sight. Luckily for us, we realised it well in time and quickly changed the metro to reach the destination by 10pm.

There was already a queue outside and the wait in the chilly night air ordinarily would have been quite a drag. But since our student days we have mastered an uncanny ability of keeping ourselves suitably entertained even in the most unlikely of situations. While the bouncers ensured order was maintained, we passed the next hour giggling away for no apparent reason- everything and anything was entertainment for us. Unknown to it, the world famous can-can had stiff competition outside its very own gates, a competition that was only to get stiffer as the night progressed.

Finally the doors opened and we were ushered in. In our over enthusiasm we had reached a bit too early so our seats were way too up ahead close to the stage. Consequently we ended up craning our necks or twisting it in various unsightly angles for a better part of the show.  We had pre ordered a bottle of champagne while booking our tickets and as soon as the show started, champagne was served.

20150817_021650 If I had to put it succinctly, the show was bedazzling- extravagant, opulent, lavish – grand but not quite as erotic as we had supposed it would be. Or perhaps topless women just don’t work for us! Or maybe with all that we are exposed to in our normal day to day lives in this age of no barriers, the cabaret isn’t as hot as it must have been in the years gone by. But it is definitely a must watch on your trip to Paris, even if to say that it wasn’t all that it is made out to be.  Had it not been for the paucity of time, we would have definitely visited Lido as well.

Anyways we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, sipping on the champagne and admiring the fitness level of the performers, both men and women, when suddenly I realised that I had missed an entire scene of the ongoing show! To my utter horror I realised that I had in fact fallen asleep! I turned around to inform my friend of this ultimate blasphemy, only to find her fast asleep! Can there be a bigger insult to the much revered Moulin Rouge? At least I woke up, and in an effort to keep myself awake, concentrated on finishing the champagne, which in retrospect wasn’t a very wise move. My friend on the other hand happily slept right through the entire show, waking up only to snarl at me when I dared to disturbed her slumber.

Finally the show got over at around 2am by which time I was totally sloshed, while after her restful nap, my friend was all bright eyed and bushy tailed. It was in such an inebriated condition that I tried to outdo the performers of the can-can on the streets of Paris. Thankfully I limited my performance to the singing and did not even try to break into a sexy cabaret. All hail adarsh bhartiya naari!

Of the events after the show, I have rather hazy memories. I do have faint jumbled up memories of singing “Main tou beghar hoon,apne ghar le chalo.…”; of refusing to get into a cab that my friend had hailed and insisting on walking back instead; of later trying to get into a parked limo much to the amusement of the driver. Considering the shady area of Paris that houses Moulin Rouge, the infamous Montmartre – city’s red light area where peep shows and sex shops abound- safety in the dead of the night was rightly a concern but only my friend’s, not mine. A drunk person is a rather jovial and carefree one!

How we got back to the hotel I really can’t say. All I do remember is being quite as jovial the next day as well! Moral(s) of the story – French wines show you how to live it up without wasting any time in wretched hangovers. And secondly, downing an entire bottle of alcohol, even of the mild variety, as a means of staying awake and entertained, isn’t a good idea. While I remembered the first on our trip to Melbourne, I duly forgot the second. Consequently another bottle was single headedly sacrificed at the altar of my entertainment at a dinner we were invited to, though sans the singing I seem to resort to after drinking. Ouch…That’s yet another cat out of yet another bag! Let’s leave the Melbourne cats in their bags for now, lest they open up a Pandora’s Box instead!

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Freedom at Midnight

On the night of 14 th – 15 th August, me and my BFF took off to Paris for a week long holiday..an act that has been variously interpreted as an act of rebellion , defiance , sheer selfishness and the like rather than what it really was. ..decision to live your life. That we unceremoniously dumped the men of the house and our own flesh and blood (read fairly grown up children) to go on a long overdue trip, raised quite a few eyebrows. But then we weren’t winning any awards and accolades for sitting around either. So might as well do what we wanted to and get the brick bats than not do it and face the brick bats anyways! So went our (lopsided )reasoning and off we went.
Of course “took off” doesn’t mean that we suddenly picked up our suitcases and departed. For lesser mortals,programmes such as this need to be planned well in advance. Considering what well planned lives we lead, the chaotic 2 weeks we finally devoted to it, are indeed huge. I mean that’s more time spent on planning a vacation than on minor decisions like marriage, job, child etc etc.
Our plan, of course, was to execute the entire programme with military like precision. So it was with all good intentions that we started contacting travel companies in the beginning of July. Our 1st choice, however, was Greece. But the economic mayhem in the land of Zeus acted as a deterrent. “Maybe we should think of China. Don’t like them taking over world markets, not to mention them eating dogs” , growled my IT savvy pal from Bangalore in the midst of back to back calls with irate clients from across the world. Let’s leave ‘travel for the betterment of the world’ to another time I suggested, while threatening to pack off my confused rottweiler to China unless he behaved himself. The fate of the Chinese markets a day after our return however does make me wonder if the 2 of us (my friend and me, not my rottweiler and me) indeed have  some hidden powers to send the economy of our intended travel destination into a tizzy. Just as well we went to France rather than merely contemplate. The French better be grateful!
Coming back to the travel planning stage, had we banked on the big global names to make our itinerary, the only place we would have ended up visiting would have been our poor cousin Nepal, which incidentally I have visited enough to last a few life times. So it was that the military precision like planning went down the drain. Before we knew it, we were into August with nothing in our hands except a long series of mails punctuated by regular disappearances from our dear angrezi agent. It was then we decided to do things the only way we know to…don’t think..just do it. Nike can’t be too wrong we thought. In any case that’s how we’ve lived our lives mostly. How well that has turned out for us…regarding  inconsequential matters such as love,  marriage , finances,  job, children etc …is story for another day. Suffice it to say for now, that our travel plans were finalised and fully paid for before we even got the visa in our hands.
Now that’s a tiny detail that we had casually forgotten to mention to anyone especially our better halves who by now were rather bitter. And if certain prophets of doom were to be believed, a Schengan visa on a virgin passport was more difficult a feat than a ticket to Mars. So while we were all packed up, me with a brand new American Tourister suitcase in neon pink, the chances that we’d have nowhere to go were pretty high. One week prior to scheduled date of departure and still no news. As we went about our daily humdrum life buying vegetables from the weekly mandi, the much anticipated call came- ” Ma’am your visa is done. You fly as scheduled”. Really ? “Pinch me”, I told my 9 year old who duly obliged leaving me with a good red reminder on my arm that I had indeed got the visa.
Heavens still had lot of trials in store. Anything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong in that final week. From my friend’s dad’s illness to her work related issues, my own bad back to a recalcitrant maid. ..what all we braved to board the Air France flight from Bangalore  to Charles de Gaulle Paris!
Finally on the 14 th- 15 th August night as India slept, the 2 of us almost missed the flight. No it was not the innumerable security checks or long lines at immigration, as much as we might like to blame them. Having been through all that, with plenty of time to spare, the 2 of us merrily wandered off into the duty free liquor section to pre book the liquor we’d like to pick up on return. That this might have led to our return that very night never did occur to us. As we went happily sauntering around,  frantic Air France crew looked for us to get us onto the flight,  despite our best attempts to the contrary it would seem. What we had been telling each other since we started planning our trip , “If we board that flight,  it will be nothing short of a miracle” strangely came true. Yes we did board that flight and yes miracles do happen.
Last year if someone had told me that next year I’ll finally be able to realise my long awaited dream of a ZNMD trip with my dear buddy,  I’d have never believed it. There were certain glitches, especially the absence of our third musketeer, but yes. .miracles happen. Just believe in yourself to make them happen.
On that note…Au revoir! Until my next instalment of the 2 pumpkins in Paris! !
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