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!

self love

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!

Moulin Rouge 3

 

Weekend fun in Melbourne

So the advantage of a long international stay and that too with friends is that you just don’t get to see the city and country from inside out but to experience it as well. As I had mentioned in my earlier post, this is something I regret not being able to experience in Paris. That is not to say that we didn’t enjoy Paris. We certainly did and in some ways more than Melbourne. After all a girly trip with your BFF is the only time that you get to sing “Main tou beghar hoon…..” on the roads of an alien city in the dead of the night. That it didn’t go down too well with my friend, and I was unceremoniously bundled into a cab and whisked away, is another matter. My point simply is that an extended stay with a family gives you greater chance to experience the country than a short trip.
Dromana        Luckily for us, the time of our visit was the holiday season though Christmas in summer time isn’t something that really makes sense to you. But the holiday season meant lot of holidays and extended weekends for our friends and that much more opportunity for all of us to hang around together.The day trips we undertook over the weekends were to Dromana Beach, Yarra Valley and Steavenson Falls and the Great Ocean Road up to Lorne. All of them were quite a drive but strangely I realised that these guys don’t mind it. On the contrary they quite enjoy such long drives and this is pretty much the done thing over the weekends.  We could see many groups off on similar or in fact on more adventurous trips with their trailers or kayaking canoes. The modus operandi in all our trips was the same – pack food, drinks, beer and what you will and hit the road by 12-12.30. By the time we reached our destination it was around 2.30-3. Sonny boy was almost always starving by then and the 1st thing to do was to feed him and the other children in the group. After that it was fun and frolic- be it running off into the sea or sand time fun.

Yarra

 

My son is a total water baby and as much as he loves water, I’m as scared of it. So while he, with all the other boys loved Dromana Beach, for me it was Chandon Winery in Yarra valley that was enthralling. The vast expanse of pristine green was simply refreshing for the eyes. Perfectly manicured landscape in the windy weather is as good as it gets. The drive through the Yarra Valley to Steavenson Fall is simply beautiful. We undertook a small trek at the Fall and had a small adventure of our own when my son slipped and fell on one of the slippery rocks but despite that it was a memorable day. Grt Ocean Rd

The trip to Great Ocean Road was another mesmerising one. Considering the windy and unpredictable Australian weather, by then I was wiser and carried light woollens for the windy day. One of the most scenic coastal roads, we could however go only till Lorne as the road ahead was closed due to bush fires. We missed seeing the iconic 12 Apostles but thoroughly enjoyed the drive till Lorne and Lorne itself.

Lorne

 

Nearer home was a barbeque one weekend at a park whose name I’ve completely forgotten. With the lingering smell of barbeque in the background, it was a game of cricket that kept the kids busy while admiring the clean, green park and its inmates, the ducks, is what kept me busy with intermittent chit chats. 20151228_121947

And still nearer home stores like Aldis, Coles, Hunters & Gatherers and the liquor store giant Dan Murphy’s were the regular haunt. Do I miss the yummy Baileys Irish Cream with coffee! It was indeed a joy to be cooking risotto while sipping on it. And lest anyone thinks that I suddenly became fond of cooking- nah! The ease of availability of ingredients for cooking Italian was a big temptation to utilise my culinary skills.

So flew by the month long sojourn- amidst coffees, drinks and conversations. As they say in my favourite Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara– “Poorane dost milte rahein, naye dost bante rahein….zindagi yoon hee chalti rahe” (May we keep meeting old friends, keep making new ones and live our life in this fashion)

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