Summing up the last evening in Paris is like recounting all the adjectives & descriptive words/phrases I know. Admittedly the vocabulary is limited, but well, the emotions are not. So here goes.
Confused were we, with the food choices we had in Latin Quarter-quaint eateries, pricey fine-dines, cheery cafes and just so many Greek/Medit. restaurants!
Generous was the owner of Mason Gyros ( a shorwa place near the Tunisian sweet shop). He was a Sri Lankan and when he found out that we were Indians, he gave us free juice! That single act of generosity was so unexpected for us that we kept staring back in disbelief-It was just so nice to have someone be nice to you for no reason. I wasnt really planning to order anything, but then after this, just felt compelled to order something!
Delicious was the sandwich which the Generous Owner made for me. Since there was nothing veg on the menu-I asked him for the regular pita sandwich without the chicken. But then true to his name (strictly on this blog), he loaded it with feta cheese, corn and olives, besides the usual lettuce etc and then went ahead and charged me a full euro less than the actual price.
Annoyed was I, at being asked by 2 men (estimated age: early 30's or maybe late, really late 20's) whether they could occupy the table next to ours. A good deal of my annoyance came from the reluctance to relocate my bag, which at that time was sitting bang in the middle of the coveted table.
Persuasive was G- who was probably just sick of my company by that time to readily welcome some nice looking strangers. Also she was more more accepting of their logic-the only free table was next to the shorwa grill and sitting there was like happily stepping into an oven.
Thankful was I- coz if it hadn't been for G, we wont have got to meet Sofiane and Amine, the 2 friendly Algerians, who'd been staying in France since 5 years or so. Conversation started with Sofiane trying to guess my nationality- he thought I was Mediterranean! And for some strange reason, I seemed to like the fact that the brown skin and the curly locks could be attributed to another region, another culture and I dont really know why that felt liberating. Just did. In a similar way, getting to know that "Sumeida" meant brave in their language, made me feel braver & more warrior like than usual.
Quasi-Indians they turned out to be! They told us that they watched Hindi movies every Friday-sometimes the same movie every Friday! They shared anecdotes on how more and more Algerian women are wearing saris for their weddings, about how their moms cried during Hindi movies and how they feel intrinsically, the two societies were similar.
Lit up were their faces when I sang out the song that they referred to as "Jaane Tu" (tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi...). If you'd told me a year back that I'd be sitting in Paris with 2 Algerian men singing a song from a Mithun movie, I'd have laughed my guts out. Acutally I did laugh my guts out at the way those two sang away "jaane tu ya jaane na" without a clue on what it meant :) Singing forgotten Hindi songs in foreign land with absolute strangers possibly has the same uplifting effect as having karhi-chawal in foreign land.Try it.
Intense was our discussion about Algeria and the politics of that country, about Islam and how some customs just dont make sense any more (e.g. how men are not supposed to look at their brother's wife); about Hinduism and how India is so diverse; about Paris and how living in Paris could be-it's home but the sense of alienation does creep in every now and then; about their professions (Pharmacist/Biologist) and how they encounter a fair bit of racism even in their professional lives.
Gallant were they to offer to walk us to Berthilion for ice-cream and extremely suspicious was I, for even after spending about 2 hours talking to them, my defensive instincts (honed to perfection on DTC buses & sales routes) told me that strange land, strange people & late evening do not a happy prospect make. But then as the story goes...Persuasive was G and Thankful was I :)
Happy coincidence was a shut Berthilion which forced us to walk more and discover a delightful Gelato parlour which even shaped the ice-cream (sorry, gelato!) as a rose. Awesome treat for the senses.
Hilarious was Sofiane's English when he gloriously announced in the Gelato place, "I would like to invite you all". The serpent of suspicion was just about to hiss in my ear (what?? invite us to his place? invite us where? huh? huh?), when better sense prevailed and we asked him what he meant. Apparently, all he wanted to do was to treat us to ice-cream! Funny how even intentions get lost in translation.
Charming was learning how to pronouce Champs Elysees correctly and teaching them a few Hindi words like "phir milenge" , "chalo" and "achcha" in return.
Conclusive was the evidence that men will be men, always- silly putty, at most times and just so hopelessly illogical, at the others!- You'd have chuckled knowingly if you'd seen Sofiane express with his hands how "Hot" he thought Aish was. You'd have also stared incredulously if you'd heard Amine pronounce his dictum on "more children are good" and how he wanted 6 children of his own. But then if you'd have been there, you would have also sensed their warmth and goodness, their strong desire to set the record straight for their community and their daily struggle against prejudice and stereotypes.
But well. you weren't there. A good thing too-because "Two Guys, Two Girls and a whole lot of others at a shorwa place" wouldn't sound half as good. But then, you do know now, which song to sing to an Algerian to break the ice, dont you? :) Jaane tu....ya jaane na?