Saturday, April 03, 2004

A very private matter

Spring is here. It is unbelievably idyllic. The sky is Blue dotted with puffy white clouds. The grass is Green. Warm yellow sunshine bounces off the red tiled roofs and highlights the green and yellow mosaic pattern atop the cathedral. The neighbours' fat cat (it is enormously fat) stretches lazily on their lawn. Pigeons flutter and coo, birds chirp and I guess one could even hear buds opening.

And yet, I can’t stand at the window and soak it all up. The woman in the downstairs apartment, quickly downs her shutters seeing me at my window. Quite ridiculous this since she has placed a row of plants on her window sill and the shutter is down up to the plants anyhow. What could I possibly see from across the yard and two flights up? Nevertheless, she downs the shutters couple of inches more. The lady who popped her head out of the attic windows pops down again as she catches my eyes. The old man pottering about in his garden, looks up at me quizzically as if to say ‘what are you staring at?’ Guiltily, I turn away.

Yesterday, I heard loud and angry shouts coming out of the attic window and I popped my head out to see what it was all about. Sounded really serious. I couldn’t see anyone. I turn the other way and see the old man gardener staring at me-staring-at the attic windows. Eeps. I felt like a peeping Tom!


There is this amazing ‘privacy’ thing here in France. You can't stand at your window without someone pulling the curtains, downing shutters, slamming doors. You can't make eye contact with anyone on public transport…which is okay by me really. But, if you find yourself in the doctor's chambers, other patients will wish Bonjour and Au revoir while entering and exiting. Not to you, but generally, let it hang in the air! They will open doors for you and thankyou if you do the same. They will stop their cars for pedestrians and smile when you say merci. But you cant stand at your window and look out. It’s the same in metros. If your arms are full, someone or the other will open the door for you, people in the side seats politely stand up to make room during rush hours. But they will not talk or make eye contact with anyone. They read, look up at the celing or look down, anywhere but make eye contact.

Sometime back, A and I had gone for a weekend to Rome. The minute I stepped off the plane, I fell in love with Rome. It was enchanting. Rome, eternal city. With millennia of history, the colosseum, the pastel coloured buildings, the classical architechture….I could go on about why I love Rome. But A things the only reason I find rome so enchanting is that it is a noisy chaotic place and the Italians are a voluble lot! Perhaps! I miss all the noise and chaos amid all these symmetry and orderliness quietness!!

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