I left Paris on Sunday after 3 days with an artist friend of mine (yes the same one of the pan masala fame). (A had earlier left for India on Friday). She lives in an artist's colony in the 20th arrondissement. Her apartment is a very crazy hodge podge of all sorts of absurd things, which had it been mine, would have surely looked like a 'kabarikhana' (junk shop) but over there, it was undeniably artistic.
She shares her flat with her daughter P (who once taught me French at AF) and have their own schedules and lives and communicate with each other via notes propped on the kitchen table!
The 3rd Nuit Blanche (an all whole night cultural event organised by the Mayor of Paris) coincided with 3 painting exhibitions where her work was showing (including one at a gallery in Mont Marte where there would be a jazz concert afterwards)! P invited me to go around Paris on Nuit Blanche. It was going to be an interesting 3 days. I had dashed of a joyous email to A About my plans He wrote a very cautious ' enjoy yourself...but not too much'!
To avoid the tedium of hopping onto a metro to go to Mont marte which is ALWAYS packed, I thought I’d attend the one on Rue de la Marre (the one closest to her’s and there I would meet P and then check out nuit blanche)! But fate had entirely something else in store for me. A ‘nuit blanche’ all right for I was up for most of the night.
She had told me several times to take a right at the crossing between Rue du Bagnolet and Rue des Pyrenees. I could take a bus or enjoy the walk. I set out at 7pm to enjoy the walk and promptly forgot all about it. I asked an old Arab who (surprisingly) said he didnt know any French! A chirpy lady very confidently pointed to the left and I took it with every step walking unknown to me further away from my destination. I kept trying to 'enjoy' the walk like she had told me to, stopping to ask people frequently. 2 people told me I was on the right track and a third didn’t help with the directions but asked if I was an Indian and then said I had a nice smile. He was from Guadeloupe and do I know where that is. When I said yes I do, he said he hoped that I didn’t think that they are all savages. No I don’t. Of course I don’t.
When I passed what looked like 15 bus stops, realization dawned that perhaps I had taken a wrong turning?. A passerby kindly set me right. Retrace your step all the way to the crossing and then walk a similar distance on the other side (all uphill). Irritation, exasperation, anger, not to forget perspiration...I was feeling all sorts of things, apart from feeling very foolish and hot. I was wearing a goose feather jacket (despite the mild weather. Quite a few passersby stared curiously at me, perspiring and walking unsteadily). All my resolutions about not caring two hoots about who thought what about my clothing went up in perspiration.
My joy at finally finding the elusive Rue de l'ermitage, was tinged with dismay. I had to take the steep stairways half way down it to Rue de la cascade and then down a very steep gradient to Rue de la Marre. This whole area was very old, with quaint narrow paved streets and very arty. But I was had little time to admire it all especially my knees and soles of my feet were not enjoying the paved steep road. (I had a mild attack of vertigo, standing at the top of the steep alley!).
At the gallery, there was a small bunch of people...mostly artists. I went panting upto her and P, took a cursory look at the art work and left for the 3eme Nuit Blanche with P and her friend Y. He took us through 4 rounds of that place (uphill and downhill, never a flat road) till he located the Japanese joint, where everyone elegantly picked at their food (raw fish) with chopsticks while I made a mess of the elegant japanese portions with a fork and knife. Then we went through the same place and passed it twice before we located our first halt. A bar overflowing with people talking, drinking, staring and all sorts of things while a chorus was going full scale doing all sorts of choral stuff with lots of bam-bam-ba sort of singing. The wore all sorts of black and white, cow patterned stuff, ears and tails and what not. P spent the entire time talking to friends to find out what was happening and where to go. I tried to look inconspicuous and failed badly.
Y tried very hard to keep me in good spirits. C'est ta derniere nuit, ici a paris? oui. T'emu? Non. (what I meant to say was I don't know where we will be next and might just be back and soon and am therefore not 'emu' , instead the non crept out).
Tu a fait quoi, ici, pendant 4 ans? lire. Juste lire? Ah bon. Even he gave up after that. Argh. Here was my chance at some scintillating conversation. France gave me the chance to faire un pause, to rest, to reflechir un peu....to find out the meaning of life, to get in touch with my inner self.....but I didnt say all that. Just a plain, boring, 'non'. I could have said I took up an old hobby like painting...but I didnt and in hindsight, thank god I didnt, what if Y started talking litho and woodcut and etching and acrylic and huile sur toile like everyone else at the gallery?
I said goodbye and retraced the long long distance home. Spent the night tossing and turning. Its three flights and the wooden stairs up and down kept creaking, (the walls were so thin) that the each time a neighbour flushed his loo, it seemed some one was in ours. P rang up once at 1am to say she would be late and then again at 3am to ask me to let her in! Needless to say, I was wide awake. Like when she says after an age, one simply cant do Nuit Blanches. But that certain age seems to have come really early, for me.