As I have tirelessly reminded my (pitifully few) readers over the past few weeks or so, I am just back from what I euphemistically call a Eurotrip. However, if any one of you has watched that timeless classic, it was absolutely nothing like the movie. Though I did rather loudly claim that my Aryan ancestors left the Caucasus because they could not stand the sexual licentiousness of those of my ancestors who ultimately moved to Europe, I did not do anything to reclaim as my right some crazy European sex. However, I did buy a book titled ‘The A-Z of being Single’ – not that it has anything to do with crazy European sex. (If you didn’t get a word of what I just said, watch Eurotrip!)
In any case, it was a bright, pleasant Glaswegian morning when I got onto the BA Connect flight to Paris. I was expecting a large, spacious airbus with young, pretty hostesses to take me to the city of romance. But what the (&&(*&*( at British Airways gave me was a small tinderbox of a plane that was once used in World War II by paratroopers – which additionally stopped at a place called Birmingham where they charge you 4.5 pounds for a single burger. Oh well, it’s cheaper than the exorbitant rates charged inflight.
Two more uncomfortable hours later, I was in Paris – the sex, romance and tramp capital of the world (er…make that the sex and romance capital of the world. Calcutta is still the tramp capital of the world). A few minutes later, I learnt three things:
a) The French don’t speak English.
b) The French don’t like speaking English.
c) The French in the Lonely Planet Guide was insufficient to get me to the toilet, let alone a place called Porte de Bagniolet somewhere in the middle of Paris.
However, sign language was to be my saviour all the while I was in France. That, ‘Pardon, Monseuir. Parle vous Anglais, sil vous plait?’, ‘Merci’ (if the answer to the above was yes), and ‘Nik ta mer’ (if the answer to the first question was no…I’m kidding!!!)
I went up to the ticket counter and signaled – using complex movements of my head, arms and legs – that I wished to get a train to someplace where I’d find the famed Paris metro. It worked, and the woman skinned me for 8 euros before giving me a ticket.
Where one arrives when one gets off the train which starts at Charles de Gaulle airport (pronounced nothing like how a normal person would read it) is another station called Gare du Nord (which I think means station of the north, assuming they misspelled North).
The French make one concession to those of us who are stupid enough to not have learned a word of French. They coloured the metro lines – and red, blue and green are presumably the same everywhere in the world.
However my requests for where I could find the ‘dirty green’ line were met with puzzled stares.
In any case, we managed to find our way to the Youth hostel, stopping to ask for directions only sixteen times along the way. The Youth hostel, we learnt, was located just outside the Peripherique, which is a kind of ring road around Paris. The significance of this seemingly trivial fact is that the law outside the Peripherique bears several similarities to the law of the jungle. I realized that as soon as I saw some African bruddas drinking their beer noisily on the footpath, all the while directing strange looks at the two foreigners who’d stepped off onto the streets.
An interesting observation I made about my bruddas in Paris was that they dressed exactly like my bruddas down on 8 mile road. I wouldn’t have been particularly surprised if one of them began to rap freestyle and scream, ‘De 811, nigga, and the 313, nigga – dis is de free world, muddafucka’ while brandishing his gat. International black subculture, I guess – they all look so bloody cool! Being cool seems to come as naturally to Africans in the West as saying ‘Where is the party yaarrr? This pub is jhakaasss, b***c***!’ louldly, and dancing like hippopotami come to us Indians (those of us from down south being particularly proficient at the last).
And we wonder why we don’t get any!
Since it was just about six in the evening, and because France wasn’t Britain (where everything except places to get drunk in and stab your neighbour close down at half past five), we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower
If I were the chappie that ran the Eiffel tower (in a manner of speaking, of course, as the Eiffel Tower generally prefers to stay put), I would have called it the Eiffel queue. A few minutes after I had got the mandatory snap of me in front of the tower, I had managed to squeeze myself into the queue, in between a Romanian family having a family row (unfortunately in Romanian – nothing is more entertaining than a family row in a language you can understand) and an Indian family that was trying to break the queue and squeeze along to where their parents-in-law had ‘caught a place for them’.
The Indian family managed to achieve the impossible, leaving me all aglow at the thought that wherever in the world one was, nobody is as adept at breaking simple, easy-to-follow rules as an Indian.
After about thirty minutes of waiting, I managed to get out of the queue waiting to buy tickets to enter the Eiffel Tower and into the queue of people waiting to enter the Eiffel Tower after having bought the tickets. Another thirty minutes later, I had managed to progress onto the queue of people waiting to enter the lift to get to the first level.
We spent a moment contemplating the price tags on the garishly lit (and overpriced) ‘official’ souvenirs of the Eiffel Tower – which cost merely twice as much as the equally garish unofficial souvenirs sold by the Indians, Algerians and Africans outside the Eiffel Tower. That and a few more photographs later, we joined the queue to get on to the lift to the second level.
A few (more breathtaking) photographs at the second level later, I decided to go upto the top level, asking my cousin (who has vertigo) to wait for me here for a few minutes. I spent thirty minutes waiting to get onto the lift to the third level. As soon as I reached the head of the queue, I realized that this was, in fact, the queue to get down to the first level and the queue to get on to the third level was the mass of human beings at the other end of the tower. But never let it be said that the Warrier soul is one that admits defeat. For I stood in the ‘real’ queue for three-quarters of an hour, arguing with an American chappie about which one of us could take the cold better.
American: ‘I’m telling yaa, in Arizona where I come from, the temperature goes all the way down to the twenties and thirties.’
Me: (scoffs) ‘Ha! In India where I come from, the temperature never goes above the forties – and the nights are often in the twenties. In fact, in Edinburgh where I live now, the temperature sometimes drops below zero.’
The American stared at me incredulously.
‘Edinburgh warn’t that cold, y’know!’
‘Ha, that’s cuz you went in the summer. In the winter, it was -5 degrees Celsius.’, I retorted, and thought for a minute if I should add a bit about how I felt my most private parts turning into ice.
‘-5 degrees Celsius. 5 degrees below freezing!’, said I, proudly.
‘5 below freezing? That’s 27 degrees, dude!’
I realized he was talking in the Fahrenheit scale!
I ultimately managed to get all the way to the top and was happily snapping photographs of the river Seine, when I observed this young Indian couple on a honeymoon lovingly carving their names, ‘Divya and Devasahayam’ on the railing. I could not help but think, ‘Ah, now all you’ve got to do is piss on the railing, mate – and you’ve recreated Fatehpur Sikri in Paris, thank you very much!’. But I did not bother to intervene till I saw the idiots begin to carve ‘INDIA’ in big letters across the railing.
That was too bloody much – the fecking philistines! (as an Irishman would have said it – assuming the aforementioned Irishman knew the word philistines)
‘Excuse me, you may wish to consign your names to infamy, but can you please spare our country the ignominy?’
‘What?’, said the man belligerently.
‘Stop carving MY country’s name on the Eiffel Tower. I don’t want them to think that all Indians are mindless idiots who deface monuments.’
‘None of your business’, said the man.
‘I’m calling that chap over there who’s supposed to be looking after the monitor. Enjoy yourself with the French gendarmerie. They are about as gentle as the Indian police.’
The man immediately apologized and disappeared, probably thinking deep dark thoughts. I wonder if he wrote ‘India’ at the other end of the Eiffel Tower, as the arsejackers in the picture here have.
An hour and two queues later, I joined my cousin at the second level and we began our walk down the Eiffel Tower, sick as we were of waiting in queues for lifts. After this, we decided to eat at an elegant little Parisian bistro where I ordered some godawesome steak and learnt the nuances of French pronunciation from a decidedly insane waiter who spent 60% of his time smoking cigarettes and the other 40% dancing about the tables – I would have protested, but what with strikes being as much the mood of the moment in France as it has always been in Kerala, I didn’t – though I almost missed the last metro of the day thanks to fifty minutes spent waiting for the bill (or the check, as my cousin seems to call it! :P )
To be continued, if junta don't find this stupefyingly boring