Paris

Tripoto
17th Dec 2014
Photo of Paris by Jayasankar Peethambaran

Socratic philosopher Gregory House noted that while dying changes everything, ‘almost-dying’ changes nothing. After the shock of the event passes, men park their squirrelly resolutions aside as usual and slide into the well-treaded patterns of their life before the event. I can now confirm the doctors theory - despite wanting so badly to agree with all the memoirists and filmmakers who present near-death experiences to be life-trajectory changers.

We had wanted to go to Paris for a long time. At some level, for me at least, being the reluctant half of the traveler duo, it was to tick off the box labelled Paris. The second was curiosity - Paris seemed to be the first place that the non-European suddenly discovers that he just needs to go when he can afford it ( I was still not prepare enough to see the staggering numbers of American tourists in Paris) . The third was an Air France discount - a flight to Paris is generally cheaper than a train from a similar location inside Europe if you book early enough.

The near death was on the second day. The Paris metro system is extensive and very well connected. But in terms of the modernity of the facilities and number of people trying to access it, it is more Mumbai local train than Zurich SBB. The more challenging thing is that the despite the presence of some excellent mobile apps to guide you, the directions and location labelling is sometimes more modern art than serving the purpose (for instance, when you need to go dead straight, the arrow points down rather than up as in most of the literate world.) We had arrived the night before and were going back to the super tiny room at the end of the city. I had already lost the hotel keys to get in to the place by that time and we were worried that it will be too late to get in if they manager leaves.

All this conspired that for the second time we took the wrong metro line at the Franklin D. Roosevelt station, affected by the confusion of the giant rush hour crowd - and again realized it only after we got in the train. The doors were starting to close with a horn and I thought we could get ourselves out before they fully closed.

Big mistake. I could push my wife out without issues. While I was getting my body out of the train, I could feel it not giving away - and the screaming and squealing of all the commuttes around trying to prevent the doors from closing. I could get my body out at last. But I had worn my DSLR Camera on a cord across the body and it got stuck behind the door which had already closed. With a bunch of Parisians screaming, I had the presence of mind to jerk around and let the cord go - and the camera along with it before the train could drag me along with it.

The gorgeous thing about Paris was without contest, the Louvre which was where we would spend most of the rest of the day to recouperate. It was the building by I.M.Pei itself which contested and won against many of the ancient masterpieces by the masters inside - including that super famous one of the Grand master - Mona Lisa. Louvre is such a big place that it is easy to imagine one getting lost in there for days, but the celebrity-ness of Mona Lisa makes it so that she is the easiest to find - just follow the crowd who are, like you, restless to tick that off the list. She herself, is, surprise surprise, exactly how you would expect to find her as per her gazillion descriptions. A painting which left more of an impression, possibly more on untrained eyes like that of the writer and probably due to the size, was the coronation of the Emperor Napoleon.

The cathedral of Notre dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumphe were the same and as impressive as one reads about them. And indeed as chock full of tourists as one would expect them. Our museum of modern art trip was more impressive in terms of how much the French youth were trained on art, with batches and batches of school children being instructed and seen drawing on the floors. The more fun parts though, was the area around the Eiffel tower and the Champs-Élysées street near Arc de Triumphe. There is a giant structure we still didn’t figure out on the opposite side of the Eiffel tower which then decided to feature a wonderful water sport which was remarkable.

Mentally, I did not recover from the Metro incident. I would later come across this French Philosopher Paul Virillo who had said that the invention of the ship was also the invention of the Shipwreck. The invention of the wonderful mass transit system of the metro is also the invention of the crushing to death accidents, the suicides and the inhuman rush hours in it indeed. There are many critics who put on the post-modern Luddite tag on Virillo. But what he does is remind us that not technology is a panacea - to confer on it a salvific function makes us embrace it blindly which always leads to bad consequences.

As yet, the Camera remains lost despite multiple emails to the Centre des Objets Trouvés de la Préfecture de Police de Paris.

The gorgeous thing about Paris was without contest, the Louvre which was where we would spend most of the rest of the day to recouperate.
There is a giant structure we still didn’t figure out on the opposite side of the Eiffel tower which then decided to feature a wonderful water sport which was remarkable.
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