City Travel – Paris Complex, Left Bank
The Delhi Walla in the French capital.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla is trying too hard to be a Parisian.
I had macarons in Laduree. I read Le Monde by the Seine. I acquired Flaubert’s Sentimental Education from Shakespeare & Co.
I spent an entire day with a second-hand paperback on Pont des Arts, a creaky wooden bridge where lovers attach iron padlocks on the railings, throwing away the keys into the river.
I spent an evening in a French restaurant – complete with check curtains and paper table covers – where I had cassoulet and profiteroles.
Perhaps this is not Parisian at all.
Perhaps the real thing might be beyond me.
In Paris, I have been meeting painters, poets and novelists. The drawing rooms on the left side of Seine terrify me with their cleverness and culture, Art and Literature – as if learning to correctly pronounce the wine names is not enough.
It is too exhausting for a struggling writer from a World Class city like Delhi to sound informed among the intellectuals. Of course, I have heard of Manet, Rilke, Stockhausen and Deleuze but unlike a Parisian sophisticate, I cannot string these names into a casually spoken sentence.
The artists whom I met in Rue De Seine, the street that is home to most of the established galleries, are too demanding. They expect me to discuss the Upnishads and the Mahabharat.
But wait a minute.
I prepared for this dream trip by being thorough on Marcel Proust. But here when I brag about A la recherche du temps perdu, they ask me about Vedanta. Instead of discussing Godard with me, they request penetrating insights on Satyajit Ray. I boast about my knowledge of the Spanish collection in Louvre, but they expect me to discourse on the frescoes of Ajanta.
I have got the hint. To be a man of this world, I must also understand my land.
The Paris complex