Nisha had a ‘Carte 12-25’, which entitled her to ridiculously cheap tickets on trains in France. When she went to buy tickets from Paris to Grenoble, she produced her card and booked a ticket for her sister and herself. Instead of asking for my name (bound to be a complicated Indian name, of course), the gentleman decided to call me XB.
I feel like the distant cousin of a pencil.
We reached Grenoble and began to practise for one of the many performances we did in France. We were to perform in a place called Gap, a name that I did not quite associate with France.
When we met the person who organised the performance, I realised something that continues to haunt me even now. As long as I’m eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation, as long as I am not the only person being addressed, as long as I’m part of a group, I understand what’s going on. The moment someone addresses me directly, I freeze. The woes of language!
I spent a lot of time with people who weren’t French this time, though, and by myself. There’s nothing like exploring a city on your own, knowing nothing about it. I took long walks, visited a church, a cathedral and a museum, climbed a hill …
Grenoble was full of the smells of spring, melting into summer. Ice-cream shops were everywhere, selling so many flavours that I took ages to decide what I wanted.
In the evenings, children played on paved streets on which no vehicles were allowed.
I listened to trams as they made their way through the city.
I sat in the garden in the sunshine and wrote.
I looked at the world around me and felt at peace. Unlike in 2004, we had a place to stay, a place to return to each day. Less obsessed with making the most of each moment, I think I enjoyed myself a lot more. More confident, more aware, less stressed.
It was a lovely time to be in France.