Things I learned from a weeklong stay in Paris

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About Life:

  • It is an altogether different experience of a city when you explore it with the mindset of a temporary resident rather than that of a visitor. We appreciated the homely environment of living in a rented apartment in the city, cooking meals, walking down two flights of steps and out the door- no ornate hotel lobbies to cross, no fuss.

    View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

    L’Étoile- the Star at Arc de Triomphe, the center of the city- a short walk from the apartment

  • Our actual material needs are limited- I felt happy and closer as a family in that tiny apartment.
  • Most locals are appreciative of your efforts to learn to speak their language and engage with them. Bonjour (Good day), Je né parle pas bien français (I don’t speak French very well) and Merci beaucoup (Thank you very much) never failed to break the ice.
  • People will step up to protect you- case in point being the lady at the information counter in a Metro station who told off the man who was forcibly ‘helping’ us buy tickets from the automated machine. “He is a bad boy, don’t talk to him”, she said endearingly, in broken English.
  • Being mindful and respectful of time- we found out the hard way when, hoping to pack in more sightseeing, we reached a museum only to find out that they strictly close off entry 45 minutes before closing time. Also, whether it is a high-end designer store that promptly closes at 6 PM or the neighborhood grocery shop that will not let you in before the opening time of 8:30 AM, or the cabbie that left after we were a few minutes late coming down from our apartment- one has to set time limits for oneself and for others- I guess it is one of the ways to ensure that meaningful life exists within and outside of work.
  • Something that strikes a chord universally is a tribute to the soldiers.

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    Commemorative flame to France’s Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe

About the Arts:

  • You think of music differently when you unexpectedly encounter a small group playing classical music in a Metro station. Compliment that with the magic of hearing the harp being played by a gentleman outside the Sacré-Coeur or the delight of procuring last-minute tickets to a program by the Orchestre de Paris.
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    Metro station near Opéra de la Bastille

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    Sacré-Coeur

  • Seeing the diverse historical movements in art displayed in the museums, notably the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou and realizing what the immense influence of the arts is in our lives- what it means exactly to break tradition and forge new paths in life.
  • Seeing Monet’s Water Lilies exhibited at the Musée de l’Orangerie– and marveling at how the obsession with a single subject can mould one’s life.
  • Appreciating the rich architecture of the buildings and the beautiful stained glass windows reliving the glory of the days past.
    Sainte-Chapelle

    Sainte-Chapelle

    Château de Versailles

    Château de Versailles

  • This quote by Rabindranath Tagore exhibited at the Centre Pompidou.

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    Centre Georges Pompidou

About Food:

  • Good quality ingredients, a slowing down of the pace of life and enjoying meals as a social event make for satiety and contentment.
  • Some great conversations can be had with fellow diners whilst sitting adjacent in restaurants. You realize how much commonality the human experience has in spite of all the cultural differences.
  • Artisanal dark chocolate is a heavenly thing.

    The Notre-Dame Cathedral replicated in chocolate

    The Notre-Dame Cathedral replicated in chocolate at La Maison du Chocolat

  • Our general perception about personal space and time is overrated, especially in the context of sitting out on a sunny Sunday afternoon at a curbside table in a crowded café overlooking the Eiffel Tower.IMG_20141019_134111

Finally,the magic is in the details:

  • Some things defy explanation but are joyful for that very reason- for example, what is the box doing up in that tree?

    Jardin des Tuileries

    Jardin des Tuileries

  • Good thoughtful dressing matters, case in point being the well dressed cab drivers and the regular person who was so well put-together : minimalistic, classic and stylish (I especially loved the abundance of scarves- my favorite accessory).
  • Cute ballet flats don’t cut the deal when traipsing on cobblestone streets for hours- good walking shoes are a must.
  • Love makes the world crazy and ritualistic – all the locks here bespoke that.IMG_20141020_192758In all, we had a delightful glimpse of life in Paris.
    Until the next trip, Au revoir !

Love inspired

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What is Love?
– that is a recurring philosophical question that I grapple with.

Feeling inspired by some great love poems (Unending Love by Rabindranath Tagore is one that I revere) and seeking an answer to this, I attempted to write an account of  love. Out came these crazy lines that speak of abiding love. They emerged in the vein of my forever questioning mindset, that is inclined to probe, wonder and ultimately marvel at it all.
So here goes:

Eternal Love’

How would the you
that you are now
relate to the you
that was the you
that loved the me
that was the me
that honored you
when you were that you?
How would the me
that I am now
reconcile with the me
that becomes the me
that desires the you
that will become the you
who would covet that me too?

What do we make of this world
that exists within
between and
outside of us?
Who is you
and
who is me
and
what is us
yours
ours and
mine?
Where does I end
and where does you begin?

How do I know
that what I know
is knowledge to you too?
What is this fervor
that seems like worship
akin to a silent prayer?
Is this borne of meeting
parting
or cleaving?
What was just now new
seems remembered
and eternal…


*Image courtesy of “I love a sunburnt country…” by Sunday’s child ( CC BY 2.0 )

A nice gesture and some Q&A

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A couple of days back, I was pleasantly surprised by a wonderful gesture from a fellow blogger Veena (thinkdowrite.wordpress.com) who informed me that she had tagged me for the ‘Liebster’ (a sort of Q&A ice-breaker in the blogging community and a means to recognize and encourage new bloggers).

Thank you Veena– I am honored! I appreciate your reaching out to me from across the blogosphere. I have enjoyed visiting your blog, reading your prolific writing and seeing the vivid pictures of your travel and DIY projects. I especially liked the paper quilling projects that you did. Keep up the good work!

In the spirit of this endearing award, here is my response-

My answers to the questions Veena asked me:

1. What inspired you to start blogging?
A love of reading and writing, and a growing appreciation of some wonderful blogs that I have followed over the years.

2.  Share with us your happiest blogging experience.
Signing up for a WordPress account- it was the first concrete step towards setting up my blog. I am glad I took it !

3. What is the one thing you love the most about blogging?
That it is an accessible and egalitarian platform. Having grown up in a pre-internet age where knowledge and information were often commodities zealously hoarded by a few and tedious to acquire by the majority; the easy sharing of thoughts, ideas and information that occurs via such a medium as blogging speaks to me on a deep level.

4. List your top 5 favorite/most inspiring blogs.
The Art of Simple (formerly Simple Mom)- dedicated to simple living. Tsh’s philosophy on life appeals to me on many levels.
Zen Habits– another great blog about simplicity and zen living.
Brain Pickings– a treasure trove of informative and analytical essays.
Electrostani– another great collection of essays, especially of interest to the Indian diaspora.
Jacket2– offers commentary on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics. I found out about this blog fairly recently and am excited to discover more of it.

5. How has being a blogger changed your worldview?
I am new at blogging and as I discover more about this community, I continue to be amazed by it. The blogs that I admire affirm my worldview of the need to be true to oneself and to have a strong work ethic.
I hope that this endeavor will help me refine my writing voice whilst sharing my thoughts and my work.

6. Name the essential ingredients of a good blog according to you.
A genuine point of view, information-sharing and giving attributions/ credit where due.

7. How do you motivate yourself to blog regularly?
Setting up a rough schedule of posting a blogpost weekly and frequently sharing interesting links, websites etc. on my Facebook blog page.

8. What is the scariest experience you had as a blogger?
Thankfully nothing scary so far, but there is a learning curve to this process.

9. Which songs do you like listening to when you are working on a blog post?
Whichever is playing on the radio!

10. How would you explain what blogging is to someone who has never heard about it?
A platform to share information, thoughts and ideas, state opinions, share one’s work – maybe like an open journal.

11. You message/tip/recommendation to all the new and hopeful bloggers out there.
Go for it !


My blog nominations for paying it forward –

Take-Two Style
DreamWranglers
Brainlearner

Happy Blogging!


Here is my variation of the list of questions :
1. What got you started with blogging?
2. How did you pick your blog’s name?
3. Where does your blogging inspiration come from?
4. What do you hope to achieve with your blog?
5. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to blogging?
6. What is your favorite quote and by whom?
7. What are some of your favorite websites/ blogs ?
8. What according to you makes a good blog?
9. What resources do you use to spread the word about your blog?
10. What has been the most significant learning experience of your blogging journey so far?
Note: Rules for the Liebster Award-
Thank the blogger who nominated you with a link back to his/ her blog.
Answer the 11 questions asked by the nominator.
Nominate 5 – 11 bloggers with under 500 followers.
Create 11 questions for the nominees.
Display the Liebster Award logo on your page.
List these 6 rules on your post.

 

What is it like to be you?

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Mom, sometimes I wonder about what it is like to be you.”

A little more prodding from my side and this comes up – “I often think about what it would be like to be other people but I don’t know because I have never been a grown-up……I wonder about what you think and feel…about me…..Do you ever wonder about what it is being me?”

Taken aback and caught off guard, I end up telling him – “I feel a sense of wonder that I am a parent and that you are my kid. I feel responsible towards you and your well-being, but most of all I just feel happy that we have each other. It is a great quality to be willing and able to consider how other people think and feel. I feel happy that you are thinking this way and hope that you would continue to do so.”

We reach the school, he gets out of the car and that is the end of the conversation.

But the thought dwells in my mind all day, it ruminates and that last line -“Do you ever wonder about what it is being me? ” really floors me and I think to myself, “I DO know what it is to be a kid. I have been one, and I have lived through a lot of the experiences that my kids are going through. Yet, how often do I put myself in their place and think about their perspective?”

Granted, the world has changed drastically since the time we were out and about riding our bikes, just being kids. However, the angst of that age is still the same. The journey of discovering multiple realities that spread outward from our family is still relatable.

If we make the effort, the world seems magical when looked at anew through our children’s eyes. Also, we somehow seem to see ourselves in a clearer light when examined through these different lenses.

As parents we have a ready frame of reference to fall back upon, and our task is somewhat easier than that of our kids who are still learning to navigate their way around the world.
In spite of this difference, we inexplicably expect our kids to know how to behave according to our expectations of them, assuming that they should be able to figure out what it is that we need from them, when they have no idea about our thought process, our current experiences.
They cannot metaphorically or realistically fill our shoes.
Simply because they have not lived that life yet.

So maybe it is time to let go of our egos and our self-consciousness about our roles as parents and simply remember what it is to be a kid.

To look at our kids and wonder —What is it like to be you?


*Image courtesy of Childhood by Rantes . Some rights reserved ( CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 )