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Meeting Downtown Boy On The Champs-Elysées Paris

 

Nostalgia

  Downtown Boy On The Champs-Elysées

ZGM

Every one of has a treasure trove of reminiscences. I love to share them and make my friends nostalgic- nostalgia, I believe is cathartic. I don’t know; it is the job of the scientist to decide if nostalgia could be described as autobiographic, episodic or semantic memory. Nevertheless, it is something that takes us down the memory land instantly, at an unimaginable speed. Sometimes, a whirlwind that all children lovingly called “Shaitan” promptly makes me remember the Makdoom Grounds, and how we ran helter-skelter to take shelter close to the wall of Kashmir. Sometimes, it reminds of brisk winds that rocked our Donga during a school excursion to Nishat Garden, making us scream.
 The other day, it was ‘Les Roses De Cachemire’ by Valeria Del Bon’ a book in French on contemporary Kashmir,  on a shelf in my small study that took me down the memory lane. Since I don’t know the French language, the book has remained unread. Nevertheless, it made me remember my first visit to Paris thirty-three years back. It was my first experience of travelling to Europe. From Frankfurt, I took Lufthansa airlines to Charles de Gaulle Airport Paris. My knowledge about France was confined to some English novels that too about the revolution- of the couple of the novels I had read during my student days, ‘A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens’ and ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ by Baroness Emma Orczy had left an ineffaceable impression on my mind. In the mid-sixties when student organisation brought out pamphlets starting with beautiful quotes, like many other students Simone de Beauvoir’s and Jean-Paul Sartre, for their support for Algerian movement were the only introduction to me to the culture and ethos of  France. All that I knew about De Gaulle, the airport is named that he had announced independence for the Algerians, to the surprise of the world.  
More than three decades back, the airport was so well organised and hassle-free, without seeking human guidance I took a metro and dropped at the Opera station. I had my booking in hotel Ascot Opera. It was after coming out of the subway; I first realised that the people in this country still nurse hate for their old colonial masters and their language- seeking guidance for knowing the direction to the hotel no one bothered to answer my query, till I spotted a South Asian. Carrying an impression, that for their fondness for pork French use it in every dish, for about a week, I lived on breakfast served in the hotel and during day time took some fruit and coke. It came as a rude shock, the land of great writers, painters and intellectuals are afflicted with linguistic chauvinism when inside the restaurants and fast food kiosks no one helped me to translate the menu on display on display.
One, beautiful afternoon, the nuisance of chauvinism ended for me, when a downtown, a friend spotted me on a most famous avenue, known the world over for its grandeur and glory.  My colleague and I were walking on the  Champs-Elysées, someone in chaste Kashmiri called me from behind by my name, as my friends used to call me during our student days when we strolled from the Regal Chowk to Palladium Cinema- or on Boulevard from the Shamina Restaurant to Gagribal Point. For a few seconds, I thought that I was walking on my favourite summer evening haunt- the Boulevard. Looking backwards, through the liner road from the Louvre, through the Tuileries Gardens and the Place Concord and the Arche de Triomphe, I saw a tall, handsome, immaculately dressed young man coming at a faster pace as good as running towards us- it was Qayoom Tariq Khan- a great friend from days on campus. Much before, he would say hello to us; he hugged my friend and me with the same warmth and brotherhood the downtown is known.  Some years back, he had moved out and married a beautiful French girl and settled in Paris. Meeting, which as fresh as morning dew was a big boon- he did not play as great host, by serving us Kashmir food in his apartment 4-Rue de Plane but also guiding us through this beautiful. But, for him I would not have visited the historical places, I had read about in novels and books.
   
 

 

  

 

Filed under: Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk