17 July, 2008

Adieu Paris.

While the beauty of Paris seems eternal, my experience here has been transient. It is an expensive city. The least I spent in a day was 20 Euros. I was worried that I would go over my budget and have no money left for Delhi. Yet that fear was short-lived because time flew by.

[Find more pictures from the day on Flickr.com by clicking here]

Life slips by very quickly. Last night I went for dinner with a friend (how I regretted not discovering the restaurants and shops in Saint Michel earlier!) and later we had ice cream at Amorino artisanal ice cream place. It reminded me of going to Bent Spoon with Andy and Angela at Princeton. As I was packing in my room later in the night, I couldn’t stop thinking about my short sojourn in Paris. I realized then that I would miss most of all, not the paintings, music, architecture, or food, but the people I met here and my crazy adventures that were made possible because of them.

A large aspect of my project is to experience different cultures, interact with different people and use my art to show how we are all linked, or not linked, by the bond of humanity. I already knew that with different languages come different expressions, new words that carry new ideas, subtleties of thought and feeling that you never knew before. This knowledge was confirmed and profoundly experienced in Paris. I learned to speak the little French I knew with perfection so that you couldn’t tell that I was a foreigner.

I sit at the airport now. I leave knowing that I want to come back as soon as I can. I leave having started many sketches, and having done extensive photography (a lot more than what is on Flickr.com) that will either stand on its own or serve as stock imagery for the art I will work on in August when I’m back in Pakistan.

There are certain moments that you just know you will never forget. They are pivotal in your life, and act as anchors for your memory. The time I met up with Uday for a half-hour one night in Delhi when I was on a school trip, the time I walked with Andy to Chili’s on the New Jersey highway, the day at the fountain with Angela, New Years in New York with my colleagues at the Actors Theatre Workshop, and then another lonely New Years when I walked at 6am in a deserted Princeton University and around me leaves fluttered and danced, as if in determined celebration on the cold, cloudy day. This morning I went for a walk in Paris near Chatelet, Notre Dame, Saint Michel. I was looking at everything for the last time, savoring the French R’s as people conversed around me, scared of the stranger who I feared might mug me, finding intricate gothic and baroque architecture on every street and every corner; trucks, boats, and workmen were preparing for the Beach event where they apparently put sand on the Seine (Gregoire and Stephanie had told me about it).…

It was cloudy and I would like to think the city was mourning my imminent departure, but in fact life went on in the city. People come and go. The city lives on eternally.

After that I knew time was running out and I needed to get to the airport, but I couldn’t leave undone something I had attempted earlier. I wanted to go and try to visit the grave/tomb of Oscar Wilde one last time. And this time it seemed like I would make it – at least the gates of the Cemetiere were open. I looked at the map at the entrance and memorized the name of the “street” in which it was located. The cemetery was very large and soon I got lost amongst gravestones and tombs. A black cat would appear every so often and the spider webs and rotting, mossy sculptures haunted me. I was running late for the airport now and that was also weighing on me. After walking for about fifteen or twenty minutes I found it. I had been afraid it would be an anticlimax was it was definitely worth it.

In fact many parts of this trip have involved going to see places or artifacts I have seen in pictures or studied about somewhere, with a fear that the visit would be superfluous, but finding always that my visit gave those spaces, paintings, buildings dimension and put them in context for me – in terms of spatial and emotional perspectives. I also got to experience them as they live in our world today. Recall the Notre Dame in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Then imagine actually going there this morning and seeing a trash truck in front of it and people rushing past it to go to work. It’s simply amazing.

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