Bonjour India!

I was lucky enough to be a part of the twelve student group who were sent to the FIRC- French Information Research Centre. (Thanks Daggu :))

Little did I know, as I climbed into the twelve seater minivan, that I'd learn something entirely different than what was expected.

We were there to witness a story narration by a professional French Storyteller. Now, I've never met a storyteller. I didn't even know that a profession like that even existed. Telling stories for a living? My kind of thing!
As we walked inside the gates, I saw the chairs and tables covered in clean, white linen and multi-colored satin bows on them. There was a round table and chairs around it. I've always, always, always, wanted to sit at round tables covered with white linen. And there should be a champagne glass in front of me. I've seen those only at weddings, and somehow, that mood isn't created. But those chairs around the tables? For me? Yay!

And then I saw around twenty-five little French kids, all dressed as if they were out for a picnic. There were other schools too, but they naturally caught my attention. They, as I found out later, were the kids from Lycee Francaise, which is a French school for children from classes sixth to eighth. The event was pretty formal and they were running around, playing and I immediately smiled, seeing what they were doing. We stood, as we were a little early, looking around, and surprisingly, they approached us. First came the boys, and alomst all of them had golden hair (not blonde) and the Zac Efron hairstyle which I totally LOVE! This one:

Only less weirder. So I couldn't stop staring at them. I was too nervous too actually talk to them so I let the others talk.
And then, behind me, this group of French girls come and say, "Quelle est votre classe?" Which is your class? I look nervously at Shubhra. " Dixième," she tells me. I repeat.

We look at each other for a while...a little more broken French.
"Je t'aime ta jupe, " I like your skirt, I tell one girl.
"Merci, merci", she says happily.
Then they go back. We roamed around for a bit, as we were early.
And then I noticed something- there was French Jazz music playing in the background. And the little French kids, they started dancing! Just like that.
There were many people there, all of them older, and they didn't care. They started dancing, doing weird, funny little actions.
Just like that.
I couldn't take my eyes off them. Would I dance with all those people looking at me? No. Why?

Finally, we took our seats, and this French boy turns around and looks at me. "Bonjour," I say. He grins and holds up two fingers, the victory sign. These kids were COOL.
The event started and whenever anybody on the stage said Bonjour, just as a form of greeting, all those French kids would shout Bonjour back.
The group-song competition started...first up was our school and the name of the song was announced.
And surprisingly, all the French kids started hooting and giggling. "Whats so funny?" I asked them in French. One of them said managed to squeeze in between giggles,"Sarkozy...Carla Bruni."
I couldn't make anything of this answer until later I came to know that that song was dedicated to Nicholas Sarkozy by Carla Bruni.
Those kids were giggling.
Our team was singing, it was a slow, romantic, melodious song. Everybody was listening quietly. And one of the French kids, he started clapping. Slowly, with the beat, holding up his hands. He looked at us and gestured to us to do the same. Clap for our team.
There were students there in the age group of fifteen to eighteen years. There were college students and post-graduates. There were teachers and adults.
And here is this twelve year old foreigner telling us to clap, cheer for our own team while everyone listened quietly. Obviously, when the song ended, we did cheer. But that was different. Cheering for a stranger, and sincerely, is much, much different.
It was the French kids' turn then. They ran to the stage, pushing each other. All of them wanted to be in front. As I looked at them, I saw myself. I. Group song. Pushing. Laughing. Not caring that we're on the stage.
They sang enthusiastically, tapping their feet on the ground, almost jumping. After the song ended, they clapped for themselves, and one of them even jumped off the stage and fell face down on the grass. I couldn't stop laughing. (No, he did it intentionally!)
Another school's turn. They became very excited when the heard they would be singing Champs-Elysees, a popular French song. They sang along to every word, encouraging everyone to join in.
Then was the time for story narration.
One of them, Clarisse was the name, would be narrating a story. They cheered for her, and they cheered good. "Clarisse! Clarisse!", they yelled, clapping their hands. "Relaxe! Relaxe..." they kept saying...and it was so refreshing. When everybody sat on their seats, prim and proper, these children were jumping up and down, supporting their friend.
She narrated the story beautifully, avec action et al.
Then came, Muriel, the professional French story-teller. Muriel here, had vivid, red, curly hair and she wore a so many beads and necklaces and bangles. But the way that woman narrated a story- awesome. She mostly narrated folktales. She traveled all over the world and collected folktales from different cultures. What inspired her to choose a profession like that, somebody asked.
Because, she said smiling wickedly, when I was twenty, I was much in love with a guy who loved stories.
She was fifty seven now.
She told us mostly folktales, about devils and angels and heaven and hell. About how the city of Los Angeles was built and why people say 'Uh-hun.'
"Its all about," she said, "finding the right story for the right person at the right moment."
The French kids were the perfect listeners. They gasped and 'oohed' and 'aahed' at the right time and every once in a while, they'd raise their hands and go, "Madame! Madame!" and ask questions. Even in the middle of the story. And nobody minded.
Then there was a play, La Petite Chaperon Rouge. The Little Red Riding Hood.
"Thank you everyone for coming. Now you can all proceed to have lunch, we have chocolate croissants and hot chocolate and sandwiches waiting for you."
And the French kids exclaimed and ran towards the food.

And at that moment, right then, I wanted to be one of them.
I had to be one of them.
I had to.
They were so...carefree, unrestricted.
So unaffected, it was amazing.

I wanted to be able to go upto older, intimidating (?) strange teenagers and talk to them casually.
I wanted to to dance on French Jazz, not caring that a group of snotty teenagers were staring at me.
I wanted to make the 'V' sign AND look cool.
I wanted to hoot after hearing the Bruni-Sarkozy song.
I wanted to cheer for my team, absolutely not caring what anyone thought of my screams.
I wanted to jump and laugh on stage and not feel conscious.
I wanted to jump off from the stage, rock-star style.
I wanted to yell my friend's name among a meeting of serious, sophisticated people.
I wanted to jump because there was hot chocolate for lunch.
I wanted all that.

Because they were happy people. The real happy.

And I'd settle for NOTHING less.

Where has the heart gone? Where has the spontaneity of actions gone?


*raises empty wine glass*

To the French Spirit!


P.S. There's a chilly nip, or rather, Christmas in the air. Bring on the warmth, whatever may be the source. ;)

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19 Reflections:

soin said...

nice.ur getting to see so much during school time.and why dint u dance too when u wanted? when rahman did his first concert in chennai years back we guys all danced.girls only watched.some uncles commented.a middle finger and we enjoyed just let go.and french's romanticism is sometime too much to get along with.i mean sate is brilliant but he was too much ahead of his time coz of his unbounded s&m romanticism.
and if you want to like let go and all i suggest metal.not like death metal.there are like 30 sub genres in metal that some thing will suit you.and metal is not like typecast and all as others say it to be.yet again i suggest two documentaries-metal, a head bangers journey.see this first.if u like it see-global metal. maybe you might fit along.excuse the length of the comment.when i was in school,i felt most of what you have written here about. and i find it all in

Srishti said... I dunno, don't you think it would be weird if someone just started dancing in the middle of a crowd? But the French kids were and I wish that I could also be like them, not caring about the 'looking weird' part.
Aahh...metal. We had a Battle of the Bands kinda thingy in school, and the bands played a lot of metal. Most of the students were head-banging in a real fake way...I mean, I think. I dunno if that was letting go or fake headbangs. But I think it IS a nice option, metal. I actually don't like it a lot but am gonna give it a try.
Thanks. :)

soin said...

17 year old playing metal? well at that age its a bit fake and its not proper metal in the first fear of the dark,hallowed be thy name concert just can help but do the headbanger thing.
am not telling you to dance when you are walking in the market.but in places like these,specially when are people already dancing you wont feel outside.but in my case mostly we are high enough to draw a straight line,but a little liquid courage is needed to do a tribal dance in your college or

Anonymous said...

somehow in life we get so entangled in what others want of us, and how they expect us to behave, that we tend to ignore the desires of our heart(s) .

I'd been subconsciously thinking about the basis of this post of yours for a very long time now . Thanks for letting it surface in me.

And yeah, 4 thumbs up kid

Ketan said...

Hi Srishti!

What an amazing narration was this! You'll be a great story teller, really.

As to the inhibition - never mind. It's alright. If to feel inhibition is to deny the self, then to deny the inhibition is also to deny the self! Wow! How philosophical was this!! Your post inspired it. So, thanks! ;)

Inhibitions are of many kind. Some are inhibited in their thoughts and feeling of emotions. But you don't seem to suffer from that. Once you feel an emotion, many times it does not matter if it is dissipated through some gesture or act or not. :) Rather, if you don't dissipate it, the feeling stays inside you for longer. So, you've to decide - the feeling you're experiencing is it worth retaining or worth discarding through dissipation. ;)

But yes, when it comes to conveying emotions, maybe, it is better to express, 'cuz that moment may never come.

Anyway, a long comment was forming in my mind, which was going to be largely off-topic. So I leave it here.

But thank you for this post. It was very vivid and I totally enjoyed reading it. :) And I can't sign off without repeating your narrative skill impressed me.


Bindu said...

This was amazing and allowed my heart to feel free and sing too :)

(Pat pat)


Mishika said...

I had Sanskrit in school!! :X

HaRy!! said...

ooo i imagined the scene with round table and white linen..... Bonjourrrrrr!

Srishti said...

@Soin: Tribal dance? :D Btw, I'm not in!

@Anonymous: True. And thanks!! :)
And who are you? I know its a stupid question 'cuz if you wanted me to know who you were, you wouldn't comment anonymously, but its sooo cool to get an anonymous commentor so I thought maybe someone did it to get a kick outta it.

@Ketan: Thank you! So you think I should follow Muriel's footsteps? :D

I only hope your compliment isn't sarcastic, because I re-read it and found quite a few grammatical errors. Anyway, thanks!
when it comes to conveying emotions, maybe, it is better to express, 'cuz that moment may never come." Totally true. 'Cuz when the momnet goes, you can never create it again, hun? Woww!

Thanks once again. :)

@B: Thanks you! :)

@Mishika: Haha, toh sanskrit kyun li? Your brother has german naa, tell him to get an exchange student in 10th. :)

@HaRy: Haha...Bonjour India was actually the name of the Indo-French festival. :)

Anonymous said...

read the last line again.

Hope you remember now !

Anonymous said...

Ok now im totally green with envy I am totally regretting not going there .I thought a low affair with a boring story recital with all Indians and no french people(I didnt really think that french were humble enough to come to India and grace us with there presence)
But those french kids were totally opposite of what i thought they would be (pre conceived notions)
If i had known that they were round tables with white linen I would have tried to convince my dad with more enthusiasm.
Gonna fight next year to go there

slipperythoughts said...

you are so right babes! we are too uptight and extremely self conscious.
Good observations! kudos!

Srishti said...

@Anonymous: I went all the way back and I think, I THINK I know now. Except...if you are who I think you are, I don't think I still know who you are.
If you are the other person who I think you are, then PLEASE COME BACK!
I'm sorry, do I sound like a lunatic?

@Incognito: Aah. Incognito. :) Although I don't find it very hard to guess your identity. :P
Dude, you should've totally gone. But its okay. You had a crazy-laughing-time didn't you?

@slipperythoughts: Thanks! :)

The Tragic Life of Pi said...

bulls' eye . lunatic indeed. at least now you KNOW WHO I AM . so now you need not think you know, because you KNOW THAT YOU KNOW ....... long sigh

Nitin said...

how i hate zac effron.. and yea.. metal.. i dunno what that is.. :P i really miss paris now.. how i used to struggle with the grocers there to get what i want. :D..

Srishti said...

@TLOP: Ohh, sorry. NOW I got it. And btw, I used your name as the title of my Maths project. i had to make a maths project on pi, the 22/7 thing, so I named the project as 'The Tragic Life of Pi' It doesn't make any sense when you relate it to the project but it sounds so cool. Hope you don't mind?

@Nitin: Hi!
Why do you hate Zac Efron? Just curious. Oh haha, I'd love to hear that conversation with the grocer. :D

The Tragic Life of Pi said...

im flattered!!

abhi said...

do you study in an all girls school ?
if you're confused why i ask, read this

Srishti said...

I merely stated that I liked his HAIRSTYLE, not the whole of him.
And come on, he's not THAT chocolatey, he plays basketball.
You totally missed the point.

Anyway, thanks for the link, it was quite interesting.