When in Paris,

sacre-cour

Going upstairs to Sacré-Cœur, I see a man selling bracelets and keychains. I look at him, he looks at me, he is already holding my arm.

What…is happening?

I am clueless but fortunately, S knows better, she shouts and pulls my hand away. I can still feel his grip on my wrists. ‘That was close,’ she says. ‘Yeah, what was that?’ I ask. ‘They will tie the bracelet to your wrist and ask you to pay for it,’ she replies and continues, ‘Absurd amounts – 10, 20 Euros. And they just won’t let you go.’

Isn’t that a form of attempted robbery? 

I am reminded of the time I was in London. A middle aged man approached me, smiled and gave me a rose, ‘This is for you, pretty lady.’ I took the rose, blood pumping to my cheeks.Wow, London is nice. Meanwhile, the man asked my friend to pay for it. Okay, maybe not. I tried returning the rose to the man. ‘No, just give me 10 pounds!’ He demanded. ‘No,’ we said. Ultimately, the man had to take the rose back. My friend is from Delhi after all. 

Enjoying the view from Sacré-Cœur, S and I are talking about things. We always do, it can range anything from woman centric porn to democracy. Most of the times, our discussion don’t have any conclusions. I think the answer to most abstract questions is the same – Moderation. 

Picture of Sacre Coeur

Sun is shining and Paris has treated us well, mostly. We have enjoyed eating macaroons, and also talking to the guy who sold those macaroons, had the best cheese sandwich, worst Beef Bourguignon , enjoyed the theatrics of crème brûlée, fell in love with soufflé, saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night, witnessed a boy proposing to his girlfriend at the Montparnasse Tower and experienced jealousy like never before and photobombed a random family at Notre Dame – S pretended she didn’t know me while I continued making faces. People actually laughed it off. Later, S took to photography and I took to modelling. Paris had inspired me to dress well and put on a face. 

‘You look nice with makeup. You should do it more often,’S told me.

Thanks but no thanks. I want people to be used to my ugliness so that whenever I look nice, they will appreciate it more.

We need to leave now. We are searching for the nearest metro station. Google maps is fucking with us. According to it, we are already AT the station. Station for wizards, google? There’s a young man sitting at the stairs smoking a cigarette. S says, ‘Go, ask him.’

Neurons in my head are running with their arms in the air, screaming, ‘WE NEED TO SPEAK FRENCH! WE WILL HAVE TO SPEAK FRENCH! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! M’AIDEZ!’

I try to calm myself, ‘This is our moment to shine.’ All those hours I had spent practicing (which aren’t many), it’s time they are used, it’s time I carpediem the fuck out of this.

Tentatively, I approach him. ‘Excusez moi!’ I say, incredibly conscious of my accent.

He looks at me, it seems that he understood and is willing to listen to me further.

In my head, I am forming sentences, ‘Ou est..Tu connais?…’

And then it strikes me. I knew what to say. 

S is standing a bit far away. I return to her smiling, ‘So we need to go straight and then turn left.’

‘Nice! What did you say?’ she asks me. 

‘Oh well, you know, stuff in French.’

‘Yeah, what stuff? I want to learn too!’

I smile, look around thinking of a way to change the topic but I know she will bring it back.

‘Okay…you really want to know?’

‘Yes, tell me!’

‘Parlez vous l’anglais?’

‘And what does that mean?’ she asks. 

‘You speak English?’

 

*

How NOT to learn F.R.E.N.C.H. for dummies (like me)

Chapter – I

The one with the counting

It was a warm ordinary day of Octobre (October, and yes it wasn’t a spelling mistake). The month that brings us the beautiful season of autumn. Autumn, the oldest poets creating factory, is the most jolie (lovely) season of all. That is, in the rest of the monde (world). Not in India. Here it’s simply a sequel of summer, without mangoes. Indian trees don’t give a single damn about the fall. Bien sûr (Of course), they might show some minor symptoms of this season but that is the beginning and the end of it. Anyway, back to being in that warm day of Octobre, as I sat in my cubicle passively framing yet another courriel (e-mail), I am flashed with one of the deeply moving scenes of the French film- “Blue is the warmest colour.” I am still not sure about the origin and what possibly might have caused that flash. But it was enough to dig out that obsession on to the surface which had gone into hibernation for past one year. And with it came a memory of a small desire I had expressed then – I want to learn French. Like a good employee (Ahem.) I ignored all of this and continued to scroll through my inbox. But the show starring the two voices in my head had already commenced. “Tu dois apprendre le français!”(You must learn French!). What’s that sound again? Certainly someone doesn’t want us to attend to our mails (Ahem. Perhaps our procrastinating habit) But what’s the harm in learning it? You have the time. You can manage. You can learn French. In fact you should. En fait (In fact) you would!” But tu vois (you see), turquoise ink, you don’t have what it takes to learn a language. Wait, wasn’t it your suggestion in the first place? Like a second ago? You are going to lose interest and then later you would forget everything. Merde! (Damn!) What a chameleon you are brain! I would definitely learn it just to prove you wrong!

In the background, my cœur et tête (heart and head) hi-fived, mouthed a thank-you and danced back to the exit.

So the same day I went to a language institute. I enrolled myself for French classes and there began my incredible journey to…nothing. But that’s what makes it a good ignition spark for my procrastinating habits.

A few jours (days) into my class and I stumbled upon the day that was going to change my vie (life) forever.  It’s a normal soir (evening). I arrived at the class straight from my office. I was a little tired but my excitement (or rather the fact that I had paid the fees and I felt a dire need to compensate for it by being regular in my classes) didn’t let me succumb to temporary tiredness.

“We will learn counting today” she said. “Counting till ten is pretty easy. What makes it easier is that the pronunciation of some of the numbers resembles the way we say it in Hindi.” I nodded, opened my notebook and uncapped my pen indicating my readiness to make notes which actually I never did. “So, let’s begin …Un, Deux, Trois, Quatre, Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit, Neuf, Dix!” she said slowly with hand gestures.I noticed that some numbers indeed resembled the numbers in Hindi (Deux – do, Trois – teen or Sept – saat, Huit – aath, Neuf – nav, Dix – dus and six was six in English except you pronounce it as sees)

I repeated after my French tutor. Pretty proud with myself, I asked her to go ahead in the series. She taught me the numbers till twenty (Onze, Douze (Now you know where the word dozen came from), Treize, Quatorze, Quinze, Seize, Dix-sept, Dix-huit, Dix-neuf, Vingt). Slightly alien terms but I managed just fine and repeated the figures correctly. Then she continued, “So, the rest of the numbers continue on the same rules as English. We just need to learn thirty, forty, fifty and sixty. After that it gets slightly different. But we will come to that later.” I nodded excitedly, completely ignoring the importance of the phrase – ‘slightly different’. “Trente, quarante, cinquante & soixante” she said.

I repeated perfectly except for the minor pronunciation mistakes. “And what about the rest of the figures?” I asked.

The turning point of my life had finally arrived.

“Seventy is Soixante –dix” she replied.

“Okay…”

“Eighty: Quatre- vingts

“Whaat…”

“Ninety is Quatre-vingt-dix

“..the fuck?”

My mind exploded. “Are you telling me that seventy is called as sixty-ten? Eighty as four-twenty? And ninety as four-twenty-ten?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Are you really sure?”

“Yes.” And you may be over-reacting. And also what do you mean if I am sure! I have been speaking French since I was a kid, you bitch!

“What nonsense!” I exclaimed.

“Well, it is what it is.” You reaction, my friend, is the real nonsense.

Why? Why? Why would you call a number that way? What can be the logic behind this? I asked this question to French native speakers as well (There’s an app called ‘Speaky’ which lets you do that) They replied the same, “It is what it is.” But I couldn’t accept it. What is the point, really? Don’t cross that border, honey. We can’t figure out the point of our lives and you are asking about some puny nombres (numbers)? 

But I was indeed deeply baffled by this and at the end of it, I simply couldn’t accept it. So, I coined new French terms. I know I sound bête (stupid). But I will present my inventions to you anyway;

Seventy would now be called, the term is inspired by Joey FYI, Daplupoint (pronunciation:  da-plu-paw-nt)

Eighty – Paplupoint (pa-plu-paw-nt)

Ninety – Laplupoint (La-plu-paw-nt)

Of course, I haven’t put this proposal formally to the world yet. But whenever I do, I am hoping for the successful inclusion of these terms. Until then, do keep these new terms in mind, they might pop up in the French dictionary anytime. And yes this is how you SHOULDN’T learn French.

Merci beaucoup! À bientôt ! I will be back with more blogs on this soon!

Glossary:

    1. Octobre – October
    2. Jolie – Lovely
    3. monde – World
    4. Bien sûr – Of course
    5. Courriel – Email
    6. Tu – You (Informal)
    7. Dois – Present Conjugation of Devoir which means must
    8. Apprendre – To learn
    9. Français – French
    10. En fait – In fact
    11. Vois – Present Conjugation of Voir which means “to see”
    12. Merde – Damn
    13. Cœur – Heart
    14. Et – And
    15. Tête – Head
    16. Jours – Days
    17. Soir – Evening
    18. Vie – Life
    19. Un, Deux, Trois, Quatre, Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit, Neuf & Dix – One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine & Ten
    20. Onze, Douze , Treize, Quatorze, Quinze, Seize, Dix-sept, Dix-huit, Dix-neuf, Vingt – Eleven,Twelve,Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty
    21. Trente, Quarante, Cinquante , Soixante, Soixante –dix, Quatre- vingts, Quatre-vingt-dix – Thirty, Forty, Fifty, Sixty, Seventy, Eighty, Ninety
    22.  Nombres – Numbers
    23. Bête – Stupid
    24. Merci – Thank you
    25. Beaucoup – Very much
    26. Àbientôt –  See you soon

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