by Himanshi Vij
I have had two homes till now. One in Chandigarh, where I belong, where I grew up, the city that defined me. The other in Paris, where my heart belongs, where I evolved, the city that refined me.
It has always been painful to leave one home for the other. When I’m in Chandigarh, at home surrounded by family, I miss Paris. When I am in Paris, at home surrounded by my dreams, I miss Chandigarh. It is so difficult to have two homes because I am never fully at one place. In Paris, I stay awake on so many nights staring at the ceiling hoping that my family is happy, that my old friends still miss me, and I make a mental checklist of things I should do when I’m back home next.
When I’m in Chandigarh, at home, certain nights I just wonder how easy it would be in Paris, to walk on a street and see the twinkling on Eiffel Tower whenever I feel like, to walk in to the Louvre and see new works each time and to randomly discover some magical streets.
Recently, I was hired by a French company to work in their Singapore office, an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse.
While at my home in Chandigarh, I kept thinking about Paris and feeling so much pain because I knew saying good-bye to Paris would break my heart. It was painful to know that I won’t wake up and go for a run along the Seine, or I won’t be meeting up friends at Pont des Arts on a summer evening and neither would I find a cheap flight to Milan for an impromptu trip. It was so painful, just the idea of leaving Paris.
But I had my one last month in Paris. I left Chandigarh with a heavy heart, to board my one last flight to Paris, to pack up, to make final submissions, to vacate my apartment, to say goodbye to my friends and to the Eiffel Tower, with promises of being back as often as I possibly can.
And then I arrived in Paris. With mixed feelings. Of anguish, of separation, of anticipation and of happiness.
From the airport, I took a metro to go to my residence. I had to change trains at Chatelet, which is one of the busiest metro stations in Paris.
Till now, I had only heard from my friends and tourists how often they had been robbed, mugged, or simply fooled by thugs in Paris metros. I always scoffed at these friends for their inattentiveness or negligence in getting their things lost.
But the moment I boarded my metro from Chatelet onwards, in a few seconds I realised that my red suitcase was missing.
The red suitcase that an entire new summer wardrobe for my final Parisian month. The red suitcase that had my unopened birthday presents. The red suitcase that had maa ke haath ka khaana and motichoor ladoos.
I tried to be calm. I quickly gathered three policemen and metro station officials. Within five minutes we searched the entire platform but the red suitcase was nowhere to be found.
We searched for about 2-3 hours. My friends consoled me. Policemen came and went. Officials went from being polite to rude. But for all of them, it was nothing new. Paris was known for thugs and thieves and pickpockets.
And they finally got me.
And in that moment, l realised, all that sadness and unhappiness on leaving Paris just evaporated. I didn’t want to live in a city with thugs at every step. I didn’t want to live in the city where I could trust no one. I didn’t want to live in a city where policemen would lie to you and disappear. I didn’t want to live in a city where metro officials are more concerned about ending their 8 pm shift rather than helping out a teary-eyed girl sobbing struggling with her French in that moment of distress.
I had loved Paris with all my heart, but l hated the people in Paris with all my gut. My last flight into Paris, as a resident, was pretty significant in a way. This was the day l had my closure with Paris.
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