Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

I have elucidated at great lengths about the hoity-toity developed countries and their arrogance, the crisp response or cold reception one receives when one steps into their arena, {especially towards a person who comes from a developing nation or a third world country like I do}. But my recent harrowing experience at the Paris airport has brought many more thoughts to the fore about developed countries and the convoluted reasoning they have for their behaviour just because they are a high and mighty developed nation. I assuredly don’t think Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport; alias Roissy Airport deserves to be called an airport at par with world standards.

Reports say that in 2017, the airport handled 69,471,442 passengers and 475,654 aircraft movements, thus making it the world’s tenth-busiest airport, Europe’s second-busiest airport (after London Heathrow) in terms of passenger numbers. It is also the world’s tenth-busiest and Europe’s busiest airport (ahead of London Heathrow) in aircraft movements. In terms of cargo traffic, the airport is the twelfth-busiest in the world and the second-busiest in Europe (after Frankfurt Airport), handling 2,150,950 metric tonnes of cargo in 2012. The incumbent director of the airport, Franck Goldnadel, was appointed to his position on 1 March 2011. 

What good is all that grandeur if the nescient transit passengers feel harrowed and dread buying a ticket which has this airport as its transit destination.  My first experience was so traumatizing that I have practically banned Paris itself as my tourist destination, I am happier not seeing the magnificent Eiffel Tower; such is my fear of having to set foot on that airport. First is the sheer size of the airport, the labyrinth terminals; and gates in each terminal are a 10,000-piece crossword puzzle.  I was travelling from Raipur (Chhattisgarh, India) to Mumbai (Maharashtra, India), from Mumbai to Paris (France) and from Paris to Dublin (Ireland); this was my whole sinuous travel itinerary. The first hurdle came when Raipur airport issued a boarding pass only till Paris! I had to collect the Paris to Dublin boarding pass from Paris airport. This was already extra work for me, a boarding pass in hand saves time and the headache of hunting for the booking counter (customer service desk) in international airports. I had already endured an unpleasant experience in the past, and I was not looking forward to another one.

I actually tried to haggle, beg, implore at the Mumbai airport customer service desk, to issue the boarding pass for my last sector; just to escape the torture at Paris.  International airports are ginormous; I have severe language problem (all is lost in translating my Inglish (Indian- English) and understanding their accented- Frenglish!), there are not many staff in sight, and even though people are all over the place, there is actually no one who you can approach and ask for help or assistance! Thus, I disembarked at Paris airport with an already heavy heart. I knew that my Paris to Dublin flight was from Terminal 2, and we landed at Terminal 1. The bus which took us to our next destination had a map indicating the stops and the very wise me disembarked at Gate 2L. But, I made the fundamental folly of thinking if I reached terminal 2, the gates starting with 2 will all be within the same premises.

Boy! was I wrong, the torture had just started!

My premonition came true, the customer desk (which I could locate on the third attempt!) was deserted. I waited patiently for 10 minutes then asked a uniformed officer passing by if someone would ever come! The lazy reply was, “Ouie’ Recepsion, (reception) mam!” (pointing in the opposite direction). So, I dragged my feet to the reception area where I could see a pleasant and pleasing persona (God’s small mercies) behind the desk. He issued my boarding pass and one look at that pass I knew my next headache was on its way.  My boarding gate was 2K and that gate was in another building!

I needed to make my way back to the bus stop, go to the other building marked Gate 2K. So, again I ask for directions and the crisp response is, “Ouie’ Follow allow (arrow)! directions” (with a grand wave of the hand). Those arrows were leading me nowhere and I was getting frustrated with these French and their weird accents! They spoke English like French and flayed their arms way too much, gesticulating wildly for everything and vociferously too, if I may add. Again, God’s kindness, a passenger who knew French was next to me and could fathom that gibberish and asked me to race behind him.

Huffing and puffing we reached the gate, boarded the bus and made our way to Terminal 2, Gate K, phew! I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I still had time to kill, and I was totally ravenous from all that running around. Like I usually do, I parked my suitcase on a chair and started to head towards the rest rooms to freshen up, when I heard the announcement, “Please do not leave your bags unattended, it will be treated as a bomb scare and disposed immediately!”

Okay, can’t risk that, so with the bag I drag myself to the rest room; when I receive this message from my husband, “Take care of your purse and belongings! People get robbed in Paris!” Oh! Wow, I thought. It does not end here though; I loitered into a Michael Kors store, picked up a wallet and immediately sensed the saleswoman breath down my neck. I was a little disturbed by her look and proximity; yet managed to ask if she could show some more wallets, different colours, maybe. The response I received was the weirdest ever; this lady asks me which country I am from! Now, I was totally taken aback, what was the connection, I wondered, my nationality and the wallet?

I said, ‘Indian’

Believe it or not; she shows me the prize of the wallet! I cannot tell you how huge the explosion in my head sounded! For the gall and nerve of that woman, I thought! How dare she show me the price! I wanted to stomp out of her stupid shop, but my better senses prevailed. I smiled with poise and equanimity and said, “It can be higher than this, please show me a bigger size and some other colors too!” It was fun and gratifying; her dumbfounded expression, and change in her demeanor. I did buy a wallet, just to prove a point.

Finally, it was time to board leave the dreadful place (the welcome note again totally lost in Frenglish) and head for Dublin (the Irish are the most charming, welcoming people). I happily stood by the said conveyor belt waiting for my suitcase; 10, then 20 minutes passed, and I get the sinking feeling again, the French were continuing to take their revenge. I went to the customer service desk and the lady was profusely apologetic (big difference); my suitcase was still in Paris, it will be loaded in the evening flight.

So, the most advanced airport in the world; and not one single thing happens in an orderly way, from boarding to getting home with my luggage; all went awry! Need I say more?

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_de_Gaulle_Airport


Dublin Diaries – 5

Dublin Diaries – 5

Purpose of Life

Our actions mar or make us… we are children of our own deeds…

Whenever I attempt to bring an awareness about the need for meditation, I get to see the other, non-receptive, guarded side of these otherwise wonderful, magnanimous, smiling, sweet natured countrymen.

Last month, I approached the senior librarian (our local library), seeking permission to conduct a meditation session, he looked at me rather quizzically as if asking, ‘Really! Meditation! Did I hear you correctly?’  He gave me one single ‘check’ session, and in February; after a month’s deliberation.

Whilst conducting the session, I was very conscious of my accent and struggled for the apt words so as to convey the message in its true essence. As it is I had only one chance and if I lost that too because of accent and language…  So, instead of relying on my vocabulary and accent I thought it best to do a small experiment and let them find the answers for themselves!

Here is the experiment: I said, “My sister gifted this beautiful scented candle sometime in April 2016!  Now, what is the purpose of a candle?”

They answered: “To spread light”

I continued, “I am still hanging on to this for many reasons; but have I allowed the candle to fulfil its purpose?”

They answered, “No”

“Similarly, I hope you will all agree that you all are born with a purpose?”


“What is the purpose of our life?”

This is where they were all silent for a minute; contemplating over the exact, correct answer, maybe.  I did not want to put words in their mouth and elicit ‘my answer’ but I also wanted to lead them, so I prompted; ‘Do we acknowledge that we have a purpose?’


‘Could it be only making wealth and more wealth or something more than that?’

‘It is something more than that’, came the prompt response.

I was more than happy; they were at a juncture where they were willing to admit the need to do something more than just amass wealth in this life.

All I said was, ‘That’s exactly what we learn today. Meditate and try to know the ‘purpose of our life’.’

A mere 4 registered; I would have been happy with one person too, so 4 was an achievement.

Like every other developed economy, they juggle work and home; complain about ‘no time, stress, pathetic quality of life’ and yet whenever I mention meditation they shy away. That’s the key difference I noticed amongst this developed country and the others. They are facing the same issues and tensions every developed nation is struggling with, yet they seem to resist change with all their might, which personifies a developing nation.

This makes them similar to my countrymen, a developing nations ambitious new generation; gripped with the inane urge to amass wealth at the loss of wisdom and simplicity. They have come to be regarded as a developed nation but the mindset is still that of a developing economy. This country is steeped in religion and appears to thwarts all else as sacrilege. They may not frequent the church, but they remain closed or have a sceptic view of other ideas and philosophies. India is also steeped in religion and resists change with all its might. Most of our spiritual leaders have been able to spread the word and the penetrate hearts of the people in the developed countries and failed abysmally in their own homeland. They have more acceptance abroad than at home. It reveals a sad lack of open mindedness, or an unwillingness to seek the truth.  Or maybe no money and the constant juggle to make ends meet gives precedence to nothing else. But that’s an excuse which can work for India.

This expedition of mine, to spread awareness of the importance of meditation, has allowed a peek into a different persona of this country. Almost all are working people, be it part time, full time, a few days a week, all work, and I am talking of my generation and my mum’s age group here.  They did have a joint family structure but today it is disintegrated totally. They live within the radius of 3-5km so that they can meet for holidays and occasions. And, the grand parents can look after the children in case of dire need! (This is exactly how India is shaping up today, and I am so against this practice).

There is a straggling array of take away’s and eat outs and get your food online apps; all are always very busy always. The rise in obesity is almost 10 times in the last 2decades. The rise in divorce, single parenting and cases of alcoholism, depression, suicide, ALL the vices of the wealthy, developed cultures are evidently on the rise here. it is a matter of grave concern to them, they keep discussing, analysing and share thoughts on open forums. Radio talks and TV shows are dedicated to discuss these issues, bring awareness and put their heads together to combat these widespread epidemics. They shake their heads despondently, cursing how development had ruined them, and suffering has increased manifold.  So, on the surface this is a very developed economy.  Scratch the surface and a developing, confused, defiantly letting go of the old traditions, complacently hiding behind ‘stress’, ‘busy life’ and continuing to complain and whine; resolutely refusing to change; that’s the new visage I encounter.  

Not to be discouraged, I went back to the library, to seek permission to continue once a week at least. The librarian was a bit stumped.

His first question was, ‘what was the turn out last time?’

When I said, ‘4’ The look was incredulous!

He very gently, not wanting to hurt my feelings, said, ‘Every week is impossible.’

I persisted, ‘I just want some continuity, so once in a fortnight would also be helpful.’

He again gave a long pause, went into the senior manager’s chambers and came out after 10minutes with, ‘We can give you 4 sessions, coming 2 months. Then we need to see the turn out.’

I nodded vigorously, (something is better nothing) and quickly confirmed my dates.

I have a long road ahead of me. Progress and ‘purpose of life’ are inversely related. That’s my understanding.


Dublin Diaries – 3: TACSAI’ Tales –  Finally!

Dublin Diaries – 3: TACSAI’ Tales – Finally!

Writing about the Irish Independence took me through all the wrong alleys and made my last article a very serious one. I am keeping that part on hold and starting afresh on a lighter vein. So here comes, my Tacsai’ Tales.

I have already shared our first Taxi experience, on our way to the GNIB office (Immigration); the cheerful disposition our cabby had. Despite the horrible wind, rain and cold the taxi driver was cheerful, helpful and exceedingly smiling. That was the first time and I thought, he probably woke up on the right side of the bed, or had won a lottery, that’s why he could afford to smile through the unpleasant weather. Moreover, this weather must be like second nature to them so they can afford to be unconcerned was my last lame excuse.

Forget the weather and their ability to retain a cheerful demeanour through that unbecoming cold and extreme wind. That is just one tiny part. The other experiences I had with them reveal a ‘perfect character’. They exude a warmth which I have not been able to sense anywhere, world over. Not even in India, the country which is most known for its hospitality and giving nature.

Within a month of coming to this city my daughter and I bravely dropped off my son to the airport at 4:30am. This is such a feat for me because I would not have dared this even in India. I am very apprehensive about cab drivers, to travel alone in their company that too at such odd hours made me very afraid.  My daughter and I hailed a cab and gingerly tried to ‘see’ if the cabbie ‘looked’ safe or not. But all that was not necessary at all; the cabbie greeted me warmly (another thing I am still trying to get used to, they all greet you, wish you and smile with a natural ease) and started a simple conversation to put me at ease!

Cabbie: ‘Hello there! Early morning flight is difficult, eh?’

 Me: Smiled agreeing.

Cabbie: ‘This is the safest place, you can travel at any time and be safe. Nothing to worry in this country!’

I could only smile and nod. Yes, this is a safe place and the cabbie was reassuring me; helping me be brave and stop wringing my hands daughter out of nervousness.  In my flurry, I forgot the right turn to my house. The cabbie very patiently took an about turn, no show of temper or irritation.

One other instance that comes to mind is my first visit to my meditation centre. Like it always is; it was raining incessantly, horribly cold and was still dark at 7:45 a.m. Being a Sunday the roads were totally deserted. This time I was alone, not afraid anymore. I did carefully map the ashram address on my phone; yet the horrible rain and poor visibility made me nervous. I was unsure if I could ask the driver to hunt the exact gate, so that I need not have to step out in the rain and dark and find myself in the wrong gate! The driver himself took care of my predicament. He drove up and down the said road almost 4 times till we did not locate the exact gate. The huge gates were closed and I was actually embarrassed to ask him to wait for me, I wanted to check if the centre was open, else I could return home in the same cab! The cabbie read my mind; he waited till I did my cross checking and confirming, saw me safely inside the gate, wished me ‘Happy beneficial meditation’ and drove away with a smile.  How could my heart not flip for such genuine people?

They have a lovey sense of humour too. Once we (my husband and I) had to go to the social security office. After our work was done my husband headed straight to work and asked me to a taxi home. I was expecting he would drop me home and then go to work; so this change of plan mildly irritated me and I plonked myself into the taxi in a huff. The cabbie probably noticed the small altercation we had and the way I bundled into the taxi.

He cheerfully greeted me, ‘Lovely day, eh!’

I was in no mood to notice the ‘lovely day’ but not wanting to be rude I said, ‘Yes, it is! But my boss says I need to go home! So not so lovely anymore!’

Cabbie, ‘No young lady! You are the boss! How dare your man not obey the boss!’  

I already forgot my irritation and smilingly said, ‘No, no, in my country Man is the Boss, not the wife.’

Cabbie, ‘No young lady, you are wrong here, wife is the boss! Not the husbandJ! Like in my house; my wife is the Boss! World over women are the ‘Boss’!’

I started to laugh, his words did not apply to my house but they were so soothing and I still had hopeJ. 

He sweetly continued, ‘Look at me, we were in London, had a good job and life! My wife was bored there! She ordered that we move here, where the whole family lives! Now, I have to drive this taxi, earn for her!’

I laughed out loud now and asked,’ your wife must be working and earning too though?’

He turned back and gave me a grave look and said, ‘My wife is the Languishing Lady of luxurious shopping and lunches. That’s all that she does dear, believe me!’ I could not control my outburst anymore.

A cabbie informed me that Dublin (which means the ‘dark pool’) is the English name for ‘Baile Átha Cliath’, meaning “town of the hurdled ford“. He even tried to teach me some basic Gaelic.

Another cabbie said, ‘India and our country have a lot in common. We started the first rebellion against the British and Gandhi carried forward the baton to India.’

These are a few ‘Tacsai tales’. There are many more; every time I step into a cab I step out with some new knowledge or a smile on my face, or both.

Dublin Diaries-2- TACSAI’

Dublin Diaries-2- TACSAI’



My journey in this city has many experiences; each more endearing than the other. Most of these experiences are with my commuters, the Taxi- drivers of this enchanting city. So, this one is about TACSAI’ (Gaelic for Taxi)

The first Taxi we boarded was to the Immigration office.  It was a wet, windy, cloudy, cold November morning! Our short hiatus in London had prepared us for the rain and gloom; we were gently getting acclimatised to the London cold too, so we were surprised to be caught by surprise! The wind took the wind out of our sails! It went right through us. Barely a few seconds in the open and we were shaking like leaves.  Hurriedly we bundled ourselves into the taxi (here we need not pre – book our cab like we used to do in London; you can ‘hail’ them with the wave of your handJ! Like we do back home, in India) and our very cheerful cabby greeted us thus, “Good morning! A Little wet today, eh! Where do you wish to go?”

The three of us looked at each other with the same thought reflected on our face, “Little Wet! This was ‘little’ wet for him.  He was very unfazed and admirably retained his cheerful demeanour!”  I always believed that the weather of the place dictates the mood and nature of the people living in that place.  Okay, I think I am veering away from the title. But, I must explain this.

For example, in India, Delhi has extreme weather (it is 45 degrees hot or 2 degrees cold, both summer and winter are harsh and inordinately dry) and the people are also extreme in their behaviour. They are extremely street smart, flashy, competitive and have the killer instinct. Whereas, Bangalore, with idyllic weather prevailing all year long, (it rains before it gets unbearably hot and the sun shines before one needs to go and shop for heavy woollen wear) the people here are laid back.  They believe in a calm, frog in the well kind of life. In the last 15 years that I have seen of this place there is minimal change, just the bare minimum they need to do to maintain the place. God has bestowed this place abundantly and made the people also very easy going. To take this analogy a little further; Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai is the financial capital of India. With so much money and glitterati the weather of the place dictates a sense of basic ethics. It has no extremes and yet it always keeps us on the verge of having to try! (I am unable to describe the Mumbai weather properly). The rains are heavy yet come in a very informed predictable way so people are prepared and plan accordingly. It has all the seasons. Summers last the longest and the rest of the seasons are interlaced with this one season. Similarly, most of the people, rich, poor, economically forward or backward, they all seem to find a place in this city. They all come together and all are hard working. The weather dictates toil, discipline and hard work and that is how most of the Mumbai people can be best described. I can go on with such analogies about people and places. Cold places usually have rigid, unyielding and a hard working lot. Whereas, in warm places the exuberance of the place and the life the people breathe into such places is palpable.

London and most of the people in London seemed to follow my dictate, the logical conclusion I had arrived at after years of close observation, about the weather dictating the behaviour and nature of the people residing in that place. Thus, when Londoners rarely smiled, or seemed to be drowned in their phones. Nose buried and eyes boring holes into their shoes; it was not very surprising for me.  With that weather, wetness and gloom how much could anyone muster cheer and stay cheerful?! The rains lashed predictably every day, it was either dark , grey or cloudy , gloomy this was the little variation in the weather with which this magnificent city was endowed and in this variation how much cheer was possible? London’s weather and the people were in symmetry.

Dublin makes silly of my logic, defies it and its people are an absolute contradiction to my self – discovered profound theory.  To begin with the friendly cabby, who had not a care in the world and was unmindful of the rain, wind and cold. It rained incessantly for almost 3 months; a 30 minute or one hour respite may have occurred, when the God’s decided to catch their breath maybe; otherwise it was downpour, showers, drizzles or pitter- patter. But the people we met, all of them, no exceptions at all here (that is another endearing and surprising fact about this place) are cheerful, unmindful of the wetness and gloom. They greet each other, carry animated conversations, have a ringing infectious laughter in their voice and go jogging with raincoats on, their pets racing behind them, equally oblivious to the wetness around.  This scenario reiterates every time I step out of the house for a walk. There cheer and ability to just ignore the gloomy weather amazes me and I too have learnt to ignore the weather nowJ! ‘Wear the right jacket, my friend’: friendly Irish advice!  And it works!

How could I stop myself from drifting away from my TACSAI’ stories? Such is this place. It keeps breaking my self-made theories and never allows me to make a predictable guess.  This is just the tip of the ice berg. Irish food also deserves a separate article. Narrating my experiences and learning’s from the cab driver’s will follow first and then the rest will follow…