A Trip To Paris
A Trip To Paris9 mins 444 9 mins 444
Veena set out on her first solo travel expedition. She was all excited because this was her dream since her childhood and she could make it happen only in her fiftieth year! Never mind, at least now!
“Amma, please take care of your passport. Don’t get panicky and confused, as you did in your last trip to the US. Don’t try adventures. Take your medicines regularly. Call us every day……..” Sandeep and Sanjana, her children went on and on. Now she realised how irritated they would have been when she gave such instructions every time they went out!
“What, you want to go to Paris all alone? Why? You have seen Paris with Appa. Haven’t you?”
“Sandeep, yes. I have seen Paris with Appa. But somehow I want to go again and see certain places that Appa and I had gone together and relive those days.”
“Why alone? I will take you some time.”
“No, I want to go alone. This was my dream since childhood. I want to travel alone and experience certain things, which I can never do when I am with someone. Don’t worry. You book a safe place for me to stay and the tickets. I will spend just ten days. I will take care of myself. I want some me-time.”
Sandeep and Sanjana discussed a lot and finally agreed. They had lost their dear father, a leading cardiologist just two years ago. He died of a massive heart attack and their mother did not get out of the shock for almost one year. She was totally shaken. Her job in school was a big solace. Otherwise, she would have gone mad. Veena had never imagined her dear Venkat would leave her like this halfway through. Their journey together was a wonderful one and most parts of it was all fun since they loved and got married.
Venkat’s parents were like her own parents. She had lost her father at a very young age and her father-in-law filled that space thoroughly. Even when sometimes Venkat got upset about something and spoke harshly to Veena, her father-in-law would interfere and support her. Sandeep and Sanjana made their lives very interesting. They enjoyed every minute of their growth and progress. Sandeep is a cardiologist today and Sanjana is in her final year law. Everything was going on very smoothly until Venkat had that massive attack and did not give any time for them to even rush him to a hospital. Veena was doomed.
Though financially and morally she was well protected, psychologically it was a big challenge for her. Four years ago, Venkat had a conference in Paris and that’s when Veena accompanied him to Paris. That was the last foreign travel that they both went on. Before that, they had traveled to many countries, because Veena accompanied him to many places that he visited for conferences, if she could afford to take leave and if their children too agreed to stay back with their grandparents. Whenever the children were free, they too were taken. Travel had become a common thing in their family. All their relatives would comment, “how come these people keep traveling so often and yet the children do so well in their studies!”
Veena opted for the window seat and started enjoying the journey. The flight reached Paris on time and Veena went through the immigration, collected her baggage and walked out of the airport. There stood a person with her name written on a signboard. The AirB&B that Sandeep had booked had sent a taxi for her.
She reached the lodge and loved the small, cozy room allotted to her in that silent corner. She informed Sandeep about her arrival, had a quick dinner and went off to bed.
Next morning, Veena woke up, when the warm sun-rays caressed her through the off-white curtains on her window. She checked the time and it was 8.30. She got up and drew the curtains and was amazed by what she saw outside. Lush green trees, flowering bushes and a small stream of clear water. ‘Wow’ she said to herself. ‘Thank you, Sandeep’.
Veena got out of her room after freshening up and munching a light breakfast. She loved the place and started walking along the small stream, enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. She walked for almost a mile and then found a cozy spot to sit. She had brought a book by her favourite author. She sat there under the shade of a beautiful maple tree and read the book for nearly two hours. She started feeling hungry and hence, she walked back to her lodge. She found a small vegan restaurant nearby, where she ate a light lunch. She came back to her room and lay down on the soft bed. She stretched herself and relaxed. Her mind went back to their last trip to Paris and tears rolled down her cheeks.
Venkat would set off for the conference early in the morning. She would then get ready and join another four women, who too had accompanied their husbands and stayed in the same hotel. They all would go out touring the city of Paris in a chartered vehicle with a guide. All the four women were her good friends, as they had met each other on many such trips. They would return to the hotel and join their husbands for dinner. Venkat would be all excited to listen to Veena’s account of the day’s tour, though he would have had a whole day of work.
Venkat took two days off after the conference and they both went around Paris. Veena could never forget those two great days in her life. Every place that they visited - the world-famous Louvre museum, the cruise ride on the river, the Eiffel Tower, the restaurants they dined and the lovely parks that they relaxed - was etched in her mind permanently. She could remember even minute details like the paintings that they stood and gazed at for minutes, the cute baby that entertained them during their cruise trip, the pretty waitress in that restaurant and the old couple in that park, who sat opposite to their bench and argued about something in French for a long time.
Veena had booked a taxi the next day to visit all those very same places. She got ready and was waiting in the lounge. Just then, she heard a familiar voice. Wasn’t that Shirley? She turned around and what a surprise! It was indeed Shirley. She had not changed much in these 35 years. She was walking to the lounge with a teenage girl, maybe her daughter.
“Shirley”, she called out in a mild voice. Shirley was shocked to hear someone call her there and as she neared Veena, she looked at her doubtfully and recognised her in a minute. “Veena?”
“Yes. How come here?”
“This is my daughter Dorothy. She is selected for an exchange program in a University here and I came to drop her off and freak out in Paris. What about you? All alone?”
“Yes. I wanted to make this trip alone for some reason and hence I came here just yesterday. I will tell you in detail later. What’s your programme today?”
“We are going to the University right now. I will drop her there, settle her in her hostel and get back by late afternoon. From tomorrow, I am free for another three days. Then I am getting back to India.”
“That’s great! From tomorrow, let the two of us spend time together. See you tomorrow. My room number is 101. Bye-bye. My taxi is here.”
Veena spent the entire day going to every place that she had gone with Venkat. She spent nearly three hours in the museum, overwhelmed by the beautiful artworks displayed there. They transported her to a different world. She saw much more than she had seen with Venkat. She relaxed on the cruise while remembering all the comments that Venkat had made about those heritage buildings on either side. Of course, the pretty waitress was no more there in that restaurant but she did have her lunch there, sitting on the same spot that they both had sat. Melancholy filled her heart as she reached back at 7.30 in the evening. She missed Venkat a lot. Why was life so unfair to her? She crashed on her bed, hugged the pillow and cried her heart out.
Next morning, at eight, Shirley was in her room. They both hugged each other and chatted for nearly three hours, as they had to cover all that had happened in their lives for the last 35 years! Shirley, with whom Veena had lost touch after school, now lived in Mumbai. Her husband Peter was a big businessman but had no time for the family. Shirley was very depressed with her lonely life, as her daughter stayed in a hostel in Delhi for her studies. Shirley had not taken up a job, as Peter wanted her to stay home and take care of the family. Her parents-in-law were sick for nearly six years and had passed away just last year within an interval of six months. She had a lot of money but no life worth talking about. She came with her daughter, who could have jolly well come on her own, simply because she wanted a break from that mundane routine.
The next three days the two friends had the best of their times in Paris. They walked a lot along the streets of Paris, chatted for hours together, pulled each other’s legs and laughed their hearts out and ate and drank a lot. Their school memories kept them young and energetic.
“Hey, Veena, sorry! You wanted to spend your time alone, but here I am like a spoilsport!”
“Oh no, Shirley! I still have three days for myself. Though this was unplanned, I really enjoyed your company. Childhood is one of my favourite phases of life and thanks to you I could relive those years. Let us now keep in touch. Please do visit me in Bangalore.”
“Sure Veena. You too. Come to Mumbai. We shall freak out.”
The next three days, Veena continued with her sojourn and savored every moment of it. She spent a lot of lazy time sitting in any beautiful spot that she felt like. She completed three books. She listened to a lot of music on her phone. She felt so carefree and good not being answerable to anybody, doing what she wanted at any time. Her children kept a tab on her and felt relieved that she met her childhood friend.
As she got into the flight to return home, she felt light, fresh and happy. She yearned to see her family. She had spent enough private time to keep her going at least for another year! And maybe, then she will embark on her next trip, all alone!