“Do diwane shaher me, aab-o-dana dhundate hai…”, went the song in loops in my head as I matched my steps with that of my better half who, if he participates, will win every walking competition ever held on earth! And it was much of a tiring exercise for me with my layered self (in real sense and not just literal one) protecting from the chilly breeze on a cold late November evening. Reason?
Add to it second lockdown days!
Add to it, weary landlords due to COVID!
Believe me when I tell you that one needs to share three months’ salary slip or the bank’s guarantee, with the landlord even for visiting the apartment, here at Lyon. Saturdays and Sundays are off the bounds for such visits. As those are the official weekly offs and rental agencies don’t work on those days! So are the after-office hours!! Finding the right apartment is like hitting the jackpot here.
So, when the better half informed me that we had an appointment at 5:45 pm to visit an apartment we had been anticipating for about a month, I was surprised. There however was a disclaimer…we must reach the address well in time else we miss the opportunity and happily wait for the next best chance if the apartment is not taken up / rented by someone. The apartments are rented faster than freshly baked cakes in this city.
In short, it meant… adhere to EST (European Standard Time) and not to IST mentality! My patience and hope, those days, to get a suitable place to start living, was hanging by the thread as it was more than one and half month that our hunt had not materialized into anything (Read: we were still living out of the boxes). This indeed gave me plenty of opportunities to discover the quirky nature of the houses. I remember having dismissed a lot of apartments for they had more than four walls for a room, like pentagonal, hexagonal or even octagonal rooms!
And then, there I was on the footpath, trying to match my steps while struggling with the foggy lenses of my glasses, courtesy of the mandatory mask. With every step ahead, the romantic thought of holding my beloved’s hand and walking down the cobbled stone boulevard, enjoying the colourful sight at the florist while getting drenched in the aromas sipping through the slits of the door of the ‘Pâtissier’ was getting mercilessly crushed. Some other day, I comforted my dispirited soul while saving myself from stumbling and fumbling on one or two occasions.
My self-talk however was interrupted by excited gibberish and feverish clapping. The sound arrested my march. There I stood in front of a huge window display, juxtaposed to the footpath, where a toddler was jumping with joy as he was busy watching the display. His gurgled laughter was so infectious that it overcame my handicap of not knowing the French language much. Whatever that he was blabbering made perfect sense to me when I instinctively turned to the display.
In a flash of a second, it was the turn of the child within me. There stood a live, fully functional, miniature model of the motorised ‘city of joy ‘, a city covered in snow where the felicity of life was not frozen. The moving display was magnetic! “Alice in Wonderland” would be the aptest way to describe me and my state of mind at that very moment.
Some pleasures are fragile and are short-lived… for I felt a pat on my back, breaking the hypnotic spell. As I turned my glance, there stood the better half, his eyes widened in wonderment about my shenanigan at that important hour and seeking the justification. I had none to offer. Before I knew it, he held my hand and started walking ahead again, to make sure that I won’t engage in such impromptu ‘caper’ any further, spoiling our opportunity to visit the apartment.
It had so happened that he had walked a few steps ahead before realising that I was not following him anymore. He, therefore, had to make a re-tour in search of me. The busy street had many amazing shops with great window displays, in spite of COVID restrictions and 2nd lockdown, as Christmas was around the corner and thus more than enough to distract me from our mission!
Remember the old, black and white photograph dating back to WW II? A soldier carrying the donkey on his shoulders while crossing the minefield, so as not to risk the lives of the platoon at the hands of the mindless wandering of the donkey? A lot of parallels here…guess?? No marks for guessing though, as to who is who here😊
You can watch the video of ‘City of Joy‘ here for you to enjoy your moment of ‘Alice in Wonderland’