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go now I am not averse to parties. But I imagined it was going to be the same old thing. Drinking, partying, breaking the so-called ice. To be honest, I lean a trifle towards the category of party poopers, mavericks and the like. Not because I am a teetotaler. Or a vegetarian. Or the introvert kind. (Although I am all the above) But because I think I am not the kind of hammer that can easily break the proverbial ice.
But then, this was a get-together organized by the international student association of the b-school in France that I was attending and I didn’t want to be an outlier. After all, isn’t the point of an exchange program, interaction and overlapping of culture?
thesis master security Admission Essay Custom Writing Of University nursing admission essay online essay outline I got to the bar and saw a lot of jackets lying in a heap on a corner table. As people entered, they would take their coats off and voila! they were all set for the party. I though was hesitant about taking off my jacket, because
- The wind and the cold were still in my bones and I needed all the warmth I could get.
- I had worn so many layers that my pullover was barely a concealment of the bulge that I had accumulated. (Yeah, I wear a lot of clothes.)
- I wanted people to keep thinking that this was how I looked and not discover that I had a factory of sweaters inside my coat.
“More than 28 states, yes.”
“3 languages- English, Hindi and a regional language, which sometimes happens to be our mother tongue.”
“New Delhi. The capital, yes.”
To every new person, these details were spoken and re-spoken.
And in turn, I heard things like-
“I have been to Mambaaai once.” Nice.
“I want to see the Taj Mahaaal.” Good luck.
“India is veeeery hot, right?” Predictably, yes.
“In Mexico too, it touches 45 degrees.” Must rethink my plan of visiting Mexico.
“I like your nose ring.” Aah, a compliment!
For some reason, people of the same nationality were not interacting excessively with each other. Perhaps talking to someone from the same country at an international get-together like this was too mainstream. Unless a table consisted of at least five to six nations together trying hard to decipher what the other was trying to say, it wasn’t a done deal. Meanwhile, the radius of our connections kept expanding. From Iceland to the island of Malta, we had covered quite a good base. And we kept going farther.
“Excuse me,” I asked the bartender. “I had ordered a punch quite some time back…”
“Give me a moment, mademoiselle,” he said with great curtsy.
And the bar tender brought two bottles together with a lot of finesse, clinking them, hauling them up in the air and then pouring their contents together into what I then realized was my glass. He then sliced a lemon in half with a dexterity characteristic of someone skilled in legerdemain. Another bottle went flying up in the air and landed with utter softness into the young man’s hands after which he poured the juice prettily out into the glass. I was feasting my eyes on the elaborate way he prepared my ‘drink’. The man was unstoppable. No action remained ordinary that night. He opened the refrigerator with a bang and out came two more…no three bottles. Out of which he needed one, so the rest of the two had to go back in. Probably to compensate for this out-of-sync action that seemed to mar his otherwise flawless performance, he tried to close the door of the fridge with another wave. It was a sleek move. Or almost. Because just then a bottle escaped from his hands and broke. I looked into my phone, so that he wouldn’t feel too bad that his show had been spoiled. But the guy was in his element. Swatting the broken bottle aside, he picked up another one and continued with his expert moves, finally getting me my drink, sliding my glass towards me with a final flourish.
“Merci!” was the word that came out of me. Probably the first word in French that I had uttered.
The music had picked up and finally I was getting into the mood. If there was something I looked forward to in a party, it was dance. I love to groove.
Aah music. If music be the food of love, let it play on…
Just when things were getting interesting, the music stopped and someone clinked glasses to attract attention.
“We will now be heading to ABC Club for the most happening night of the month at the most happening place in Strasbourg!”
Cheers greeted the announcement.
“Here, your jacket,” K., my fellow IIFTian, handed me my black jacket from the table. “Let’s go.”
“Err…I don’t feel like going. I guess I will just head home.”
Actually, the trams would ply till 12:30 am and it was 12 already. That meant once you are in the club, you are in till 5 am i.e. the time when the buses start plying. Imprisoned in Hotel California till then. No wonder they timed the parties like that. ‘11 pm to 5 am. Party all night.’
“You sure?” K. asked, his eyebrows raised.
“Yeah yeah.” I assured him. “See you later.”
I dawdled a bit at the entrance, looking up the Google maps. I wasn’t really well-versed with the roadways and my sense of direction wasn’t awesome. So, I needed to really memorize the way before setting out.
“Should’ve bought the sim today,” I cursed myself aloud.
“Hey, what’s up? You coming, right?”
I turned to find a blond-haired beautiful girl staring at me.
“Err no…” I racked my brain for the name. Was it Rexine, Paula, Maria or Catherine? I had met too many people today. And memory had never been my strong point.
“Actually, I am not sure I will stay that long at the party.” I decided to take the safe route and not say any name. “And the trams stop at 12:30. So, I better make a move.”
“You are right, actually. Even I will go soon. But why not check out the place for like 10 minutes? We could leave after. The club is just a few minutes from here, after all.”
I was in no mood to check out any place. All I wanted was to get to the hostel and take a hot shower…
“I want to go as well. And you shouldn’t go alone.”
I almost laughed when she said that.
“Hey, I am okay. I know the way. It’s just that I don’t have internet right now. Yet to buy a sim…”
“Oh I have it! And don’t you set off like that in the dead of the night! We will go together. Let’s just check the place out once.”
So, I get a bit awkward when people push me and I thought I don’t have the Maps with me. Going with her seemed logical. And so, I waited.
10 minutes. 15 minutes. The crowd outside didn’t seem to budge. Some were drifting towards the new club. While others were stuck in the original bar.
I checked the time again. 12:18.
“I think we should leave.”
It was her.
“They show no signs of going,” she continued. “Another half an hour at least, I should say.”
Well, I was set to go back, anyway.
“All right, let’s go.”
She wrapped her arm in mine and we set off.
We obeyed the maps on her phone and kept walking, the cold wind splashing our faces like waves of water. In between conversations, I found out her name. It was Sabrina from Germany. She would be staying in Strasbourg for a year.
As I stared at the beautiful houses with the river flowing lustily beneath them, I realized who this girl reminded me of. She reminded me of those bosom girl friends of mine who woke me up for class back in India, and took me along to the mess for meals.
We walked towards the Vauban dam, the Ill river shimmering like a black gem.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she whispered.
“Mesmerizing,” I returned and quickly got out my phone to click a snap.
“It looks amazing in daylight,” she said.
We made our way through the alleyways, and through the beautiful plaza with the imposing Cathedral of Notre Dame, chirpy and packed during the day but quiet and serene in the night. Walking and chatting about our lives back in our home countries, we came on to a tram station.
Perhaps at this point of time, back home, IIFT will be as still as the river Ill in the canals of Strasbourg. I was miles away from the people I had known all my life. But then, it occurred to me that I knew these people too. Like this girl, who was telling me that it wasn’t safe to walk alone in the night. Just like my roommate back home would have said to me perhaps. Or like the Argentinian guy, who asked me if kissing cheeks was a part of greeting back in India. Or like the Greek guy who was wondering about political inclinations and lauding my English. Or like the professor in the management school of Strasbourg who handed out case studies to us the day she appeared in class. You see, people are inherently all the same. Pretty basic realization, I know. But tear away the façade, the outer paraphernalia, the elaborate exterior and you are left with the bare essentials.
“Aah, here we are.” We had reached our hostel.
We kissed each other goodnight and went to our respective rooms.
I changed into my night clothes, and stared from my window at the church covered in snow. The snow has just begun, I thought, and fell asleep, dreaming of snowmen.
Another day in Europe had come to a close.
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The above account is a work of fiction based on real life characters and happenings in and around IIFT (or the globe, for that matter).