Memories of commuting with my mother on the Paris Metro came rushing to me when I waited for my turn to squeeze through the turnstile with patience. In the 1960s, unable to afford the luxury of a car, my other and I did many trips on the metro at the peak hour to get to our destinations. At that curious age, everything around me war worth exploring. I stared at the women attired in dark dull clothes with curiosity and wondered what stopped them from choosing colorful outfits. On many an occasion, I had caught my mother watching me and suppressing a smile just when I looked at her, conscious of her steady gaze. One day my mother satisfied my curiosity explaining that the women, our fellow commuters in dull clothes, were widows who had lost their husbands and children to war and that they wore such clothes to remember them. Nothing much has changed since then except who wore not only colorful but fashionable clothes. It was customary to alight from the train at that specific stop to make my way to the International University of Paris. Charles De Gaulle’s new France was very much intact. Paris was clean with its painted new facades, underground parking lots, stylish pedestrians, signs of modernization such as graffiti, billboards, and British and American dominating influence, reminding the public of the Golden Age.
On my regular route, the area proximal to the university, where the café culture still kept its popularity, had milling crowds of students from the dorm rooms and the low-cost accommodations. It was hard not to succumb to the temptations of the aroma of fresh coffee, sandwiches and croissants just out of the oven and join the sea of bright, intelligent faces buried in the International Herald Tribune. The new trends of music played in and around the cafes played its part in luring customers to those pull-ins. Art in all forms continued to flourish with the censorship relaxing and books and films becoming more and more explicit that it sparked an interest in me fueling my fervid aspirations to pursue art history for my major. A last year student, I had two things to look forward to: the successful completion of my degree and my relationship with Chandra Datta Waadiyar. Fated to meet him in my first year would be a hyperbolic statement. The attraction was too strong to deny and despite the impossibility of a future together., owing to his royal lineage and the difference in our races, we entered the threshold of indefinite romance.
Thrown together to work on an art project, the relationship blossomed into a passionate affair within no time. What I found captivating about Prince Chandra Datta more than his masculine physique was his soul-searching gaze. Clad in fashionable clothes, despite his tanned complexion and Indian phenotype, most women considered him attractive and vied for his attention. His Peugeot 604 was an unfamiliar sight at the university, and a memory I have cherished to this date is the drives in the expensive vehicle of the day. Not to say I did not have my share of admirers in those days. Compliments about my slender, tall, curvaceous figure with dark wavy hair and doe shaped eyes had come my way innumerable times from ardent admirers. A nameless emotion related to possessiveness made me loath Chandra’s worshippers with such vehemence. Though used to being waited upon by many attendants, Chandra, as I preferred to address him, was affectionate and attentive. There were a few occasions when I received the royal treatment, and the restaurant weekend nights was one of those when I became a princess.
The mesmerising atmosphere of Les Halles with trendy youth drowning in the violin music, wine and shots, swaying to the dance beats at the exclusive theme parties thrown for couples on weekends and university students on student nights was irresistible to us. Between lectures, art projects, excursions, assignments, exams and passionate lovemaking, our relationship grew so much that I couldn’t think about a life without each other. Who can alter Fate’s devious schemes? One could not emphasise the vulnerability of mortals more.