An evening in Paris (1/3): Prologue

Inflation affects us all in different ways. Add to it the quintessential Indian psyche of a Savers’ Economy and the Rupee-Euro exchange rate, and you have three Indian backpackers on the streets of Paris, in their quest for covering what the Lonely Planet publishers befittingly term ‘Europe on a Shoestring’.

Flashback. Almost two months of living off sandwiches (tasteless ones at that in the case of the poor veggie) that cost as much as a candle-lit dinner for two would cost back home, we decided we had had it. So for the weekend in Paris, we decided to not book hostel rooms which typically provide us shelter on our trips. Pleased with ourselves at the prospect of saving a thousand or two Indian bucks, we boarded the overnight train to Paris (another tactic we use to avoid hostels: overnight journeys).
A Bengali friend loves Paris. The guys like to joke that he likes it so much since it is just like Calcutta. Nothing ever works. Delayed trains are the city’s hallmark. And the day we landed was, for some mysterious reason, decided upon as the day they will keep all tourist information counters shut. The only missing link was, we concluded, a huge billboard in the middle of the city reading ‘Cholbe Na’ (Sorry, I wouldn’t want to ruin the ingenuity of that by adding a translation!).
Thankfully we laid our hands on a city map and, with the blessings of Raj’s Lonely Planet, proceeded for a Paris-for-Dummies tour. A day of walking and underground travel ensued. Now, Calcutta is one of the few Indian capitals I have not visited, but I can safely vouch that the ripped cushions of the underground seats and the vandalism of the station walls were movingly reminiscent of my motherland. By nightfall we found ourselves standing under the mighty Eiffel Tower, complete in its resplendent neon-lit glory. But before we proceeded for what promised to be another clickety-click session of extravagant photography, it seemed I was destined to stumble upon another in the string of superbly ingenious and incredibly superfluous theories I formulate every time I find myself with nothing better to do.

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