The year was 2007. Three young students from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) were headed to Paris to represent India at the L’Oreal Brandstorm marketing contest. I was one of the three, we were up against teams from 36 other countries. This was the second time L’Oreal India was even participating in the global finals. We worked hard for six months leading up to this fabulous moment. We didn’t place amongst the top winners of the contest, but we sure came away with precious moments and memories.
It was my first trip out of the country. And that too to Paris, in June. The most glorious time of the year to be there. I was so kicked on so many levels. I was there to represent my country, to make new friends, to show what a good brand management student I was and to experience a culture I had only read about in books. I was on a high, as were my team mates.
For the first time, I understood what it meant when people said diversity. Up until now, the only diversity I’d experienced was that of the geography of states and languages within India. Here, 37 countries brought people of all colours, hues and tones. Of different races, languages and cultures. Though the conclave lasted only three days, the memories are burnt in my mind’s eye forever.
I made a lot of friends, some of whom I’ve managed to stay in touch with. Some others have faded away as part of a refreshing experience. My mind was not ready to absorb everything I saw, heard and smelled in those 9 days in Paris. After the conclave got done, we moved out of the trendy hotel the company had put us up at to a hostel on the outskirts of the main city. Clichy was far from all the important sights, and it gave us the chance to explore the Paris metro. It was lovely to hear the recorded names of stations in French, which sounded nothing like what they looked!
We took in all the tourist destinations, spent a good hour browsing through the Shakespeare Book Co.’s collection and wandered through Montmartre’s alleys. This was where artists like Salvadore Dali, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh worked. I was delighted to simply walk down the same cobble-stoned roads as these artists must have ages ago, gazing upon the beautiful city that may have inspired their work. I almost wished I could have a tiny little flat and live here forever.
We had some wine on a side-walk cafe beside the Seine, walked along the river by day and cruised on it at night. The air was filled with art, music, French and style. We toured the Louvre, I ran to catch a glimpse of Van Gogh’s work at a museum dedicated to him. Unfortunately, it was closed, but just outside, I met local artists and saw the work of the master replicated beautifully by them. I almost walked away with a oil on canvas, but alas, my meager budget allowed me only art prints of the originals. Sigh!
Apart from enjoying the atmosphere of the romantic capital of the world, Paris was a crash course in different kinds of personal style. Things that were on the ramps were on the streets in Mumbai too. But I had yet to see such clever mixing of colours and textures. I was a student, I couldn’t afford much, but I did come away with two beautiful and surprising pullovers.Those and a couple of berets is all I bought to keep the spirit of personal style alive for me. Even if I wear them at home, they make me happy!
My one regret is that I didn’t possess enough skill or capability to make the most of my borrowed camera. A cousin had lent me his point-and-shoot and now I have thumbnail sized memories to look at whenever am nostalgic.
I created this collage above by using some clever filters and effects in Coreldraw. It is a beautiful reminder of a wonderful time only four summers ago. I’ve made another version of the same photograph, and if you’d like to check it, you can head over to my store on Society6.com.
N and I plan to return to the city someday, together. He’s done a trip with family a year after I was there, we didn’t even know each other. I can almost see us walking along the quaint sidewalks and soaking in the Paris air. Of course, he will drag me to music shops. But I will tug at his arm as we cross Valentino. Who knows, we may just be able to buy me something gorgeous in Valentino Red. One can dream.