Monday, October 12, 2015

Isabelle's Indian connection.

It is a story of 2004. It was my second year of graduation in JNU. I used to work as tour leader to cover my expenses. My job was to travel around several cities with French speaking Europeans, to take care of them and to act as French interpreter.

I was assigned a group of nine French citizens as they had to visit Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. As informed by the company staff, I had to meet them at Hotel Imperial situated at Jan path, New Delhi. Our Company representative introduced me to the group and left us to continue the tour. The group had four couples and one single lady, her name was Isabelle. As usual, I gave a small introduction and explained dos and don'ts before commencing the itinerary of eleven days.

we were indulging in small chitchat to make ourselves comfortable. While I was talking to her, She made a remark that the Hotel was 'magnifique'. Imperial Hotel is one of the most beautiful Hotels available in Delhi. I replied without much thought, 'pas comme vous', Not as beautiful as you.

This small remark of mine created a spark in her beautiful eyes. She blushed and thanked me for the compliment. It made me realize that an honest compliment can make a woman blush at any age. she was joyous for the day. We spent eleven days together and the group treated me like a boss. I would give them instructions and they would follow it verbatim. While we would travel from one city to another city, the journey was spent by singing songs and cracking jokes. By end of the trip, all those people who had never met before, we felt like a big family.

I was taking particular care of Isabelle as she was single in the group. As you may have noticed the stairs of Indian Monuments, how scary the steps are. She would climb each of those steps by holding my arms. Isabelle and I developed an emotional bonding. She would tell me how she had one son who had died and she was living a life of solitude. She would pour out stories of her life, she would even tell me about her love affairs when she was young. Her husband had died in World War II.

When we finished the tour and took flight back from Udaipur to Delhi, I was sitting next to Isabelle and out of affection, she was holding my arms and sleeping with her head resting on my shoulder. I could not move for the duration of the journey fearing that it may disturb her sleep.

when we reached Delhi Airport, the group had one day to relax before taking flight to Lyon. the first thing that she did was to make a phone call to the travel company and she requested them for my presence till their Airport departure. Isabelle was not a woman who would take No as an answer. She had already called our Swiss Travel agent for making the arrangement.

I spent full day with her, sitting next to the swimming pool at Imperial Hotel. We talked about random subjects. In the evening, I took the group for dinner at Chor-Bizarre restaurant in Old Delhi which is famous for its Kashmiri cuisine. Post dinner, I dropped them at the airport. She hugged me before entering the gates and showered me with many sweet kisses on my face. I was overwhelmed and we cried for a small moment. It felt like I was in arms of my grand mother I had no memory of.

They reached Lyon next day. She emailed me about her safe arrival. we remained in touch for almost two years through emails. She often told me to come to France to meet her as she could not travel anymore and I would give excuses about my incomplete studies. I received her last email in December 2006. I wrote two different mails to wish her for Christmas and New Year but I did not get any reply. I believe she forgot the password of her email id due to her old age.

This is the first part of the series of stories under hashtag #NavigatorStories.

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