If I had to think of a country which I’ve had more than a few girlfriends from, it would have to be none other than France, the land of fromage and slow sipped sauvignon. I think most of them kept me that long because of their accented English and love for using ANY event as an excuse to drink copious amounts of wine that only “strengthens the liver”.
On a Tuesday evening, I headed to the Bastille day celebrations hosted at a reputed hotel in Colaba with no expectations other than “I hope it has every single bottle of elite wine all at one place ready for one glass. My glass. Like the holy grail of grape squeezed booze. If I even SEE Bacardi at that bar, I will flip my shit.” I wish I could insert a voice note here so you could hear how peacefully I can say that above sentence while I still deliver like a midwife.
I wasn’t even sure if I had RSVP’d and in many French circles that means Gatecrashing. I considered turning around and ghost disappearing but after some pondering, I’m like fuck it. I’m going to wing this in the name of Roquefort and Rhine valley reds.
10 seconds into my determined walk to the entrance, a tall woman in a pale pink gown starts walking towards me in a straight path. I maintain seriously solid eye contact and let out a hint of a smile. Her cold stone expression tells me shit just got real. As we walk toward each other, the chandelier light hits her face in a way that her accented contours emerge and I realise the face is familiar but I’m still unsure.
We stop about a few inches away from each other. My eyes quickly dart to crucial details : hair in a bun, probably French or Serbian, large hoops in her ears, no wedding ring, small tattoo across her collar bone that says never done.
“You’re in my way” I say in hope of no squabble.
“I know. Have your RSVP’d for this event? Cause if not I might need to see you privately”
(To self: Fuck. Say you’re sorry for being late and that you RSVP’d a month ago and then hug her so she smells the Burberry cologne on your neck. Say something you idiot.)
“Uhmm I-I-I love your tattoo. The collar bone sure must have hurt. Never done?” I say in an attempt to wheedle my way through.
“Haha thanks. It really stung actually. I got it done when I was 17, so I forget it’s there sometimes.”
I look over her shoulder and see a few of my French girlfriends giggling at the entrance counter. That’s when look up to a left blank wall to decipher what’s happening. Then it hits me. This girl is a recent addition to the group of girls from Paris who are visiting. I was getting Punk’d by half drunk amateurs. I deserve a flying spin kick from any girl with sharp stilettos on. I call her out on her shit attempt and just stare at her accusingly.
“Haha. Shit. You caught me. In other news, we have a few mojitos waiting for you. Let’s go? And I wasn’t joking about seeing you privately.”
“That’s awesome. I like mojitos but I’m here for the wine. Private sessions? I just met you. Control yourself woman.” She slaps my neck. Never happened to me before. Her emerald ring leaves a mark on my adam's apple.
Thus we walk in linked. The place was well lit up much better than most events at the crystal ball section of the hotel. First up was a large board, with blue spotlights flashed across them, describing the significance of Bastille day and its genesis rooted in the beginning of the French revolution.
I ask some dude at the bar how much this day means to him. He replies with “It means as much to me as I mean to this day.”
I walk away confused. There must be a potent crack smoking section at this party somewhere. But where.
These ones like their drinks in two's.
The Bastille is a medieval fortress and prison in Paris. Many people in France associated it with the harsh rule of the Bourbon monarchy in the late 1700s. Thus when troops stormed over Bastille, constitutional monarchy was established. In fact the Eiffel tower in Paris is an important symbol of Bastille day.
Long story short, the French consulate in Mumbai organizes a yearly shindig to get their French folks to feel at home away from home with a regal spread of food and drink fit for a king. There were cold cuts and foei gras, cordon bleu and smoked salmon.
More cold cuts than a Siberian slaughterhouse.
My favourite was the magret de canard : the duck filet. They left no culinary stone unturned. We danced to French jazz and ate crème brule with honey dew aesthetically splattered across.
After a post dinner mojitos it’s time to leave for our after party as the clock ticks 1230. We gather our 12 French friends who are slurrier than I could imagine.
While walking out I pull the white rose out of a random girl’s hand and put it in my mouth and start moving her to merengue Banderas-esque steps. She’s loving the spontaneity. I’m super sober. After the dance, she takes the stem out of my mouth with her lips. I follow it up with:
“We’re going to this bar down the road. Come with kiddo”
“Wait wait wait..lemme finish my drink and put on my heels”
We all start walking and on our way out some dude with a tilted toque on his head says some angry french to me.
“He just told you that you're too sober for this place and your dancing is shit” says my French friend cum translator just before downing her 3-parts-vodka-1-part-lime mojito.
Well au revoir!
By Roshmin Mehandru