May 28: Someone Else’s Nightmare & French Open Day 1
I love hostels.
There’s more life in them than hotels. And they are less expensive than the comfort of AirBnbs.
But they come with their own set of disadvantages, which is not really surprising when you have to share your usually teeny-weeny room with a set of strangers.
Sleep becomes a function of many more factors than is usually the case.
Like the creaking bunk-beds.
Odours you don’t like.
Or your roommates’ potential late-night entry into the room.
Their snoring habits.
Or what you think are snores but really turn out to be a scared roommate with a tendency to scream during nightmares.
I am not making the last one up. That’s exactly how I lost my sleep.
It must have been halfway into my sleep when I thought I was awaken by some snoring. No big deal I tell myself.
The snoring grows louder. I wonder to myself if I am dreaming. Sometimes it’s tough to discern between reality and one’s own dreams.
More so when the thing you are witnessing borders on the bizarre. Because by now, I am quite sure that loud snore has turned into a scared howl.
What’s happening, I wonder. Also wonder if I should open my eyes or hope the noise, whatever it is, passes away like it is indeed a dream.
But as it’s growing louder, another worry engulfs my sleepy psyche. What if it’s a fire alarm? Should I run? Make a dash for the door sooner than later.
I console myself by saying I am only on the first floor. At worse, I will need to jump out of the window, and might even escape with a few scratches.
All of those thoughts get thrown out of that same window when it just becomes too difficult to focus on sleep. It’s that point when sleep is broken and the blur between reality and otherwise segregates.
I wake up. No fire. No alarms. (thank god).
It’s one of my three roommates who’s howling. Probably because he’s scared of something. Probably because he loves waking roomies up.
Probably because he’s a werewolf. (played that game, One Night Ultimate Werewolf? No? Should Try! But I digress)
Jokes aside, by the time I have recovered enough to understand what’s happening, another roommate has also woken up and is trying to ask him what’s wrong. Turns out, our man has had a horrible nightmare.
He returns back to his sleep. After having woken the entire neighbourhood up. They should have separate hostels for sleep-talkers & snorers. Bah.
The rest of the night passes off without an event. It also passes off without sleep.
Tired, weary and half-sleepless, but it’s that day of the Paris trip when I get to head to the Roland-Garros for the French Open.
The order of play for the day doesn’t have a great list of matches, but then that’s always a part of the deal when you want cheap tickets early.
It’s the atmosphere that I want to soak in. Last year I was at the Flushing Meadows and had managed to catch a Kei Nishikori match and a Sania Mirza encounter.
This French Open, I have booked tickets for two separate days in the hope I would get to watch a bigger, better player. Not today.
But the atmosphere is extraordinary. Patrons brave heat – or probably enjoy it – to watch the opening day.
Queues outside courts aren’t as long as those outside ice-cream shops. Häagen-Dazs makes a killing.
I soak in everything. Exorbitantly-priced water, hot weather & angry washroom cleaners, all of which adds to my experience.
Earlier, my struggles with getting to Roland-Garros are exacerbated by my lack of understanding of the language but more so because Google Maps sucks at knowing which train line would be shut for the day.
Metro Line 4.
The lady at the ticket counter is very helpful but only after she takes about an eternity to understand my pronunciation of Roland-Garros. I am torn between showing her my underwhelming tennis serve and typing out my destination on my mobile phone to explain my destination.
I opt for the latter. And she is able to explain an alternative route.
They say, the first time you err it’s an honest mistake. When you repeat it, it’s your stupidity.
I get off at a station which would take me to Metro Line 4 in order to return back to my hostel & that’s when I realise my blunder.
Directionally known to be well-challenged, I still manage to figure a way out of the predicament without paying an extra cent and that’s my proud, eureka moment of the day.
Two of my roommates have changed by the time I am back. One is Chilean, the other an Indian who has come to the city to watch the French Open.
Rafael Nadal fan. Come to the right tournament for sure.
Opt for a quick dinner with this new Indian roommate and in a matter of 1 hour, we are accosted by four strangers – asking for direction, water, food, money and sale of flowers or a combination of more than one of the aforementioned.
One of those strangers is a Punjabi-speaking Indian who thrusts his passport into my face to prove his point as well. What point? I don’t quite remember but he sure was trying to prove something.
A city of love, Paris, but sometimes I could do without so much of it.
Especially from strangers.
Especially when it’s not love.
After those approaches, I hope I am not the one screaming in fear tonight.
All the best, roomies.