Friday, March 08, 2013

Of Space, Sleep and Shade

University of Paris was divided into 13 autonomous institutes in 1971, and I am currently working in one of them. We are outside the Paris city boundary (but part of Île-de-France). I recently got a chance to see one of the other 12 universities. I have been there before but haven't been there recently and my belief just got reaffirmed that it's always good to work in a place outside the city. If inside, the least they could do is to give the buildings and people some breathing space with boulevards, cycle tracks and jogging alleys and make it greener by having patches of woody areas throughout. UPMC, the university I visited today is at best a concrete jungle. It's one of the best in Europe but it sucks to look at. The only good thing about UPMC is that it is built on the banks of the beautiful Seine river (with its dirty bottle-green coloured water). Thanked my luck that I didn't decide to come to UPMC.

The common thread in all the places I lived, worked and enjoyed has been that they were cushioned in their respective bubbles.. Though I did not decide on the places based on their landscaping, I enjoyed being there because they were spacious, wide, green and full of unadulterated oxygen. The Farm, Danagram, Auroville, IISc, and now Orsay and Maison, they are all places very near to civilisation but detached and buffered. That's what is endearing.
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It's good to be in Paris and travel outside for work because there's no hustle-bustle of the city, metros are always empty coz you are travelling in the direction opposite to the swarm, and you come back in the evening to the dazzling array of activities placed before you on a platter. It's another thing that am shit tired by the time the evening arrives and don't feel like doing anything but sleep in my warm room, but I have devised an idea that works surprisingly well. I have to spend 30 minutes in the metro and sometimes more if there's snow. As soon as I embark, I find a seat and start my 30-minute long nap. It's not sound and deep but energises me nevertheless.
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Last few days have been extraordinarily sunny and it was disappointing. If I needed sun, I would be in India. Bring on the cold! My moods in the morning depend on whether I open my eyes to direct sun rays or diffracted light. It never really pours here which is good coz one can leisurely walk around even during rains. Today while commuting, I kept observing the rooftops for some reason. They reminded me of some Indian houses, like our old house in Gopuri. We had windows in the roof for the skylight to come in. Of course, in summers we have too much sun in Wardha so one needs to have an exact reverse system. We first had a simple curtains-drawn and curtains-withdrawn system, but then my techno-genius dad came up with a wooden trapdoor system which was augmented just below the roof window, and could slide up and down over a wooden plate, effectively covering or uncovering the light outside. It was obviously up in the roof, so we would use a long bamboo to slide the trapdoor. It was a daily ritual which I had forgotten about, and these french roofs brought back the memory.

On a tangent, many houses in these parts are un-plastered and look beautiful because of the exposed walls that disclose the stones they were built with in a very aesthetic way. I have been a fan of the cobblestone streets of Europe (who isn't?). A house wall thus displayed looks just like extensions of the streets, bringing to mind 3-D arenas that Cobb and Ariadne walk (climb?) on, but this is way more beautiful.


4 comments:

Rathchakra said...

You do a good job of invoking imagery with words!

A said...

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Why did you need bamboo and ladder when you and akash were at home? :-p

BM

A said...

:) haha