“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads” – Anatole France.
To me, the path from my hostel in Paris to my university has always been, and is, a beautiful one. However, when I was new here, I did not yet know it.
When I came to Paris, I was not aware of blocks and streets, of gardens and monumental edifices, of the famous French cafes or renowned squares. Yet, I was lucky to have been given lodging near Port Royal. I had not yet started school, and I was always bad with directions – even the 2 minute walk from the CROUS office to my hostel was in dire need of GPS and the necessity to give myself confidence so as not to panic on my first day here. Anyhow, when I finally reached my hostel in the 2 minutes which seemed like an eternity in my panicked situation, I unpacked and got ready for the next day : when I would finally be starting university.
As I woke up the next morning, I lay in bed and thought about how I would manage to go to school. I was already terrified of the metro, even though there was an RER station right in front of me: I just could not understand all those colours and numbers and directions. So I got up, got dressed and ready to go. I remember having asked CROUS to give me a residence very near my university, as I had already gotten lost in the metro for a good 2 hours on my very first day here, so I thought, let me just search the route to the Sorbonne on my GPS. To my happiness, the university was a mere 20-minute walk from my hostel. I mustered the courage to walk and set out on my path, and what a wonderful path that would turn out to be.
My first few steps towards my university were slightly overwhelming. An amalgamation of emotions were running through me. Every step I took engulfed me with excitement and also a hint of angst. As I followed the trusted GPS, it was not long before I saw a beautiful garden right in front of me. It was the Jardin du Luxembourg. This beautiful garden, along with its palace was constructed in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France. Entering the garden, I was welcomed by a beautiful fountain where turtles were gushing water into the circular pond: The Fontaine de l’Observatoire. The walk ahead greeted me with flower beds of the most beautiful of colours, promenades that were covered on either side with enchanting humungous trees, stairs which led down to an alluring circular water basin, with proud ducks swimming lazily in the summer sun. Just behind this basin was the opulent Luxembourg Palace, and right next to it, the Fountain de Medici, which is so captivating, that it will instantly pull you back four centuries into the past, and make you wonder how it must have been during the time of the queen herself, who roamed around these exact grounds that you tread on today.
Exiting the garden, I came face to face with the Pantheon, a mausoleum that contains the remains of prominent French nationals who must have made some remarkable contributions to the sciences, arts or any other field to have had the honour to be buried or re-buried in the prestigious Pantheon.
As I continued my route, I realised that I was walking along the Quartier Latin of Paris, whose very name boasts prestige, erudition, culture and finesse. These qualities, that can be seen all around the 5th and 6th arrondissements of Paris, all converge in one place: the Sorbonne. The Place de la Sorbonne gives a tease of what the Sorbonne holds in its midst. In the Sorbonne Square, you can have a clear view of the Sorbonne Chapel, which was a private chapel, till the 19th century, of the University itself. On either side of this Chapel are entrances to the Sorbonne University. A few minutes further and here I was, right in front of the university that I would always be proud to say, that I was and am a part of.
Not many days after the commencement of my classes, one of my friends suggested we go and sit in the garden immediately behind Notre Dame to have lunch there. I accepted, not knowing that the iconic and sublime church was just a few minutes walking distance from our university.
And so, this was a beginning of an exciting new routine which would last many years, of walking down the Latin Quarter, strolling in between the beautiful flowers of the Luxembourg Gardens, passing by all the hustle and bustle of busy tourists flocking the Sorbonne Square to take pictures, taking classes at the Sorbonne, and crossing the Seine River and eating in the garden right beside the Notre Dame itself.
This has been the very path that I have been taking almost every single day to go to school, something that I enjoy very much, and that I wouldn’t want any other way. It has become, since a very long time now, my quotidian, my new normal, my routine, my absolute pleasure, and a wonderful delight!
Let me now express my emotions of a new beginning in verse:
The first few steps, they always quiver and shake
The steps towards newness, might even seem like a mistake
But in the journey of these steps, we must partake
If we are to achieve greatness, for our own benefit and sake
You might feel lonely, scared and frightened
But isn’t it in discomfort that our minds are broadened?
Vicissitudes of life can leave you sad and disheartened
But steps of change result in our paths being gardened
Loved ones may be far away, you may miss them a lot
The destination obscure, the journey long, but never think you cannot
Isn’t the here, the now, what you had longed for and thought?
So don’t give up, never ever think of yourself as an insignificant dot
Take a step forward, one backward and two forward again
Life’s like that, an adventure, an odyssey, lemons and sugarcane
It’s got ups and downs, peaks and valleys, yeah, it’s insane
But hold on to this rollercoaster, don’t let it give you a migraine
Taking a huge step, undertaking a giant task,
Stop worrying, let go, don’t put up a mask
Everyone faces difficulty and doubt, go ahead and ask
Just hold on, work through it, and in the end, relax and bask
So, step step step and step once more
Get up, stand up, don’t lay down on the floor
You’d do it, you’d get it, don’t you remember you had swore?
You’re skilled, you’re smart, you’ll certainly reach the shore.
The day will come when you’ll be on top of the world
No longer worried, or in your bed curled
You’ll have done it, achieved it, it’ll be all unfurled
Forged by difficulty, hardship and struggle, a phoenix you’d have emerged