Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tour de France - III

The language immersion lessons at school were definitely helping. After school, Suji now plopped down in front of the TV, which Amma made sure to turn on in the half-hour before she returned from school, at the risk of dealing with a fit of sulks. She would toss her satchel and jacket in the hallway, rip off her shoes and dump them in an unceremonious pile, wash her hands at the kitchen sink and grab a tray of snacks with dazzling efficiency in her rush to get to the TV before the start of L’Île-aux-Enfants (Island of Children). It was her favorite show, starring a benevolent yellow orange dinosaur named Casimir, along with a host of friendly humans and his cousin Hippolyte. His favorite food was Gloubi-boulga ,a mouthwateringly disgusting concoction of mashed bananas, whipped chocolate, strawberry jam, strong mustard and sausages (anchovies and crème Chantilly optional). She was lost in an enchanted world till it was time to switch off the TV.

Children’s programming was extended through the afternoon specially on Wednesdays, when the lycées and écoles let out early. Suji would mournfully come home to the dregs of the afternoon’s Visiteurs du Mercredi ( Wednesday’s Visitors) telethon, lamenting her school’s schedule that gave her Saturday mornings off instead of Wednesday afternoons. Sometimes, she was lucky enough to catch the tail end of Barbapapa and Prince Noir. On a few occasions, she tried feigning sickness to be able to stay home to watch the whole show, always caught out by Amma’s eagle eye. There were a few times when she was genuinely indisposed, and finally got the chance to watch the complete Visiteurs du Mercredi between sniffles and sneezing bouts.

The obsession with television was getting out of hand, to the extent that Suji preferred to sit and watch the umpteenth rerun of Marschallin trilling her soprano in Der Rosenkavalier (“Unholy screeching”, Amma called it). She was fascinated by the trappings of a bygone world and time, the beehive wigs and powdered curls, grand costumes, covered with acres of lace, organza and satin. This was her preferred window on the world, making her unwilling to be dragged out into the sunlight to visit the Louvre museum, or Versailles or Chartres or the Eiffel tower. Wild horses (or dire threats of trashing the TV) were needed to pull her out into the sunlight to enjoy the real culture and architectural glories of Paris and her suburbs. Once out in the bright sunlight, her resistance evaporated and she threw herself into enjoying the outings, having forgotten her mini-tantrum at the exile from Couch-potato Land.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is utterly fascinating :) Hard to imagine that all this was decades ago! Reading this makes it feel as if it's happening right now!