If you walk beside River Seine downstream, Eiffel Tower will say hello to you from your left. Patrick never liked to walk downstream, he always walked beside Seine upstream for the single reason that he wanted to see Eiffel Tower on his right. He had a suite booked for him all around the year at Hotel Plaza Athenee at 25th Avenue Montaigne, 08. Champs-Élysées. Whenever he looked out from his balcony, Eiffel Tower appeared to be standing on his right. He wasn’t superstitious, he didn’t believe in lucky charms, he was a simple man with simple reasons.
The simplest of reasons about his choice to walk Seine upstream and having a suite in Athenee was that he was a man who wanted to see Eiffel Tower on his right and in the world of men, right means correct and correct, sooner or later, simply means victory.
Patrick never visited church, but he prayed whenever he felt like praying. During those times, he would find an isolated place, sit down on his knees and say a simple prayer to his guiding angel. His prayer consisted of just two words, he would utter them in one second and stand up, as simple as that. His actions were simple, his reasons were simple, his ambitions were simple but that was today.
There was a time when Patrick had a habit of neglecting simple things and accepting complex and challenging ones. He would chose beer over water, strangers over friends, arguing over silence, talking over listening and life over death. That was the time when Patrick wanted to be a writer, and that too a successful one. He wanted to write impossible stories, romantic stories, enlightening stories, heart-breaking stories. All of it was very good, he made very good stories, but the problem was that he would never write them. Yet again, he made a wrong choice. He chose story telling over story writing. He would tell his stories to his friends, colleagues and relatives who would rejoice on his story telling. They would tell him that he should write this stuff down, he kept making promises that one day he will, but he never did. He always talked, never wrote.
His habit of talking began to earn him invitations to speak at public gatherings which he accepted cheerfully. He loved to speak. He spoke, and he began to lie. One needs to keep a crowd interested in what he is talking, otherwise people will never listen to him. He started telling experiences of friends as his own and weave his talks around someone else’s first hand experience. Years passed and he was a famous speaker now. People approached him to tell their own stories. He heard them, read their stories and told them as his own personal experience at his next speaking event. He was a rich man but his inner richness was losing its way every day. He was feeling disturbed. He had so many stories of other people that he did not what was going to be his story if he ever tried to tell one to anyone.
It happened at one of the conventions. He had no idea what he would talk about. He became nervous and felt the need of a guide. He looked around and found strangers. Some of them were occasionally looking at him and passing a smile, he smiled as a return gesture. It wasn’t making any sense to him. He realized he was telling stories of strangers to strangers. There was no connection between the speaker and the listener. They would listen to him, as they were listening to him from years, clap, admire their fortune that they had the chance to hear a great speaker live and then go on living their lives the same way they had been living for years.
That was the day, when he knelt down on his knees, closed his eyes, imagined an angel wearing white clothes looking at him and simply said two words, “Guide me”.
He felt a sudden relaxation, as if a load had been taken off from his back and he could stand straight without any difficulty. He was once again able to see people, all strangers, in their eyes and tell himself that they all had a story, but he was not alive to tell someone else’s story to someone else. His purpose in this life was to tell the stories which he really wanted to tell and tell them to only those who wanted to know it, who were destined to know it.
That was the day, when he got up after praying and felt happy. He decided that he will write and he will write whatever he feels right. He cancelled the speaking event right there because of the simple reason that he had nothing to talk about. He didn’t know anything to speak of. He hadn’t tried to learn anything. He had read stories of some strangers, and they were their experiences, they were not his experiences. He took the flight back home and disconnected himself from the world. He isolated himself from all acquaintances, his agent, his bankers, his chartered accountants, his so called friends. He sent an apologizing email for his unavailability to everybody who was expecting for his confirmation to their event. He cancelled all his future bookings. He wanted to unlearn what he had learnt over the years. He wanted to start afresh. He wanted to write, but before he could write he had to forget what he had read and what he had said. He had to rediscover himself.
After six months of isolation, he took a flight to Paris, checked in to his suite at Hotel Plaza Athenee, the amount for which was paid in advance for a full year’s booking. He had a shower, wore a casual outfit and went out for a walk. It was cold. He walked alongside Seine, upstream, and the river accompanied him silently. Eiffel Tower was at his right and it was right. He liked it that way. He smiled at the river and a respectively larger wave hit the stoned boundary in return. ‘Everything communicates in its own special language’ Patrick thought and shrugged his shoulders. He was happy that he was able to understand the river and that the river was also enjoying his company. He walked into a small lawn at the river bank and sat at an unoccupied chair. He looked around and saw some children playing. He wondered at the simplicity of the children. Children loved simple answers even to the most complex questions. He remembered he used to ask his parents about his birth. He asked “From where did I come?” and his father answered “There was a stork full of babies passing by our house and we chose you!”
Patrick laughed at the memory. Seeing him laughing alone, a small girl came to him and said, “Are you talking to a ghost?”
Patrick helped the girl to sit beside him and answered, “No, I was talking to myself.”
Little girl remained at ease hearing his answer and continued, “You know, I used to talk to myself but mother told me that it would make me mad so I stopped doing that. Your mother doesn’t tell you this?”
He smiled at her and said, “No. My mother only tells me the truth.”
“What is the truth?” she asked.
“The truth is that you should always do what you really want to do.”
“I want to eat an ice cream, the big vanilla one, with an almond on the top, I love its taste”, the girl talked very straightforwardly and it put Patrick in a joyous mood.
“An ice cream! Yes, let’s have an ice cream”, he said and got up from his chair.
At that moment, an old man came towards him and apologized for the trouble his grand-daughter was causing him. Patrick said it was fine and that he wanted to buy her an ice cream. The old man refused the offer very kindly, thanked Patrick and left with the little girl. It made Patrick sad. He was prepared to buy the little girl an ice cream, he hadn’t thought about the other incident that had just happened. He realized that preparations have to be two-fold. He didn’t come to the lawn to meet this little girl, but he met one, talked to her and was going to treat her before she was taken away by her guardian. He felt a sudden urge to pray, he knelt down and prayed.
He went to the Baskin Robbins’ ice cream parlour just outside the lawn, bought a big vanilla ice cream with an almond on the top and ate it in the chilling cold of Paris on his way back to the hotel. He had finished the ice cream long before he reached his suite. He was feeling happy that he had a personal experience and it was up to him whether to share it with the world or not. He knelt and prayed again. He was still smiling when he stood up. He turned on his laptop and began writing:
Once upon a time I was having a walk beside River Seine when I met her…