February 10, 2005
Call the fireman,’’ yelps Philippe Baufre (30), mimicking himself responding to a nasty spice-surprise at lunch during his first visit to India.
That was last year, in Yellapur, Karnataka. He’d also been bolted into his room (‘‘perhaps that was because their daughters were sleeping outside; the man-woman relationship in this country is a different planet’’) but none of the surprises stopped Baufre from returning.
So the policeman with a wicked sense of humour is back in Mumbai for a slice of India with 25 other French nationals, all being hosted by members of the East West Cultural Association.
The members—most speak excellent French—put up their guests in their suburban one- or two-bedroom homes and try to make pav bhaji without green chillies.
The visitors are members of Perspectives Asiennes, the East West Association’s French counterpart. And many are veterans, quite familiar with squat-style Indian toilets and pickpockets.
This is Sabine Godart’s sixth time in Mumbai. And on Monday, it was a cheerful reunion for the 49-year-old and earlier host, Uday Deshpande, head of the Samarth Vyayam Mandir.
‘‘I’m no tourist,’’ Godart says. A lecturer in French literature for
26 years, she’s more interested in “how Indian families live’’. Other interests include Dhobi Ghat, ayurveda and mysticism—all part of mode de vie Indien or the Indian way of life.
And, while Baufre’s host TV actress Bijal Batavia (26) speaks fluent French, others have to improvise. ‘‘Sometimes, by the time I finish making signs, the conversation has moved on,’’ says Godart’s host Sheela Nimkar.
But they learn, as do their guests.
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