French In The Land Of Les Ganges

"Je suis Candy " says the extremely pretty and enthu French girl standing in front of a class of around 20 no-hopers who've come to learn French... the guys being there exclusively for eye-Candy, the girls for arbit other reasons...

I'm part of the bunch of arbit reason girls...me n my friend-cum-roompartner-cum-classmate, who rushed to the Humanities Dept on the last possible date for enrolment and managed to wrangle two of the last few seats left in the course ("It'll be fun"... "I've always wanted to go to Paris"... "Huh??"). The next three months look promising, full of fun n frolic... till we get our first "assignment". Never thought that at the age of 20 I'd have to learn the alphabet all over, and not manage to learn it anyway. After aa-ing, bey-ing, cey-ing for sometime (with audio-visual aids, no less), I retire to the loo, exhausted and confused (is it pee or pey??). I return with gusto to pursue "Les Salutations" which starts us off with "Bonjour Monsieur/Madamoiselle" and similar greetings. After rolling and growling my r's and sounding as if I'm going to puke at any moment, I attract several unpleasant glares from the other girls in the comp centre, and decide I've done enough for the day. So ends my first encounter with la langue de Francais (Don't bother to check the grammar).

TWO WEEKS LATER:

Candy throws an amazing punch at us . "We shall have ze French examination, zest a test to see what you have learnt", all the while smiling brightly while we heave a collective groan. None of us have been able to decipher anything beyond Bonjour and Merci in the class, except a few enthu-cutlets who it seems are French-mistakenly-born-in-India. We have the test a few days later. It is best described as an unqualified disaster. However, I end up making a few more friends ( amongst them a sardar who claims he's a founding member of ISI-Intelligent Sardars of India... Is there such a thing??)

SOMETIME LATER:

By now French classes are more tiring than Maths classes. We look for ways to bunk classes, convincing each other that as Candy is still not here (its 5 minutes past the time), there is probably no class. And no sooner than the bolder ones pick up their bags to leave, Candy enters with a flurry of activity and energy, and we immediately try to look as if we've been dying for the class to start. We usually end up having arbit discussions in class, with the so-called wittier ones coming up with all sorts of words for Candy to translate (she dutifully copies down the words she doesn't understand and actually comes back with the French translation the next time). Us Mathsies use French to get out of Complex Analysis classes ("Very important... french certificate course... got to go... already late..."). French does have its uses.

One fine day I almost jump out of my skin when I hear a bright and chirpy "Bonjour Vinashi... Comment ca va?". Just in time, I jump out of the way of a cycle carrying none other than Candy. She insists on calling me Ms.Kanish or Vinashi. I manage to wave back weakly and say "Bonjour" and before I can remember the rest of it ("Crap, what was that other thingy??"), she glides by. I'm not sure how many more such shocks I can take. As it turns out later, she is capable of identifying me in the dark, from a distance of over 200 metres, on a rickshaw, on foot, in Civil Lines, out of Civil Lines ... in short anywhere, anytime. By the end of the semester, I am capable of responding decently to her enthusiastic greetings. How can one not respond to someone who is so genuinely nice and friendly and says hi even at the risk of running someone over with her cycle ??

TOWARDS THE END:

"Time for ze finale. Ze final French exam, with an oral test". You could hear a pin drop in the silence that follows, then the uproar of protestations ("No Ma'am"..."Oooh la la, use le Francais".... "Bonjour"..."That's Hello!!"). By this time, we have supposedly done verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, professions, directions... even eaten a French crepe or something that she's baked with the other batch ("There's an other batch that bakes crepes and cakes?? Why the hell aren't we in that one??"). We've sung French songs, read French poems (morose and depressing), played games and actually held conversations in pseudo-French which would get us killed in France. So Candy decides we're ready to hold our own now. The preparations for the exam are limited to us calling up each other for two days before the exam and exhorting each other to study ("I'm relying on you"..."you're better than me at this"..."Excuse-moi "..."See what I mean "). We are seated strategically, which means 5 of us are bunched together on two benches. We must look pretty desperate, coz the invigilator immediately places us apart. The exam goes off well for me. Turns out I did learn something in two months. I finish the written comfortably, mumble through the oral and part from Candy with a bright "Au Revoir".

Our gang meets up after the exam for a refreshing drink at Nesky. None of us wants to discuss what just happened, so we observe a few contemplative moments of silence and retrospection. We chuckle at our abominable pronounciations, reminisce about the early days of French, talk about Candy (especially the guys). And at the end of it all, we agree it was some ride- bumpy and jolting, but enjoyable; although we are thankful its finally over.

I finish the course with a smattering of French & a certificate to prove it, a bunch of good friends, an unforgettable association with the beautiful, charming and utterly lovable Candy, and a load of great memories.

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