AIS/AES Alumni Network


posted 2 January 2020

Written by Sunaina Suneja (AES Class of 1975)
email dated 31 December 2019

The year has been marked by interesting, fun travel experiences. Firstly, Abu Dhabi for a Khadi fashion show which went off very well. Visiting the new Louvre Museum there was another plus after the successful show.

Solo trips to Ahmedabad, to see the Indigo exhibition. On display were works of art and not craft but exceptionally beautiful although it wasn't clear whether all the artists had used natural - or synthetic - indigo or the color blue. Anyway, it was well worth the visit. And to finally experience the Calico Museum and its collection of textile and garments was a big treat - time there is deliberately kept limited but it didn't matter as the evening before I was regaled by new friend Vaidehi's museum-worthy personal collection of vintage garments, each one hand crafted and delectable, between my hands and close to my view!

The second to Varanasi, and because it was May and high summer, I got a room a the very lovely Ganga View Hotel. Such a charming boutique hotel right on Assi Ghat on the Ganges. Come evening and sitting on the Ghat, its stone steps still so darned hot , its natural to go with the flow. I went for morning boat rides and evening ones too as there was time and just a desire to 'BE' once the work of the day was done.

However, travelling in the peak summer months is not a good idea. Nor is the monsoon! Stay put till October!

Soon it was time to plan my trip to France! But it was not as enjoyable as it has been in the past. Not enough time and online planning and bookings are stressful (for me). Mistakes were made but oh well, they don't stop me from meeting friends and just reveling in being in France. The impetus for the trip was provided by my friends' daughter's decision to get married in a Chateau near Bordeaux, a destination wedding, and that too a destination I very much approved of. The last time I visited France was when their son got married in the Netherlands five years ago. Now I don't know when I will return there as
my friends only have the above two mentioned kids!

It was quite fabulous being in Bordeaux, and then wedding celebrations at the Chateau de la Ligne and walking through the grape vines, at their feet grow the bunches of grapes and experiencing the last day of the mechanical 'vendange', the harvest, observing the different processes of grape separation and the gamut of preparatory work. I asked so many questions, I was offered a taste of last year's wine which will be ready next year.

Being in France means speaking in French and I enjoyed that very much indeed!

Back in Bordeaux, which is also nice to walk in. I enjoyed walking on the riverfront and looking at the majestic buildings that overlook the mighty Garonne. History came alive when I learnt of the indigo and cotton trade from India.

I made a half day trip to the very beautiful St Emilion, the very heart of the region's wine production. It's a beautiful place nestled on a hill top from where you can see miles of grape vines.

It was a beautiful day, clear blue sky, a nice warm sun. I found a nice restaurant and of course had the local wine.

The last time I had seen wine producing areas when I travelled from the south of France to Lyon but those vines clung to mountains where the grape picking is manual, as I understand it.

My next destination was Montaubon, close to Toulouse, and my big reason to go there was to meet a dear friend I hadn't seen in years. It was a warm and happy reunion in her beautiful ancestral property with fig and apple trees, deer running through, a flock of 'brebis' in the next property entertained me in the morning. Morning hours spent in the good ol' outdoors. It was so relaxed and joyful. Anne had a full Sunday planned and she drove to a weekly market. I think it was the last of the sseason and it was fascinating to see a large variety of farm fresh meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits, some known many unknown. More sightseeing of an old fort perched on a hilltop in a medieval village followed by a concert in a monastery. It's remarkable how antiquity is preserved yet used in Europe. Events are planned to draw people in. throughout our drive, the road wound by the side of the River Aveyron.

To me, I felt like a participant in the program I sometimes watch on TV 5 in Delhi, Les Ailes et les Racines, where the anchors drive through the countryside exploring the rare and the fascinating in different parts of France. But I in fact lived it that day.

We spent a day in Toulouse and I saw its grandeur for myself. I had seen photographs but seeing it for myself was magical.

Onwards to Paris! And this time with no agenda except to walk, no museums I had decided beforehand but I did " allow" myself to go to the very grand Toulouse-Lautrec show. He's an artist I love and I have seen just a few works at the Musee d'Orsay so this was too good to be missed! And it was really good.

With a friend I passed by the Musee Rodin, but I didn't give in and enter. A decision is a decision! And why did I take the decision not to go to Museums this time? In NYC 5 years ago, I realized when I exited a Museum, that once inside, one forgets where one is so it was with that memory in mind, that for the first time in my travels I kept Museums at bay. Instead I went to the Marais four times, entering the area each time from a different direction and so seeing something new. In 2014 I stayed in the Marais but I didn't see as much of it as
I did this time.

I averaged three to five, maybe more hours of walking every day in paris. It was wonderful. Where does that energy come from in cities like Paris, NYC , London? I was staying in the 5th arrondissement, a 15 minute from the University lodgings I stayed in as a student in 1979. I realized while sitting on a bench opposite it with the Metro Port Royal between us, that my visit marked an anniversary, 40 years. The swiftness of passing time.

Unexpectedly, my cousins arrived in paris while I was there so it was fun to spend time with them but strange too as it seemed out of context from the places we normally meet in, all in India!

Another special part of my trip was to meet friends! It was so nice to meet them again, most of them after a gap of quite a few years. Thanks to all of them for making time for us to meet and share good moments together. For those I couldn't meet, it was only because they were not living in Paris and I couldn't travel to too many places.

A good vacation, it came to an end, but no regrets to return home just days before Diwali which also coincided this year with Raj Creations' (gasp!) 52 years! These kind of anniversaries must also be marked, again and again and again! Its no mean achievement for a stand-alone small business to still have a presence 52 years later.

Diwali and Raj Creations' 52nd were also the days when the AIS/AES alumni came avisiting! I so enjoyed meeting all of you and I thank you all for embracing me, some years junior!, into your fold! At the end of the day, it's not the years that count but the memories we have of a marvelous school experience.

In Yoga, the good news is I have learnt how to come down on my own in the Sirsasana and hope in 2020, I will learn to go up independently as well!

My work with khadi has taken on a small new dimension: I spin once a week at Gandhi Smriti, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. There are tourists from across the country and the globe who come visiting to pay homage to the Man of Peace and Non-Violence. Listen!

We are having a fabulous cold winter in Delhi and most people seem to be enjoying it. I know I am. I complained so much this past summer, it was just too hot and miserable, that I decided my quota of complaints was way over and I had to enjoy the winter days. Here's wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy and Joyous New Year. Stay well, stay safe, stay connected.

So Goodbye 2019 and Hello 2020, a new year and a new decade. May it usher in peace for the world. We need it.



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