french.jpg I had always taken great pride in telling people that I was planning to pursue a language. French, I would say, with an air of superiority. Yes, I am going taking French lessons, from Alliance Francaise. I had done some French in school, and had always considered myself to be one of the elite few who could roll my R’s just the way the French do. My goodbye’s were never simply “bye’s” but always “au revoir’s” and I would boastfully use whatever little French I knew whenever I got a chance to.

In college I decided to take French lessons along with a friend of mine, and we made our way to Alliance Francaise de Delhi. On the first day of admission we leisurely went there at one o’ clock in the afternoon. We were quite taken aback when we saw more than 300 odd people sitting there and waiting in line to enroll for French classes. On enquiring further we found out that 800 forms had already been given out that day, and they would start giving out forms again only the next morning at 9, we were advised to come at 8.45 and make the queue! WHY WOULD SO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO LEARN FRENCH? “C’est tres bizarre!”, I said to myself.

All we had expected was a small group of “arty” people with similar backgrounds like ours. There were all sorts of people there… from adolescents to people in their 20’s and even some middle-aged men and women. Some had been coming to Alliance for more than 2-3 years already, there were some students from JNU and DU pursuing French Hons. , people who were looking for a stable career in French , a 40-year old travel agent who suddenly felt the need to learn French, and of course the ‘few’ of us who just wanted to learn French for no specific reason.

There was this group of boys who looked slightly out of place to me. I nudged my friend, “ What are they doing here?”, I asked with a quizzical expression. They seemed to be having a very animated conversation about something laughing and cracking jokes but we couldn’t quite comprehend what they were talking about. We decided to eavesdrop a little and as we moved closer we realized that they were having a full blown conversation in perfectly fluent French! They were jabbering away without a hint of apprehension. I only managed to grab a few words here and there. However condescending I may sound, I never even expected that particular group to speak a word of English.

So much for all my silly airs and so much for stereotyping people! My inflated ego burst with a loud pop and strangely I did not feel bad about it. I could only laugh at my ignorance and contemplated on why I attached ‘fixed attributes’ to certain people. I had learnt my lesson about how one should never pass judgments about people. And to all the people I have always categorized into stereotypical “types”, je suis tres tres desole!

Vatsala Tibrewal