If human eyes really are the window to a person’s soul, there is this one guy, a Buskar in Paris, who walks around with an abyss inside. He blows bubbles on the street, for children to play with. Quite a cheerful proposition, that. But his eyes!
As of October 2017, there are about 7.6 Billion people on this planet. And you are just one of them. As am I. There are almost 7.6 billion minus 1 life-stories that you and I will never know completely. Apart from our small circle, most others will never hear of us, or even know of our existence. Yet, we all live, like infinite parallel universes, alongside each other, passing strangers in a train or on a street. Our thoughts are unheard by others. Just as we can never know what they are thinking. But sometimes, you look up, see a stranger, and in that moment, they become a part of your story. It’s an annoying habit, but I get drawn to people’s eyes. That, to me, is where their story spills over.
A Fleeting Encounter In Paris
It was already evening when we got to Hotel de Ville in Paris. It’s this magnificent building that is the location for the municipality of Paris since 1357. France is cold in March, and it can be too much for two people from Mumbai. We were covered in layers, and still the cold could get to us. Walking down the road, M spotted a beautiful carousel and we stopped to take a few pictures.
We heard the children before we saw the man. A bunch of kids running around, laughing, chasing bubbles. Doing stuff you see little humans doing. And then I saw him. Dressed for the weather, with a hooded jacket, he was making large bubbles, with children running around, trying to break one. I took some mandatory pictures, and we moved on ahead. It was later that evening, when I was going through the day’s photographs that I got a closer look at the man.
As children ran around, playing with the magical, beautiful bubbles, there he stood, with large soap-water soaked strings, bringing them together and then drawing them apart, skillfully. With the saddest eyes I had seen. We had left a small tip back in the evening. But now, how I wished we could hear his story. Those melancholic eyes and that poker face stayed with me, and I have gone through these pictures over and over again, asking him in my mind, “What’s your story, Bubbles Guy?”
An Island Within Us All
I once read somewhere that we all carry an island inside us, isolated inside our heads, impenetrable in our thoughts. The walls around us are of our own making. We can build them up as high as we want them to be. Or as flimsy as we desire. This man was standing right there, amidst so many people, a fortress of solitude.
Maybe I get affected too much by humanity. But I am a story teller before I am anyone else. And stories call out to me. Most of all, the untold ones. I don’t know when, if ever, I will go back the France. Even if I do, where will this man be. And his story, never heard by me will haunt me for years. That’s why we travel. So we can get a glimpse into other people’s islands. Look beyond their walls, and come back with memories not our own, and feelings previously alien to us. So that we can sometimes come back with pictures of a brooding stranger whose eyes remain with you, long after their brief appearance in your life-story is over.