NHSF (UK) National President
Ah Paris! If ever there was a city imprinted in our minds as that of beauty, romance and splendour, it would be that of Paris. It is a city where the worlds of technology and infrastructure do not dominate but instead one where art and culture are king. Paris only lies over the English Channel and yet I’d never visited – not until this weekend just gone.
A few months back, a mate of mine, Jai, called and said, “You know what I’ve never done? What would be awesome? Something we’ve never done before and something we’d remember forever? What if we drove to Paris?” Immediately, we connected with the idea and within days we’d booked our place on “Le Shuttle”, our stay at the Yves Robert youth hostel in Paris and we were ready to go! It was so spontaneous and ill-planned that we didn’t even know if we were crossing the channel via ferry or train. All we knew was that we were going to Paris!
Friday, 2nd October came fast and after work, I made my way to our starting point in Lewisham and the journey began. A train journey and a 4-hour road trip later, we arrived in Paris after probably one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever had. And that’s when it hit – Paris Syndrome. The concept of Paris as portrayed through the film industry was shattered within seconds. Our youth hostel, although rated highly online, was situated in “the hood” as described by the security guard upon arrival. Litter, the smell of urine and a dingy neighbourhood greeted us. With the intention of asking if we had to pay to park near here, the response to “Are we okay to park here?” was “Do you want to see your car in the morning?” Luckily, our car wasn’t “bling bling” so wouldn’t be the target of any theft but what a welcome!
Actually, the next day went quickly and Paris Syndrome had exaggerated our view of our surroundings. Paris is genuinely far more beautiful than London and certainly all it lives up to be if you visit the city centre. The Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dam were very impressive and we’d definitely recommend going to Paris, especially by car. However, on the last day, we were also keen to contribute to the area in which we’d stayed. Recognising that the area was in serious need of a clean-up, we went to the local shop, grabbed some black bin liners and some gloves, put on our Sewa Day t-shirts and got to work. Over the next 2 hours we picked up as much litter as we could. In the process, we also found a Ganesh Mandir and the local South Indian community! Whilst we only contributed a tiny amount to the area (the area is in need of serious rejuvenation), we came to realise that wherever you go, there will always be an opportunity to do Sewa. Whilst Sunday, 4th October was coincidentally Sewa Day, that shouldn’t have mattered; we should come to realise that #EveryDayisSewaDay.
Coming back after visiting one of the most famous cities in the world, seeing incredible monuments and sights including the Neuve Chapelle Indian Memorial on the way back home and having done a little to serve those that had accommodated us, I feel ready to tackle the world. It’s amazing what a little Sewa can do for your life.