Le Corbusier in My Backyard

by Guragam Singh (Maison de l’Inde)

This was not the first title that came to my mind when I started writing this article, in early
August, having just arrived at CiuP. At the time, all I had here was four bags and a friend—
also the first title I had in mind. ‘A Friend and Four Bags’ would definitely be a more socially
acceptable juxtaposition. To my mind at least. After all, a friend is a person and means a lot
more—or at least should—than do mere objects of natural or synthetic fibre and some metal
and plastic stitched together. A friend is one whom thoughts are ‘thunk’, conspiracies
hatched, confidences shared, and feelings understood. Perhaps, and most importantly, it
affects the sentiments of that person. But it is the emotion that counts and without further
ado, I move forward.

I heard of Cité U for the first time when I was in India, about to commence a Master’s degree
in France, and unable to find suitable accommodation. In response to my urgent requests for
lodging advice, someone recommended Cité U to me, and while I may have looked it up, I did
so fleetingly, for I felt it a little too far from my institute and dropped the idea of even thinking
of staying here. After all, I was moving to a totally new life and felt much comfortable at the
idea of staying close to my institute.

Fast forward eight months and voilà, I knew why it was highly recommended; my friend
offered to give me a tour, and I was mesmerised. It was everything I dreamed a university
campus was supposed to be—with cobblestoned streets, lots of nationalities represented,
footsteps of runners fast and slow, students lounging in the grounds, trekking with backpacks,
and of course, no vehicular traffic. It really seemed like a charming little global village.
But long before I could soak it all in, and think about anything else, the coronavirus epidemic
had me leave France and return to India. Yet, I did not lose the idea of Cité, and knew that
upon my return to France, I definitely had to apply for a place here. As luck would have it, I
was offered accommodation when I did, and one of the first things I noticed upon moving
here was that the building visible from my balcony strongly reminded me of home, perhaps
invoking in me what the Welsh may call hiraeth.

I had a hunch and a phone call later, it turned out to be right, for the building in question was
the Maison du Brésil, which has been designed by Le Corbusier, who is also the architect of
my hometown. On an added note, the eponymous Le Corbusier Centre is a stone’s throw
away from my home.

Given this feeling, I started a new life by making Cité a home too, having of course managed
to retain my sanity during the quatorzaine! For this, I thank the sprawling campus, where I
could take solitary promenades, and the kitchens at the Maison de l’Inde, where I could hone
my newly acquired culinary skills, and the people I have met since. This support system is
something that one can experience simply by being here—French practice, interview
preparation, stimulating conversation, or a cooked meal. Name it, and thy will be done!
With that in mind, I bid you adieu with the best of this season’s greetings. À plus !

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