We reached Musee Du Louvre at 4.30pm after having spent the whole morning at the Chateau de Versailles. Jayant was not interested in going in. For me though, Louvre was The Destination!!! So we decided that while he and Ridi took a stroll in the Park outside, I would go in to see the famed treasures of the Louvre. Done deal. He gave me 11 Euros for my entry ticket to the Musee, another 4 Euros just in case I needed them and gave me 1 hour for my tour. And with this, we bade each other ‘Have a good time’..
By the time I reached the security gates, it was almost 4.45. As I was about to put my purse into the x-ray belt, the lady standing guard there told me it wouldn’t be necessary as it was almost time for the museum to close. Thunder struck!!! I looked at her speechless. Sensing my shock, she asked me to go to the office counter and check. I ran. But the officers standing there told me the same thing. The museum was closing in 5 minutes and no tickets were being issued anymore. My jaws hit the floor. My face fell. I stammered, “But how can I leave Paris without a tour of Louvre?”. The guy asked me to come back the next day. “No”, I said, “I am leaving for Lyon early morning tomorrow. We won’t be back in Paris again”. Fathoming my agony, he looked around for what he called ‘cancelled tickets’. He didn’t find any. He probably saw my eyes well up. Asked me to follow him and took me towards the main entry to the museum, hurriedly explained to the guards my situation. The guards nodded and replied in French. The guy then asked me to go in, handed me the museum’s map and told me that I had time only for Monalisa. I nodded gratefully. He then directed me to come out from the other side of the room that housed Monalisa so that I could see the ‘Winged Victory’ as well. ‘Venus’ and the other treasures were out of question. I nodded gratefully, dug into my pockets, fished out the 15 euros I had with me and offered him the money. He raised both his hands and smiled, ‘No’ and pointing to the museum, said ‘Run’. I cried ‘Merci Boku’ and meant it!!! And ran.
The map marked C is where Monalisa was. I reached for the lift and ran towards C. Upon entering the room, I looked in front of me – a huge paining but not Monalisa. To my right was another huge painting, to my left, another. I looked at the wall behind me. There was a small painting there. I ran out the other side and asked the guards, “Where is She?”. They pointed me back to the room. I go back. Lo and behold!!! The painting that was the smallest was the famous lady!!! I had missed noticing the barricade. There she was smiling, probably at the drama I went through to see her..:-). Since it was closing time, there were just about 4-5 of us in the room. I looked at her trying to assess what made her so famous. Then looked at the credits – Leonardo Da Vinci Year. This is real, I almost pinched myself.
A Japanese broke my reverie. Requested me to click his photo with the Lady. I took a very good one with his Sony. And then I gave him my camera. He clicked mine and said ‘Beautiful’. Of course, the compliment was for the lady behind me, but I was beaming.
Lingered there a little longer to look at Her more minutely, and then reminded of the impending closure, went to the other paintings. Bang opposite was Veronese’s Wedding of Cana — the largest painting in Louvre. Soon the guards came in to guide us out. The guards there form a horizontal line…so as to ‘sweep’ every visitor out. I remembered the officer’s advice, “Go out from the other side”. I did…and kept walking till I came to the stairs that led me down. There in the center was the ‘Winged Victory’. Oh how exquisite and how mysterious. It felt real. Stood admiring it, till I noticed the line of the guards fast approaching. Clicked a few pictures and walked down. There were a lot more sculptors beyond the stairs, but could not stop to read about them. The guards were by now closing in.
And thus I saw Louvre. Briefly. Promised myself, “If ever I come back to Paris someday, I will come to Louvre and see it in full”. What a keeper of history, of civilization. I bow.