Iris’s Indo-French Manjadi

When I look back to my life today, it feels I don’t know where it actually started. I’m only 18, I’m still a girl, and its only a life.

I made my first step to India when I was 4 years old. At that time, I was living alone with my mother, and we were here for a visit to some friends house in Trivandrum. I was French, I was white. It’s maybe the first time I felt so watched. People around me, hands, eyes, words… and me. But I was so charmed by all.

My dream? To become an Indian princess, in saree, with lots of jewelleries!

And then the lucky red seed came into our family. It was a man. The man my mum met at that time, at the French Embassy. Just 10 minutes maybe. She didn’t know at that time, that this same man would then stand by her for a lifetime. This man whom I call Appa today. The reason why I came back.

After their marriage, we used to come every year to our new family in Fort Cochin. We were always warmly welcomed. I met new people, got a little brother, two cute cousins, a great aunty and a strange uncle. I was so happy near my family. And when holidays were over, we would come back to France, for another year.

It was so cold suddenly. I can remember myself, 14, waiting in the cold for a bus which isn’t coming. When I breathe, it is like a gust of smoke. I join my hands, wait… keep waiting. Its not yet snowing… I reach school. Sit. I am a bit different. I can see those beautiful girls laughing, putting one more time some lipstick, and gossiping. I’m different. Getting a new boyfriend each week won’t help. I stay alone… look around. I got to learn so much. Silently. Watching, and waiting. Waiting the clock to ring.

If we look at it… it seems my life has been a long wait.

But not only that. One day… I came back home for lunch. My parents sat and told they must talk to me. Okay… That day was the starting point of today.

“We are going to live 6 months in India”

Shock… Silence…

“Well well well” I said. “And what about me”?
“You decide” they answered. “Do you want to come with us, or not? But give your answer quickly. For the plane tickets, you know…”

Same week, I met a man. When I met him he had some cards in his hands. He looked at me… put the cards in front of me and told “take one”. I took the card.  One near the middle, little hidden. (I am always trying to take the most hidden card). And I gave him. He told “The traveller. You are going to travel.”

I run back home. My heartbeats were too fast. My mother looked at me. I whispered “I’m coming” in a breath.

I had to leave all. The few friends I had, my comfortable life, my French family, my world, my school, the late bus, the cold air. I had to leave, to go forward. But it was so scary…

5 years have passed. I am still living between France and India.

When I came here, in Kochi to live, I was scared. Scared to be seen as the “French girl” only. It took time for me to meet some friends. My aunty’s family stayed in Iddiki. I was feeling quite alone. Not going to school as I was doing all my studies throught correspondance. Staying home…

Since 5 years, my parents have a charitable institution. My father is teaching yoga and my mother has a textile workshop to help some women. Their activities brought so many people to our home. More and more. Every day, coming and going. Always coming… but always going…

I started to dance. Bharatanatyam. I met some other girls little by little. I felt less and less different. I grew up… searching for the childhood I had lost.

You know, I have no place to be. No place to come from. I might be from France, but today, really, I feel my heart is Indian too.

Catching the culture, growing with it. Getting the manjadis, putting them in my pocket, watch the heavy rain falling, run, forget the umbrella, batting, making a 6… out!,  dancing, feeling the drops of my tears, the smile on the face, the life in the heart, watching them, understand the complicated me, flying, dreaming…

The manjadis in my pocket are making a small “clipclip” when I walk.

I’m 18, and by the way, my name is Iris. Some will call me Shanti.

I’m shared into two, you know. That french girl, and the Indian me. Cohabiting in peace. Just like all the manjadis in my pocket. Making some “clipclip” when i walk, You know.I passed so beautiful moments here. I’ve seen so many sunrises; I’ve seen so many smiles. And here, it’s full of coconut trees. They say its “God’s own country”. May He will share it a bit with me!

Iris Debieve

Iris Debieve spends monsoons in India and summers in France. An undergraduate student, she is moving towards her major in Indian classical dance.