I got admits to a fashion school in Paris in second half of 2015. As a fashion aspirant, getting the opportunity to be studying Fashion in Paris, the art & fashion capital of the world felt like it was the best thing to have ever happened to me. I was full of the joys of spring thinking about living in Paris. I simply couldn’t wait to get here. But it certainly did not turn out the way I expected it.
I arrived in Paris in first week of October 2015, and my lectures began immediately after my arrival and I had to enrol for the social security, buy a transport card, and buy all the materials and stationery asked by the school. Since I was new I did not have a French bank account yet and so I carried a cash to do all that (a bit scared already as I was advised not to carry cash with yourself). That way I had lot of cash in my wallet.
I lived in the northern suburb of Paris, La defense and went to the nearest Metro station to get my transport card made. It was my third day in Paris. The lady at the desk was very rude to me as I could not speak French and refused to even listen to me, let alone give me a transport card. I was very surprised and disappointed but I forgot about it and bought tickets from the ticket machines and went on with the day.
I kept the extra tickets in my wallet which also had money. Later that day, I left school after lectures at 8.30pm and walked towards Miromesnil station and I realized that tickets were in wallet which was in my bag.
I was already warned about the thefts in Paris and was very careful about my belongings already. So I took the ticket from my wallet and kept the wallet back in my bag and zipped the bag close. As I punched my ticket and walked towards the platform I realized by bag was open and wallet gone.
It must have been only 10-15 seconds totally in which I was robbed. I immediately ran back to the entrance hoping to find someone with my wallet but to my disappointment there was no one there. I was so scared and horrified, checked the platforms up and down, I even checked the dustbins there hoping to find my wallet. It contained 350-400 euro cash (since I could not finish all the planned work had the surplus cash), my travel card, Passport copies, passport size photos, 2 36Gb USB devices and few papers.
I kept running and cry my eyes out when a kind lady advised me to go and lodge complaint with the police at Franklin Roosevelt. I somehow made my way to that Police station but the officers wouldn’t even let me walk pass the gate. I tried to talk to them for more than 1-1.5 hours and convince them to file my FIR or give any kind of possible help but they were very rude and simply wouldn’t listen.
Finally, they told me they would help only if I lost my passport which I luckily did not carry and was at home. Around 11, I came back to La defense and saw a police station just outside the Metro station. I went there with the hope of filing a complaint but again they wouldn’t listen to me in spite of so many requests.
After some time one of the officers told me to go home and come back the next morning. As told I went the next day and a kind officer filed the FIR. The next few days were very difficult without any money for me as a student in the city. It took few days for the money to be sent to me from home.
But my roommate in Paris, also from India, who knew me only for a day helped me through this difficult time. It was the worst welcome to the city of light and love. I have had lot of bad experiences with people here and with the theft and polices behaviour I am pretty much scared all the time when out. Turns out Paris was definitely not the city I imagined it to be.
Editor's note: This article was written by Dimple Bhanushali (photo), a 24 year old fashion student from Mumbai, who went through this unforgettable day only on the 3rd day of her arrival in France.
This article was published earlier in a project called "Staying safe in France". Now that this is merging with the Indians in France portal website, I am republishing this again here.
I hope that our students and newcomers will be more careful here after reading about various misfurtunes that are happening to fellow compatriots.
Sourav Choudhury is a social entrepreneur working for the cause of Indian community living in France, since 2003. He is founder of multiple projects: the largest social network of the Indian community of France, a French language school for english speaking expatriates, this website, and several other projects.