Place Pigalle or Femme Fatal

Sat Nam Dear Family,

Some of my experiences didn’t afford great teaching lessons. In fact, all they did was get me even, to 0, to neutral. They weren’t life changing, but they were lessons all the same.

It was Paris, July of 1988 and a gaggle of us piled into several taxis. The Siri Singh Sahib in the first and I three or four back in the rear cab. We were on our way to the Moulin Rouge for the evening show. On the way we passed through an area called Place Pigalle. I’d never seen anything like it in St. Louis. There were prostitutes lining the street looking like they were from central casting for the film Irma la Douce. They looked like caricatures of themselves: short skirts slit up the front leg, high heels, tight low cut navy striped blouses, alluring scarves around their necks, cigarettes dangling, and you get the picture. I thought I was back in Hollywood on a tour of Universal Studios.  Boy was I wrong.

Thinking nothing of it, I began taking pictures to show the folks back home. The next thing I remember, two of the girls are jumping in our taxis screaming and ripping at my camera. The driver was freaking out and shouting in French, which was later interpreted for me as, “give them the f… camera or they’ll stab all of us.” Well, I didn’t understand what he or the prostitutes were saying at the time and the ladies (There were four ladies in our cab) in our group were being crawled over, stepped on and threatened. I got the idea that they didn’t want any pictures of themselves and required my camera, but it was an expensive Nikon and I didn’t let go of it. Universal Studios allows picture taking, I thought. After a lot of shouting and clamoring, I opened the back of the camera and removed the film which, when I presented it to them, satisfied the moment and they left shouting which I assumed was bad language in French.

The cab driver was shaking. The other ladies were shaking. I was shaking. What just happened, I remember saying to myself. Maybe I didn’t read the tourist manual closely enough. Everyone knows (except evidently me) that since prostitution is actually against the law, no one wants their picture taken. NOW you tell me! Well, I was really embarrassed. The Siri Singh Sahib never let me live it down. He seemed to get a kick out of it although no one else in our group did. Just bringing up this incident to anyone who was there conjures up the great apprehension of this moment.

Some of my old karma was playing out and everyone got to experience it. Of course, it was their karma as well. Oh well, thank God it’s done with.

Stay tuned,

M.S.S. Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa

Chief of Protocol

Sikh Dharma of the West

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