Brokenhearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy

Remember that bitter-sweet song from the movie "Once", when Glen Hansard's character tells Marketa Irglova about his past life, through an improv song? I don't quite remember if it was that movie, or something else, but I have always been intrigued by street performers of every kind. I always look at them, and wonder what their story is. I can never really get myself to walk past a busker, and not marvel at the existence of human resilience. Some of them are genuinely talented, and some, plain entertaining. Some are just waiting it out till their big break. And some... are just intriguing.

If human eye really are the window to a person's soul, there is this one guy in Paris who walks around with an abyss inside. He blows bubbles on the street, for children to play with. Quite a cheerful proposition, that. But his eyes.

It was already evening when we got to Hotel de Ville in Paris. It's this magnificent building that is the location for the municipality of Paris since 1357. France is cold in March, and it can be too much for two people from Mumbai. We were covered in layers, and still the cold could get to us. Walking down the road, M spotted a beautiful carousel and we stopped to take a few pictures. 

That's when we saw him. Dressed for the weather, with a hooded jacket, he was making large bubbles, with children running around, trying to break one. I took some mandatory pictures, and we moved on ahead. It was later that evening, when I was going through the day's photographs that I got a closer look at the man. 

As children ran around, playing with the magical, beautiful bubbles, there he stood, with large soap-water soaked strings, bringing them together and then drawing them apart, skillfully. With the saddest eyes I had seen. We had left a small tip back in the evening. but now, how I wished we could hear his story. Those melancholic eyes and that poker face stayed with me, and I have gone through these pictures over and over again, asking him in my mind, "What's your story, Bubbles Guy?" 

I once read somewhere that we all carry an island inside us, isolated inside our heads, impenetrable in our thoughts. The walls around us are of our own making. We can build them up as high as we want them to be. Or as flimsy as we desire. This man was standing right there, amidst so many people, a fortress of solitude. 

Maybe I get affected too much by humanity. But I am a story teller before I am anyone else. And stories call out to me. Most of all, the untold ones. I don't know when, if ever, I will go back the France. Even if I do, where will this man be. And his story, never heard by me will haunt me for years. That's why we travel. So we can get a glimpse into other people's islands. Look beyond their walls, and come back with memories not our own, and feelings previously alien to us. So that we can sometimes come back with pictures of a brooding stranger whose eyes remind you of the "Hoover Fixer Guy".


  1. What an intense character study! I find myself thinking about it too.. he's clearing bringing a lot of joy to the children... but not a smile on his face.

    7% Solution

  2. Need a lot of skill and patience to blow those bubbles.


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