Saturday, August 13, 2005

Brightened up...

One and a half months in a foreign country is not all that bad. A lot of things seem to have inclined my views on a more favourable stance in the last few days. The white sleet has disappeared to obscurity, what with the sun shining bright spreading its mirth to the girth of the countryside, a new set of friends from other departments and new found love and happiness cannot leave a petulant image in my mind anymore.

Time, I realise, brings different mood swings in a person. As the common phrase It is just a matter of time finds its usage in the daily activities of life, it is only experience that really teaches us to understand the invaluable message hidden in this. My first two - three weeks in Germany was forgettable inspite of having good company. There was an unexplainable uneasiness crammed into all parts of my mind. I saw life as being null and void with the state of mind being absolutely chaotic and wretched. At any moment of time, I had only one thought lurking in my mind often I have to get out of here fast. The meticulous way the people lead their lives, planning even the simplest of things to perfection, looking at the weather reports with vivid alacrity was observed by me with dumbfoundedness. See the difference in India. If you have to travel to another city or state even 1000 kilometres away, a lot of things get decided 24 hours prior to the time of departure including the booking of tickets and accomodation. But here, things are different, if you plan to travel then you must plan to plan, which then takes you to the actual plan and the verification of a simple checklist is the road to travel. I have never given any importance to weather when I was in Bangalore, what with the meteorological department predictions being as unpredictable as the weather itself. So, generally, we are acclimatised to any situation whether sunny, very sunny, rainy or very rainy conditions. The amount of importance attached to the meteorological department here is the fact that weather conditions are tracked to a nicety. Things as small as It is going to be sunny in the morning, with snow in the evening results in the exact duplication of the weather conditions as given in the report. This is sufficient enough reason for people to track the daily changes in weather from the desired sources.

It is a common sight in India to see a large group of people clamouring at bus stops and waiting for eternity for that single elusive bus that can come either fifteen minutes late or early, and can stop anywhere upto a limit of 200 metres from the bus stop, not to forget the fact that sometimes the bus would never turn up at all!! So, we are prune to a lifestyle, where we can easily take deviations from normality. We are immune to the unpredictabilities so much that predictabilities end up being unpredictable. With this notion, I vividly remember the incident in an S-Bahn station in Vaihingen. We were on our way to the Indian store in SchwabStrasse from the Hauptbahnof, which is the Stuttgart main railway station. Due to heavy snowstorm, the S-Bahns were cancelled to SchwabStrasse and all of them were diverted to the Flughafen through Vaihingen. We were stuck in Vaihingen for close to 15 minutes without any mode of travel back since there was no news of any S-Bahn in the near viccinity. I saw the station covered with nearly 40-50 people waiting anxiously for the next announcement. The tension was writ largely on their faces. Some of them were walking up and down with the feeling Oh no!! What the hell is happening! We were three of us in the group, enjoying every moment and passing comments at will. We imagined the same situation in India. On any given day, there are around 100 people waiting for different buses in the bus stop. People are prepared for any situation. If the actual bus does not arrive on time, people start thinking about the alternate options. If there is a bus strike, people are ready to grapple that situation also. Imagine what would happen if there is a strike in Germany!! Bus delays in India is a very common feature. Its another matter that the S-Bahn came after 15 minutes and the relief on their faces was largely noticeable.

Food was pathetic for the first few weeks. Things were going out of control with the quantity of salt or the sambar powder or one of the 1000 powders got from home always being short or exceeding the normal limits. But then, things can't go any worse from here. Everyday was a new learning experience. Cooking could only get better. Initially, I even blamed my mother, who has been cooking for the past thirty years for her sambar powder saying that she has made a mistake with the ingredients this time. She could only laugh it off in the presence of the other family members. As I prepared the sambar yesterday, I realised that it was I who was to be held responsible for the sambar!! Cooking has gone to new heights with the following dishes - sambar, rasam, vermicelli upma, rava upma, tomato rice, coconut rice, potato curry, vendekkai (Lady's finger) curry. In case of emergency situations, I have puliyogare, karuvapilai powder(curry leaves powder), paruppupudi(Dal powder), MTR ready mixes(not worth eating though!!). The best food in any situation is the ever wonderful curd rice with hot and spicy mango pickles. Nothing in the world can taste better than this according to me. I also tried jeera rice, that was really good for a supper. I still have to open my noodles packets. A glass of butter milk or plain milk forms my dinner everyday along with a wide array of the possible dishes that can be cooked by me.

My stay was made absolutely enjoyable by some new friends I found here in Stuttgart. Remember my new found love and Happiness. It was the last Sunday. I was on my way from the Hauptbahnof to Feuerbach in a U6. I happened to sit opposite a girl, who seemed highly conservative and with Indianised looks. Though I am generally a quiet person by nature, I decided that I have to engage in a small talk with her. I realised she was from India(that of course), Tamil Nadu and from Madurai. She is a student in Stuttgart. We spoke for some time and our conversation was too brief before I had to get down at Feuerbach krankenhaus, while she had to travel all the way back to Gerlingen. I let things pass forgetting everything about our meet. It was about two days back, when I had to leave office early and had to take a bus(501) to go to Hauptbahnof. I happened to meet her in the bus and it was as if I knew her for long. We spoke about many things, from Germany to Madurai, studies to work, family and what not!! She is my senior by two years(2001 graduate) and doing her Masters in automotive technology. We became instant friends. It was then that she told me to accompany to her flat for dinner. By the way, she stays with her hubby here. It was great to see them living their life here and pursuing their interests 6000 kilometres away from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. They made me feel absolutely comfortable. We chatted on everything under the sun. I could listen to the latest Tamil songs and watch some tamil movie clippings from my favourite movies. And soon, dinner time it was. I was served with wonderful delicacies - superb sambar, podlanga curry(snake gourd), thalichukottna curd rice(like the way it is served in hotels of course in India) and lime pickle. I had never had a more hearty meal even in India. The love and affection on their faces was unmatchable and I was totally moved by their hospitality. What more!! They even took my lunch box out of the bag and packed the next day's lunch for me. It was around 10pm in the night when I left their abode(They even accompanied me upto the Gerlingen Ubahn station) and headed back to my hotel room with pleasant memories lingering in my mind. My mind was filled with them for the rest of the night and the rest of the days to follow. This is the most pleasant memory of my stay here and I would definitely miss Germany once I get back to India not for its Ubahns, Sbahns, the buses, the Strasses, the people, the culture, BOSCH and the other wonderful places but it would be only for this lovely couple whom I met which has left an indelibe image in my mind and I am sure I will have these pleasing thoughts for the rest of my life.

I have really learnt a lot from this relationship and I hope this helps me in bringing postive overtunes in my life. That sums up my last few days and I am definitely not as desperate as before in returning back to India. Nevertheless, three more weeks to go...

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