Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Europe and Me

Ever since I was half way through my recent vacation (well, only if I can call it a real one), I had this desperate urge to blog, i was literally wishing if i could lay my hands on a computer .. And when I did get one in Slovenia, I hired it for 3 Euros for a half an hour slot, and by time I finished checking all my emails, the session timed out.

I travelled from south Europe to the central Europe moving towards the west and finally to the European island (UK). And if I have to sum my feedback in one word, I would just like to say that it is 'Bland'.

At first sight Europe looks beautiful, particularly the country side. I was staying in the bay region of Slovenia and that place looked as if a scene from Cinderella had suddenly come alive -- beautiful small wooden houses with bright flowers peeping out from the balconies.. Trees all around, wooden benches scattered in plenty, little ponds with sparkling water, wine yards and the soft sunshine. Completely picturesque. I was there for 3 days. I would say, I liked the place. Then I moved north to Wien (Vienna, Austria), was not in the center of the city -- slow moving traffic, curvaceous buildings all around -- all huge crème n gold colored, the city center square, Mozart statues every where, busy people walking around in haste -- and then is when I realized that I am not liking where I was. I was thinking that that the place could be beautiful, clean with a great infra structure and connectivity, clean roads, everything in place, the law and order seemed perfect but then there was something so obviously missing. It appeared so unnatural and plastic to me. Who would want to be in a place where you need to wait for the traffic light to turn green so that you could cross the road even when you see that there is no sign of any running engine -- everything is so mechanical -- there were cycles securely parked for the public to use -- but the catch is that all you see is a box which would ask you to swipe your credit card, but no one to explain the terms and conditions -- I might sound like a 70 yr old person who is still skeptical about using an ATM to draw cash, but that is where we come from.. Let’s face it, a man less gas station (petrol pump, as we call it here), is not something I am comfortable about. Getting into the tube (metro) / bus / tram and paying thru the funny looking machines there.. I just think that it’s not just about the mechanical style of living which had put me off, it was may be also my rigidness and resistance to change and the people who I felt did not radiate warmth.

Just like its not enough to have four walls and a ceiling to make a home, same way, a well maintained infrastructure is not enough to make a city beautiful – I think the most important entity of a city is its people – and I was not happy being there.. I may be wrong, because you may argue that I might not have met too many people or, I did not stay long enough, but then I do believe that a place filled with compassion radiates energy and I was thinking about how Indians would react to foreigners, per me, I think most of the Indians are nice to outsiders (Indians as well as foreigners), we can see that even when we move within the country (for instance when I moved from Delhi to Bangalore or, Delhi to Mumbai). There was a young man I met in the bus on my way to UK from Belgium. The bus driver was a hilarious man – I was rolling laughing at the remarks he kept making on the speaker off and on.. Ok, coming to the point, we were stopped just before we were about to enter the English Channel for the immigration check & visa stamping. The driver warned us against the French guys saying that they were difficult and he advised us to ‘hug them, kiss them and if required, sleep with them’ to get through the interview and baggage check with less hassles :). So we (all the passengers) were kind of ready for a nightmare, and we queued up in the rectangular room like they show how prisoners of jail wait for grub. The man in front was the same person I was talking of a little while back. He was from Albania, and as expected, the French police was acting nasty to him – then was my turn, and the I was treated the same was, bombarded with questions, one of them asked where in UK was I going, and I said ‘Northolt in MiddleSex’, he asked me to repeat Middlesex some 4 times -- he asked me to do that while the 3 other cops sat there giggling -- i thought it was cheap humor, then he made me open all my baggage and checked the luggage really well -- just like they show in movies(I wish the Indian cops could do half of what they do..).. Anyway, the matter of fact is that we (my family) and that Albanian were the only people who did not belong to France/ Brussels/ UK and who were interviewed the longest and whose luggage was raped. The Albanian fellow told us that the French hated Albanians. And so seemed to be true for Indians and the Africans.
The same kind of thing happened when I was on my way to Krakow (Poland) from Vienna (Austria) by Euro Rail. The polish cops came with an Alsatian dog who went around sniffing us (the dog was wearing a jacket which read ‘Narcotic Detection’). This was not all, the same team (the same polish cop and the same dog) came knocking violently at our train cabin door at around 3am in the morning and repeated the checks -- re checked our passports and of course the dog did his job!! If you look at it, the security is great but then why was this happening only with outsiders, and why did this have to happen twice? I wonder if cops here behave the same way.

Apart from all this, I would also want to talk about my uncle who stays in UK. My uncle and his wife had moved to London 40 year back with a vision of giving a good life to their children and also to themselves. Now when I look at them, I feel sad. Both their children are grown ups (38 yrs old and 27 yr old) – they are staying separate and come to see their aging and ill parents only when their parents call them and if by co incidence they have time. Of course it was not bluntly put that way to me – but that was very apparent in the way that they behave with their children. They are all alone – hardly any social life, both of them have retired from work and are not in good health, but have got so used to that place that they cant even break free from the arrangement. They kept talking of how nice they feel there and how comfortable it is to stay in a high tech place like theirs, but in all their conversations I could just sense a strange effort by which they are convincing, justifying, condoling and reassuring themselves that they are in a good position and that they are happy. My Aunty almost treats herself like a British and that bugged me a couple of times – especially when she went around complaining about India and when she asked me things like ‘Do you have English style toilets in India – a W.C to be precise..’ .. I mean what the fuck.. What does she think about India!! Not that she hasn’t been here ever since she left, in fact if I am not mistaken, I think she was in India last year itself. Imagine, if Indian still hold this view about India, why should we complain and feel bad when people of other nationalities still think of India to be a land of snake charmers, black magic, bullock carts and over crowded matadors.

It is sad that people are unaware that India is advancing, it is witnessing a growth of 8.6% in its last years GDP and for this quarter the rate is 9.4%. India and china would soon be a superpower. Studies prove that by 2020, there will be 3 superpowers in the world, 1. US, 2. China and 3.India. Even today India is no less than any other place in the world. Considering the constraints of its size, population and history (India being under British rule), India is advancing at a high rate. Even today, India is the place where there are the maximum numbers of people who can speak English; India is the place where multi nationals come to get specialized as well as unspecialized labor. The mall concept, high tech flyovers, underground metro, state of the art airports.. Just about everything is being developed. The problem of India is in the reform state – it is the penetration of these amenities to the whole of India is a matter of concern and that is where we are lacking – and this is primarily because of the numbers and the after affects of what the british colonization did to us. But by talking about this the NRI’s, Indians or even outsiders are doing no help. Especially the affluent NRI’s, they are escaping their duty as Indians for getting a more comfortable life for themselves and then sitting over drinks and coffee and acting like concerned Indians.

I am actually a little lost now – wonder what I had set out to write. Will just end this with a happy note by writing about the attribute I liked the best. At a party I met a couple of learned men and got an opportunity to speak to them (actually it was a world congress of IPMA) and there were a couple of things I observed, a) Indians are much smarter than Europeans (I guess to Americans as well). b) Even Europeans happily accept, joke and fear a blond woman behind wheels  and, c) The Europeans are quite direct and open while conversing – Imagine there was this French man with whom I was talking, and towards the end of the conversation, he asked me if he could kiss me (don’t start having ideas, it was just a peck on the cheek)..

So, by what Buddha says, there are three ways of learning – 1) By reading, 2) By Listening and 3) By experience. And he has also stated that the most supreme way of learning by the third method. So, you may want to visit these places yourself and see how you feel about it. Actually maybe my perception of the place also reflects the kind of person I am and so your views may be distinctly different from mine.. But then again who says we have to think alike!

16 comments:

Abyss|Ashwin said...

The way the image of Europe is portayed shows that india is far much better place to live than any other country in europe.
I adore the discipline in lives of european's but discipline as in production line just makes u exist not live. If there is everything that is predicted in life then what is for they are living for?

Anonymous said...

Why talk about only one side. Look from the other angle as well. The rules followed on the traffic signals may look absurd when you see the road is empty but the same will make very much sense when its completely crowded.
There is a flip side to everything. If you want good then you will have to cope up with the bad as well (well if there is such thing as 'good' or 'bad'). I believe that its just the nature of things. This applies to your other mechanical stuff as well.

Deepshikha said...

Hi Anonymous.
I kind of dont understand why people drop in comments as 'Anonymous'. If you hold views what makes it difficult to accept them to be yours?

Deepshikha said...

Dear Anonymous.
Addressing your comment, I am not saying whether the traffic light rule is good or bad, or for that matter any mechanization is good or bad, And I am definitely not denying the existence of a flip side of every aspect – in fact I even have appreciation and acceptance of it.. But the point made was not that, instead what I am trying to say is that 1) I did not particularly appreciate the penetration of machines to such a large extent, and, 2) The automation did not make me like Europe. Europe was not a place that could touch my heart..

Anonymous said...

Hi Deepshikha

You just make me inquisitive with every post of yours. I wish I could spend some time with you in person. Ps. I am not leaving my name, but let me tell you this is the first time I have posted a comment on your blog. Although you have made it quite clear that you dislike anonymous comments, but think about this,, who would like to disclose his/her identity when he/she is at awe of you and is skeptical about being known.. Here I am not felicitating anonymous comments -- like you said, a person must stand up for his/her views..

Abyss|Ashwin said...

Dear Anonymous,

I totally understand your views on the topic. What deepshipka spitted her views on situation where there is no traffic but not when there is traffic. Disciple to higher degree just squeezes the essence of life and dosn't make life god or better. And the term Discipline in a crowded scenario makes sense rather than wn you have n degree's of freedom at you path

Divya said...

Our reaction to a comment becomes biased when we know the person righting it....
Enjoy the randomness

Deepshikha said...

Divya, if you believe in what you wrote, then the same theory could be true for the person who is posting a comment too — and not just applicable when I am replying/reading the comments. :). And above all this, I am not of the types who would maintain double standards and change stance according to the person who is voicing/writing his/her opinion. We are grown ups yaar. Indulging in petty childlike behavior doesn’t suit us anymore.

Divya said...

dont take it that way.....
when u ask for an opinion,I reply in a certain way (I have certain assumptions keeping u in mind, the things u react to, the things u have strong opinions about and if I am somebody close to u, then even things u r sensitive to...) and if a common frnd like Sid asks for the same thing, I might want to use different set of expressions...Its not double standards, its the intention of expressing urself in the best possible way.
And when u talk to a stranger, the amount of pre-assumptions are minimal and u speak out in a very different way....It is totally the way i think and I think, that is what i am expected to do in my comments ...

Romuald said...

Hi,

This is a very good article. Now, I can see how people from other country can see Europe because I'm from France and when I came to India, everything was so different. But, after few time, you start to be used and you don't mind anymore.

If you want to see my blog (I think, you have already seen), this is:
http://bazouil.travelblog.fr

Deepshikha said...

Hi Romuald..

I actually had not seen your blog before now. Although I could not read the text (because i dont know french), i did view the 'monsoon' video that you took. And i loved it. :) I tried to drop this comment on your blog, but then again all instructions were in French and I could not figure out what I was doing :). Thanks for dropping by :). P.s: Your video shooting (rather,editing) skills are commendable :)

Romuald said...

Hey,

I have just finish to read this article and I have seen : "Imagine there was this French man with whom I was talking, and towards the end of the conversation, he asked me if he could kiss me (don’t start having ideas, it was just a peck on the cheek).."

It's quite funny because in France, like other country in Europe, we are use to kiss girls to say hello or bye. This is an other way to check hand but with girls. Girls between them are used to peck on the cheek also.

Personally, I think, this is a sweat way to bring closer people. And I understand it was strange for you because there is a bigger limit in India between girls and men.

Deepshikha said...

Dear Romuald

Seems like you got me wrong. I am not saying that the french guy did something unacceptable or strange. In fact I spoke of this in a good and healthy tone, where I am appreciating the europeans to be open and straight forward. :) .. So it is a compliment to all europeans. And coming to the other part of your comment, I am sure you are seeing that Indians have started to greet each other in similar manner :), atleast the younger generation :) ..

Anonymous said...

are we really ? Hmmm me waiting for the same treatment :).

Deepshikha said...

Sorry Mr Anonymous,. You sound like you would glorify a harmless peck on the cheek to be a raunchy kiss. Seems like you will never be given that treatment nor will you be allowed to give other that treatment for perverts like you don’t deserve it :P

Anonymous said...

you just never know. I might surprise you.