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!