Sunday, 30 August 2009

Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani

Disclaimer: I am not being racist, Just a tad too factual.

So I land in Munich airport once again. Always a nice feeling to drop down below the clouds and see a carpet of different shades of green lain out to welcome your 350+ tonne behemoth. Not to mention the peaceful countryside lined with sloping roofs and a feeling of being on a vacation from the first sight.

And then you land at the airport, and the feeling is thrown into a nuclear reactor.

Airport authorities of the world these days are in a bad mood, between terrorists and carrier diseases, they’ve their work cut out in a real sad manner.

Germans are pretty much right up there in the Bored and Silly mood list. The guy who stamps my passport gave me a glance and stamped my passport. Now this is not very usual, I sport a beard, and most of the times I get the look of suspicion wherever I walk. This guy didn’t give me a second look, I was perturbed. Ah well, the feeling of meeting an old friend didn’t let me give it a second thought, and as I walked out, a cute lady officer smiled at me, I smiled back, and she said, “Excuse me sir, Customs Check.”

MENTAL NOTE: Never smile at ladies in uniforms. Never even Look if you can help it !!!

Nevertheless, like I said, meeting and old friend was worth all this.

But the next few days I spent there in Germany, gave me a pretty clear idea of the people.

Earlier, I didn’t know what they spoke (In my last trip I mean) So I thought they were an okay bunch, just a tad cold.

This time, I caught quite a few mannerisms of speech which went out to say, Dude they aren’t cold, they’re frikking 40 Below Zero.

I don’t know what it is, but Germans get a lot of business from foreigners, who wish to escape a blistering 45C desert heat for the cool shades of Bavaria. Yet, when they look at foreigners, its with a look of contempt. Trust me, I’ve got that look from many many old people there. Its not a good look I’ll tell you that.

Here’s an instance to elucidate. I was sitting in front of the townhouse and sketching the entrance. Medieval architecture always fascinates me a great deal. The moment I started sketching, an old lady (the age of my grandma in Bangalore) walks by in a blue ensemble holding grocery bags and looks at me as if I just dropped a load of horse dung on the road. And she mutters something. I beg her pardon, and she huffs and leaves. What do I care, she’s Nani’s age. What got my noodle was, she passed by me atleast 3 times with the same look, grumbling something. Now here is a lady I’ve never seen before, and never will probably, and in the few minutes that she saw me, she made me feel guilty.

I Love my motherland, The only problem is, when we have foreigners, we are like kids on Birthday mornings who cant wait to show off their gifts to anyone willing to look.

I understand Europeans being proud of their pristine nations, but seriously, you need to go back to the first rule of Kindergarten…Share !!!

Here’s another event that happened and it got my noggin as well. After a long day of walking around, I was on my way to the hotel with my friend. He suggested that we take a Pizza for dinner. I agreed and we stopped by a place nearby our hotel. For some reason we couldn’t fathom, the owner had named it KRUELLA’S PIZZA. For the uninitiated, Kruella De Vill was the evil lady who wants to skin the 101 Dalmations for her fur coats.

We walk in and try to order a pizza. The chubby german lady took our order and we sat down to wait. I looked around the interior and suddenly over the door of the kitchen, I noticed a thread binding a few green chillies and a lemon. I was stunned. Trust me, it’s a feeling of absolute unparalleled joy in a foreign land when you see something familiar. I pointed it out to my tired friend and he was pleasantly surprised. We loudly discussed the possibility of an Indian head cook or something. We got the feeling of being stared at, and we looked over the counter to see a pair of familiar eyes gazing at us with a forlorn look. “Aap log Hindustani hain??” (“Are you people Indian??”)

The grin that crosses your face at that line, Amazing !!

We both replied in the affirmative. And Our host, we learnt was an immigrant from Punjab who had spent around 30 Years in Germany. Words fall short to describe the feeling of conversing in Hindi with someone in a place you least expect. He asked me about my job, Dubai and how things are. I was only too glad to yak my lungs out with him. He offered us Beer, which we politely refused. And when the Pizza came, we stood up to pay and leave, And he refused to take money from us. Stunned again. We were speechless and mumbled incomprehensible words of refusal at his Kindness. He wouldn’t budge. Neither could we.

He told us, “Its not everyday I get an Indian guest here. Please, its on me.”

We insisted and he consented to taking a Euro or Two (although the Pizza costed more than that). We walked out of the restaurant with a dazed look in our eyes.

I turned to my friend and said, “That right there is the heart of a Hindustani” My friend silently agreed. He told me how his grandmother had taught never to take anything free if you are not able to return it. I remember same virtues.

Yet, that was the most amazing Pizza I’d had in a long long time. I remember the smiles of the Indian crew in the restaurant, who came one by one to peek at us. It never fails to make me smile. The Pizza, an Italian invention, made in German ovens, reeked with fragrance of the heart of an Indian hospitality which left a deep mark on my memory of the place.

Europeans will smile at you, they will serve you as their duty is. But never once do you get that glowing warm feeling that you get in a desi smile. Maybe they get it amongst themselves. Maybe not. When I see Germany in these parts of the world, they don’t care much about foreigners, and to a large extent, don’t care much about people from back home either, (You may beg to differ but I have seen a few examples of this). They are actually a nice bunch to be with.

Goes to show that A German is a German only in Germany. But an Indian is an Indian all over the world.

Proponents of Indian History say that Indians are a hospitable race who love to love others, which is one of the reasons why We never conquered any other country.

I beg to differ. The way I see it, We’re pretty much conquering the World. And continue to do so everyday, in simple ways like the Pizzaman from Sadda Punjab.....