Sunday, 26 February 2012

First time @ SEVA cafe .....

SEVA cafe.  A very unique concept and first of a kind in my city.  You can read more on SEVA cafe on  Its a cafe where people offer their services as volunteers.  Those who really enjoy serving to the others without expectations of any returns.  My friend Palak had few weeks back volunteered here and he shared his experience with me.  So yesterday while attending a poetry reciting program at SEVA cafe, Palak and I decided to volunteer on Sunday.  i.e. today.  One has to register themselves in advance to get a place to volunteer.  Luckily we both got the place ;) and we reached there at around 18:30 hours.  

We met the regular volunteers and saw how the place was getting ready.  The menu I suppose is pre-decided and cooked in the late afternoon.  Its a very very simple menu with 3 - 4 dishes prepared.  Palak and me wrote the menu on the black board and helped the other guys in arranging few stuff here and there.  At around 19:00 hours everyone stood in a circle holding each other's hands and we silently prayed to the almighty.  Then Udaybhai a regular volunteer here told everyone to introduce themselves and also tell their favorite food.  This was fun.  

Then the volunteers were assigned their duties.  I and David from Australia being volunteering for the first time were assigned the job of cleaning the dishes.  Palak had told me that whosoever comes to volunteer here for the first time is mostly assigned the work of cleaning the dishes. ;) So I was kind knowing what work I had to do.  Along with us one another regular volunteer who always takes up dish washing was in the lead.  And slowly people started pouring in and the work began.  Initially it was not much of a work as used dishes came in from a table at intervals of 10 or 15 minutes.  I was mostly rinsing the dishes and David was drying them up.  But soon there were piles of dishes coming up and we had to speed up.  Soon the serving guy came up and told u, 'Please can you do the glasses first, we are running short of them'.  And now we really had to speed up and keep cleaning the vessels constantly.  It was not that easy as I thought. The level of the water sink was low and for a somewhat tall guy like me, I had to bend my back and keep washing the dishes.  That was not an easy part.  At some point you really feel the pain and would like to stretch.  So just to relax my back a bit I used to take up the dry vessels and keep them in their places.  I was glad finally all the dishes were done. 

It was now time for all the volunteers to have meal together and the food was delicious.  We finished up with the remaining dishes after we had our meal and soon it was time to leave.  I said good bye to all and told them I'll surely come once again.  All in all a nice experience and seems like I will end up volunteering there again too.  :)  

I don't know why.....:)

I met you, but still feels like I haven't met you, 
I don't know why.

These miles of distance from you, this strange sequences with you,
I don't know why.

This dreams beneath my eyelids, I have with you, 
I don't know why.

Someone that settled in my eyes, resembles you totally,
Was it just your eyes or just your talks the reason that you became my longing.
You are so close to me still, you are so near to me still, you are a feeling to me still,
But you are not so much mine,
I don't know why.

I kept saying a lot in my thoughts, but couldn't say anything in front of you,
I lament it, I cry for it but still gather those dreams bout it,
I don't know why.

I don't know why....I don't know why.....I don't know why.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Seventh destination : Eskisehir

My flight from Vienna landed in Istanbul in the night at around 22:30 hours.  I had a talk with Ugur while I was in Warsaw and I was suppose to catch a bus straight to Eskisehir, where he is studying this days.  I was going to spend the weekend with him in Eskisehir. From the Ataturk airport I boarded a metro that took me straight to Otogar (Istanbul's main bus terminal).  While entering the metro station I bought the token from the vending machine, inserted into the entry point and went into the station.  The token from the vending machine never came out.  But anyhow since the train was right there I just boarded it and was now wondering, do I had to keep the token with me which I forgot to take it from the entry point ? Or you just buy it and forget it ?  I asked few fellow travelers but no one spoke english.  So I stood there with my backpack, sweating with a worry that what if the ticket checker comes in and asks me for the token ? :-S But finally I reached Otogar without any trouble, called Ugur and got on to a Kamil Koc bus to Eskisehir which started at 23:45 hours and was suppose to reach Eskisehir at 04:30 hours in the morning.  

The bus as described to me by Ugur was quiet comfortable, had mini LCD, was warm, had wi-fi and also served tea, coffee and some light snacks.  I asked the cabin boy if the bus would stop at the university campus, but as it was everywhere he didn't knew english.  So I decided i'll get down at the last stop and call Ugur how to reach his place.  I tried to talk to him on skype but the wi-fi on the bus didn't work ;) .  So went to sleep. At around 04:00 hours in the morning the bus stopped somewhere and I heard someone talking with the cabin boy in turkish.  I wondered if it was Ugur's voice and I got down to check and saw him :) .  Oh this is wonderful. Ugur had come with his friend Adem to receive me.  We greeted each other and I took my luggage and we were off to his place.  Before the day started I took some rest to be fresh for the whole day. 

Early morning Ugur had to go for his football practice.  His friends Adem, Bahadir and Ferit took me for breakfast.  Ferit was very well with english and Adem and Bahadir can atleast converse, so it wasn't much of a problem now to communicate and talk.  They ordered the breakfast and in some time it was served.  Turkish bread with turkish cheese, honey, some sweet sauce which was delicious, olives, tomatoes, cucumber and chai.  I loved this breakfast.  By far during my trip this was the best breakfast I had.  The chai is totally different than the Indian masala chai but its very good on a cold windy day.  And lastly had turkish coffee which is so very different from the coffee that I have in India.

Ugur's friends were so easy to get along and we had some interesting and funny conversations.  After having breakfast we got ready and they took me for some sight seeing of Eskisehir.  Interestingly while on the road I saw lots of turkish flags hanging from the apartments and I asked what is the reason for this.  And the answer that came was quiet shocking, that there was a terrorist attack on the south eastern border with Iraq in which some 20 soldiers died.  So we reached one park in some time and Ferit told me that it was the Science, Art and Culture park and it was the biggest park of Eskisehir.  Well I could see that it was really big, very clean and well laid park.  The main attraction was a life sized pirate ship inspired from the movie "Pirates of the Caribbeans" ;)  They all gave the credit for such social developments and good infrastructure in the city to the Mayor of Eskisehir and praised his governance for all the good things in the city.  And it was quiet visible too.

Wall poster @ Cafe Del - Mundo
Late in the afternoon, after Ugur came from his practice we went for lunch to a cafe called Del - Mundo.  I really liked the ambiance at this cafe. Very cozy and the walls were full of travel stories.  Ugur told me that the owner's of the cafe send one of their staff each year on travel abroad and their stories and pictures are put on the walls of the cafe.  The walls were full of pictures from South East Asia, India, China and South America too I guess.  First thing that we ordered was EFES beer.  One of the best available.  The menu mostly had non - veg. food and luckily my craving for veg. food was satisfied by cheese rolls.  But the chicken and meat dishes that Ugur and his friends ordered were also good.  I tried them and they were really delicious.  After a really nice late lunch it was time to relax.  Went home and watched some American Football.  I already knew that Ugur plays American Football for his university. A sport that I was never interested in.  While staying with him and his friends who almost for the entire day watched either Soccer, NBA or American Football.  I some how don't know why started to enjoy watching American Football.  The rawness in the sport kind of pushes your adrenalin when the player is running with the ball and the opposition tries to tackle him.  Though still I don't know much of the sport I at least know that when the player takes the ball over to the opposition's line you score ;)

Bar street

It was Saturday night and time to see the night life of Eskisehir ;) This city though a small one, but being a student city, is quiet vibrant and it gives you a very young feeling.  There is one whole bar street which has just bars and restaurants on its both sides.  At night the typical turkish type lightings makes this street very lively.  Ugur, Ferit and me, we took a stroll on the street and finally sat at one big bar which was totally crowded.  Every chair was taken and there were people waiting in queue too. Luckily we got a table to sit and ordered some drinks.  One after another, drinking and talking and I had a nice cozy Saturday night.  Ugur was since long telling me that I should visit Cappadocia in Turkey.  Its a place with ancient ruins and cave hotels.  We were checking on the internet about the transportation options to Cappadocia from Eskisehir but found none.  So next day morning we went out to check for the buses at the travel offices but we found that there are no direct buses to Cappadocia from Eskisehir :(  So I skipped that place and decided to spend the last 5 days of my trip in Istanbul.  Sunday late afternoon Ugur and me took a nice relaxed walk around the city. I must say that Mr. Ugur is one popular figure in the city.  So many times I noticed that he used to bump into someone who knows him ;) Eskisehir has the river Porsuk flowing through it and one can take a boat ride on it.  There are some streets with very cozy cafe's which are mostly packed during the weekend.
Tavlik Gogsu

Adem, Bahadir, Ugur, Deniz and Ferit
Finally in the evening Ugur booked me a train ticket to Istanbul for Monday morning and we headed to have our dinner.  Some traditional turkish dishes, veg and non-veg. but I ate only veg. Some how I just didn't had the urge to eat any non - veg dish. And along with it we had RAKI - a traditional turkish alcoholic drink.  I loved this one.  Raki is made from fennel seeds and it gives the distinct flavor of it.  When you mix it with water it changes from transparent to opaque white.  Very interesting and I loved the taste.  On our way back Ugur took me to a desert shop and he ordered 2 dishes.  He told me first taste both and tell which one is better.  He had ordered 'TAVLIK GOGSU' - a desert with chicken breast and 'KAZANDIBI' - a kind of bread pudding.  Both were delicious and the one with chicken breast, you really can't make it out that its made from chicken.  So my weekend in Eskisehir was coming to an end and Ugur and me decided to meet up in couple of days in Istanbul as he was coming there for his work. Next morning he walked me to the railway station and I was on my way to Istanbul.  One thing I surely thought when I left Eskisehir is that we Indians are known for our hospitality to guests, but Ugur and his friends were no way less.  Ugur, Ferit, Adem, Bahadir and Deniz made my stay in Eskisehir extremely comfortable, fun filled and memorable.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Sixth destination : Vienna - Day 2 and 3

It was my second day in Vienna and after having breakfast, I said goodbye to my ever smiling host Astrid and headed towards Dresdnerstrasse by the U6 metro. I got out of the metro and I was looking for Universumstrasse 23 - 29/28. I tried looking for it but didn't find it and so decided to ask for the exact location. I looked out for someone young thinking that they might be able to talk in English, but to my surprise all the 3 young people I asked didn't speak English. Finally one guy checked it on his iphone, found the place but still showed it to me in the opposite direction. Uff...I texted Sepideh and she told me that she was out and will take another hour or so to reach home. So I decided to spend some time at a cafe. I asked the owner of the cafe the exact location and he showed me the lane. I started heading towards that lane and got a call from Sepideh and she was standing right outside the building and finally I was there. 

I Had a quick tea and Sepideh showed me 2 places Cobenzl Parkplatz and Kahlenberg on the map which I can visit. So I took a bus and reached Cobenzl Parkplatz on a day which was really cloudy and windy. Cobenzl Park was on a height and you can see the city located down and there were grape wines grown all downhill. The sun occasionally kept peeping from the clouds. It was getting really cold and so I decided to go back to Stephanplatz, the center of Vienna. Somehow I really enjoyed there. I got a bus from Kahlenberg and got down to the metro and in some time reached Stephanplatz. By now the sun was shining and it was perfect to sit out and enjoy a cup of coffee. I kept roaming around as there were lots of stuff going on the street. People disguised as some entertaining characters, artists painting with spray colors and lots of tourists walking and clicking. Finally decided to go back. 
Some entertaining characters at Stephanplatz.
When I reached back I met some friend's of Sepideh.  Mateja and Lorena.  It was nice to have some light talk together.  Her friend Lorena was fun to talk with and was really witty.  Finally we decided to cook and have dinner together.  While we were talking I came to know that Sepideh has actually Iranian roots.  But from her early childhood she has been in Austria.  So we cooked some Rajma and rice.  Sepideh had also cooked a cake for us.  Don't remember which one it was, but it surely was really delicious.  Some how I felt that she liked baking very much and today she was going to experiment her baking skills on me, which I must say that she succeeded in it.  After dinner I gave an idea to watch a bollywood movie and it was accepted soon.  So I selected one of my favorite movie Dil Chahta Hein.  I have watched it so many times but still watching it with Sepideh and Lorena was a different fun this time.  Their witty comments made the movie fun to watch again.  After the movie Lorena left and before that we had decided to meet up next day.  She had offered to show me some part of the city.  
Coffee with Dasa
It was 21st October, my last day in Schengen area.  I was meeting Dasa in the morning that day.  We met at the metro station and went to a cafe for coffee.  We didn't had much time as she had to go back home before evening.  But it was really nice to meet and talk with her after a long time and probably never might meet again too.  Who knows ?  So we said bye to each other and soon I headed towards the Nash Market.   Soon I met Lorena and we were off too see that part of the city starting from Nash Market.
Groceries @ Nash Market
Spice shop @ Nash Market
Flower shop @ Nash Market
I really liked this part of Vienna. This market was situated right in the middle and it had some buildings with some beautiful architecture on both the sides. We walked around and Lorena showed me and explained some interesting buildings and things about their architecture. She was like a specialist.... ;) She got used to it and knew all this stuff as she had lots of visitors whom she took around to show Vienna. Finally before I had to return to get ready to leave Vienna we went to a quiet famous restaurant to have coffee and some delicious pastries. Lorena treated me. :) I was really over whelmed with that gesture of hers. It was time to say good bye to her and I headed straight to my host's place. Sepideh gave me all the instructions on where to board the train to the airport and she also came along with me to the train station. That was so nice of her. 
With Lorena

My lovely host in Vienna - Sepideh
Such small gestures really make some nice connections between strange people, at least that's what I think and believe.  I was a complete stranger to them and yet when I was leaving Vienna I never felt that I'm parting from 3 people.  It was more like I had 3 beautiful days in the company of 3 beautiful friends and I'm greatly thankful to them for making my stay in Vienna so beautiful.  I loved Vienna, its character, and its charm.  The city is multi-cultural not too big and too small also.  Green, clean and colorful.  No doubt recently it was rated the best city in the world to live.  But for me I thank couch surfing for giving me this chance to meet such wonderful people whom I would like to remember always.

What to do with such people ?

16th Feb. 2012..... I started this year's season bookings from Rajkot - Gujarat's fourth biggest city.  Normally I start it from Surat but I thought let me reach my customer's in Rajkot before my competitors visit them.  So morning 06:30 hours I started from Ahmedabad and by 10:00 hours I was inside Rajkot city after battling the city traffic for almost 45 minutes.  This year's trip wasn't going to be like all the previous other years. More customers and more aggression.  

So after meeting my old and known customers myself and my sales executive decided to meet a whole-seller in the main market.  The board of his shop read, Satyam Stationery Mart.  My sales executive has already been visiting this customer since last one year. When I reached this shop there were already 2 guys standing at the counter buying stuff.  One thing I really have enjoyed while traveling all across different regions of Gujarat is the dialect.  Go South, North, East of West every region has its own dialect and in one way or the other some of the ways of speaking is really really funny.  For example men in the southern region can't speak without including one particular cuss word in every line they speak ;) .  In the same way Rajkot being a part of  Saurashtra region has its own peculiarities when it comes to speaking Gujarati.

I introduced myself to the man who was seating at the counter and the way he was handling everything I believed that he was the owner of the shop.  My sales executive confirmed it.  His name was Kirtibhai.  My company has been dealing with this man since almost a year now.  But he was buying from us products of just 2 companies.  This time I wanted to promote the other products that I am dealing.  My sales executive loves to speak and speaks a lot.  He sometimes looses his sense of timing.  Speaks wrong things or brings out wrong conversations at the wrong times.  And here too he did the same thing.  He brought out a problem before I had started to promote my products.  I got a little bit scared that I hope this problem won't escalate and a solution comes out. This problem with him was since last 4 - 5 months.  

The problem was that in every transaction he made with us, he used to deduct some amounts like Rs. 30/- , Rs. 40/-, Rs. 62/- and like this.  In all the last transactions such amount added up to Rs, 562/-.  And none in my company knew why he was deducting such amounts every time.  So we asked him the reason for this.  And since then Kirtibhai the owner started speaking and he continued speaking non-stop for the next 35 minutes.  It was as if an Express train running with no railway station in sight ;) .  I let him explain why he was deducting this small amounts and he took some 10 minutes to put his reasons.  So next I thought may be I should explain to him and remove his misunderstandings that he was at loss which actually he wasn't.  But he kept on speaking and speaking.  Some lines that we exchanged were,

Kirtibhai  :  This is how I calculate the invoice and accordingly I pay.  All my vendors send me invoices and with non I have this problem.
Me  :  See let me explain to you our way of billing.

Kirtibhai  :  I don't want to hear your way of billing.  Is my way of calculation wrong ?
Me  :  No.  But in my way of billing you are not at all loosing ..... (I got interrupted again)

Kirtibhai  :  Than why should I listen to you ?
Me  :  But at least give me one chance to explain ....

Kirtibhai  :  What one chance ?  You listen to me (showing the bill file) and see all this bills.  Can you see the billed amount?  Can you see the date I have made the payment and the amount?  Is there any difference?  No.  So than why should I listen to you.  The sales guy of the company comes, I ask him the rate and discounts and the rates he gives me, I will pay as per that only.  If my way of calculation is correct you should change your way of billing.
Me  :  But Kirtibhai atleast let me speak and I will clear ....

Kirtibhai  :  (His tone was slowly going up)  But why you need to speak and explain me ? I am right and I don't understand any other way.  If you want, you can change your way of billing.
Me  :  But I can't buy another software .... (again I got interrupted) 

Kirtibhai  :  I don't know all those things.  I just know that I am right and you are charging more money from me and that I am not going to pay.

And he keeps on repeating all this things at least twice in 2 hours.  OMG I was so frustrated :-L that I would have loved to pull his long and marron - brown hair out of his skull.  What a shouting and non - practical customer I have ?  Now it seemed that either I have to shout to make him listen, wound his ego and loose him as a customer OR I'll have to simply tell him that okay i'll do what best I can to bill you as you want.

Finally the argument slightly cooled down and we started to discuss the problems of our trade in general.  But again after sometime one more time he says, I am never wrong in paying my bills.  I am just doing as the company's sales guy has told me.  If he doesn't convey to me the right information than that is not my problem.  I care a damn if because of him you loose some money.  I said to myself what a jerk.

Its so rare that during all this years while I am in this trade, I have come across such a person for the first time who is not at all ready to even listen and understand things. Well its understood that most of the traders have never understood the small technicalities of this new tax regime that came into existence some 5 years back.  And they think that what they understand is the only right thing.  I still remember how when the first time this new tax system was introduced I was asked by all my customers whom I visited that how this new system will work and what are the pros and cons of it. And I, as if was an expert tax consultant used to answer all their queries and was very convincing too.... ;)  Well I guess sometimes you got to act more smart than what you are actually to put your weight across and make a heavy impression and it works too .... ;)

But how to explain to such jerks who are never ever ready to listen to you ?  Simply impossible.... ;)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sixth destination : Vienna - Day one

Tuesday 18th October was my last day in Warsaw as I left for Vienna that night.  My train, departed at around 20:30 hours from Warszawa Centralna Station.  It was scheduled to reach Vienna next day 19th October at around 06:30 hours at Wien Meidling station.  I had booked my seat in an eight seat compartment since that was the cheapest option though it was as costly as a 2 tier AC berth of Gujarat Mail from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.... ;) Luckily we were just 4 men in the whole compartment and 2 of them got down at Katowice at around 23:00 hours.  So now we both had 4 seats each for us which was like a bed.  Quiet lucky to travel sleeping in the price of seating.... ;)  I had a brief chat with the other guy in my compartment.  He was Austrian working in Warsaw.  His girlfriend had come to see him off at the railway station and I saw her crying as he was leaving on the train to meet his mother and sister in Vienna.  

While I was in Warsaw I had send lots of couch requests to CS'ers in Vienna.  I had even posted a CS request in the last minute couch request group of Vienna, but none accepted my request.  I was quiet disappointed.  But just 3 days before leaving Warsaw, I got a message from guy around 51 years on my cell phone that please check your CS inbox.  I checked and I had a message that he was ready to host me till 21st morning.  This was his message.
[ Dear Nipun,
I trust you will find a good host in Vienna for two nights. If not, I would be happy to host you from Wednesday evening until Friday morning, as I shall travel to India in November – for the first time in my life. I did already accommodate people from India twice.
Nipun, I already sent you a text message. Please study my profile: If my lifestyle is O.K. for you – welcome.
In any case: Enjoy Vienna and all the best!

So I went through his profile and saw that it was complete with all information about him and also there were lot of good reference's too.  He had also hosted 2 Indian CS'ers and their references too were good.  Everything about him was positive.  Just than I saw the groups that he belonged to.  They were Naked Sleepers, Gay Nudists, Nudist Lifestyle.  He had also mentioned in one of the group that he is always naked at home.  I was zapped.  I thought no I wouldn't like to stay at someone's place where you've got be always seeing a naked man walking right in front of you.  And also he lived in a studio apartment, so no privacy.  So I thanked him in my reply and expressed my hesitation.  

Luckily very soon my couch request was accepted by Astrid Poleschinski.  Though it was just for one day.  On 20th morning she was leaving for Paris.  So I thought that's okay.  I can surf for one day and then move to a hostel.  But again I was lucky enough that for the rest of the 2 days another CS'er Sepideh accepted my request to host me. She in her message gave me a very very valuable advice that I can buy a metro ticket valid for 72 hours or a ticket for a week which costs the same and its valid for metro, bus and tram all three.  So once I got down at Wien Meidling, I straight away bought the metro ticket and headed for Rosaliagasse 19/9 where my host Astrid lived.  I reached her place and there she was at the door with a big warm smile.  I got a very nice welcome and I liked her house too.  We had a brief chat and then she gave me a nice warm breakfast of hot tea with bread and butter.  And then she gave me the map of the metro and indicated on it which are the places that I can visit.  She left for her office giving me the key to the apartment and said she'll return by around 19:00 hours.  I had a nice hot shower and took off to explore Vienna on a bright sunny day.

Schonbrunn Castle
My first stop was at Schonbrunn U.  I got out of the station and walked through Auer-Welsbach Park and reached at the entrance of Schonbrunn (meaning "beautiful spring") Palace.  It is one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna.  There were lots and lots of tourists from all over the world at Schonbrunn Castle.  But most of them were Japanese.  At all the places I had always seen Japanese come in big groups in buses with all their latest gadgets and camera and they simply love clicking.... ;)
View of Schonbrunn Castle from top of the hill
over Neptune Fountain

It took me around 2 hours to see the whole place and around.  At the far end at the back side there is Neptune Fountain and just behind it there is small hill which takes you to Maria Theresa AVGVSTA Imperatib.

The view from the hill top was really fantastic.  I got out of the castle and 
walked around to find a metro station and soon I was at my next stop Stephansplatz. This is actually considered as the center of Vienna. One of the exit at Stephansplatz leads straight to the front of St. Stephansdom.  It is actually St. Stephen's cathedral and it is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, OP.  It is considered as Vienna's landmark.  That day when I reached Stephansdom, something unusual had happened.  The exit to it was closed and the entire right side of Stephansdom was cordoned by the police.  Also there was a chopper standing right in the middle of the cordoned area.  Finally after some time the chopper flew away and everything was cleared for the tourists and local public.  I went around it, clicked some pictures and again boarded a metro for Donaunisel.  This metro actually halts right on the bridge built over the river Danube.  The entire view of the river from the bridge was just spectacular.  I thought hopefully once the riverfront project on the river Sabarmati in my city gets completed it should look just like this.  I walked around the river for some time and got tired.  So finally  I decided to head back.  I started walking for the U towards Vorgartenstrasse.  Just before reaching the U, I saw an Indian store PUREWAL selling Indian, Asian and Oriental food.  I stepped inside and saw one sardarji standing at the counter.  He was the one who actually owned the store.  That day while I was talking with Astrid in the morning we had decided that I shall cook something Indian for dinner.  For me the best thing I can cook is Dal and Rice.  But since she didn't had any Dal I had told her I'll be cooking vegetable pulao.  I was glad to find Tuvar Dal at the Indian store.  2 euros for 500 gms.  That was expensive compared to Indian prices but I knew it would be perfect for dinner.  Had a few words with the sardarji and then went to the U and by 17:00 hours I was at my host's place.  It was still some hours before Astrid would come back.
Astrid - My ever smiling host in Vienna

So I thought of taking some rest and soon fell a sleep on the red couch.... ;)  I had a nice nap for around 2 hours before Astrid came back.  And then it was time to cook some Indian dinner.  Dal and rice.  She had a pack of some assorted spices though not from India but we managed with it.  Finally I suppose she liked what I cooked.  And after some chats and conversation we went to sleep.  Next day I was leaving and was going to stay 2 days at Sepideh's place, my CS host for the rest of my stay in Vienna.

Also before I left Warsaw I had a chat with Dasa, whom I met in Ahmedabad when she was here for an internship.  She was coming to Vienna to see Salvador Dali's exhibition on 21st.  So we were thinking of meeting each other on the 21st.

Monday, 6 February 2012


Unpredictability - This word can make life confusing and sometimes can be creatively helpful.  When unpredictability creeps in one's life it becomes so difficult to do any thing.  You are kind of sandwiched between the present and the future.  All your future plannings become almost of no use till the dark clouds of unpredictability are cleared and the sunshine of clarity lightens your life.  

Everyone tells you to work your way out, be positive and remain hopeful.  But the question is till how long ?  Its not that in today's world our life is controlled by us only. There are few fortunate enough to have this privilege of living their life on their own terms.  I feel in today's life our surroundings and the people around us have a very important part in our lives.  What if at some point in life our future decisions and future life comes to depend on the place we live in or the people we live with or around us ? Its such a frustrating phase when life passes through unpredictability.  Its like getting stuck in a quick sand which is drowning you at extremely slow pace and you are shouting for help hoping that someone might come from somewhere and save you.  

Sometimes we try too hard or sometimes we just give in and let time take its own course.  Trying too hard might make things more messier as for everything there is a right time.  Pushing too much to come out might just push you in some more mess.  And at the same time doing nothing just extends the period of unpredictability.  So what to do ?  Take things in our own hands and push for changes or wait for the right time. Well its not that simple to answer this question I guess.  Every situation might have its own solution.  What I feel is that the best way to overcome this phase is to keep doing things at your own pace with open eyes and mind.  And most importantly never loose hope.  Things never remain the same.  Change is inevitable.  Doesn't matter if its of smaller scale but change has to happen.  We just need to be alert enough to notice this change and grab the opportunity to come out of this phase.  Doesn't matter where you land, either on the right side or the wrong side of the river.  Till you are not drowned there is always a chance to make it to the destination.  

Also many times unpredictability can become the essence of creativity.  It plays a very important part in the rich experimental world.  We as humans have always tried to remove the element of unpredictability in our lives.  This might have led to so many discoveries.  I say psychologically unpredictability can wear down and break down a weak person tremendously.  But at the same time practically unpredictability has helped human mind research and develop theories, laws and mechanisms to bring down the level of unpredictability in our day to day lives.  

But still there are people who love living with the adventure of totally unpredictable future.  Where, when, how and what they will do, no one knows and this people themselves even don't wanna know or even try to know.  For some it can be scary and weary.  I suppose that's how life goes and will always be like that.  No matter how much we try unpredictability is for sure to stay with us....:)

Saturday, 4 February 2012

My Angel

Staring up above in the night sky,
I saw your face shining there so high.

Your eyes were twinkling as the brightest stars,
And those waves hitting the shores were like playing guitars.

I wished to see you descend,
And break my lonely end.

Breeze blows across and brings to me your perfume,
I don’t know but I did assume.

Like a Brooke you swayed and flowed to me,
I still can’t believe what I see.

Like a sunflower bud you bloomed with the morning sun,
And spread across a golden run.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


My EyEs LiE,
My SmIlE DeCeIvEs, 

I FeEl ThAt NoW nOtHiNg Is LeFt,
JuSt PaLe AuTuMn LeAf.

BuT sTiLl ThIs HeArT dOeSn’T wAnT tO bElIeVe,
WaNtS tO bE wItH yOu AnD dOeSn’T wAnT tO lEaVe.

My EaRs DiD aCcEpT,
YoUr HaRsH wOrDs, ThAt CrEpT.

HoW sHaLl I pUt AcRoSs ThAt I dO cArE,
AnD lEt YoU kNoW tHaT yOu aRe A gEm, VeRy RaRe.

Fifth destination : Bialystok

Tuesday 18th of October was my last day in Warsaw.  That night I had a train from Warsaw to Vienna.  As decided Dorota and me were going to Bialystok with Bartek.  He was going there on a work trip and we could take advantage of his trip and see a small and culturally rich city on the north - east of Poland.  We were going to meet Bartek's cousin Krzysztof who was going to show us the city.  He was living and studying in Bialystok.  It was very nice of him to spare a day to show us the city.      

That morning when we started from Warsaw the temperature had gone down till zero deg. and the mist on the windshield had frozen.  It was really really cold.  We had a quick breakfast at Mcdonald's on the outskirts of Bialystok and reached a big super market.  After roaming for some time we had to leave for the city center.  Bartek bought us a small bottle of Vodka with honey flavor to keep us warm. ;)  In few minutes we were at the Kosciuszko Market Square.  It was a really a looking beautiful.  The sun was shining and it got little bit warm and the market square was lined with shops and restaurant having colorful walls.  We met Krzysztof there and started our walk to see the city.
Kosciuszko Market Square
At first we were at the Farny Church. Krzysztof told us that Bialystok has been a mosaic of people of various cultures.  There has always been a mix of Poles, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians and Jews. Because of this reason Ludwik Zamenhof born in Bialystok in 1859 later invented a universal language Esperanto.  To know more on him read on the below link.
Farny Church

Farny Church

Medical University
Next we went to see the Medical University of Bialystok.  The building where this university was created is historically a very very important building of Bialystok.  The university has really a beautiful campus and has been maintained very well. The street just behind the university is lined with trees on both sides and sun rays passing through the cover of leaves made it look very beautiful.  We sat on one of the benches and made ourselves warm sipping the honey vodka.  The city still has the charm of the old wooden buildings, many of them are still in good condition and people are living in them.  I also saw the oldest house of Bialystok.  We also saw the Memorial built for the soldiers who died in the World War II and the Remains of a Jewish Synagogue.  The Jewish Synagogue was burned down by the Nazis with some 2000 Jews inside.  :(

It was now time to return back to the city center where we were going to meet Bartek for lunch.  We had pizza's for lunch and beer.  It was than time for us to return back to Warsaw as I had to catch a train at 20:30 hours.  Krzysztof  gave me a nice key chain with the impression of Branicki Palace on it.  It was really a very very nice gesture from him. :)  I thanked him for giving his time to show us the city and we all said bye to him and headed to Warsaw.  On the outskirts of Warsaw we were welcomed by a long traffic and I got little bit tensed if I might missed my train or not.  But finally we were there right in time.  And after thanking Dorota and Bartek and inviting them to India I headed to the railway station to catch the train to Vienna......

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Arranged marriages in India

Few days back I was chatting with Dorota and we exchanged some thoughts on 'Arranged Marriages' in India.  Its something which is virtually non - existent in the west and most of the countries.  But still in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Middle - East countries and might be some other countries arranged marriages are still practiced and constitute a major way how marriages are fixed in this countries. Compared to how they were fixed several decades before, today the way arranged marriages are fixed has totally changed.  And I suppose this change is for the better. I've being born and brought up in India so I would like to put my thoughts about India only. May be some of my knowledge might be wrong too.  Correct me if you find any thing wrong.  :)

During the British rule and for few decades after that also child marriages were happening at large.  Children were married off and the girl used to stay with her parents till she grew up and then she was send to her husband's house.  Mostly parents of the boy and girl used to fix this marriages and it used to be fixed in the same community itself.  Both the boy and the girl were not even allowed to see each other before getting married.  With literacy rate increasing and strict government laws child marriages are now banned and illegal, but still not totally extinct from my country.  So many times I come across few questions like what is the difference between arranged marriages several decades back and in the present times ?  how can someone get married to a person without totally knowing him or her ?  how can parents force their children to get married to someone they don't want to ?  When I come across such questions it really makes me wonder, what can be the reasons ?  Well there is not just one psychology that comes up.

So what can be the reasons ? This is what I think.......

In earlier times in India people used to live in joint families.  Men used to work and earn money while the women folk used to take care of the children and the house hold things.  The head of the family used to have the financial control.  And hence out of respect or out of fear of loosing the financial comforts other young family members used to obey to the head of the family.  Also the upbringing was such that psychologically one didn't had the courage to go against the decision of the elders in the family.  Also the society was highly conservative.  Not many girls were send to school or college.  So there was lack of interaction between boys and girls.  So either the marriages were fixed very early before the children grow up or once they are young parents or elders would fix their marriages.  Parents were of the thinking that children don't have the maturity to think about the prospective partner.  So they themselves used to match the horoscopes which are of tremendous importance in Hindu arranged marriages.  Also since Indians had huge families, the social circle was also very big and the reputation of the family in this social circle was very important to the parents and elders.  So the parents and elders used to fix marriages without the consent of their children.

In today's India lots have changed when it comes to fix marriages.  Take a look at the first step.  Matrimonial advertisements are the first step towards finding a prospective partner for their son or daughter.

Sample : B'ful, slim, prof.qualified girl; for smart, h'some, indep boy 28/175/65 (I.I.T); MBA(ISB); Wkg in HSBC Bank in M'bai; Sal. 7 figures; Father Sr.IAS,GOI,Delhi; Pls include Bio,H'rscope,recent Photo of girl. Cont Email:; Box ….

This is how matrimonial advertisements are put up in newspapers. ;) Many times in families with large social circle, the relatives bring in the alliance for their known girl or boy and horoscopes & pictures are exchanged and if the boy and girl on seeing the picture like it and if the horoscopes are matched, meetings are arranged between the families.  The boy and the girl see each other for the first time.  On seeing each other if they like then they are given some time to talk alone with each other.  This first meeting mostly never goes beyond 30 - 45 minutes.  Once the first meeting is over parents discuss with their kids about the prospective partner.  Lot of if's and but's are talked about.  Finally if both the boy and girl agree then 2nd round of meeting is arranged and even 3rd.  Many times if the families are little bit open minded they allow both of them to go out and talk freely with each other.  Most of the times after 3 meetings the marriage is fixed and all the relatives from both sides meet and have an agreement for it.  Than the dates are fixed and other preparations are carried on.  Here the base of liking each other is mostly attraction towards the other persons physical beauty.  Some times even after meeting thrice the marriage is not fixed due to some reason or the other.  Before fixing the marriages both families try to get the background of the other family and the prospective partner of their child.  This is a typical way of arranged marriages happening now a days where the choice is mostly the girl and the boy's.  Its not that the parents force their children to marry their choice.   But then the question again arises why do parents and families have to search for a prospective partner for their children and how this girls and boys agree for such an arrangement and how they still live together for their entire life.

60 to 70 % of Indian population lives in villages.  And the people are very conservative. Also people living in cities, not all of them are open minded.  Being brought up in a conservative atmosphere girls and boys many times don't interact with each other or the interaction is limited.  This leads to young people having almost no chance of meeting a suitable prospective partner.  Hence parents or relatives intervene and try to fix their marriages.  Also this arrange marriages take place in the same community or same caste.  One of the many reasons why this marriages happen in the same caste or community is because, the girl when she moves to her in-laws house the traditions and customs followed there are not much different from her parents house.  So its relatively much much easier for her to adjust.  Since in villages joint families are still existent, elder people in the family are strict about following the old customs passed on from earlier generations.  

In cities where one can find more open minded people things are changing slowly.  Interaction between boys and girls apart from school and university is also happening in offices, sometimes in cafe's and restaurants or during some concerts or festivals.  There is more exposure to the opposite gender.  All this contributes to more and more love marriages this days.  Yes love marriages are on increase but still the importance of arranged marriage in Indian society hasn't gone down as such.  Many boys and girls are still brought up with the idea of getting married by arranged marriage only and they are also willing to do so.  They are ready to compromise and adjust with the person they marry.  It isn't always that they fall in love with the person they marry.  But still they carry on. :(

Young boys and girls today are falling in love, but still living relationships are still not accepted in Indian society.  Still its considered as a thing of west.  But slowly with young people moving out from their families and small towns to big cities in search of good jobs, nuclear families are on the rise.  Hence in metro's living relationships are on a rise.  I've always felt that a person is best known or tested in times of problems and calamities.  How two people in a couple are with each other during problems, that's when u are able to know their real self.  Otherwise when everything around is perfect and comfortable life seems easy with your partner.  Hence while in a relationship most of the times the true self of your partner can be known the same in arranged marriage is known only after you get married to each other.

Its not that arranged marriages haven't worked in the Indian society.  Majority of the arranged marriages are still going strong and probably in future too they will remain strong.  But there are still lots of couples who had arranged marriages, given an option would want to opt out of the alliance.  The only obstacle is the so call society and social circle of the family.  Still today divorce is something not that easy to think about because of the social stigma attached to it.  People view a divorced person as someone who has got a problem, either physically or mentally that doesn't matter.  Divorce rate today is increasing and its fast.  With people getting better education, becoming financially independent and also the joint family system breaking up fast the young generation is not giving much heed to what the society and social circle would think of them getting divorced.

Today marriages across cultures, across religions and across countries are definitely on a rise.  It shows that when two people are ready to accept the differences and are willing to work on adapting each others culture, why can't things work for them.  There are so many cases that I personally have known where a person had to let go of his / her wish to marry someone of their choice because he / she was from different caste or different economic level.  How many times lives have been ended cause of this emotional pressure and stress.  Its also true that young people while choosing their life partner has to show that maturity.  Many times boys take advantage of girls by trapping them on the pretext of loving them and promising them to marry them.  But when the true side is known to the girl, the emotional stress that she goes through is horrible.  Fearing this many parents don't want their daughters to fall into such a trap.

I believe that today India is going through a cultural revolution and the maturity and freedom that the young generation is seeking might come still after at least a decade or two.  The binding of the society by caste and culture is so strong today, that it'll take time to break the shackles.  And I hope and wish that if and when this freedom is achieved the society doesn't go the way how it is in the west where divorce and separation is so very common.  Ideally I feel the mixture of western ideology and eastern tradition can be best.  Lets see where we go in the next few decades.........