Archive for the ‘ Netherlands ’ Category

Peaceful coexistence

I was half asleep when I saw the “full moon”. But, in a jiffy I became alert and asked myself, “full moon on new moon day?”. The bus in which I was travelling took a ‘U’ turn and the moon or sun disappeared from the scene. What I saw was a setting sun which looked smaller or rather, just as big as a full moon! The way and How about the unusual size of the sun had something to do with Netherlands where I had been recently for a month.
On bright and sunny days, rare though, Netherlands like any other European country is pleasant and glamorous and one is tempted to go out for a walk enjoying the beauty of canals across meadows and trees. A wide variety of birds ranging from wild ducks to pigeons could be seen here and there, but some of them see us as intruders and make strange sounds to warn us!
The country has all the ultra-modern facilities but not at the expense of old world charms. They have art galleries and museums and gigantic gardens.
An interesting incident took place while I was chatting with my folks over a cup of coffee at a restaurant. A young lady who introduced herself as a journalist asked us several interesting questions about our visit to Netherlands and what impressed us the most. She made us so comfortable and happy that we felt that this was one of the interesting parts of our visit to Netherlands.

Peaceful co-existence

I was half asleep when I saw the “full moon”. But, in a jiffy I became alert and asked myself, “full moon on a new moon day?”. The bus in which I was travelling took a U turn and the moon or sun disappeared from the scene. What I saw was a setting sun which I looked smaller or rather, just as big as a full moon! The Why and How about the unusual size of the sun had something to do with Netherlands where I had been recently for a month.

On bright and sunny days, rare though, Netherlands like any other European countries is pleasant and glamorous and one is tempted to go out for a walk, enjoying the beauty of canals across meadows and trees. A wide variety of birds ranging from wild ducks to pigeons could be seen here and there, but some of them see us as intruders and make strange sounds to warn us!

The country has all the ultra-modern facilities but not at the expense of old world charms. They have art galleries and museums and gigantic gardens.

An interesting incident took place while I was chatting with my folks over a cup of coffee at a restaurant. A young lady who introduced herself as a journalist asked us several interesting questions about our visit to Netherlands and what impressed us the most. She made us so comfortable and happy that we felt that this was one of the interesting parts of our visit to the Netherlands.

When your mind reigns supreme

It was a tempting evening. The sky was clear but it was not all that warm because of the bone-chilling wind. I was caught between desire to go out for a walk and an excuse to sit at home and watch the TV but i could overcome the filthy excuse, all because of one of my favorite movie songs which glorified the beauty of the evening Sky; I sat in front of the TV, enjoying every bit of that song and those enchanting scenes.

Soon I found myself walking along my favorite road which was most suitable for an evening walk. It is here, your body moves on mechanically, in obedience to the will and pleasure of your mind. “Stop here for a while,” the mind would say and the body applies the brake! on the one side of the road the trees dance and the birds sing and on the other side it is a valley which descends from a nearby hill.

Almost a year has passed since I left Ooty, a summer and a long winter and again I am here, moving along the same road, enjoying the serene and enchanting surroundings… but somehow my mind abandoned this road and began to wander through similar roads in Vancouver and Netherlands. Ironically, while i was there, my mind used to take a flight to Ooty!. These places may be poles apart, yet they resemble each other to some extent.

On your home ground but…

On seeing me, the newspaper agent pretends to heave a sigh of relief and says “Pleasant surprise indeed.. after a long time…” and then he opens the receipt book and writes my name, address and the amount, “It’s gone up a little.” “Ok”, I say and give him the money. He gets his money but even after a week, nobody brings the daily to my house. I make a friendly complaint and he says, “Don’t worry. I’ll arrange a new chap”but I have to wait for another week, over a couple of friendly complaints.
On top of this, you have to visit several government offices to normalise things ranging from telephone to electricity to LPG. It takes over a week or more to pass on the message of your arrival to the regular milk vendor.
If you have to be away from your place for a long time, you have to struggle continuously to straighten up things, howsoever smart you are!

India is not way behind!

When I gave him ₹ 50/- with a usual smile, he smiled back and said rather apologetically, “Sir, it’s ₹ 65/-“. I was a bit surprised but without exhibiting it I said “Sorry” and gave him ₹15/- more. Then, he asked me about my visit to a couple of foreign countries.

I took leave of him and finished certain personal works before going to a wayside teashop. I had a cup of tea and gave the owner ₹ 3/- as usual. “Sir, it’s ₹ 5/-“. Again I was somewhat surprised. Slowly I was getting used to this upward trend as I was returning home after buying several items at rate much higher than I expected. But, a pleasant surprise was awaiting. A couple of English News Papers hitherto unavailable in Ooty were seen in many shops. I bought a reputed News Paper and gave the shop keeper ₹ 5/- and moved off, but to my surprise he called me and gave me ₹ 3.50/-, saying “it is ₹ 1.50/-“

Then as expected the taxi and auto fares are much higher. We had been in Vancouver for about 8 months and on our return journey, we stayed in Netherlands for a month or so. I used to boast to my kith and kin over there that the cost of living in India was much, much lower, “A cup of tea is just ₹3/- or ₹4/- and a cup of coffee is ₹5/- or ₹6/-. What about other items compared to all these expensive items here?”

I did expect some marginal increase in the cost of essential items in India but the steep hike taught me a lesson – Things here in India are not all that cheap… Beware!

I chatter, chatter as I flow…

I was half asleep when I heard some one giving instructions in Kannada and Tamil… may be to his friends or a colleague. My mind was yet to be relieved from the European ambiance and the pleasure I experienced there whenever I came across an Indian or two in some streets. “Oh no!” my confused and sleepy mind corrected itself, “you are back home…”

Yes, we were back home… just arrived in India after a long gap. At that time, we were on the Karnataka – Tamil Nadu border… On our way to Ooty! In 30 minutes or so the road would lead us to the forest area. We had already come across the rural areas which resembled the European countrysides but not as charming.

Meanwhile, we had our breakfast at a decent restaurant before proceeding further.

Soon we were there!… the much-awaited forest area. A couple of peacocks welcomed us. Then came a herd of deers who seemed to discuss the day’s plans!  On both sides of the road there were trees of all sizes and kinds which sheltered those unseen but musical birds. While enjoying these breathtaking scenes, we were also on the lookout for those majestic beings, the elephants.

And we were not disappointed – there were a couple of them; muddy, head to foot. Of course, the long journey from Europe had made use tiresome but these wonderful sights made us fresh and happy. The European countrysides are vast and charming but this small forest has an edge over them!

The Next station is…

Whiter than snow and as smooth as monumental alabaster… Now I know that the poet was not exaggerating things. Here in Europe, we see such dames who walk in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies or crisscross the roads on he their cycles. Some of them are friendly with “opposite sex” having opposite colors!

So far I have had a glimpse of Europe, a taste of its cultures, its beauty… all based on my visit to a couple of countries. But, on seeing the rural sides of these countries, I do get an impression that it was not for nothing the poets of yore were never tired of writing about those enchanting hills, meadows and brooks and the songs of those birds.

All those high rise buildings and fast life disappear from my mind when it goes back in time to see a Wordsworth or a Keats or a Shelly, sowing the seeds of those immortal lines!

Yeah, The world is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

Suddenly, I wake up to the announcement,

“The next station is”

When the dark clouds disappeared!

To be or not to be? That was the question. Whether it was nobler in the mind to go out for an evening walk or sit at home, succumbing to the pressures of nature? It was a dark and cloudy afternoon and the Sun seemed to be incapable of driving away the widespread dark clouds.

But, suddenly things changed for the better. By 7pm, it was clear and bright (By the way, here in Groningen it is evening till 10pm during summer!)

So, off we go for an evening walk, aimlessly till we leave behind a host of houses on either side of the road.

And, when we entered the enchanting world of trees and lush green meadows, listening to the songs of the birds, we became energetic and silent, recalling the words of William Hazlitt… Nature was company enough for us. Yes, wherever our casual eyes were cast we could see only trees and bushes, dancing to the tunes of those unseen birds!

Frankly speaking, we were also craving for a cup of coffee and to our pleasure, there was a restaurant in the midst of trees. The rest of our experience you can imagine!

A pleasant surprise

It could be the entrance of a park attached to some monument or it could be the backyard of some city railway stations. You would see them, scattered all over these places. “Look at these pictures… these replicas… cheap and best” you hear the parrot-like repetitions of these words, though only one in a hundred cares to look at them. Here, I must tell you an interesting incident. I was travelling in a general compartment of a crowded local train. One seller of pictures and replicas was doing his best to draw the attention of the travellers. He did manage to sell a few items but the behavior of one traveller was rude and aggressive. “Get lost, you son of a b…” was his response when the seller approached him. The seller was not all that upset by the traveller’s reaction and left the spot with a smile but some of us asked him why he was rude. “If you don’t want to buy any of his stuff, just ignore him, but you were brutal…” When he was cornered, he simply opened a metal box by his side and said “just see what this box contains… This chap knows I am a seller myself…” Yes, there were post card size photos and replicas of monuments in his box.

We are quite used to such practices in India especially in places of historical importance. But, to my pleasant surprise, I came across several such ‘sellers’ in Paris. We were on our way to Eiffel tower and we took a train to a station (I forgot the name of the station from where it was just walkable distance). All these guys carried pictures and replicas of the famous tower. On seeing them I wondered for a while whether I was really in Paris. Even the buildings resembled the ones we see in Mumbai or Delhi!

When you are travelling by bus or train from Netherlands to Paris you have to remind yourself, off and on, that you are not travelling to a hill station or to Kerala in India!

I know not which way I must look…

As you step out of the house, you get a warm welcome (the bone chilling winds at times notwithstanding). The trees which invite you stand in a row, maintaining equidistance between them. You can rest assured of a couple of other things, a pond and those doves and ducks of all sizes.

You just forget the worldly affairs like the shopping lists you carry with you or an appointment with somebody, so that you stop here and there to have a glimpse of the floating birds or the flowery creepers who live happily on the slopes of the pond. Then there are a few giant sized birds (call them what you will) who are reluctant to move about in search of food… may be they are pondlords!

Before you leave this street take note of the nearby houses or some such things which would remain in your brain so that you won’t be confused when you comeback.

Having done this you may follow the road ahead or turn this way or that way. You will come across several ponds surrounded by trees and meadows and of course those flat footed birds – by the way, you don’t have to stand all the time, for there are benches fixed at strategic points.

The poet in you wakes up or those immortal lines of Wordsworth, Keats or Shelly come to your mind in a flash.

With all this don’t be under the impression that a Wordsworth or any poets of yore would be in a position to create something like,

“Behold her, single in the field,

Yon solitary highland lass!

Reaping and singing by herself…”

All these lovely places mentioned above are part of a small city in Netherlands!