Archive for June, 2011
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!
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!
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!
Apart from festivals, there are several ‘Days’; I mean special days like birthdays, father’s day, mother’s day and so on.
In India there are festivals and festivals, commonly celebrated and since there is no dearth of festivals commencing from January to December, we don’t attach undue importance to those ‘days’ mentioned above.
Not so in western countries where festivals are few and far between. May be the purpose of certain special days is to overcome the terrific shortage of festivals!
On one such day this year, I was watching the TV unaware of the fact that it was some one’s day! One of the channels had a short but interesting piece on Mother’s day. A women who was in deep slumber was woken up by her elderly children almost shouted in a chorus, “Happy Mothers Day… Happy Happy Mothers Day” and the sleepy mom responded with a “DANKYOO”. That was scene one.
After a short commercial break the mother was seen sitting on a sofa, well dressed and ready to go out. The happy children said (again in a chorus), “Wow! Mom looks beautiful” and the mom said “You people wont leave me alone. You’ll take me to a textile shop and buy me some expensive sarees”. The children were bewildered but the eldest son told his siblings, “Beware! Don’t disturb mom. If you do… I don’t know what I ‘ll do”. In short it was clear indication that they had no plan beyond “Happy Happy Mother’s Day”