Razia ka Kashmir

Razia! She was as beautiful as a painting. She was fair,with naturally red cheeks, her hair was long and black. Her lips pink and slender long fingers, just like that of an artist. Her eyes, I will never forget them. They were brown, and there was sadness in them. It seemed that though she was young and smiling her eyes told a different story. I met her in one of my train journeys. She was such a pretty sight that I had to stop myself from staring at her. We offered each other some food and broke the ice. We spoke about various things, in our conversations she told me that she was from Kashmir, and that now she and her family had shifted base to Bombay. I asked her if Kashmir was as beautiful as I had read. She replied, ” It is much better than that. You have to actually see it to believe it. I lived in one of the mountains with my family. We never had taps in our houses or  needed to filter our water. We got water from a waterfall near our house,the water was so pure. The air so pure, the huge Chinar trees that hosted so many different birds. It was really heaven on earth.” I then asked her why did her family leave Kashmir, I would never let go of such a place. She smiled, ” Neither would I, but life isnt that easy. I was 13, and had just come back from school. All my family was crying, my mother later told me that my uncles house  was burned down and my cousin missing. I was angry,depressed, and really helpless. The soldiers tell us that they are here to protect us, but they actually destroy us.  My father, in a span of two weeks packed all our stuff and took us to Bombay. We havent got back home since its been ten years, my cousin is still missing.” We didnt say anything for a while, then I asked her, “Razia dont you want to go back home?” She looked at me for a while with those beautiful eyes and then looked outside the window and said, ” There is no such place, Aditi! Aisi koi jagah nahi!” After this I knew there wasnt much left to say, I retired to sleep. The next morning I did not see her, she must have got down at her stop in the morning. Since then when I think of Kashmir I think of the beautiful Razia. I just cannot forget those eyes.

AT THE QUTUBMINAR

THE MUTATKARS AT THE DELHI STATION

ON OUR WAY TO KASHMIR

KASHMIRI SUNSET
THE VALLEY

My father planned a  yearly family trip this time around to Kashmir. I have missed several family trips before ,but this time I wasnt too busy and I was always curious about Kashmir, so I joined in. We were 13 of us, which included three granddads, two grandmoms, an uncle and an aunt and my three younger cousins. The Mutatkar men are traditional in their ways. ” Bees pe naukri, 25 pe shaddi, 28 pe bacche aur 60 pe retirement.”( basically everything that Ranbir doesnt want to do in his latest movie) They are intelligent men, high on general knowledge. They love politics, bollywood, cricket and food. They are honest in their dealings, straight as an arrow, and are very sensitive people. The Mutatkar women are traditional too. Most of them are housewives and unbelievably great cooks, which is reflected in their husbands bellies. They are shadows to their husbands and sometimes taken for granted. Behind every successful Mutatkar story lies the woman in the kitchen. They put the family first and sacrifice most of their personal ambitions. I have always been in awe of this particular trait.

OUTSIDE OUR HOTEL WITH THE COUSINS
BREAKFASTING

We left from Delhi, and took the train to Jammu. From Jammu, it was a 10 hour drive to Srinagar. The drive in itself is a beautiful one, its extremely picturesque. Though the road is really bad and by the end of ten hours you could have a really stiff back.Also there are not too many nice places to eat, but we managed well thanks to the Mutatkar women filling up a bag full of delicious goodies. We left Jammu in the morning and reached our hotel in Srinagar in the night. Our hotel was really good, with great food and importantly 24 hours of hot water supply. The next day we took a drive around Srinagar. We saw the Shankaracharya temple which is atop a mountain from where you get the whole view of Srinagar. Srinagar is host to a lot of gardens which have been built by the Mughals. Every garden is unique in its ways. There are diiferent types and colours of flowers and atleast 500 old Chinar trees. Every garden is surrounded by mountains and host a lot of fountains. They are just the perfect picnic spot. Ofcourse the main attraction was the Tulip Garden, where so many of our romantic songs from our movies have been shot.  The Tulips are  in every colour. Every picture you take is a postcard picture. You have to experience it atleast once in your lifetime.

MUGHAL GARDEN

AT ONE OF THE FOUNTAINS
TULIPS

MUTATKAR WOMEN
LOVE IS IN THE AIR

BOTANICAL GARDEN

The next day for me was and will be the most memorable one. We went to Pehelgam which is a 3 hour drive from Srinagar. The driver left us in the parking from where we had to take horses to go into the mountains. It was a total of 12 kms on the horse with around 4 spots to see. I was really excited about the horse ride. I do love horses.  The above 60 crowd of the gang was petrified at first. Though they all did the ride anyway and did  it with complete enthusiasm. The oldest member of the group is almost 75! I was pretty proud of the Mutatkars. I sat on Tiger.  He was  handsome and seemed like an obedient horse, till ofcourse I spiked him. After we started riding I dropped my jacket and that made him go crazy. He went round and round around the place, I almost fell down but managed to get back on his back. Luckily he didnt do a wheelie on me or I would have died. After a lot of anger on my mothers part( for not wearing my jacket and dropping it) and lots of laughter on mine we started marching again. After a bad start Tiger and I both behaved ensuring a classic ride.

PEHELGAM

ITS BEAUTIFUL

AT ONE OF THE WATERFALLS

RABBIT….TOO CUTE IT WAS!

MUTATKAR WARRIORS

Pehelgam by far is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The snow clad mountains, the long trees, the waterfalls, the different shades of green, the blue sky…its all a dream! I rated Paris as the most beautiful place in my list but Pehelgam has overtaken it. As all said and done Paris is still manmade, Pehelgam is all nature every bit of it. There can never be any comparison between manmade and natural. Nature will always beat man, hands down! I was completely enchanted by the place and just didnt want to leave.

The next day was Gulmarg!. The main attraction here is the snow. I didnt enjoy Gulmarg as much. Firstly I was really annoyed by the amount of garbage that was thrown on the mountains and also it was too crowded. Though it was nice to see the oldies playing with the snow and couples playing snow fights. It was cute! I have hardly seen Mutatkars go romantic! A snow fight was romantic enough.

AGE NO BAR- SNOW FIGHT

SLIP AND FALL

The same evening we had to check in into our houseboats on the Dal lake. The Dal lake again is a popular with bollywood. Our houseboat was almost palatial. They had antiques and jhummars all over the place. The furniture was from the Mughal period. Our houseboat incharge Asimbhai told us that the houseboat costs around 4 crores, and Amitabh Bacchan had lived in it. Asimbhai has a picture with Amitabh and Abhishek when they were on the boat. The houseboat has a bathroom complete with a tub and hot water, its better than any five star hotel I have lived in. The view from the houseboat is amazing as well. We also had a Shikara ride which took us along the lake and also to the floating market for some shopping.

SHIKARA

RELAXING
ASIMBHAI IN HIS 4CRORE KI HOUSEBOAT

THE BEDROOM

FLOATING MARKET

After  awesome three nights we left Srinagar with satisfaction and really fond memories. Though there is beauty all around there is also another side to Kashmir where all is not good. The people in kashmir are struggling to make ends meet. There is no employment, as there is not much development here. The roads and infrastructure is bare minimum and life for the locals is not easy. The only income and employment that is generated is from tourism. There are lot of abandoned houses in Kashmir, the windows of each and every house is shut. The only people smiling or talking are the children. You hardly see youngsters having fun, talking loudly or even catching up over a movie. There is no theatre in Kashmir. There is military patrolling at every corner. I cant imagine living under military rule. People seem to live in fear, whatever few are still living there. The men and women in Kashmir are insanely good looking. They are ten times better than all the Katrinas and Ranbirs of Bollywood. There is still a transit camp in kashmir called the 216 Tranit Camp. I saw a queue of people getting in the camp and it was a disturbing image. I took my camera out but somehow just couldnt get a picture. The Kashmir valley is wounded and I have no doubts about that.

MAN WEARING THE TRADITIONAL PHERON

ABANDONED HOUSES

THE KAWAH CHAI
IN ONE OF THE GARDENS

BADMINTON

I hoped to see Razia there, but I didnt. I just hope Razia can come back home soon, because her home is by far the best place I have ever been to. I really hope there is peace in the Kashmir valley, the people of Kashmir deserve to live without fear just like I do!

WITH THE BEAUTIFUL KASHMIRI GIRLS!

 

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FILM AND TELEVISION INSTITUTE OF INDIA- IN THE WORLD OF MOVIES……

THE ENTRANCE

I pass this place everyday, on my way to  training or class. I always wanted to go in and see what this place is all about. I had heard quite a bit about it. So when I came to know that there was a  “campus walk” being organised in its premises I immediately jumped at the opportunity. The Film and Television Institute of India is ranked in the top five filming institutions in the world. It has given Bollywood people like, Shabana Azmi, Jaya Bachan, Naseerudin Shah, Russell Pookutty and so many more, the list is endless. Once you enter the campus you enter a different world. You are no more in Pune. Luckily for us we had Babulal Pardesi as our guide. Babulal’s three generations have been working in this campus, right since FTII was Prabhat Talkies  which was some time in 1930. His father has worked in close vicinity with Gurudutt Saheb, Raj Kapoor and many other legends. Babulal Kaka followed in his family’s footstep and at the age of 15 was employed in FTII as an electrician and today has  been regarded as a FTII legend. Though on paper he is just an electrician Babulal Kaka knows everything about movie making, every minute detail. He shared with us so many stories about Shammi Kapoor, Naseerudin Shah, Ketan Mehta and so on. I liked the Studio One story the best, because it apparently still has a lady ghost living there.

The walk involved going to the actual sound recording, mixing studio and also a complete look at the editing process of a film, which was so interesting that I thought I should enroll into the course right away. In the end of the tour we were showed an half an hour movie which had bytes of various FTII veterans who are now legends ,sharing their experiences on the FTII campus and what it means to be a part of this institution.

The world of movies I knew and now know are two completely different things. My passion for movies has gone up higher by some notches today. What we see on the big screen is only  half  the story. The real movies are made behind the camera, by people like  Babulal Pardesi.  Enjoy the pictures!

ITS A GREEN CAMPUS, LITERALLY!

THEY HAVE THESE AFTER EVERY FEW STEPS , THEY HAVE MOVIE POSTERS RIGHT FROM THE SILENT MOVIE ERA!

A LOT OF MOVIES ARE SCREENED HERE FOR STUDENTS TO WATCH- PRABHAT THEATRE

HELEN HAS DANCED AROUND THIS STATUE, BABULAL HAD MADE THIS FOR A SHOOTING OF A MOVIE!

MOTHER INDIA…SUCH A FAMOUS IMAGE THIS ONE IS!

SHARAB! BOLLYWOOD IS OBVIOUSLY INCOMPLETE WITHOUT IT, OUTSIDE A HOSTEL WINDOW!

THE FAMOUS SHAMMI KAPOOR SPOT, HE HAD TAKEN HIS JEEP AND TRIED TO JUMP OVER EVEN WHEN THE DIRECTOR HAD TOLD HIM NOT TO!

HANUMAN MANDIR…JUST TO SHOOT SOME BHAGWAN WALA SCENES

A SET IN PROGRESS

THE FTII CAMPUS CANTEEN…..SO MANY GREAT PEOPLE MUST HAVE HAD THEIR   CUTTING CHAI HERE!

WITH THE LEGEND- BABULAL PARDESI

EDITING- THE FINAL CUT OF THE FILM

SO MANY OF THEM

BABULAL KAKA’S RETIREMENT CARD

MR. PATKI. WITH THE PROJECTOR, A MASTER EDITOR….HIS STUDENTS INCLUDE SANJAY LEELA BHANSALI

REELS

THE CHEMICALS USED ON THE REELS

WAHEEDA REHMAN

MR.SONAWANE…THE DARK ROOM MAN…INVOLVED WITH EDITING!

NEGATIVE

INTERESTING WALL

THE SOUND PROOF WALLS WITH TEMPERATURE CONTROL INSIDE THE RECORDING STUDIO!

SOUND MIXING AND RECORDING

I SANG A FEW LINES….APPARENTLY THE SOFTWARES  USED TODAY TO RECORD ARE SO GOOD THAT THEY CAN ACTUALLY MAKE A BATHROOM SINGER LIKE ME SOUND LIKE LATA MANGESHKAR!

RECORDING STUDIO…MOVIES ARE ALSO DUBBED HERE!

THE FTII ALUMNI….WHAT A CLASSY SET OF PEOPLE!

THE WISDOM TREE…..IT HAS A HUGE AMOUNT OF STORIES INVOLVED…THE LEGEND HAS IT THAT ONCE YOU SIT HERE YOU ARE BESTOWED UPON WITH ALL THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD!

SHABANA AZMI IN HER DIPLOMA FILM… SHE SAW ONE OF JAYA BHADURI’S SHORT FILMS AND SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH IT…THATS WHEN SHE DECIDED SHE HAD TO JOIN FTII!

I LOVE THIS GUY! HE IS BY FAR THE BEST ACTOR BOLLYWOOD HAS EVER PRODUCED!  THOUGH HE  SAYS HE BECAME A PART OF FTII JUST SO THAT HE COULD HAVE SOMETHING ON THE BIODATA! THOUGH IN THE END HE ADMITS THAT HE OWES QUITE A BIT TO THE INSTITUTION!

MR.POOKUTTY…..HE ALMOST HAS A SPIRITUAL SPACE FOR FTII IN HIS HEART. HE SAYS THAT MORE THAN ANYTHING FTII MADE HIM A GOOD HUMAN BEING. HE MADE HIM DEVELOP SOMETHING SPECIAL!

THE FUTURE POOKUTTYS MACHI AND SWAROOP ,THEY ARE STUDYING IN THE SOUND DEPARTMENT..THEY TOOK US AROUND!

different kinds of reels from 30mm to 75mm

THIS WATCH IS THERE FROM THE 1930s

CREATIVE LAMPS

ITS A REAL ANTIQUE PIECE

ALL IS FAIR IN THE MOVIES!

Finale..The GerWomania Diary ends…

I am on the Turkish airline flight which takes me home.  There is  a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. This trip was everything I hoped it to be. The great places I saw, the nice people I met and how I broke some personal barriers. Sailee and chinmay were the perfect host. They gave me a place to stay, planned the whole trip and made me some awesome food.  Also the superb debate on India and it’s problem with implementation of policies which lasted for almost three hours was super fun, it was me and Sailee vs Chinmay. By the end of it we were absolutely brain fried. It is important to have people with different opinions, life would be so boring without that.

I am also pretty happy about the fact that this trip was completely self sponsored.  I have been on a pay roll since the age of 16 and have been financially independent, since then. I still remember my BPCL interview, I and Saina were interviewed on the same day in Mumbai by Prakash Sir(Padukone)  and our BPCL boss. I was nervous but pretty sure of getting in.  I did!

This trip was to break free. I had a really bad year last year. I had four injuries back to back and most of them just when I felt pretty good physically. To say the least it broke me down. I am playing badminton for the last  15 years, it is all I knew and it is just not easy to give up something you lived for just like that in a flash. Badminton was my only romance. So I kept at it, in my typical style. I worked harder and harder but nothing worked. When I look back I know I have done pretty good things in my career, but I always felt that if I wasn’t unlucky with injuries I would have done more. Last three years  I was just hoping that if I just get 8months in the circuit which were injury free I could have achieved my one final goal, though that didn’t happen.

In a situation like this I didnt know one exact  right way to deal with it. Like always I went on my instincts and took a decision. Early this year I decided to change tracks. I told myself that I would study something, anything and keep practicing without a goal or tournament in mind. Slowly as I started studying and became a student again I realised I was not bad at all.  I would sincerely mail answers to my professors after every class and I think I have already improved. I realised that badminton doesn’t have to be the only thing that defines me. There is so much to do and if I give things a try I could be good at anything. Slowly the broken pieces of my heart started coming together. I was definitely happier and I also realised that with no goal in mind my practice sessions also improved.

This trip was like a gift to myself. I went through crap last year but I managed to stand up again. It’s still a very long road ahead but at least I had the courage and wisdom to accept certain things and still move on in the most positive way forward. This trip also made me realise that travelling for me is like being home. I am very comfortable with different kinds of people, and I can have fun and be happy in any kind of situation.

I’m young and I am  done with my first road trip.  There is sense of satisfaction and makes me realise that I must have done something right to afford it. Though I’m grateful, I am not satisfied. This is just the beginning and there are many expensive things still left to do. I know I have to work much harder as I explore new territories, because in the outside world me being a badminton player doesn’t exactly count.I will have to start from scratch.  Badminton has  made me who I am. It has shown me almost every emotion there is! Any which way I have still not exactly given up on it. You never know what life has in store for you! Though I just know this ,badminton or no badminton I am still capable of doing good things.

I am going to end the GerWomania Diary  with these lines…

Peron ki bediyaan, khabon ko bandhe nahi re, kabhi nahi re,
Meeti ki parton  ko nanhe se ankur bhi chire dheere dheere,
Iraade hare hare jinke sino mien ghar karen, woh dil ki sune , karen, na dare na dare

subhaki kirno ko roke woh salaakhen hai kahaan, jo khayaalon pe perhen dale woh aankhen hain kahan,
Par khulne ki deri hai parinde udke chulenge aasma aasma aasma,

Aazadiyaan aazadiyaan!

(these lines are good so they are definitely not by me.. )

Dream big! Live your life to the fullest and as Po ( from kungfu panda), says, “There is no secret ingredient ,all you need to do is BELIEVE!!!!”

The GerWomania Diary…(updated)

Day 4 and 5, Oberstdorf and Heidelberg

I left Berlin with fond memories, it was everything that I hoped for. The Obenaus made it all the more special. I left Berlin in the afternoon and took the train to Plochingen which is on the outskirts of Stuggart. Plochingen is where I reunited with not just Sailee- Chinmay but also some more friends. I met Shriyash his wife Amrapali, whom I did know from before, they were the ones to host us in their classy house, courtesy Bosch.  We were also joined by Aniket his wife Smita and Umesh, Shriyash’s friend. I was meeting Aniket, Smita and Umesh for the first time but it didnt exactly feel like it. We as a group hit it off really well and that ensured that it was going to be an absolute joyride.

FROM LEFT ABOVE-  AMRAPALI, ME, CHINMAY, SHRIYASH, UMESH,SMITA, SAILEE, SWARALI, ANIKET

I reached Shriyash’s house at 10 in the night. I was immediately served with , chicken curry and rice. I was pretty hungry and relished the feast. We all sat together and ate. The next day we left pretty early in the morning to Oberstdorf Allgaeu which is a village in the Alps. We were basically going to Nabelhorn which is a peak at a height of 2224m. We had to take three cable cars(Bergbahn) at different heights. At our first stop we did something which wasnt a part of the plan, SNOW SPORTS. They had everything from a cycle, tyres, sledges and what not. I did everything. It was scary at first just the thought of it, but than that was the point. The sheer thrill was something I felt after a long time. It was unbelievable amount of fun. After that we skipped the second stop and straight away went to the peak. We clicked pictures, tried a hand at making a snowman, and failed miserably and ofcourse snow fights. (Ice can hit you really hard I realised) We couldnt see anything it was all foggy,all white and pin drop silence. If there is a heaven it could look like this. We were really cold and it was time to have a coffee and guess what they actually had a small restaurant at the peak. We went in and I got myself a Hot Chocolate. Gosh! I was in the Alps seeping a delicious hot chocolate, is that real?

AT THE OBERSTDORF VILLAGE

SNOW FIGHT

VICTORIOUS

CYCLING ON THE SNOW

WHAT FUN I HAD!!

AT THE TOP!!

AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD RESTAURANT..

Nabelhorn is the GERMAN side of the peak,  on a sunny day one could actually see the Austrian and Switzerland borders as well. We couldnt see it this time around as visibility was almost zero. It was an experience that will stay with me forever . The sheer beauty of the place was spellbounding. Nature is such a great teacher. When you see things from such a height you realise how really small you are in the scheme of things. All you can really do is silently bow down to it! Thats really the only thing you are capable of.

THE PEAK

VIEW FROM THE CABLE CAR

We came back home pretty tired. We had some Khichdi and dahi and went to sleep.

The next day was Heidelberg. Its one of the most beautiful and authentic Eurpean cities, and its so, so romantic. Its situated on the river Necker in the steep valley in Odenwald. We went driving from Plochingen to Heidelberg, the drive was for two hours and picturesque. The Heilderberg Castle is again a major tourist spot and rightly so. In its ruins is so much beauty.  Its situated quite up in the region so you actually get a veiw of the whole city and the river flowing through  it. The castle was first built by Conrad of Houhenstaufen. It was demolished and built again numerous times by many kings. The castle had an Apotheke(medicines) Museum. It had all the history of their medicine and ways of treatment and how it developed. It also had this winery with huge barrels that were used to store wine. The size of it, you have to see it to believe it. It was wonderful. If I had a bollywood hero I wouldnt have mind shooting a romantic number here. I am sure a lot of songs might have been shot here already.

HEILDELBERG CASTLE

INSIDE THE CASTLE

APOTHEKE CASTLE

WINE BARRELS…ARE THE HUGE OR WHAT??

At the castle we were joined by Swarali who is currently studying in Heidelberg. She is Chinmay’s school mate. It was great to have her she took us for lunch at a familiar Chinese restaurant. From there she took us to a Monastery and an Amphitheatre which was used by Hitler to have his secret meetings back then. It was situated at an even higher altitude than the castle. The amphitheatre was so huge that a football match could be hosted there. The monastery was again in ruins but serene. We clicked some great shots and headed to Swarali’s beautiful house for some tea. Before that, we took some time to get on the Old Bridge on the Necker river and walk on it. I also had a nutella and nuts crepe which I was dying to eat. After this we got to Swarali’s place freshened up and headed home. We convinced Swarali also to join us and she did.

THE AMPHITHEATRE

RUINED MONASTERY

GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS!!
 WITH THE FAMOUS MONKEY AT THE BRIDGE

I LOVE THIS ONE

LOVE LOCKS…

INTERESTING

We came back home and had rasa,poli and rice for dinner. After which we started with the great Dumsharats battle, which lasted till almost 2 in the night. I laughed so much throughout the game that I had a severe stomach ache. Umesh was the funniest in his acting skills. I and Aniket were almost waiting for his chance to act  all the time. He was a total sport about it, but I was on the floor laughing most of the times.

DINNERING….

The next day we part ways to get back home, as the Easter holidays for all of them had ended. It was time to get back to work. I had an awesome time in the last two days. The places I saw, the awesome company, the new friendships everything is some thing I will cherish forever. On the way back in the White Bullet, Sailee and Chinmay gave me another experience of my life. They took me to the train restaurant for a coffee and cake. God! It was amazing. Rhine river and snow clad mountains on one side and me sipping my coffee sitting in a restaurant which is actually in a train. Life seemed perfect, if only Ranbir would have walked out from one of the doors and joined us, I was ready to die peacefully right there!

THE RHINE RIVER FLOWING THROUGH MY WINDOW…

COFFEE IN THE TRAIN RESTAURANT..

THE GerWomania Diary..(updated)

Day 3, Berlin…

I got down at the Berlin Main Station and randomly started waking to the exit. As I searched for the exit, I realized I was just on the first or the top floor of the station. There were 3 more floors below me and I  had to exit from the 1 st floor. The Berlin station could also be in your list of places to see. Its pretty unbelievable, the size of the whole thing.

BERLIN HAUPTBAHNHOF



I finally got out. It was snowing and it was really cold not ideal for sight seeing but it was good enough for me. I mean, how many times do I get to walk in a snowfall back home? I enjoyed it, it made the walk all the more dreamy. The first thing as you get out is the river, you cross the bridge and you reach the  Parliament. Its a huge and a beautiful structure. The special thing about it is that you can actually pay a fees and actually go and see the Parliament in session. It is wonderful.

REICHSTAG – THE PARLIAMENT



Berlin is full of history, there is so much of it that my small blog will not be able to cover all of it. So, I am not going to try too hard!  The next thing was the Brandenburg Tor(gate) . It is basically a huge gate representing the tumultuous times in Germany but it also  stands for peace and love. Its again an amazing structure. It is on the Unter Den Linden street, one of the most glamorous  and vibrant streets in Berlin. The street is colorful with a hell lot of tourists, and lot of mad things happening. It has all the great brands, but the best thing I liked about it was the Bentley,Mercedes,and Audi showrooms. The cars on display were fabulous. As I walked around  I noticed that every random structure around me was filled with architecture and art. One could stand and admire it  for hours but i couldn’t do that , because it was too cold and  I had limited time. On the same street there is also their Opera and a big church. 

BRANDENBURG TOR


UNTER DEN LINDEN
VIBRANT
THE OPERA
BAUGATI…WHAT A BABY…
TAKING A RIDE…

The next destination was Potsdamer Platz. There was a Jewish Memorial structure , a little part of the Berlin Wall and  a huge place called the Sony Centre. Its a nice junction a mixture of both the new and the old. The past and the future. My next stop was Checkpoint Charlie. It was basically the crossing point from west Berlin to the east during the cold war. Its again a major tourist centre, It also has an open air museum with hell lot of pictures and information about the place. After that I went to the Jewish Museum and was completely transported to an another space. The museum takes you on a journey way back in the centuries and tells you about the history of the Jews, their culture,religion, struggles, Hitler and the Holocaust everything that you want to know about the Jews. The way that museum is built is so interesting it really makes you stop with awe. The best thing I liked about it was the numerous stories and photos and paintings of so many Jews who died during the Hitler regime. It was overwhelming to go through some of the stories. I almost took a close to three hours to finish the museum. I  had taken an English Audio guide which made things very easy to understand. 

JEWISH MEMORIAL



THE CHEWING GUM WALI BERLIN WALL…LOOK CLOSELY
SONY CENTER
CHECKPOINT CHARLIE
JEWISH MUESEUM
FACES RESEMBLING SO MANY JEWS THAT DIED…

SO MANY PEOPLE …SO MANY STORIES.


By the time I finished all this it was evening and I had to meet up with my host in Berlin, Robert Obenaus. I didnt know Robert at all, he was basically a friend of my boss in Parisar an NGO( where i interned for a while). After a decent amount of confusion we finally met on the Museum Island next to the Bode Museum. The Museum Island basically has atleast 6 to 7  museums showcasing different things. I met him and I instantly realised that i was going to have a great time. He talked a lot and was just very warm. It was Easter so he told me that our first stop would be his fathers place, as the whole Obenaus family had got together there. I reached the house, and I warmly recieved hugs from the whole family which consisted of Roberts wife,her mother, Pauline their little angel, his father, mother and grandmother. It was nice, there was festive mood all around and nice sense of togetherness. We had some tea, and bread a nice conversation and then we proceeded towards Roberts place. 

THE OBENAUS
WITH PAULINE



Robert and Kirsten are  a real cute coupe and they are so much in love that it is endearing. They both love India and actually would love to come back there and stay.  They said they loved India for its vibrancy, culture and the most important thing warmth. They told me that people in Germany are way to formal and cold. They have no idea who stays next door. There is not much emotional connect here. Where as in India, they loved the way people were generous in their expression of warmth and love. They said their neighbors would often call them for dinner or lunch. Another incident they told me was about when they went to Ahmadabad during the kite festival, they badly wanted to fly a  kite. They just randomly walked up to a terrace where they saw some people flying it. When they saw Robert and Kirsten they not only made them join the kite flying ceremony but insisted that they join them in their authentic Gujarati Feast later. Robert said they couldnt believe the super treatment they received.  For them this love and warmth is almost unreal.

ROBERT AND KIRSTEN



After all this interesting conversation i went to sleep. I was really tired, i must have walked quite a bit, in that snow and a heavy sack back on my back. I slept instantly, as soon as i closed my eyes.

Day 4, Berlin Wall

The next day I got up fresh and refreshed after a nice sleep. I freshened up and we all again went to Robert’s Father’s place for a German breakfast. I loved the spread of the different breads and cheeses and the meat. After a real heavy breakfast we finally got ourselves up for some more sightseeing. They took me to the East Berlin Wall, where I actually got a real feel of what the Berlin Wall is all about. Their constant commentary of the history made the whole experience even more richer. They also told me that recently a rich politician has decided to break down the wall and build a residential plot there which would host expensive bungalows. The location is ideal to make money as its historic and beautiful and its right next to the river. I confirmed the fact that ‘idiots’ exist everywhere, and are not just confined to my country. If they plan to break down the wall, then that will surely be a tragedy. A whole lot parts of the wall are already broken today, this particular stretch is by far the longest stretch left. Its just criminal too destruct this. Its way too important and monumental. Apparently people host a demonstration every other day to stop the government from breaking down the wall.

GERMAN BREAKFAST




INDIA ON THE BERLIN WALL
SO MUCH LOVE…



After this we saw a bridge, the North,South and the East domes, the TV tower which is a long structure and has a revolving restaurant right on the top and a very interesting church, Interesting because, this church is in two parts one of the parts was broken down during the war and has still been kept the the same way, the other part was rebuilt. The contrast is striking and almost beautiful to see. The church was pretty unique inside also, something i had never seen.

THE TV TOWER
THE DOMES
THE BROKEN AND THE REMADE VERSION OF THE CHURCH
INSIDE THE CHURH


After this we were all hungry and headed towards some food. We had steak for lunch and then they dropped me to the Berlin Station where I was taking the White Bullet to Stuttgart, where I would reunite with my friends. As i left Robert and Kirsten they gave me an Easter present and a hug. They are really cool people and its difficult to imagine German people to be cold after meeting them. I guess I”ll just take some pride here and say may be  India changed them, or may be not. All in all i guess i have made some new friends here. They have promised to come back to India. I hope they do, I will always keep an eye out for them.

Bye,bye Berlin! I loved knowing you!