Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Does Affection Need a Language?



My German colleagues had a holiday from 20th December for Christmas and New year celebrations. My whole office was closed between those days. Due to security reason it was not allowed to work alone in office. So I was forced to take holidays. But my Indian colleagues did not have the Christmas holidays. So it had been decided by my manager that I would work from home. So virtually I was working for office.

For New Year celebration my friends in Göttingen had decided to go to Hamburg on 31st December. They called me to come with them. But we had an important delivery in our project on the same day. So I had to work day and night from last few days and I was damn tired due to irregular sleeping hours. In that situation it was difficult for me to travel to Hamburg. I decided to stay back in Göttingen. I wanted to be part of that fun, but my work was not allowing me. Finally we finished our work and delivered successfully.

Previous day one of my German friend Elina had called me to invite to new year celebration in her home. She was basically from Kazakhstan, but now staying Germany from last 10 years. As till 1994 Kazakhstan was a part of Soviet Union, so I can say she is Russian also. She had told me the new year celebration will start at 7PM. 

I was going to somebody’s home so it was not a good idea to go without gift. But like Christmas eve, even on New year’s eve also all the public transport, all the shops, markets will be closed. By the time I had finished my work it was 5PM. All the market was closed. None of the gift shops were open so that I could get a decent gift for her family. But somehow I had decided not to go with empty hands. I went to petrol bunk and from the kiosk I brought one French wine bottle, few chocolates and  Ice-cream.  But somehow I was not satisfied with a gift what I was giving. I came to my home and prepared some Indian pakoda’s. So all this took about two hours. Around 8PM I went to Elina’s home.

They were waiting for me. Party was in Elina’s Grandparents home. As Elina’s parents were out for work. So in the home Elina, Her grandparents, two of her cousins (Leon and Eliza) were there. Once we entered I had taken my shoes unlike other German family’s where you don’t need to take out your shoes.. It was beautiful home and beauty had been added to it by decorating with true aesthetic view.  It was a home which everybody aspires after hectic office work. This was home where anybody would forget their office stress. Little bit Russian touch was there to home. 

By the time I reached to their home dinner was ready. After 10-15minutes talk straightaway we went to dinner table. When I saw a dinner table, it left me with awe expressions.it was so much decorated that I was filling that I will have royal dinner at some five star hotel.  The food was cooked in Russian way. Atleast 9-10 variety of dishes were there. Whole table was looking awesome. When I saw variety of food, my hunger had increased exponentially. Entire food was cooked by Elina’s grandmother. She served the food, I felt that my own grandmother is serving the food…  It was completely different and tastiest food for me…Elina’s grandfather was also insisting for food and drinks.  While having dinner Elinas’s grandfather sang a song, which left me with astonishing expressions:

“ichak dana bichak dana dane upar dana, ichak dana
chhajje upar ladaki nache ladaka hai divana, ichak dana”

Elina’s grandfather was a big fan of Indian veteran actor Raajkapur.. He told he is big fan of Madhubala as well. In his younger days he saw many Indian movies, especially Rajkapur’s.
During dinner we chatted their life when they were in Kazakhstan. His brother was in Soviat Union army and fought against US army in Germany during cold war period. He told me about the problems which they had faced in Kazakhstan. We discussed about the culture what they have there.

After dinner, according to their tradition it was a Tea or coffee time. So they prepared a tea with Sulemani style. In that, they boil the water with tea powder. I saw the metallic kettle in which they were preparing tea, it reminded me old Persian movies…..They don’t put sugar or milk in tea. Once that tea is filtered, you need to have that tea while eating some sweet. I had never tried that way. But it was nice. We were having a tea in living room. Some Russian music was going on TV at the background. Russian family, Russian music, Ruassia way of drinking tea.  

It was already 10.30PM. I thought to leave, But they insisted to stay there for some more time as fun is yet to begin. Then they told for every Sylvester all their family members come together. Have a dinner and drink together. But this time everybody is busy so they could not make it. With tradition on Sylvester  they play a Russian game called “Loto” on money for fun.  They told the rules to me. It was pretty easy and funny. In first 2-3 round I lost 40-60 cents.. Having a Sulemani Tea, playing Loto was a fun.

We played Loto till 11.55PM. Then we saw from the window that fireworks have begin already….at midnight we wished everybody and we went down in for fireworks. Elina’s grandfather already brought the crackers. It was fun to lit the crackers. I was feeling that as if I am celebrating indian festival Diwali. In 2012 I was not with my family for Diwali celebration, So I missed all the litting crackers(with my nephew’s and niece) backhome in India. I was enjoying this. Firework was so amazing that, it was one of the best fireworks ever I have seen. 
After watching 30-40minutes breathtaking fireworks, we went again in the home and started playing the Loto. We played the Loto till 3AM in the morning. 

At 3 I decided to go to my home. I was about to leave the home, and Elina’s father just came from work. I wished him also, It was sweet surprise for me. I thanked everybody and left the home. Besides it was a fun spectacle, the light of pyrotechnic displays also provided a surrogate sun during the dark Silvester night.

The important thing was in that home only Elina knew English. All her family members were speaking in Russian. I did not know even single word in Russian language. Elina was an interpreter between me and her family. She used to translate what I wanted to say to his family and vice versa. Neither I knew Russian nor did they know English. But everybody in the world understands the language of love. So I could make out what Elina’s family wants to convey me. There is no hospitality like understanding. 

Being away from home from 5 months, I was feeling I am in my home only. As Elina’s grandparents love resembled to my grandparents at backhome. For me the spirits of all sorts charged through the night

I would say it was a best evening I had in Germany. Homely food, grandparents love, younger kids and company of Elina. Though I had spent only 6-7 hours with them, but footprints marked in my heart for forever and the bond for lifetime. If you want to share a love in life I would say you don’t need a language. affection itself has its own language.Guten Rutsch!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christmas Dinner......

Being an Indian Hindu, I had only theoretical knowledge of Christmas.   25th December was important day for me only because I used to have Holiday at office. Frankly, I had never celebrated Christmas. But once or a twice I visit church in year. I like the peace in the church.Before coming to Germany my friend had told not to forget to have a fun during Christmas. I thought it’s just a joke.  

As December month started I started realizing that my friend was correct. It is not a celebration of a day infact it is celebrated throughout the December month. Best example would be Christmas Market in the centers of all the cities in Germany. It was nice to hang around in the Christmas market, in the evening and to have a hot gluewine in the cold with friends. It was nice to wear the red cap like Santa clause which has a fairy tale with bell. This was even before actual Christmas celebration was not geared up.

Till 20th December my German colleagues started going on Christmas vacation. While going they told the same thing that don’t forget to have a fun during Christmas time and especially not to miss the Christmas Dinner. On 20th December boss of my Boss, Harald had invited me for dinner in his home.  First of all I could not believe that the person of his stature is inviting me to his home for Christmas dinner(this was a second time I was visiting to his home). It made me very happy.

Generally for religious reason Christmas Eve is important (as Jesus Christ was born in the midnight, so they celebrate the Christmas eve also for the same reason). Christmas Eve is the occasion for family reunion in Germany. Family member who are working across the city or country just fly back to home to catch the closed ones. And it doesn’t matter how busy somebody is, but sure they will try to make it to home for Dinner.

My office was closed from 22nd Dec to 2nd Jan, but I had to work from home.  I was waiting for the 24th Dec to enjoy the something different “evening “ in Germany. I was told that Dinner will start at 6PM. So I have to be in Harald’s home at 6PM. But on the Christmas eve starting at 4.30PM all the public transport facilities were closed. His home was around 20KM from the place where I was staying.  I thought to take a taxi. But around 3.30PM I got a message from Harald saying that he would pick me at 5.30PM. It shows that if Germans invite somebody then the way they takes care.

I got ready at 5.25PM and I came down. I thought Harald would be late by 5-10minutes. But he was at my place at 5.28PM only. That was one of the examples of punctuality in Germans. I got in to the car. His wife along with his mother were there. I was feeling little bit uncomfortable. Because, I am going to a family which belongs to not only different country but has different culture, language, open minded people. Only one thing was common between us, that was we were human being. While going we talked about the hobbies and coincidently Katrina, the wife of Harald also had the same hobby and she had already read the book “Kite Runner” which I was reading at that time.

We reached to His brother Volker’s home in 20 minutes.  Dim light in the room….As we entered in the home I saw around 13-14 people are already waiting for us. All were his family members.  His brother’s family, His family, his sister’s kids(Who is working in Laos). Harald introduced myself to his entire family. Slowly goose bump were started for me and kept on guessing what is going to happen next. Once I got familiar, even I started communicating with his family member as most of them could understand the English. Within a short time they made me so much familiar, that there was no barrier in the communication.

There was a Christmas tree in home, decorated with different stuff. It had candles kept on each branch. Some wrapped gifts were there below tree. Volker’s wife Ute had started to lit the candles. The whole room was glowed up in the candle light. It was a beautiful view something like yellow colored flamed fruits have been attached to a green tree. 

I saw a small bucket of water near Christmas tree and Ute told me, that bucket is for safety. Incase if there is any fire causality then that water will be used. I am sure with that candle light(heat) , chances of fire are even less than 0.5%. But still that also has been taken care by keeping bucket of water. This shows how Germans are cautious of solving the problems. No wonder why they have one of the best in Engineering products in the world, due to ready solution for the problem whose chances  of occurrence are barely minimum…..

White wine, blue wine, champagne started floating around the family members according to their choices. As whole Grothey family was there except the eldest son of Volker, who was in Dominic of Republic in American continent. I could see in Volker and Ute’s eyes how badly they were missing their son. I can say parents are parents, it doesn’t matter they are German, Indian, American or African.. They always want their kids with them, irrespective of how much they have grown up…. Volker made Skype call to his son… He was already online on skype… I could understand the feeling of his son to being away from family as I was also away…. Once call started, all people started  to sing some song, which was in German… I could not understand….But it was nice to hear that song…  I too wished his son… 
After the call we all chatted and pulled leg of each other for next 30-40mins….. It was around 8PM…. Dinner was ready….. Eyerybody took their place near dinner table… As a tradition one need to lit a oil lamp at the dinner table (I don’t know why, But it is the tradition)….Ute lit the lamp on the stand which was African made….

I was little bit worried about food, because I am a vegetarian and Germans are known to eat lot of meat in their daily diet…. But there was a perfect food for me also.. It was a kind of electrical Barbeque. Different chees, bread, salads…. For them it was different type of meat, cheese etc. was there…. I sat between Harald and Volker, they guided me how to eat the food… As I had never tried the food in that way… Food was different for me, it was one of the best dinner I had in Germany… All were chatting on different subjects…. Meanwhile Dinner made a laughter among all with Volker’s funny tricks….. they were nice… Whole dinner made more interesting with Italian, French wines….. I loved the food….

After dinner we discussed on their traveling expeditions…. They were very diverse….His sister was working in Laos, one more brother is working in some African country and son is in Dominic of republic… So truly that family does not belongs to only Germany but to whole world…

After dinner their was another tradition…. Gift distribution by Santa clause…..In modern era Santa Clause does not go to everybody’s home so the role of Santa Clause was done by most responsible person of family…. Their was a gift for everybody… It was a fun…..Gift distribution was followed by a delicious Opium Christmas cake. First time I was having a opium cake… It was nice….

It was around 10PM…. The time had passed so early….It was a time to leave the home, as I was staying 20KM away…. I thanked everybody for inviting and boarded a taxi…


I left their home physically but their home made a permanent mark in my brain.  I loved the kind of love and hospitality they had shown… I stayed with them only  for 4-5 hours, but I was feeling that I know these people from so many years… The Indian and German culture is completely different… I felt one thing that, It doesn’t matter what culture you belongs, but love, compassion, hospitality, respect is going to be there in that culture… Only the way of showing them are different….

This is full of artificial life…The computer, internet, mobile, nuclear missiles, machines have overtaken the world… But nobody can overtake the love and humanity in the world…. 

The world is very small…. I would love to catch these guys sure once again, I would be very happy to host them in India..First time in 5 months I got a feeling of being with my own family...

This was one of the best evening in Germany…. Thanks Harald for inviting me… and thanks for giving me a chance to be part of Grothe family…