Happy Pillayaar Chathurthi (festival for Ganesha- the elephant headed god) to you and your families 🙂 I just got back from lunch with my Indian friends. They had said it was only Prasadam (what you get after you offer something, usually food, to god) but they had made so many Naivaidyams (offerings to god) that there was quite a lot to eat. They are a married couple and follow traditions to the letter, compared to me at least. They had so many pretty flowers they had collected from the neighbourhood, lamps and agarbatthis (incense) lit, and with the music they played from Youtube, I could almost transfer myself back to India for some moments. I observed the differences in how they perform the Pooja to my own family. I will do something similar but on a much smaller scale when I go home today.
Summer has passed. In two days we will reach Equinox which marks the beginning of Autumn but the leaves have already started to fall, along with the temperatures. Though German summer is never quite as satisfying as the Bangalore one, it was good for a few weeks on and off. Warm enough to wear dresses, skirts, open footwear, go exploring by bike. Oldenburg had a Stadtfest three weeks ago in which many stages were put up in the city centre area and bands performed. Although I had good company and it was moderately enjoyable, on the whole it was too noisy and crowded for me.
Work is going well. Things are moving forward and though at every stage I am still learning new things, we are at the point in the analysis where the findings will reveal whether our hypotheses were correct. So it is interesting.
This weekend, I went to Munich to see my friends from my MSc year. Remember Barcelona? Same group, except this time with more classmates who had come for a conference there and stayed the weekend, most of who I hadn’t seen since I left Edinburgh in 2010. It was unexpectedly pleasant to see them again. They seemed equally happy to see me again and the familiarity just made everything we did more fun.
The first day, the Friday, I left from home early in the morning and went by train to Bremen where I waited and got in the car which is part of the Mitfahrzentrum (a carpool system which circumvents the expensive train and airfares within Germany by sharing with strangers going the same way and splitting fuel costs). Both the driver and the other girl had long painted nails (with nail art) and chatted away in German while I dozed off in the back. The driver played club music but at a low volume so all you could hear was the monotonous beats and a trace of the ‘tune’. Over the next 8-9 hours I became increasingly irritated with the music but chose to say nothing because we were close enough to Munich. I missed my family because on long rides we usually have interesting conversations and good music. I had packed lunch so I didn’t have to ask to stop for food. Samiya upma and bananas 🙂 When the other girl was dropped off and I moved to the front, she told me she was a soldier and I found, on closer inspection that her nails were fake attachments. I suppose in such a profession one tries harder to portray feminity. The GIjoe hung from her rear view mirror finally made sense, as did the bad music. My music teacher told me long ago that those exposed to harsh emotional conditions as a culture tend to listen to less complex music.
I got to Munich at 6:30pm and walked to the hostel where I was greeted by Jaro (Daga’s brother). As we waited for the others to arrive we went for a walk, had dinner and took in parts of the old town. We had booked a 5 bed room and we got back in time to greet Daga, Lukas, Vincent, Filo and Luigi. I was also eventually introduced to Miha who joined Edinburgh just after I left. We had interesting conversations about India, jazz music, and with others about Sitars, Tablas, why I was drinking water in Munich a week before Oktober Fest, and after Sarah arrived, caught up with the girls on life. We went in small groups to get something to eat around midnight. At the turkish place, they asked me if I was from India and gave me a free Baklava! Very sweet of them 🙂 We took a night walk and after much indecision as is normal in a larger group, we went back to the hostel to sleep.
The next day we got ready and had an all you can eat breakfast and rented bikes to ride around the city together. We took pictures (which I will upload soon) and tried the tandem bike (two rider-bike; needs cooperation and trust). In the Englisch gartens, we all took turns trying it out but only Daga and Jaro managed to ride it in the city. Often their closeness reminded me of my own brother. We stopped in a beer garten by a lake for lunch. There were swans, gulls, geese, ducks and a few other water birds I didn´t know the names of which gathered to be fed by the humans on the bank. The tandem bike broke at this point and we waited for them to return before we ordered proper food. I discovered to a new extent how interesting some of these people were who, when I was in Edinburgh, I hardly noticed or spent time with.
We rode around the main crowded area of the city because it was too difficult with the traffic and our large group. We saw many beautiful fountains, flowered gardens, old beautiful buildings and new modern ones which were very well designed. We returned the bikes and went on a short walk before we headed back, through a Hare Krishna concert/performance at the big fountain. I tried explaining the difference between this movement and other forms of Hinduism but it´s too hard to explain everything on a 10 minute walk. That night we went to a Sheesha bar where they ordered apple mint and grape flavours and a few drinks. We shared interesting stories 🙂 That night we said bye to half our group.
The next day many of us were due to leave at different times. We took another walk after another heavy breakfast (packing lunch half secretly from the breakfast items) and decided to go underground to cross a large road. Unlike many underground crossings, the U-bahn was very well lit, bright, shiny and mall-like with shops. We were amazed at how well maintained it was! I was due to meet my ride near the station at 1pm and they walked me there. It didn’t feel like we had had enough time with each other considering the length of the stay and the largeness of the group but the little time we had had, had been fun, warm and wonderful. I would love to go to Munich again. There is still so much left to see, like the museums, shops, shows etc. In fact, I liked it so much despite it being a big city that if I got a job there, I would probably take it. It felt like I had seen another side of Germany; more international, beautiful and friendly. I will admit though that being with the group there probably biases my perception.
The ride back was a bit longer because of traffic and road work. The car was Audi and far more comfortable than the previous car. You could feel the power as he cruised at 180kmph. The two I rode back with were also soldiers and their music was just a tad better. They were returning from a wedding just south of Munich and told me that Munich Oktober fest wasn’t authentically Bavarian; it is too commercial. I guess I can´t really tell the difference. I saw many dirndles and laderhosen on sale even in HnM and some small children running around in them too.
I made it back and have been feasting on Hindustani and Carnatic to make up for the bad music. http://www.carnaticradio.com/radio.html In fact I have been in the Indian music mode for almost two weeks now. Just yesterday I sang 2 hours of Hindustani after I got home and I felt so peaceful and centred. I haven’t sung some of those for around 5 years but it came back to me. I hope to practice more often.
I hope you are all doing well and are enjoying great food, especially today 🙂 Travel whenever you get a chance. It is good for the spirit 🙂 I will leave you with a fusion piece involving a sitar by the beautiful Anoushka Shankar and a violinist.