Friday, November 30, 2007

Pizza, my Saviour during my European Holiday!

When I was travelling in Europe recently, I ate Pizza every day. Being a vegetarian is not so easy in Europe. Though every major city has Indian restaurants, it is a very expensive proposition to eat daily in the Indian restaurants. I settled for Italian Restaurants. A large -sized vegetarian Pizza and a mug of beer kept me going for the entire day. Though I am an Asian, Chinese restaurants do not appeal to me in spite of the fact that they have vegetarian dishes in their menu. Somehow, I find the taste unacceptable. I must be one of the few who do not prefer Chinese food. When I eat Pizza, I get the feeling that I am eating Indian food. Be it in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Prague, Vienna or Salzburg, Pizza kept the culinary company for me. For this, I thank the Italians.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Goethe Institute, Prien and my teacher Herr Ochs

Flash back to 1975. I studied German language in Goethe Institute at Prien am Chiemsee, a beautiful resort town near Munich, the Bavarian Capital during Dec.1975-Jan.1976. Mr.Ochs(Ox) , a bearded Austrian bachelor was my teacher. At that time, I was 29 years old and Mr.Ochs was about 45 years old. He had mastery over the English language too. This made his teaching more effective. While teaching us German, he spoke to us on a wide variety of subjects. He was very international in his outlook. He even took us to restaurants in nearby villages and introduced us to authentic German cuisine, though as a vegetarian I chose to forgo opportunities of getting to taste much of the German food. Herr Ochs had become an indispensable part of our daily life at the end of the two months.

Cut to 2007 April. I was making a visit to Germany on my way to the United States. I took a train to Prien from Munich. Prien had changed a lot in the intervening 32 years. More shops. More crowded Railway station. I did not remember the way from the Railway station to the Goethe Institute any more. With some guidance from the passers-by, I managed to locate the institute. It was heart-breaking to learn that the Goethe Institute had closed down its Prien branch. All that remained was the building, uninhabited . And Herr Ochs who had retired long ago, was no more. Some thing sank in me. The old care-taker of the by-now empty Goethe Institute building was nostalgic and sad. His wife, he said, had worked in the kitchen of the institute for several years. She is no more. He lives alone. I said with a sigh , " Every thing seems to have changed in Prien". He shook his shoulders and countered, " Has not the entire world changed upside down?". True. To lighten the atmosphere, I said," But the German beer has not changed. It still schmeckt gut." The care-taker laughed and the heaviness on my heart eased a bit.

Have you any time wondered why we all suffer from pangs of nostalgia? Why that wistfulness? Why that tinge of regret for times gone by? As if a part of us has vanished for ever, never never to return? Is it because it reminds us of passage of precious time? Our mortality? That we are living on borrowed time ? Will we ever come to terms with the truth that we are living in a time-defined ephemeral world?