As I stepped out of the airport in Vienna and got into the taxi to go to my hotel I could see snow all around and took a slow walk to the hotel after getting out of the taxi. It was to enjoy the snowfall. Wow, very rare opportunity in life. Jyothi had warned me to take care of the cold in Europe as I had shared a heavy chest cold with Walter who was with us in India just before I started. I let go of all caution little knowing that the weather in Europe was my saviour. The next morning when I started for the Climate Change conference my chest cold had disappeared leaving my chest intact.
World has changed a lot. Discourses on Climate change are seeing a totally different climate now. At least in this conference I could not see the Global concern for global warming mitigation and the lot of poorer countries. It was a Euro Centric conference, meaning both Europe and Euro.
I had ample enough time to pay a visit to the Ravidasi Sabha in Vienna where one of their top gurus was shot dead some four years back. Shri Ramanand Ji had visited Booshakthi Kendra along with a big Dalit delegation years ago and so it was a sort of emotional payback. I touched ground at the spot where he was shot dead, the world full of religious madness still gaping at me with ridicule.
When I landed in Cologne to take my train to Aachen it was touching to see a rich looking businessman coming to me voluntarily and helping me out to take the train ticket from the German machine. Therefore, when Elvira told me that she hoped I should learn German soon it makes a lot of sense. At the moment that is the biggest lacuna in my familiarization of the Euro-rail system. I am very excited at my capacity to manage well the rail system in Europe except for taking the ticket out in some stations. Later in Berlin Walter came with me to the station to bid adieu and take out the ticket.
As I landed in Aachen I walked to my hotel again in snow getting wet on my head. I was apprehensive about getting back the chest cold but it was worth taking the risk. The small bottle of liqueur that I picked up in Vienna helped to chase away the residues of any chest cold that could have hidden in some corners of my large chest. I remember the first time I met my sister-in-law in Tuticorin, she touched both my shoulders and measured my chest and said, “What a broad chest you have”. My brother was looking at me with envy.
Discussions on REDS’ CDM project and CERI Campaign were both interesting in MISEREOR at Aachen. Walking with Anika in the rain to the restaurant for lunch, she losing the way and both of us turning back and reaching the restaurant gladdened my heart immensely. I think it was an Indonesian meal that we had. But who cares when we had each other’s company to enjoy. And Beatrice laid the topping to an already tasty pudding saying, “It was very inspiring”. She referred to the sharing we had on CERI. I knew that CERI inspires anyone. But I had the final taste of the pudding as I found that even my long chats are inspiring. Beatrice is a very inspiring person in any case. Aachen was very exciting.
The shortest travel by a taxi was in Berlin where I got into the taxi at the railway station and the next moment I was in the hotel. But it was the wrong hotel. In the meantime the taxi had left. I got the direction from the owner of the hotel who only spoke to me from her room over the doorbell. I took the risk to walk to the new hotel. But Germans have changed a lot. Some even voluntarily asked me if I need some help. I realized that I had put on a helpless look on my face. Or did they read my face correctly as Sabine often reminds me that I should have been a German in my previous life? Germans are becoming extremely friendly to me the more they come to know me. That is encouraging especially after receiving that uncivilized message from an unknown fellow in India who called me a fucking Dalit bastard on my face book page for being critical of exactly his brand of Hindutva. I derive very little pleasure in convincing myself that it is an apt reward for me. I am not inclined to take nonsense any more.
Sabine rushed to take me for dinner. As usual I enjoy her company more than the dinner she gave. But the big glass of the darker version of Weissenbier became my brand in this entire trip. So much so that even the hotel in Vienna which did not have it on the first day ordered for it the next day and served me. I was a spoiled brat all the way during this trip, especially with one of my finest friends Sabine. Being a spoiled brat at the age of 61! It must be amazing.
Walter joined me the next morning. I tried to make sure that he would come to the same hotel where I stayed. But the reception told me that such a person was not in their list in spite of me even spelling his name. But there he was at my door as wide open as my heart was to him. By many standards I can say that he is one of my best friends that I have had and Jyothi will agree with this. With Walter I feel a sort of freedom that I do not generally feel with some others. I can say anything to him about me without the fear that he will misunderstand me. That I think is the excellence of the man. I care a damn that he will retire from Bread for the World. He will never retire from CERI. Hope you guys will agree with me on this.
Top guys! The Head of Asia Department and the Head of South Asia Department of BftW. Incidentally they have now constructed a corporate office building in Berlin together with EED. Oh, you literally get lost in that building. But the discussion we had with these top guys was exhilarating. I let go of myself without bothering about how they would take me. But they seemed to enjoy my forays into the unknown. “We need such strong stories of HOPE”. That is how they ended the meeting. I have requested them to release Walter for our events in Delhi in March. I informed you guys in CERI that the book on Electoral Systems is dedicated to Walter. Honestly speaking I cannot remember the number of friends I met in that huge building. Over the years many have become good friends.
Elvira, August Ilg and Heike Kluve the inseparable Trinity in Andheri Hilfe! Bonn is nostalgic as I used to meet Badal in his house here. It also houses the house of Beethoven and I used to stay in the Beethoven Street and I used to stay two buildings away from his house. Wow! The funniest experience for me was in Bonn this time. As I got out of the Bonn railway station it started snowing. I walked till the hotel for about 7 minutes. As soon as I reached the hotel the snow stopped. Unbelievable! If I happened to be a holy man in the church they would have already called this a miracle of god. But unfortunately now they cannot do it with me, as they will condemn me for my ungodly pronouncements.
A miracle that was in Bonn! The awesome Trinity of Andheri Hilfe pulled off the unbelievable Karnataka Solar Lamp Programme with support from the German Government. It is now high time to see how we shall find a self-sustaining mechanism for our Dalit Panchayat Network in Karnataka through this new model of social business. Thomas Ricke, the owner of Villageboom is a different class of businessman. He can very well pass as a development worker in India. But it will be better that we do not spoil him. A wonderful businessman to work with! The new addition to my list of VIPs is Janine in Andheri. She had a serious meeting with me but her being was enveloped with the Carnival that Germany was having the next day. The excitement of the Carnival was spread in the entire office. And the way that Intern left Andheri spoke millions about the people there. She was almost in tears when I saw her last outside the building taking her bicycle to go home, as that was the last day for her in Andheri after six months of internship. It must have been exciting.
And I hope that I shall become an intern in Andheri one day for two weeks to study German. Elvira had a broad smile while saying this. But she knocked me hard on my head with hammer when she said that they will speak to me only German and nothing but German. I am ready to be knocked down with German if only I can learn the language. Learning, non-stop learning is the secret of building up a people’s movement. This is what Jyothi and I have learned at the feet of our Dalit people.
Messages and calls from Jyothi to make sure that I do not fall anytime at any places was the sustaining energy. I should have fallen with perhaps the lowest sugar level at Dubai airport on my way back. My legs were spinning and twisting. I even developed a doubt if I would reach a hospital there. But then suddenly it dawned on me that I had a pack of chocolate put in my bag by Jyothi. Just fell into a chair, ate the chocolate and had a cup of hot coffee from the nearest coffee shop. Till now she has seen to it that I do not fall and if I happen to fall I hope it will be on her lap.
Oh, I forgot to tell you the time I had to complete my latest novel “Poojamma” the Woman who Redefined Womanhood. Vienna, Aachen, Berlin and Bonn, every place had time and space for me to write, complete and also edit my novel. That reminds me of the long discussion Sabine, Ursula and Walter had with me on my novels, the latest rape cases in India, the ridiculous double standards that India practices on it sex morality etc. That ended on a serious discussion in Bonn that one of my novels may be soon translated into German. “Where do you get the time to write so much amidst you work?” this was Heike. “I have 28 hours everyday”. This was I. “When will you stop working like this” heard in Berlin. “May be six months after you bury me.” This was I. Quite weird no? “The Crazy man, therefore, we should support him”. I missed my best friend Manuela this time. But I met Elmar quite accidentally in Aachen, who said it years ago.