The wait…


She was a good ten minutes late. What reason was she going to give this time? Traffic? Left home late? Had work? Lost track of time? All of these true. She hated the way the day had begun. She woke up with a sore throat. She couldn’t find what she wanted to wear. And now she was a good ten minutes late wearing what could best be described as “the perfect last-minute find”. Well, all these issues could be sorted out easily: all she needed was a hot cup of coffee, he didn’t really care what she wore and he was used to her late comings. But it was enough to spoil her mood. She hated that café, to begin with. Far from home, did not serve tea and loud and expensive: this wasn’t her idea of a café. Which café serves just coffee? She rarely drank tea but liked to believe that she had the option to order it. And the sad little cookie that came along with the coffee: that just seemed preposterous.

The café sported a deserted look. A plump middle-aged man enjoying his cup of latte was the only other customer. He was so focussed on his caffeine that the only time he denied it any attention was when the woman made some fidgeting noise with her handbag or house keys. He stared at her sweaty face, while she ignored him. His leching was least of her concerns; the guy she was supposed to meet hadn’t even arrived yet and here she was, anxious that she was late and that he might be angry for waiting so long. This was a rare victory for her. She had arrived before him. That was almost as rare as her wish to drink tea instead of coffee. She mused over the lectures she would give once he arrived decidedly late.  She rehearsed a couple of lines in her head, determined to teach him the lesson of time management and punctuality.

Clicked by Sriram Erramilli

Clicked by Sriram Erramilli

Half-past twelve. Her throat was feeling better. Her anger had boiled down. The plump latte-drinker was gone. And there was still no sign of him. She called him for the seventh time and for the seventh time the sadistic bitch said that the number was out of coverage area. She was drinking the coffee rather slowly, so she could avoid the glare of the waiter, who was trying to figure out what was this woman doing in the middle of a hot day in this sad, deserted café. He was probably judging the man she was waiting for, she thought, and this infuriated her. Who was he to think anything about her lover? She was in good mind to give him her coldest stare but she had other things to worry about. The sadistic bitch on the phone continued to revel in her restlessness.

Her second cup of coffee arrived. This time, the waiter served it with a smirk on his face. She stared right back at him, her eyes defending her lover’s absence. She kept staring at the door, wanting to catch his sight sooner than anyone else. The coffee did not taste good this time. Or perhaps her foul mood had spread through her taste buds. She blew the froth away as the agonizing wait started killing her bit by bit. She tried his number again. Maybe eleventh time would be a charm? It worked. The number rang for about a minute until it got disconnected as no one picked it up. The sadistic bitch, this time, said he wasn’t picking up and asked her to call again. Damn! Well, at least it was ringing. That could be a good sign. He was probably driving and on his way. Good thing he didn’t pick up. It was never right to pick up calls when driving. What a sensible man, she thought. Funny how anger turned into admiration. And it took only twenty minutes, two cups of coffee and eleven call attempts for that to happen.

As she blew the invisible froth for the hundredth time, she practised several versions of speech in her head. How much that sadistic bitch on the phone irritated her; she called him to hear him, not her. How the waiter always questioned her choice by his smirks; she should not be feeling answerable to anyone but she somehow felt compelled and defensive. How the plump guy kept reading through her restlessness. How agonizing the wait was and what it did to her curious mind that leapt at the slightest trigger. She had finalized every single word and every single emotion of her speech. But they all drowned and faded into oblivion. He was here. And all she could think of was to envelop him in her embrace. Nothing else mattered. Not those speeches. Not the smirk. Not the stare. Not the judgment.

Of France, Italy, Spain and “the end”


I have had my share of France when I visited Pondicherry (now, Puducherry) two years back. I remember being fascinated by anything French: from cuisine to the architecture to the literature, probably fascinated more by its European roots as, to me, European, was French. What foreign language do you know? French. What was eight grade history all about? The French Revolution. Where is Simone de Beauvoir from? France. French feminism. French kiss. French fries. France was the quintessential representative of anything European. I thought I had experienced all the French-ness that I could when I visited Pondi, completely convinced that this was my best bet of experiencing Europe in India. I think I spoke too soon.

I began my affair with France by landing in its capital city, Paris. The city that I had heard so many rumours about that it became almost necessary to go there to verify them. I was told that it is one of the most unsafe cities in the world. I haven’t been everywhere but I can vouch that it is as safe and/or unsafe as Mumbai or Delhi. There is nothing in Paris that stands out as peculiarly threatening  to life. I may be wrong. But I am alive to tell the story without having been robbed, mugged or groped. And I have been on the streets of Paris during all times of the day. Well, mostly. I was also told that France is the most romantic country in the world with Paris being oh-so-mushy. Again, nothing in Paris stood out as particularly romantic. The couples I saw making love at the underground railway station were no different from the elderly couple giving each other a good night kiss at an Italian coffee shop.

Eiffel versus Human

Eiffel versus Human

But, Paris felt loud. Its glamour, its fashion and its people. They seemed to scream their existence. Not in an irritating fashion but in a hey-you-can’t-help-but-give-us-a-second-look way. And you would. You would look at the Eiffel Tower twice. Thrice maybe if you go in the night and feel awed at its glitter and extra-ordinariness. The farther you look at it, the more it mesmerizes you. The closer you go, the tinier you feel. You would look at Da Vinci’s painting twice when you visit the Louvre Museum. You would wonder at Mona Lisa’s painting and wonder what the heck is her expression all about and why is the world so obsessed with it. You would stare at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and muse over its architecture and sculpture even if you don’t understand it. Paris is all about wondering why is it so famous. And by the time you leave the city, you wouldn’t know why but you would agree with those who campaign about the Parisian way of life and nod at what Hemingway had to say about the city: “But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.” 

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Louvre Museum, Paris

From Paris, I ventured into French Riveria, wanting to experience more about the country than just its capital. I explored Cannes and Nice (pronounced as niece, mind you), while also visiting Monte Carlo, Monaco, ending up having the best time in these wonderful coastal cities. With the Mediterranean Sea following you along the way as you travel from one city to another, the sea literally never leaves you. Its magnanimity follows you like a shadow presenting itself in different ways in different cities. Cannes, with its red carpets, fashion brands and private yachts. Nice with its feel of French countryside, the postcard picture perfect sunrise and sunset at the beach and Monte Carlo with its richness of people and culture. Each of these was an experience of its own.

A quiet beach in Nice Ville

A quiet beach in Nice Ville

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The city of Monte Carlo

With so much France in my system, I had pretty high expectations with my next destination: Italy. I was greedy for more as I neared my next stop and Italy did nothing to disappoint me. One of the most visually appealing cities, Rome, was my first stop. On first look, it looks like an abandoned city where civilization once flourished and is now just a crucial chapter in history textbooks. Rocks. Ruins. And rust. That’s Rome, in a nutshell. Unforgettable, though. With its wonderous Colosseum and the popular Trevi Fountain. Rome stays with you. Even after you have forgotten all your memory, Rome remains. And never dies.

Colosseum, Rome

Colosseum, Rome

From Rome, I left for Pisa to admire yet another wonder of the world: The Leaning Tower. I have been fortunate enough to have seen at least three other wonders (the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower). But the tower that leans wins my vote hands down. Its simplicity, its perfection in it imperfection and its serenity is enough to knock your socks away. There is pretty much nothing else in Pisa city except the leaning tower. But that is enough a reason to lure you there. I ended my innings at Italy with yet another oft-spoken of romantic destination: Venice. It’s easier to understand why Venice is touted as romantic (as compared to Paris and the mystery surrounding it). There is water everywhere; the city thrives on it. Paintings. Fresco. Gondola. Touring the city on water. Well, there is a noticeable charm about it all. You can smell and feel love everywhere. In the air. In the waters. In the paintings. In the painter’s brush. In the painter eyeing his muse. In the gondolier’s oar’s strokes. Venice is for the lover. And for everyone who aspires to be one. Also, I had one of the best pastas I have ever had in my life there (in case, you aren’t convinced just as yet).

The city of Venice

The city of Venice

My last European stop was Spain. I could only go to Barcelona as Spain was my last destination and by the end of it all, I was physically, mentally and monetarily spent. Yet, I couldn’t erase Spain out of my To-go list even if it meant only one city. I choose Barcelona as I could fly there for cheap.  Also, I wanted to visit a city other than the capital. Barcelona fit my bill and gave me all the Spain and Spanish-ness I could have possibly wanted. And more than just that. Apart from discovering Gaudi‘s spectacular architecture in the city and hitting the local beach, I also walked along the lanes of Catalonia, a historical lesson I had completely missed and ignored during my school days. A trip to Barcelona was easily one of the most informative ones I ever took in Europe and I came back filled with enough information to last a lifetime.

A street in Barcelona

A street in Barcelona

The beginning of Spain meant the end of my mammoth European tour. And I was already apprehensive of that happening. I began my trip to Barcelona with the constant feeling that this is possibly my last destination and I ought to soak up as much of sun as I can. Literally. And figuratively. And that’s what I did. I probably enjoyed Barcelona a tad more than the others. Just as I enjoyed Prague a little more than the last, both being memorable owing to the fact that they were my first and last stops. If the story is good, you always remember the beginning and the end, no matter how it turns out. And for me, it was all good. Nay, ¡Magnífico! :-)

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Of music and romance


For me, Prague meant Rockstar. Prague spelled theatre, culture, arts, opera and ballet. Prague reminded me of Ranbir Kapoor and the song Aur Ho. But it is so much more. It is said to be the cultural capital of Europe that is host to several Czech and English language plays and theatrical performances. Unfortunately, I did not have the money to afford a ticket to any of these but there is theatre, drama and music on the streets. I found people from different backgrounds and knowledges producing music out of sheer wood. Or a cane. Or a rod. Anything that produces sound was wonderfully converted into soulful music. It’s amazing to witness musicians on the street playing for people, hoping for money and entertaining anyone who lends them an ear.

Musicians from Mexico performing on a street in Prague

Musicians from Mexico performing on a street in Prague

In many ways, Prague reminded me of India. Mumbai, to be more specific. It had been a while since I saw a definite crowd gathered on the street in Europe. It had been a while since I saw a street performer entertaining an audience with his tricks and treats. It was also quite relieving and satisfying to see people not obeying the traffic light when crossing the road. Mumbai just came flying back to me as I ran across the street while it was still red. Prague also gave me an ‘Indian’ feel (whatever that means) as I passed by streets of flea markets that sold stuff at a reasonable rate that was subject to bargaining. This was the first time in Europe that I got a chance to negotiate on the price with the seller. 

A bird's eye view of the city of Prague

A bird’s-eye view of the city of Prague

The much-talked about and popular Charles Bridge was an experience in itself. I went there in the night, which makes it twice as colder and thrice as awesomer, with all the lights. The cool breeze on the bridge can make a chill run down your spine, both literally and figuratively. It’s a must-visit and represents Old City in the best way possible. The best part is that this beauty is for free. There is no entry fee and it’s a public bridge open to all pedestrians. Old City is full of music and merriment. There are people everywhere. Gathered for a wedding ceremony or to hear out a musician or to skeptically look at a street performer’s magic tricks. A better view of this cosmopolitan crowd is wonderfully captured from the astronomical tower that allows a bird’s-eye view of the entire city.

People gathered to witness a wedding on the street in Prague

People gathered to witness a wedding on the street in Prague

With Prague becoming my first out-of-Deutschland experience, I headed to another neighbouring country: Austria. As a kid, I always confused Austria with Australia owing to the missing ‘l’. I remember realizing the difference of not just culture but also geographical location between the two countries. As I learned that Austria is a separate European country, I mulled over its European connection and dismissed it instantly. Who would have thought that someday, I would get to visit its capital city Vienna, touted as one of the most romantic cities of the world (closely following Paris and Venice). I am not a romantic and I don’t understand romance the way it is conventionally spoon-fed to us via media images and literature. In fact, I have consciously stayed away from reading anything that belongs to the romantic/love story genre. But Vienna, as a city, will probably make the unromantic appreciate romance in a way he/she never fathomed.

A tree decorated at a Christmas market in Vienna

A tree decorated with miniature guitars at a Christmas market in Vienna

Romance and the idea of romantic is as subjective as the idea of love. Vienna is a land of classicism and perfection: verbs one would normally not associate with romance. But there is love and romance in music that the Viennese have produced. There is romance in their orchestra. In its harmony. In its choice of violins and the cello and their jugalbandi. In the way the trumpet complements the saxophone in a well-conducted musical symphony. In its disciplined music that demands perfection from each of the musicians who never fail to deliver. It’s the land that Beethoven and Mozart spent many of their years in. And you can’t dismiss them, even if you’d want to.

An exhibit of Mozart's achievements in Haus der musik, Vienna

An exhibit of Mozart’s achievements in Haus der musik, Vienna

Vienna is also the place where much of the movie Before Sunrise is set. But more than just its Hollywood and filmy connection, the city enamours you with its epicness. The streets are wide and long. The people are many and multi. The transport is varied and crowded. The city speaks in many languages, German being the official one. Despite its Deutsche-speaking population, it does not feel like Germany at all. It’s like Austria is trying to niche its own identity, and successfully so, while sticking to the common language. I think I would have felt the same after living in Spain, learning Spanish and then heading to Mexico.

The famous Ferris Wheel in Vienna

The famous Ferris Wheel in Vienna

Next up: France, Italy and Spain

Read Part 1 here

Of travelling, planning and budgeting


Travel has been on my mind since the day I landed in a foreign country. It is something I cautiously enjoy; cautious because I have often been choosy in deciding who I travel with. The year 2013 has simply been phenomenal as far as travel is concerned, even before I landed in Germany in October. By October, the tenth month of the year, I had somehow managed to visit ten states in India. None of these were planned (well, some were…but only in the last moment) and I am still struggling to recall how I financed each of these visits on my own.  Travel can consume both time and money; people usually don’t mind the former but the latter pinches you where it shouldn’t. But, all the travel that I did since I came to Germany was tied to a fixed budget as the money used for travel was a product of some meticulous planning, clever negotiation with parents and my own hard work to earn a scholarship that had a decent monthly stipend.

As long as I have known and been fascinated by travel, I have often treated Europe travel package tours or even travelling in a foreign country (especially a European country) with much disdain, doubt and disbelief. Perhaps it is the grapes-are-sour syndrome that has repulsed me or simply the annoyance with the over-hyped European architecture, modernity, its classicism etc. I have read about it in history and geography and often wondered about my education being so Eurocentric. I later learned the politics of its reason but I was still not convinced. I never bothered to research much as I was most definitely convinced that I would never get the chance to visit Europe. I still believe I have the capacity and the ability to afford it but I know I wouldn’t as I still have a lot to invest in travelling all over India.

Picture taken from http://voyage-vixens.com/2013/08/08/best-travel-quotes-voyage-vixens-inspiration/

Picture stolen from here

Life’s unpredictability was highlighted when I got to opportunity of staying in Germany, one of the most advanced countries in the world, for a period of four months.  For a moment, I forgot that I have come here with an academic intention. All I could see was I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel Europe. I studied the map and I vaguely linked it to India. The different countries in Europe, to me, resembled the different states in India. Maharashtra, an Indian state, is bigger than Belgium, a European country, for instance. Fascinating stuff, indeed!

It is often said that the best travel stories come from those who never plan. I am afraid I could not follow this ideology during my Europe travel as I was with a limited budget and a limited time-span. Hence, I had to rank countries, cities, places-to-see, things-to-buy etc in descending order. It is an arduous task to perform this act of prioritization. Understandably enough, when you haven’t been to any place around, you cannot possibly dismiss any of them as you do not have any benchmark. Every country has its charm that cannot be taken away from it. But I decided to pick distance-wise. As much as I would have liked to visit Turkey and Greece, I had to give them a miss as they were far from my place of action: Germany.

There is enough to see and learn in Deutschland itself. And I am glad that I could explore much more than what I had bargained for. With the kind help of a wonderful lady (@veerappa), I got the opportunity to visit the hills and valleys of Tübingen . As I panted and puffed my way to the top to have a view of the entire university town, it reminded me of the hill stations of India. Tübingen is a university town, very similar to Münster (my place of stay in Germany) in that aspect. and is known to have one of the oldest universities in Germany spread across the town. I visited a couple of departments and soaked in the heavy cold breeze as I walked along the lanes of this wonderful town.

A view of Tübingen from the Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church)

A view of Tübingen from the Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church)

I continued my travel from Tübingen to Freiburg via Unterjesingen Sandäcker (that’s Germany for you!), a small village town where we stayed for a night. Freiburg was a part of the plan as we intended to visit the Black Forest. One of the most mesmerizing train journeys I undertook was to the Black Forest in the train. I have never seen so much snow and so much whiteness around me as I sit in the train awaiting my destination. I finally landed in Titisee, the closest I got to the Black Forest and was enchanted by not just the snow but also the ice: the lake was frozen and the roads that led to the lake was filled with snow. And so were the railway tracks.

A frozen Titisee

A frozen Titisee

View from the train

View from the train

Snow-covered railway track

Snow-covered railway track

Travel makes you greedy. If you happen to enjoy it, it makes you crave for more. And the lust never ends. It was just the beginning of an insatiable desire for me. I had seen the lovely countryside and it was the perfect culmination of the wondrous city life that I had observed a week ago in two other neighboring countries: Austria and Czech Republic.

To be continued

Of lamps, lectures and languages


It’s been a long day. Two lectures followed by a field visit. Then, reaching home after a 40 minute bus ride, chopping vegetables, cooking something edible, consuming it and then doing the dishes. This is now an everyday routine. Grocery shopping is fun as every time an item is picked and put into the shopping basket, the otherwise dormant mathematical brain wakes up immediately to do some quick euro to rupee conversion. It’s amazing how fast it is in calculating just how much more expensive things are here when compared to the prices back home. It’s difficult to find words that describe the elation when you realize that onions here are priced at a lesser rate than in India (after calculation).  Shopping in the supermarket is no less than skillful decision-making and economic planning. Almost everything looks desirable. The trick lies in separating what you want from what you need. You might want to but that scented candle on Diwali eve. But it is milk that you need to keep the caffeine going in your system.

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Speaking of Diwali, Münster, or rather Germany, is a surprise package when it comes to celebration of Indian festivals. After having lived in Deutschland and heard Deutsch for over 20 days, when you are suddenly in a large hall of people speaking in several dialects of Hindi and Tamil, you don’t really know where you belong and suffer a momentary identity crisis unable to decide your leanings. But it’s a total high to be able to wear a sari in a land where it is considered as an exotic, oriental attire, walk on the windy streets of Münster in the evening, brave the cold that seeps into your petticoat no matter how many layers of thermals you wear inside and still feel comfortable and sexy at the same time.

Sari and salvar kameez: two traditional Indian attires

Sari and salvar kameez: two traditional Indian attires

It is amazing and perhaps even a little intimidating to realize how much the world already knows about India. The subject Urban Anthropology of South Asia deals with the study of culture, society and cities of the Indian subcontinent. It isn’t easy for a non-Indian to grasp the intricacy of caste system, a form of social stratification that has been a reality in India since time immemorial. It’s heartening to notice the effort that international students here put in to make sense of studying about one of the most complex and convoluted cities and civilizations in the world. It is an extremely learning experience to listen to a Spanish guy presenting a comparative study between a cultural hub like Benaras and an industrial town like Bhilai.

I make notes diligently only to notice that no one else is writing anything down. I drop my pen reluctantly and try to join the “masses”. I enjoy the discussions in class and understand that the line between rural and urban is blurry and that such definite and static categorization can be both a useful and a redundant exercise. There are a million questions in my head but I let them float and form better shapes. The class ends at 4 pm but it’s already dark and feels like 9. It’s been a while since I was sun-kissed and I have almost forgotten that feeling anyway. German class begins in a couple of minutes. So I browse through the alphabets one more time. I pay most attention in this class because I know what I get from the next two hours will most certainly be useful during my stay here. One of the first things I ask my teacher is how do I say “I don’t speak German” in German (Ich spreche kein Deutsch). This is because I need to constantly be saying this sentence until I have some command over this foreign language.

Strictly speaking, the German language is extremely logical. But, sadly, if you come from a background of fluent English, you have already been separated from it for a long time now. Then, suddenly when logic and syntax is thrown at your face, you run around and gasp for breath. Learning German is almost exactly like that. It begins with alphabets that look like a modified version of the English A-Z. Then come the numbers whose pronunciation is shorter than the word itself (75 is fünfundsiebzig). And then they tell you that everything has a gender. Yes, the Germans take gender very seriously. Every word you learn is decidedly masculine, feminine or neutral and this, in turn, decides every other word that goes before or after it. Thus, what begins as an extremely smooth ride on the highway turns into a bumpy nightmare on a rocky terrain. If you survive that, you can hopefully ace the language. Schade!

To be continued
Read Part 1 here

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On being an Ausländer


I wake up to the noise of the alarm clock. It’s seven in the morning and the clock is screaming mercilessly. I toss and turn soaking in just a bit of extra warmth from my cozy bed. I turn it off reluctantly and look outside the window. It’s still pitch dark and the moon seems to be smirking at me. Like it’s deriving a sadistic pleasure of the fact that its duty is done and mine has just begun. I make a face and venture into the kitchen to make my morning cup of coffee. Nothing makes sense without it. Caffeine in my blood, I begin the day. I toast some German bread chewing it for approximately seventeen minutes thereby consuming my breakfast. A little whoosh of wind from outside sends a chill down my spine. It takes about nine minutes to dress up to face the wind outside (I calculated yesterday). You begin with the thermals. Then, full-sleeved shirt, trousers, jacket, muffler/scarf, socks and finally shoes. It’s six degrees outside and we have been instructed to interpret that as “pleasant weather.”

Walking to the bus station, I read signs in Deutsch language everywhere. I can read everything, but I can’t make sense of any of it. I’m not even sure if I’m pronouncing it correct. I hear the language being thrown at me from all directions. I try catching a few. Maybe sneaking some into my pocket. But I fail. They are too fast. Or maybe too big to fit into my tiny pocket. I rummage into them and spot my euro bills. They look neat, yet used. I stare and calculate in my head of its monetary value back home. The math takes longer than I expect. And the bus arrives. I buy a ticket to the main station requesting the driver to issue me one. The driver throws a few more Deutsch words at me. This time I don’t catch any of them. I know it’s futile. I smile and nod and clutch onto the ticket for which I just paid two hundred and twenty rupees. Distracting thoughts, I scold myself. I read Mr. Fitzgerald for some fake consoling. It works briefly until my stop arrives.

I get down confidently. I know I have reached a place where there are lots of people. Probably not as lost as me but who cares? Numbers comfort me. A woman is taking puffs off her cigarette so fast, she’s probably afraid someone’s going to steal a drag from her.  I’m mesmerized by the smell. I don’t notice I’m standing on the bicycle lane until I hear a loud ‘trrring’. I lift my gaze from the nicotine sucker to the elderly couple riding the bicycle. They call it a bike here in the bicycle capital of Deutschland. I smile at the two wrinkle-y faces who smile right back at me, while they peddle their way to their destination. A couple is kissing on my left while another is dog-walking a creature that can best me described as a pig shrunk into the size of a baby skunk.

I’m supposed to take the next bus to my Institut and get down at Studstraβe (the ‘β’ is pronounced as ‘ss’, by the way) but I’m not sure if Bus 15 or 16 will go. I disturb a young woman who wears the University bag (thereby giving me the silent hope that, as a student, she will be friendly and open to a stranger’s help) and ask if Bus 15 would go to Studstraβe in English. She responds: “Yes. It would.” I do a silent jig inside celebrating the fact that I just caught the words that were thrown at me, this time in a language that I understand. I cling onto her and follow her into the bus silently making a note of never letting her go. A young German woman who is speaking in fluent English in Deutchland? That’s an endangered species. You ought to preserve it with lots of love, care, affection and genuine respect.

Main university building of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Main university building of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Incidentally (or probably because the Almighty has scripted my life in such a fascinating way), she also has to get down at Studstraβe. I follow her and her bike (another classic Münster person: human almost inseparable from his/her bike) to the stop. We exchange greetings in perfect English (my heart is still doing the jig), learn about each other’s backgrounds and walk for about fifteen minutes until I reach my destination. Endangered species is not only endangered in terms of her knowledge of English and German, she is also endangered in her display of extreme vigilance and stubbornness of ensuring that I, the Ausländer, reach safely before she moves on. I hug her tight before I greet Guten Tag! I’m amused as I realize that neither of us asked each others’ names.

I’m ten minutes late for my class on Social Anthropology of South East Asia. The only homework I have done for this seminar is to Google the exact definition of anthropology and learn what countries come under South East Asia. I sheepishly make my way into a small classroom filled with people of at least twelve countries sitting together under the same roof. The professor isn’t here yet, so I have been saved from the embarrassment of arriving late for my very first class. The lecture begins and I learn so many new things I’m confused between feeling enlightened at the flood of knowledge and feeling foolish at my ignorance. Everyone introduces themselves during the class and I realize that I just heard the Nigerian, Spanish, Brazilian, Mexican, Slovenian and Dutch accent at the same time.  My turn comes. I introduce myself. My name isn’t too difficult for my classmates and my professors as it just has two syllables (thank you, dearest parents). Everyone smiles at me. I reciprocate humbly and adjust my bindi. The class begins.

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To be continued