12th June. This is when it all began. I took a life-changing decision, on this day, twelve years back. The decision to start my career, and that's how I entered this abyss. Does it get darker as we go ahead? For some reason, the flashlight on my phone doesn't really help here.
Rewinding to 12th June 2017, the day which broke the routine of 2015 and 2016. If years are calculated based on the significant changes in our lives, I'd be probably eight years old now. How nice it would be actually. People won't spam our timelines with Birthday wishes unless something significant happens. This is my problem, I get sidetracked easily. Let me focus on the date, 12th June - The day I entered Europe, or Deutschland to be precise. New country, a new assignment, and a new set of expectations. Sorry, I have to deviate from the date again to give you some background.
It's been a while since I wrote about myself on this blog. I think it will help you to get a perspective of my existence in this world. You can understand how much I have changed over the years. Read the first few posts on this blog, back in June 2006, which I wrote using SMS language. Half-baked sentences, trying to fit high vocabulary here and there even when it didn't make much sense, and just trying to be the typical Hyderabadi potta. Today, it has completely changed. I've remained short but grown more serious. You can still call me happy-go-lucky because I haven't done any major planning in life apart from deciding which movie to watch when and where. The platter was ready for the most part.
For the Cancerian individual, home is the natural habitat and when he steps into the wild, he will get anxious. In my case, people around me were more anxious. How is this tiny little vegetarian crab going to fight the mighty sea? What will it eat? How will it survive? I was surrounded by these fundamental questions of life when I had to travel to Malaysia on a long-term project in Aug'15. The missus was happy because she thought I'd learn to cook at least this way. Mum was like any other Indian mother, coaxing me to carry a pressure cooker. However, their plans didn't materialize because it was not 12th June. Little did they expect that I was going to live in a street named little India. I will stop here because my experiences in Malaysia deserve another post but, to give you an idea, I managed to survive without any changes to my lifestyle for another couple of years.
Here comes 12th June 2017 again. No more deviations this time. The day I arrived in Düsseldorf with enough "MTR Ready to Eat" stock for two weeks. I took a walk around my hotel to get the feel of the city, and I walked for about thirty minutes without spotting a human around. That was the first difference which hit me. The longer days were quite exciting. Watching the sun set at 10 PM was something special, the first time.
The initial challenge was to look for a house soon. Searching for that perfect house was and is the most daunting task. Translate web pages to English, read the nitty-gritty details carefully, shortlist options, email/call for appointments and wait for a date to see the house. I did all this but didn't receive any call or response from anyone. It was strange, very strange. I still don't know why. I moved twice since I came here and both the times I had to rely on "Indians in Duesseldorf" FB page to look for options. Oh, how good are the desis? An FB page or a local WhatsApp group always for your rescue. Are there similar pages like "Americans in Assam" or "Germans in Jharkhand" on FB? Of course not. We are special this way.
Then came another peculiar problem, haircut! Yes, this might sound stupid but this can get more complicated than you think. Let me put it this way. I am shy. I don't open my mouth in front of strangers unless I really feel comfortable. I was told that we need to fix appointments here for a haircut. I tried calling a salon when it was time, and they gave me a date next week. I was super annoyed. First, I was reluctant to call and second, they didn't understand a word I was talking and third, they tell me wait for a week? Who waits for a week to get a haircut? If you feel like getting a cut, you should be able to walk into a salon and get it done. Even if that means waiting an hour there reading Filmfare magazines, isn't it? And when you have colleagues who are almost bald, you can't expect much help from them either to know about these 'No appointment business-wala' salons. Disturbed Van Gogh cut off his ear in 1888. Disturbed Preetam cut off his hair with a trimmer in 2018. I almost shaved half of my head. Looking at the result, the missus was mad. To make it up and look better, I shaved it completely which made her even madder. Until my hair grew back again, I was too scared to talk to her. I have learned a life lesson. I am never going to play with my hair again.
If you are wondering why I arrived in Düsseldorf with enough MTR stock for two weeks, here is the reason. I am not a vegan but I am a Lacto-vegetarian or the so called 'Pure' vegetarian, which means no meat or eggs. I had to play safe because, if you didn't know, I don't consciously eat anything that 'may' contain egg too. If someone offers me a chocolate, I check the ingredients first. Also, Cakes, Muffins, Croissants, Waffles etc, which means I cannot take complete advantage of the complimentary breakfast at the hotels too. I had no escape. The fundamental questions of life were actually haunting me now. What will you eat? How will you survive? But this worry doesn't make much sense in the digital age. You can make whatever you need, whenever you want. That's how I discovered my love for cooking. I wouldn't call myself a great cook, but I enjoy the process. The process of making something with my own hands is gratifying, like a painting, and I think this new found love is going to stay with me for a long time.
And then the winter came. The days when I checked the weather app almost daily. Winter is nice to watch only in Game of Thrones. The best part about winter is I didn't have to worry about what clothes I was wearing. All my photos taken during the winter look the same. One jacket to rule them all. The season drags the life out of everything around here. Trees look haunted, people look sick, the air feels like the world is about to end anytime. Winter in India is much better any day because the summer here, when people go out the most and bike around a lot, is the winter back home.
Even if I keep the deadly winter in mind, the beauty of Europe is overwhelming beyond doubt. You just can't get enough of this place. You, nature, and nothingness in between. Such are my kind of places, and there are enough of such spots here. Sometimes even in a nearby park. If I say I traveled to nine countries in twelve months, it sounds like I have taken a vacation almost every month but that's just the geographical advantage. The more I traveled, the more I wanted India to be like Europe. If every state can develop to its full potential, no other country can be as vibrant and as diverse as India. But that's just another story for later.
I haven't told you about any of my actual experiences yet, but this post already seems long. Maybe I should start writing more as and when I can to document my best memories. It's been a great year so far, and I am not sure how long is the journey ahead. I can only enjoy while it lasts. I don't know what 12th June 2019 has to offer.
Until next time.