This became my pattern for the next two days too – based on trams, sights, whims and random ruminations. I was aware that I was missing out a lot by seeing Karlsruhe this way; the palaces, the zoo, the museums, of the standard template of tourism. I regretted missing out on museums and still do today, but the time available was short and above all I was mesmerized by the tram experience of seeing ordinary people in ordinary settings.
The next morning, after my wife left for her conference, I moved smartly to the Kalstor tram stop opposite my hotel, put a Euro 10 note in the ticket machine and confidently punched the right touch screen tabs – and out came the Euro 6.20 all day ticket with the balance change clinking in the tray for it. Got into the first tram that came along, punched it for date and time, and I was off. Brennschluss! It is a term used in rocket science, for the moment when a rocket’s engines fall off and it becomes ballistic. Or so I think.
The tram curved off at the now familiar Europaplatz and its shopping arcades, and leaving it behind went past office buildings, schools, a church or two, to the quiet and somnolent residential areas. Then came some parks and car-filled road-crossing, and then I saw, obviously in an outskirt area, huge and multi storied non-industrial buildings with discrete signs saying Siemens, and the tram came to its last stop called Siemensallee. Many buildings and huge car parking around them full of parked cars, but nicely interspersed with beautiful trees – not huge and bare and brash in the Yankee style. These looked like white collar office buildings humming with inward oriented activity. Siemens has many products, many divisions and many subsidiaries. It had become the industrial giant it is like most other German industrial giants, during the Nazi war mobilizations for WW II. After the driver’s 5 minutes rest, the tram wheeled round to go back to Europaplatz, again passing homes, schools and churches.
The churches were dull and unremarkable looking, quite unlike the brightly painted, stain-glassed, and even gilded and silvered looking ones we get to see in India, with colourful statuary of Christ, Mary or some saints prominent from the passing roads. May be it is the imperial minded Catholic vs. utilitarian Protestant thing. The tram I was on was taking a rounded suburban route to Europaplatz, stopping at small, quiet tram stops with only one or two people getting on or off. The tram will stop at a tram stop, half for a second or two, and after the automatic doors opened a wide metal plate will slide out from beneath the door frame, and it will cover the small 6 inches gap between the tram and the edge of the concrete platform of the tram stop: so that people getting on or off will not be troubled by the dangerous gap. I soon got to see what a deeply thoughtful measure this was.
In one stop there was only one old lady on a wheel chair with a big dog. As the tram halted, doors opened and the metal platform slid out almost to the tram stop, the lady moved buttons on the electronically operated wheelchair and preceded by the dog moved into the tram, and she maneuvered the wheelchair sideways so as to clear the passage inside the tram door for the convenience of other passengers. The tram driver halted for a bit longer for her convenience, maybe she was a regular and other passengers helpfully moved to provide her space to monitor her wheelchair, and the tram moved off. It took me a few seconds to understand that the lady was blind besides being wheelchair dependent and that the dog was one of those “seeing” dogs for the blind. I watched it all astounded and fascinated. This was civilization indeed. A blind and handicapped old lady, alone with her helpful dog, could move her wheelchair about on the road, get into a tram with it, whose construction and mechanisms were designed to provide seamless convenience for her. A far cry indeed from public transport in India. The dog looked around, protectively but comfortably.
A short distance later the tram stopped, the doors opened, the metal plate slid out to cover the intervening gap and following her dog the blind lady moved out her wheelchair on to the platform. The tram moved off again. I wanted to stand up and clap. But inside the tram the people were cool – it was an ordinary thing here, in this small town in Germany. This was a staggering experience for me, for a dark skinned Indian of the 21st century. Many weeks later, writing this today, I would still rank this as the single most important insight of my whole trip to Germany. Civilization, for the ordinary citizen. And these same people, thoughtful and gentle and caring, did stuff like Dachau and Auschwitz and all that? The question, ever present at the back of my mind, popped up, as it did many times in the whole trip. There was a church across the next tram stop. I abruptly got off to see it, a thing I, a lifelong atheist, had never done before.
It was a brown brick unpainted structure, with its doorways and windows framed within narrow, tall, severely-pointed arches also made of bricks. Although the doors’ and windows’ panels were of plain glass, their outer frames had brown coloured and minimal ornamental carvings. The narrow, tall steeple had a plain, weather-resistant cross. A plaque told me it was a protestant church rebuilt after its destruction during the WW II bombings. Most Germany is so rebuilt. Restored is the correct word. And not only for churches, but all buildings, walls, forts and ramparts in Germany. It speaks something. I am not quite sure exactly what. The church was unused; wrong time and day of the week of course. I peeked inside. Saw plain and functional arrangements of insides of churches – none of the resplendent gold, and glass and glitter, and statuary and paintings we see interestingly more in Goan churches built by the Portuguese for example. One or two people inside smiled at me. I wandered around inside for quite some time and came out from a side door, and sat on a bench. Trams were passing behind me, beyond the boundary wall covered in tastefully flowering creepers. A sort of priest came out, unparked his bicycle and rode off towards the main entrance nodding his white skinned pink face with blue eyes at me.
I sat on that bench for a long time, beside neatly trimmed green lawns and colorful flower beds shining in the sun and watched the church. The whole Christianity business, started more than two thousand years back and many thousand miles away in Asia mainly by a dark skinned, hook nosed Palestinian Jew called Jesus, had led up to this today? This linear and unornamented church, Castesian and severe, a deeply foreign thing for Asia, was speaking of deep and careful organizational effort behind it, and of a clearly practical and corporate spirit manifest in everything about it: a far cry indeed from the simple faith and compassion of Jesus of Nazareth. Surely an alien, European animal this, I felt. Jesus would have found it puzzling and pagan, although who the hell was I to speak of such matters? With this disturbed feeling eating my mind I spent most of that day getting off my cosy trams to see whatever churches hove into view. Somehow this made me watch the people more closely, hoping to see I don’t know what; perhaps some awareness of huge transmutations history and politics can bring about. In one residential neighbourhood I was surprised to see, as I wandered about its marketplace, a middle aged negro man on a bicycle, with salt and pepper curly hair and a lined wizened forehead. He too watched me watching him, both acknowledging to each other the easy oddity of both of us being there at this time and also the many things that bring about such huge realities in this world.
In my next tram, thinking of the knowing looks that had passed between that negro cyclist and me, I sat covertly watching two middle aged white, German haus fraus back from the day’s shopping , sitting in the opposite seat, and calmly chatting and licking ice cream cones. I was deeply aware of my Asiatic, dark skinned alienness. What would they be thinking of me? What would I, come to it, be thinking of some Asiatic, dark skinned Indian man sharing my tram nonchalantly had I been a white-skinned, blue eyed German? Surely an alien person, at best benignly tolerable? And I suddenly understood the whole rightwing narrative of racism in Germany; more, of the whole white “West`s”. The West truly belonged to the white races very deeply indeed and the West is truly far more civilized and prosperous. It is another matter that they would not have got their present prosperity and wealth without their exploited colonial empires. But to a western surely even this understanding would today only produce wrath and indignation – former animal like slaves getting uppity, wanting equality and post-colonial re-accounting and even a re-audit of history!
This disturbance revealed another thing as I sat in a Burger King to have my forgotten lunch. I have read in quite some detail what many scholars, writers, and sociologists of the white races have called The Jewish Question or Anti-Semitism, etc. Even Shakespeare, that sensor par excellence, was grappling with it in his many plays. It is and always has been, after sifting away the chaff, plain and simple racism of the whites really. Even the current cant of clash of civilizations or the West versus Islam etc. since the days of George Bush Sr. led NATO invasion of Afghanistan are more virulent forms of the same modern racism.
That night my wife and I had dinner in a restaurant called Taj Palace near our hotel and chose Indian food which was surprisingly excellent. I had a fine German beer or two as well. Walking back to the hotel I saw that the half-moon was shining in the clear blue skies, and moonlight was glistening on the steel tram rails. I tried and failed to keep at bay old documentary images of kristallnacht celebrations by the not so gentle Germans of the Nazi epoch, maybe even here in Karlsruhe, maybe even on the streets I was walking on. I had in any case noticed that towards midnight when the roads were nearly empty sounds of noisy and fast cars and motorbikes went up noticeably, but maybe this was only because such driving pleasures could be available in those time slots. Life is not all darkness, I told myself. But why was I telling myself this, many times in this trip? Before falling asleep, reading as usual a few pages of Milosz’s book of agonized search for his nativity I read about his long struggle with the contradictions between catholic childhood’s faith and the rising rationality and secular openness of teenage years. It had happened in Poland when Germany had been recently unified by Bismarck and the World War I was yet to arrive.
From the next day I vainly tried to retrieve some structure out of my instinctive and random mode of travel that seemed so rewarding and rich. I must at least see the Rhine – spelt as Rhein in German — while I was in Karlsruhe. From Europaplatz I took trams with destination panels having Rhein written on them. I got off at stops saying Rheinhafenstrasse, Rheinhafen, Rheinbergstrasse, but got no sight of the river. I remembered that old Durlach was in the eastern side of the city and the river was on the western side, and by now from Europaplatz I could make out east bound and west bound trams. Rappenwort seemed to be the westernmost last stop, and it had a pleasant Harry Potter sound to it. I took a tram to it. It took me to the most rural side of Karlsruhe, with small, single storey houses with sloping slate roofs, huddled close together. The tram passed close to the walls and windows, and the track was winding along a land sloping down perhaps to the river. Small, narrow churches with thin steeples. Very few people around, no market places, no two-lane roads, no two storeyed houses. I got off at Daxlanden and wandered around. In earlier times the narrow winding road would have been ox-carts for the villages huddling along the banks of the Rhine. In winters those villages would have been snowed in beside a freezing river. The only diversion would have been drink and the sunday mass in the church. It was claustrophobic. A sight of the river would have lifted my spirits but I did not see it. Rappenwort was the wooded area, definitely close to the river – I could feel the moisture – but it had no schules for wizards or muggles or anyone else.
Another try on a tram took me to a stop called Rehinbergstrasse. Berg meant a fort, I thought. Fort on the Rhine. This was on a highish table land, and its busy road crossings and many cars spoke of urban activity, maybe of the river port. I remembered from my earlier reading mention of a river port, even an oil refinery! But I did not see anything. May be I should not have been tram-bound. Defeated I returned to Europaplatz and sat on a bench – nice benches every 10 yards in the top market place of the city. I was not to see Rhine at all in Karlsruhe despite many other attempts. I saw it later while in Frankfurt which is ironically on the river Main, not Rhine. Disappointed, I took trams to untried destinations. Each route was a journey into a distinct character of buildings, people and atmosphere of neighbourhoods – each seemed to be telling a story. Time was too short to ponder and piece together the story of each suburb, but I was absorbed, zonked by the details of each area, opening itself outside my passing tram window.
The end stops of each of these branch lines had names like Waldstadt, Heide, Neureut, Knielingen, Messe, Oberreut, Wolfartseier. I went to each dreamily, got off and wandered around for some time, may be ate or drank something, and returned to Europaplatz. In the process I got to see the market centre of Europaplatz better. Strategically situated in shop fronts of the main streets were fat, white, male beggars stationed for the day with plastic pouches of eats for the day and 2 litre bottles of water to drink. They begged with bold, assured, corporate demeanours, not abject or at the end of the tether types we see in India. The long market street was lush, colourful, steel-glass-and concrete, rich, aromatic with restaurants and bars, fragrant with perfumes of the genteel citizenry, and music. Many supermarkets had baby pianos and guitars in play pens placed outside their entrances. I saw children sitting at them and banging out some tunes well amplified for the passers by — somebody also kept an eye on them as their parents shopped inside. It was nice and decent, done in good spirit. Gentle. This word came up again, as it did during this whole trip.
Nice benches every few steps along both sides of road, to sit, gawk, ponder, google, eat and chat – while trams plied gently to and fro. I too did the same, bench to bench. In one place as I sat on a bench I was entranced by beautiful music wafting out of nice and well-bred amplifiers. Looking for its source I saw two men, no longer young, on the street playing it live outside a huge, glittering mall. One man was on a proper grand piano (I think) and the other was playing the medieval European flute ensemble – I don’t know its correct name: it is about 8 to 10 flutes attached together side by side, shortest one at one end and graduating to the longest at the other end, like a big harmonica, if harmonica is the word I am looking for. They were playing something detailed, deep and exquisite – the deep notes of the flutes weaving around the rippling chords of the piano. It sounded classical and yet light – something like Mozart or Chopin, to my gross and untutored ears. They were doing it, of course, to attract customers for the mall but they were also playing with feeling and enjoyment. I walked up to see them better. Both wore cheerful and ironic expressions on their faces, well aware of all the meanings of the situation happening there. I caught the eye of the flute man and clapped silently. He nodded, his eyes merry, and tossed his long hair. Crass marketing for a daily wage, yes, but Germanic – gentle, classical, beautiful. That nagging question came up nagging again: gentle, cultured Germans and their recent past of Nazi, corporate barbarism.
So moved, troubled, I would catch the next tram which will take me away to some last stop, Waldstadt. Many schules (schools), and a rat house (town hall), and a calm, settled, well-off neighbored – all Karlsruhe is well off – and I would wander around like a Martian. Some schools, obviously meant for younger children, had brightly painted outer walls. Some even had huge cartoon characters painted in kid colours – “kindergarten” is a German word of course, children’s garden. These cartoons had cute and “funny” looks, which are supposed to appeal to small children. To my eyes and senses weaned on the sole diet of American funny cartoons these looked, amateurish, stilted, unfunny and vaguely what is derogatorily called “east-european”. The famous German lack of humour? Does this have something to do with Germany`s historical insulation from the many-coloured cultures of the Mediterranean? Perhaps. But I also understood something else. In the post-Walt Disney explosive mega-world of multinational corporation-bred cartoons, and particularly its animation avatars, the standard of humour is in comparison, infinitely more rich, detailed and artistically extremely exquisite. Yes. Standing in the gentle streets and retreats of Waldstadt, the word that stuck in my mind was: extremely. The American fun-industry bred cartoons carry fun to syrupy, over-evolved, over-digested extremes – it is fun porn really.
Troubled but rapt I would then take the return tram to Europaplatz and sit on another bench, and see a multinational mix of people, families, ambling around, shopping – Germans, Turks, East Europeans, even burka-clad Arabs, atheletic Africans, Shia Iranians. Germany’s immigration policy, the most liberal in E.U. was visible on the streets. One night I had heard from my hotel window some people speaking a Bangladeshi dialect of Bengali at the Kalstor tram stop!
Something would strike me again, say, an Iranian-looking large family earnestly discussing the purchases they had just made – the children looking unhappy and skeptical, the elders giving voluble, unsuccessful justifications, the women with placatory, resigned faces – and I would be moved to catch the next tram which will take me away to another suburb ending at, say, Knielingen; and I would again take up my entranced Martian odessey. I would return to Europaplatz, see a cluster of uniformed young women with chiseled, made up faces and sculpted bodies — shop assistants on tea break — huddling together in a smoking area, and smoking cigarettes with a vengeance, wonder again why so many educated Germans are smoking so much, and I would take the refuge in another tram which will take me to Neureut this time. And in the tram rides I would see another enigma: many white Germans reading serious looking books, not trapped in their mobile phones like in India. This was as common as smoking, this reading of serious books.
So it went, my waking dream days in Karlsruhe.
On our last day in Karlsruhe google news in the morning was full of an ongoing army coup attempt in Turkey, of tank battles in Istanbul, of Erdogan on TV denouncing it. All this was not a distant thing it would have been in Bombay or Delhi; here it had a shocking and immediate feel. My wife’s conference was to be over by midday and impressed by my ravings on Karlsruhe she had agreed to wander around in the city on its wonderland trams. The next day, a Sunday, we were to be taken to a day trip to the famous Black Forests of Germany where it had painstakingly regenerated a large patch to restore its “original” glory after centuries of deforestation. I spent the morning scanning the few news channels on the hotel’s TV hoping to understand what was happening in Turkey. In my understanding of things Turkey, after its brilliant promise of Kemal Attaturk days, was once again going feral in the 21st century, divided since the 20th century between its Asiatic past and Kemalist European aspirations. Germany had found in Turkey an ally in 1914 and had fought a world war in partnership with it. Both had lost. Germany had after the war regenerated itself on the coat tails of Hitler, while Turkey had seemingly shed its medieval caliphateism and morphed into a “modern” nation with Ataturk. Was Turkey’s modernity, always precarious, unraveling now? Watching the TV commentators, sitting in a hotel in a small town in Germany, it felt like a huge accident happening just next door. Another small news report mentioned that an Afghan immigrant to Germany driven by Islamist ideas went on a stabbing spree in a railway train near Stuttgart, less than 100 kilometers from Karlsruhe. What a trip this was turning out to be!
But the glittering Europaplatz was undisturbed, or it didn’t show anything but its usual decked up, ready-for-the-day’s-business face. This was the final and decisive frontier of business after all, where the current enormous global production and transportation systems of business management finally placed a gleaming, alluring product before the eyes and hands of the customer, so as to entice her to part with her cash while believing that she was exercising her free choice – this was the cutting edge of today’s civilization really. The place was waking up; the live musicians had not arrived at this early, lean hours of business. The piano was playing itself, a ghost in the machine punching its keys and playing a tune of tranquil, limpid waters. Away from wars and coups and bloodshed the market of Karlsruhe was serenely starting another day under clear blue skies where the gentle sunshine was trying to scatter away a thin gauze of high overnight white clouds. Markets are fantastic things, like galaxies.
My wife joined me at midday after her conference and I showed off my expertise in buying two tram tickets of Euro 6.20 each and we got into the first tram that came along; markets can wait. We had opted for Durlach as the first destination for the day; I was chattering away as an experienced tour guide. Having reached Durlach I pointed out the schloss of Turmberg on top of the hill and told its story, and with a non-arthritic nonchalance she wanted to walk up to it. We went up a little way. She too was entranced by the vistas that opened up, especially after days of indoor conferencing. We sat on a rock bench, now both of us seeing the open landscape of Germany.
We returned to Europaplatz by another roundabout route, took another tram which took us south (in German, sud) via our familiar Hauptbahnof and through settled, calm neighborhoods, basking in the sun on a Saturday, the tram twisting and turning with old streets made new, and ended at Badeniaplatz. “Bad” in German means health spa. The whole south-west Germany is full of spas, the health-and-retreat-resorts built around hot or cold natural springs since medieval, pre-antibiotic times. In the 19th century many of the novels – catering to the wealthy class, before the paperback revolution – were set in and around such spas. The nobility, the gentry, the wealthy, came to spas to restore or repair their health and spirits by spring waters, baths, and steams. They also holidayed, settled family and business matters here. South of Karlsruhe was the district of Baden-Baden the district of spas amidst the old Black Forests. Karlsruhe itself was at the southern edge of Baden-Wurtemburg district. We walked around to see what a spa looked like, at least from the outside. We saw one, in an oldish looking squat building with a brass plate saying in German what probably meant a spa. It was next to a florist and a car-hire company. It bespoke of stream baths and mud packs in cramped spaces. Across the street was a Doner Kebab shop. We took to the tram again. My wife was now beginning to grasp and enjoy the mesmerism of tram journeying I had been talking about, its complete magic of living cinema.
In our next return to base at Europaplatz we found it unusually crowded at the tram stops and found that much fewer trams were plying as we waited for the Daxlanden tram. There was a thwarted, unsettled air. We waited for quite some time along with many other people waiting too. Some were wandering off. The electronic panels at the tram stop were saying something repeatedly, something urgent. We were not the only bewildered people there. One man came up to us speaking loudly in english that today Route 2 and Route 3 were regrettably closed for repair work on the tracks for two days. This was a big blow. We took another tram plying on some open Route, but it was crowded, filled and emptied at each stop, and we could not see much of the outside scenes because of the press of passengers. We gave up on the trams, disappointed.
Our happy plans dashed we were nonplussed and at a loss — precisely when markets nab you — and we looked at the nearest alternative, of seeing what shopping was on offer. From dreamtime to malls. One mall entirely devoted to jewelry and it passed muster in my wife’s gimlet eyes. Converted to rupee terms the prices were too high. Another mall devoted to beautiful household objects. Here were truly excellently made handicrafts made by machines. I too had to admit the refined design and workmanship. Made in China, made in Bangladesh, made in India. Look, all this is made back home. I said. So what, my wife answered, we don’t get to see these there, do we? She had a point. She would not let go of an exquisitely sculpted papier mache Buddha head in his Avalokiteshwara mode. Look at its size, I said, it would get crushed in our luggage handling. True, she had to concede. This battle continued, mall to mall, but we landed up buying gifts for people back home, till we stopped to think, look what are we doing here, thousands of miles from home, shopping? Good sense from Buddha made us come out of the magic spell of markets and we resumed normal meandering of tourists. And this took us, naturally, to the centre of Karlsruhe – the main schloss made by Karl William when he founded the city. My tramline dream-world had receded and I was back to the Wikipedia world.
All roads were geometrically arterial and led to the huge, green, beautiful garden at the centre of which sat the white, small, schloss, no more than 2 storey high and looking vaguely familiar. No wonder it is said that Americans built their capital Washington DC schlosses on the lines of Karlsruhe’s. The main buildings indeed looked like smaller-scale versions of Washington’s White House, and had more of a charming beauty than the off-putting American pomposity. The diminutive schloss complex was surrounded by huge, green, manicured parks divided into sectors radiating outwards. The effect was wonderful, cultured and – again that word – gentle. Many clusters of people, families, lovers, solitaries, sitting in the parks’ grasses or on benches were dotted about in the vast, vacant schloss garten; no crowding at all. There was a museum inside the schloss. We strolled towards it, half decided about going in, but the mild sunshine, blue sky, and mainly unpopulated green of the garden dissuaded us and we too found a peaceful bench, and silently gazed again at the gentle, beautiful Germany with admiration. The king had meant this schloss to be an oasis, and it still is. People were taking photos, eating picnic lunch, strolling hand in hand or with ice-cream cones, reading books, or just gazing at their middle distance navels in the balmy weather – even those with shorts-n-tshirts or burqas.
Our peaceful bench was on the outer side of one sector of the park, near the larger circle of dull, ungrand buildings which surrounded the central schloss in an arc – very much like the buildings of the original Connaught Circus in Delhi. These were originally the inns for the Gentlemen-in-Waiting for the king’s audience and beyond this circle of inns was a middle circle road for these inns’ entrances. This middle circle, largely unoccupied except for pedestrians like us, suddenly started emitting fun sounds. We turned to see that a bunch of open-topped, expensive cars were going round and round the circular road, and the occupants were formally well dressed young people whooping and strewing colored balloons. We saw a white veil fluttering behind a bride’s head. The wedding party, obviously post-wedding, was having nice, gentle, and mildly inebriated fun. The expensive cars were not tearing the tarmac and the shouts and yodels were not brash or aggressively loud. Pleasing to the party, pleasing to the watchers. After four or five rounds they went away, and the garten resumed its calm.
Not quite. In the new calm after the wedding party we heard what would have been going on all the time, someone giving a loud running commentary and also having huge laughing, cackling fun while doing it. We must have earlier assumed unthinkingly that it was some sort of public address stuff, meant for the schloss visitors; the voice was loud enough for an amplifier. It was a fat, middle aged German woman with short hair. Sitting alone on a bench she was listening to something on her earphones and was speaking into a small microphone she held, which was connected to a small amplifier box sitting beside her. Her voice was echoing in the narrow space between shops and cafés leading to the main road on Kaiserstrasse. It could have been a football match she was listening to, or a political rally, or even a rock concert. Everyone was turning to look at her and edge away nervously. With her shouts, cackling laughter, and derisive comments (which we could not understand) which made her audience a bit afraid, her red face was shining with glee and her laughing teeth were gleaning white. She was enjoying the effect she was making. To me her exhortations sounded vaguely political, or at least messianic. My wife told me I was imagining this; the fat lady was just nicely mad.
Keeping my fantasy unuttered – that she was in truth the unbanished spirit of original Karlsruhe of 1715 commenting and gleefully deriding the globalized Karlsruhe of 2016 – we moved away from this feudal environment and sat in one open air café in the Marketplatz on the Kaiserstrasse – which was a huge open square surrounded by tasteful old buildings. It was the original plaza of markets which would have catered to the original schloss and its visitors` inns. It had a small and dowdy-looking pyramid at its centre – no higher than 6 feet – under which the old king was buried. Every tourist brochure speaks of this pyramid as a must visit thing. In its original time it must have been an exotic and even magical oriental thing, fit for a king’s tomb. Today it looked pitiful and dwarfed, a bit like cardboard advertisement stalls in Lajpat Nagar market in Delhi touting sarees and marriage brass bands.
We sat in the cafe’ for a long time as one should in such café’s, watching the shoppers and walkers go by, the sun move down the sky in the west, the urban life unfold in the platz. The afternoon tabloid newspaper someone had left on our cloth covered table showed its front page: the Turkish flag with the crescent moon and a star, and a single word: Coup. I checked in the google news. The coup had failed already.
We had an early dinner for making an early start for the Black Forests next morning. Eating Indian food again while here in Germany would have been cowardly, and the overwhelming meat of German food was by now becoming unwelcome even for a meat eater Bengali. We compromised on Chinese. The main dish of potatoes and brinjals was tasty alright, but probably the cook was from Bihar. The beer was top class, German. Sloping off to sleep I read Milosz as usual. He was exploring questions of his youth, like: was Copernicus (1473-1543) a Polish, a Prussian, or a Lithuanian? Before the 19th century idea of a nation, how did people see themselves? More: how do we see people (like Copernicus) today who lived before nations were born? Nations are not everlasting things, nothing is. So how should we revise our simplistic and politically unreflective ideas about who we are? (… to be contd)