Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas market

This is my first Christmas in Europe. I was really looking forward to it!.In many towns in Germany and Austria, Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas market or "Weihnachtsmarkt".
The concept of a street market in the 4 weeks of Advent, first supposedly, originated in the Late Middle ages. These markets are generally held in the town square and adjacent pedestrian zones, the market sells food, drink, and seasonal items from open-air stalls, accompanied by traditional singing and dancing.

We went to the Esslingen Weihnachtsmarkt, which, this year was based on the theme of the "MittelAlt" or Middle Ages. We picked a Saturday evening and we were stormed by the crowds!. Never seen so many people at once in Germany!. The entire fest was held in the small town square.  The prime attraction for my son was the merry-go-around- he took 4 rounds on that!.

We  were joined by my distant cousin. Together, we sampled the famous "gluh wine" in both plain and apple flavors. Gluhwine is a hot(!!) red wine which is made with various spices and fruits. It was awesome!. I made up for missing the "svařák" (another hot wine) in Prague.

There were stalls selling all kinds of stuff- from woolen wear to home decor. 

Shapes & Cars

My nearly 3 year old toddler son has to integrate his cars into every activity!.  We draw cars, color cars, play cars and even learn with cars!. Here is his idea of what a car showroom looks like- picking and creating from a shape box!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Short lived summer of 2013

When things are scarce, they are precious. 

In Germany, sunlight is scarce. For someone, who has lived in the tropics all her life, it is hard to imagine, how something so basic as sunlight can be "scarce"!. But when you live a whole year in Europe, you begin to understand why the "whites" are so sun-crazy. 

In the summer of 2013, I remember, how I would go out to the park with my little one. He would cycle on his little balance bike all around the park. He would play in the sand, digging up dirt, with his sand toys. This summer, he finally conquered his fear of slides. He also learnt to climb ropes. Little did I realize then, how short lived sunny days can be here!.

Its now back to cold, gloomy, gray skies. It feels like the summer was almost not there!. One is left asking, "Wasn't it cold just a few months back and now its back again?!". The park is  now littered with the fall leaves. The weather is too cold to stay outside too long. The slide is almost always wet, from dew or rain. Sigh!. 

Lost child

Poised in an exaggerated lithotomy position, with a sonic probe in her privates, Sita waited, as her gynecologist, pronounced the verdict. Nearly three months pregnant, she had been been joking rather casually to her friends that this pregnancy had been a "song" of sorts, compared to her first. But that was only till the night before.

Sita never expected the turn of events that had unfolded the night before. Like every other night since her pregnancy was confirmed, she had risen to empty her bladder in the middle of the night. Her nocturnal micturating habit had been the only thing that had been troubling her in this pregnancy. It was so slightly disturbing, that she almost forgot she was carrying at most times!. But that night, she spotted some blood on her undergarments. Before, she could wonder what that meant, she was passed out. She couldn't remember how long she must have been lying on the bathroom floor. She only could vaguely piece together sights of her hitting her head on the door frame as she passed out, then limping out of the bathroom, only to fall unconscious again in the passageway. The incident left her with a bruise on her left shoulder and head, both of which were terribly sore even as she laid in the gynecologist's office.

The gynecologist, was a middle aged man in his early 50s. He seemed learned and skilled but, was always in a rush to usher his patients out. Almost immediately after he had maneuvered the sonic probe inside, he shook his head and bluntly declared " its dead!". That was it!.

Sita stared at the screen in disbelief.  These things were not supposed to happen!. This was the second pregnancy- it was supposed to be easy!. Her mind was full of thoughts, but the doctor wasted no time at all. " I am sorry, but there is nothing that can be done..", he said and pulled the probe out.

The doctor went on to explain that she had the option of waiting for a spontaneous expulsion or getting an evacuation done at a local hospital. It was a Friday morning- a day most doctors would love to relax and look forward to the weekend. He quickly scribbled some iron tablets and advised to come for a repeat scan on Monday morning- leaving the evacuation decision to Sita.

Numbed and lost, Sita walked outside the clinic, gathering her thoughts. She was not distraught at the loss of her second born. Her first child was always keeping her on her toes, so much so, that she sometimes was unsure of how she was going to manage with two children. Even so, it was a personal loss. Her biological clock was ticking. She couldn't help but think that it must have been an aged, dysfunctional ovum that had been responsible for the fetal loss. That was what the doctor was hinting at, as he tried to explain the early pregnancy loss. She wondered if it was the extra strain at housework that had been responsible for the miscarriage,but then immediately dismissed the thought, as frivolous.

Back home, she called up her mother and told her  what had happened. Expectedly, her mother was calm and comforting. She called a few friends and told them, but quickly hung up, not wanting to go into details.

That night, she sobbed her heart out. It was a miscarriage, but it felt like everything was going wrong for her. She was lost. She felt unwanted and unimportant. She felt responsible for the loss. Was it the tap water that was the cause? Maybe she should have headed to the warning of too much lead in tap water. Was it her diet?. She couldn't help feeling guilty. But her mind didn't stop at just that. Her career had been hijacked by familial commitments. Her social circle had all but gone. She had even given up on taking care of herself, devoting her full time to childcare and household chores.

Thus far, the pain had been emotional. The next day, it became the worse kind of physical pain, she had ever experienced. Sita had opted to wait it out for a spontaneous expulsion. She didn't have to wait too long. It started with a cramping, on and off pain in her lower abdomen. And then, went on, getting worse, with every passing minute.  Writhing in pain, Sita howled in her bed, tossing and turning, as nature took to empty the remains. She was bleeding profusely. The pain was so grave that, she vomited every now and then.

A whole half-day later, Sita was exhausted. She had never experienced pain so bitter in her life. Her first born was from a C-section. She had never been so lonely in suffering, battling it out alone in the confines of her room.

Monday morning, the doctor ushered her into his office and then almost just as quickly, did the scan. The scan was near normal. The uterus was near empty. The fetus had been evacuated.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tubingen in pictures

Tubingen is an university town situated on the Neckar river. The Neckar front is dotted with beautiful, medieval houses, some of which have been converted into fraternity houses.  

The Neckarinsel is a small island on the river, accessible by a flight of stairs leading down from the bridge across the river. It is home to flocks of pigeons, in numbers so daunting, that the municipality is now into birth control for pigeons!. 

Stiftskirche is a protestant church in the middle of Tubingen, which boasts of breath-taking Gothic architecture. The insides of the church have some amazing stained glass paintings.
Along the path towards the back of the Tubingen castle,  one can take in a bird's eye view of the town with its quaint houses and university buildings. The castle is home to a art museum, university campus and even an archery arena!.

In the town center or Alstadte, one can see a number of medieval houses, now mostly shops, selling anything from the latest fashion trends to home- made croquet works!. 
The town hall  or Rath haus is an architectural landmark in the town square, which has some wonderful sculptures on its structure and even an ornamental clock. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Amsterdam- for the artist in you!

I always wanted to see Amsterdam- the Dutch capital, famous for many reasons. Be it the tag of  a party haven,or the beauty of water canals driven into the roadways. My brother and I, set off to explore the artistic side of Amsterdam, on one rainy day in early November.

We arrived at the Van Gogh museum in the center of Amsterdam, only to be greeted by crowds of people standing in the lashing rain, waiting to go in!. Sheer madness! you would say!. But thats Van Gogh for you!. We were lucky to go in, bypassing the long queues (and a sizable fee!), thanks to Shell (my brother's employer- also a major sponsor for the museum).

It is a well planned museum set over 3 floors and appropriately spaced out. Starting with his early days, we travel up to his works and then a few works of his contemporaries. What strikes you about a Van Gogh painting, as opposed to the intricate art works that decorate the walls of other museums like the Louvre, is the simplicity of his subjects and objects. From sunflowers to red cabbages and prawns, to the scene of his bedroom in Arles (south of France), and even the unassuming faces of the "potato-eaters", you are visualizing everyday life in those times, and not a majestic portrait of a duke and his extended family. His works were initially dark and gloomy, but over time he took to more bright and appealing colors. His penchant for self portraits, comes across as strange initially, but as we later understand, he had no money to buy a subject to sit for him!; so he often painted himself, while looking at a mirror, each time working on new technique and color!.

Sunflowers- a Van Gogh masterpiece

Enriched and happy after my first real artistic encounter, I picked up five large Van Gogh painting postcards of my choice to later frame in my living room!.

Post lunch, we drove through the busy thoroughfares (scores of cyclists!) of Amsterdam to see the house of Anne Frank. Set on the banks of a canal, it s a surprisingly congested house, now modified somewhat to host a museum. Again we were greeted by spiraling queues!. But this time I was contend to just take in the view from outside, sitting on the banks of the canal.

Like most places, I have seen in Europe, I would always love to come back again to Amsterdam!. Next time- Rijksmuseum here I come !

I believe in..

My photo
"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did.So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Let the trade winds in. Explore. Dream. Enjoy."