Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Epicurean Epic Ends – Thank you ALL

I have barely few hours left: not of this life (don’t panic!) but before my European saga comes to its predestined conclusion. I am in Rome right now, tapping these words out, and my flight to Delhi departs in few hours. Zipping all over through 8 different countries and perhaps 50 odd places, crossing language and culture zones and time zone once I met and befriended an incredible number of people, visited places I wouldn’t have dreamt of visiting before or hence. And today as I try to recall exactly what all had happened during the past 40 days or so, I find that my mind predominantly and primarily keeps going back to the people who made it possible; so I begin my tale by acknowledging the ones I still remember and the ones my mind can’t recall now, but if they ever come across this post, they would know that they are acknowledged in spirit if not by individual names.

My deepest gratitude to all my friends, both old and new ones I made this time, and for all the kindness, generosity and kinder spirit I found on my way across a rather haphazard and chaotic journey. I would cherish every moment (barring a few LOL) I lived, every smile I shared and each story I lived through those who became my companions on this random road. The following goes in the same chronological order as they happened:


SWITZERLAND

Lory and Guy Spier and their wonderful kids: It was Guy who played the lead motivator and facilitator for this trip, but for him I would have been climbing in some remote mountain during this time rather than gallivanting through tourist filled alleyways, so I am not sure if I should be grateful to him or hate him for the rest of my life. But avoiding all puns, I thank Guy and his wife Lory for their hospitality and Guy thank you so much for making me once behave like a normal person and not attempt anything crazy (cycling in Zurich was perhaps the only exception). But for you I wouldn’t have discovered the horizontal aspects of Europe, neither would I have met so many wonderful people who I wouldn’t ever encounter in my vertical world. Hence this trip has enriched my visions about life and people in general.

Oliver, Tim and the entire TEDX Zurich team who managed the entire show so beautifully with typical Swiss style of panache and panacea. Though I gave them a real hard time, they smiled and came up with nothing less than sheer brilliance. Thank you guys. My gratitude also to the entire audience who laughed and cheered and egged me on while I was counting seconds during my 18 min talk, and despite being an extremely boring, ridiculous and nonsensical talk they made me feel as if I was delivering God’s ten commandments minus the tablets even though it must have been the most non-productive 18 minutes of their entire exisence. A speaker is only as good as his audience and that day in Zurich I had the very best. Thank you all.

To all my fellow TEDX Zurich speakers, for showing me their world and also humbling me with their intensity, passion and inspiring me to aim for the impossible always. Even though some of the talks went completely over my head, I enjoyed each. In particular I would name Molly, Ellie and Arzu for showing me a world that I knew existed but knew nothing about. Thank you girls, you totally rock.

To Marc and his friends from EO's group. I shared an evening with them showing my pictures and telling them about my kind of leadership. Am not sure if they gained anything out of the evening, but I surely gained friends and a book that simply proves that size does matter. It is certainly the largest dimensions book (which Marc gifted) that I have ever had. Thank you Marc and Andrea and Frank and the rest.

To Savitha, who was a friend of a friend, but now a friend as well, for providing me with the only home cooked Indian meal in all of Switzerland, how cool is that!

LICHTENSTEIN

Hilde and Stefanie for offering me a home that felt like home. With snow covered mountain peaks peeking through my bedroom window, and ice columns vying for attention from the loo and endless green forests topped with white mountains forcing me to look away from the food in the kitchen with a deep contented sigh; I can’t imagine a home better located geographically or filled with people who could be warmer in their hospitality. While here, my country travel list also increased numerically. Thank you Hilde and Stefanie; I am surely coming back. And I must acknowledge Klaus whom I finally couldn’t meet but who made it all possible.

FRANCE

Claudia, Benjamin and their black bull dog Chooquet: Claudia is one of my dearest friends in the world even though for most of the time we have no idea what the other person is saying (we have serious language handicap between us). I met Benjamin and Chooquet for the first time when I stayed with them for two days in a lovely Parisian suburb. But for her I wouldn’t have gone to France at all. I was under life threat from Claudia that if I ever landed in Europe and didn’t visit her then that would lead to severe repercussions. So there I was one fine evening in Paris Orly airport. And from the moment we met it was their collective love and food and wine that completely took over my life.

Fabrice and friends: Fabrice offered me such an envious spot to stay right in the heart of Paris that I simply couldn’t refuse. I mean how many bathrooms do you know in Paris from where while you soak in a bathtub you see the most glorious view of Sacre Coeur Basilica? I had an independent flat, so modernly done up that at the beginning I had no idea what to do with most of the things thrown around. Thanks are due to our common friend Varial, who is bit weird and totally my kind of guy who slept for most of the time I was there as he was working in US time zone but just to see him again was a pleasure. Karine and her husband for hosting the lovely weekend dinner and for inviting me in to meet some really cool people, who totally made me forget the boringness of Paris. Audery for a lovely evening in a Parisian café, and showing me that in Paris a glass of delicate wine and a cup of normal cappuccino costs the same.

LATVIA

Dana: for hosting me and showing me around her town of Liepaja and giving me hope that there’s lot of hope in this world yet; if such young people like her have such compassion and kindness in their heart (she works for slum and less privilege kids) then the future cannot be all that bad. Dana also introduced me to Saldskaba and Karums (both are good enough to kill and die for).

Ieva and Andres: hosted me in Sigulda and we shared many climbing tales. Their home is filled with mountain memorabilia so it was wonderful for me. Their daughter Agatha is only 13 and I have never seen such a responsible 13 yr old in my life.

Zane and her family: they welcomed into their home as if I had never been away. Plenty of food and stories, a warm house as Zane’s in cold Latvia was so refreshing.

Vita: Well, she is outdoor crazy like me so of course we had lot to talk about but then she made me taste Latvian national drink of Rigas Melnais Balzam.

BELGIUM

Jane: of all my hosts through Europe, I or my belongings stayed with Jane the longest and she also saw me the leastest (I hope this word exists). Located in Brussels, Jane became the epicenter of my travels once I left France. I went out to different places and returned to her house each time. What can I sa; Jane fed me, took care of me, drove me around literally, even became my official travel guide through the city of Brussels. Through her I met few other interesting and charming people and even had the privilege of cooking for her and her mom one evening. I really wish we had more people like her in this world. ‘Thank you’ would be inadequate Jane, so I would simply say: hope to see you again.

NETHERLANDS

Himangi & Kamesh: They are old friends and don’t need to be acknowledged; it is their duty to host me and to feed me and to make my life comfortable… well that’s the way we see friendships in India. Yet I am mentioning them since it is due to them that I was able to verify why I had never visited Netherlands before and perhaps would never visit again. The country is really, I mean really, really, really flat and oh so boring. But that’s not due to Himangi who is a climber like me and Kamesh who is a badminton player like I used to be. I stayed in their uppermost room which made my elevation nearly 50 m above mean sea level and that says a lot in Netherlands. They fed me so much food and wine that I gained weight seriously. Also thanks to their friend Ravi where I was invited for Diwali dinner.

ITALY

Kristen, Eileen and Stef: Meet the three girl musketeers in Florence, or rather Charlie’s Angels and they are seriously ready to kick ass. I stayed at their completely chaotic apartment a stone’s throw away from Piazza Signoria and Angie’s pub. To be invited over for dinner by their friends the first night, cooking Indian dinner for them the next night and endless chattering on life, living, travel and travails of living, all thrown in together mix with abundance of laughter made my entire Florentine experience beyond memorable. Thank you girls so much.

Valeria and her friends: my hostess in Naples, whose opening line on opening the door to her flat: this is your home… made me feel at home right away. My first day in Naples simply went partying and eating at Valeria’s friend’s house where I met Getana (what food she made, wow), Serena and others. With the kind of food and company and the aerial views of the Naples Bay from the terrace I found it pointless even to venture out on my own on a day that was marked with thunder showers and water logged roads. Thank you Valeria and also for telling me about so many other places in Italy that I didn’t know about.

Acknowledging people by name is never enough, since it is not possible to say what one wants to say since it can never be reciprocated through words. Generosity, kindness, hospitality and friendships are things best cherished and preserved, nurtured and honored. None of the above would even want me to acknowledge them in public or in private but I did because I wanted to, and through them I wanted to show once again that this world is full of beautiful compassionate people; we just don’t know them yet. Once they and we all become friends, I hope gradually and eventually the entire world would be able to dissolve boundaries of heart and mind and we would be able to come together as one and nurture and care for our home, our only and common home, the beautiful planet Earth.

Thank you all.

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