Saturday, November 24, 2007

Water under the bridge...

So its been almost a month (probably just under) since my last post. Thanks, everyone, who wrote in, either online, or backchannel, to ask about the burglary. There's really not that much to report - came back late on Friday night to an empty house, with my door kicked in, and without several electronics and some cufflinks. The lack of a laptop, and my inertia in going to go get another one, is primarily the reason why I've not replied to several emails. So if you were wondering why I hadn't replied, let me just say that its not you, its me!

And there is so much water under the bridge. Too much to tell and not enough time to spend several posts on each, so let's do this by themes...

Life in London

Winter has definitely set in, and today there was ice and frost on the ground in Hyde Park. We didn't see much sunlight, and there is a wet, slightly damp smell of cold weather perpetually in the air. The tube is actually comfortably warm, and Oxford Street has its Christmas lights up. I'm wondering whether it will snow, but I'm not sure if I'm going to be around to see any..

Travels

4Q 2007 is definitely turning into travel season. I'm off to South East Asia with work for several weeks, and will be jetting around from one city to another. Given that its going to be about 25 degrees down there, you don't exactly see me complaining! I've never been to Taiwan before, and there's also a chance to sneak a trip to Beijing, so I'm definitely psyched! Oh, did I mention that I might try to nip across to Hong Kong and/ or Bangkok as well?!

But its not all travel for work...there was a weekend spent in Berlin, which I have to admit is the only city in Europe after London that I could see myself living in. The city has an amazingly historic sense to it, especially the parts that are close to the former Berlin Wall. It's also incredibly moving to go and actually see the Reichstag which has been restored to its pre-1933 grandeur, with the addition of a spectacularly gauche glass cupola that is totally out of place with the Gothic architecture otherwise seen.

I think that the two things that moved me the most, out of the entire visit, was walking after dark along the one stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still standing, and getting an incredible sense of being fenced in, so to speak. Given my own claustrophobia, the thought of being trapped behind a wall, unable to move because of global geopolitics, was a very disturbing feeling. And what made me even more troubled was that there are so many places in the world where similar walls and boundaries exist - the latest Israeli attempts to fence in the West Bank being a case in point.

The second most moving place in the whole of Berlin has to be Bebelplatz, a large square in the centre of old Berlin. The square is ordinary enough by itself, but its only when you look at the cobblestones and realise that this was the site of the Nazi's great book burnings does the chill set in. A German philosopher (whose name eludes me) said in the 1800's that anyone who started out by burning books would end up by burning people, and we all know how prophetic those words are. As someone who's pathologically obsessed with books and knowledge, I can't actually imagine what it must be like to be crazy enough to want to burn books. And I hope I never have to find out, or meet anyone who does...

But Berlin was not all doom and gloom - this is Germany, remember! The city has a vibrancy and feel that is gritty and exciting, with real artists painting or sketching on the streets, large tree lined avenues and grand classical buildings sitting next to districts with punks and hippies with large warehouses and industrial architecture. And of course, how could I forget...

Bollywood!

Getting back to my hotel room in Berlin at something like 2 am (yes, I was out partying...) I turned on the TV and had the somewhat dubious pleasure of watching the opening credits of Dhoom 2! In full three hour, unedited glory, there was Hrithik, Abhishek, Bipasha and Aishwarya, speaking GERMAN! I confess that my German is not good enough, and neither am I crazy enough to stay up till 5 am watching a movie that was timepass at best, but I think that my last recollection of the movie is a scene of Abhishek Bachchan going, "Wohin ist diesen Herr A?!"

(Curiously, they don't dub the songs, but because I guess it may be somewhat boring to watch a song where you don't understand the words, they edit out the verses completely...so all you get instead is a series of five minute sequences of the dancing, but just when you expect to hear, "na usko ko pata..." all you get is "crazy kiya re.....crazy kiya re..." ad infinitum... )

And finally, books...

I can highly recommend Orhan Pamuk's Black Book, (which is called Kara Kitap in the original Turkish)... a slightly surreal, dreamy recollection of a simple life turned complex, it has the best of Pamuk - Istanbul, love, Turkish identity, and that smell of winter...

Anyway, so that's pretty much where things are at this point in my life. Mad, hectic, but so far a good 2007, and one to look back at fondly. A friend said today that the past few years had been reasonably "unbalanced" and I know what he means. I just hope that I get a few more years lacking balance, because in the words of the Goo Goo Dolls, yeah you'd bleed just to know you're alive...