I know I have been missing from the blogosphere and guys who read me, all 3 of you, have been wondering where I am and when I will be back. Well, worry no more, your prayers have been answered.

While you have been praying for my heroic return, I had been writing my second novel. It is ready and kicking in my belly (Pregnancy metaphor!) waiting to conquer the world. So now that I am done with that, I return to what I liked doing the most. Blogging. so here goes ...

A friend's friend who just returned from the US to settle in India wrote about the top 10 things she misses about the US. That got me thinking, what do I miss about Germany. But the Indian that I am, what do I not miss about Germany too. So given below are the two lists.

What I miss about Germany:

1. German Bakery, which they call just "Bakery" in Germany.

"Bread has it's own taste, it has a special texture which depends on the grain used, the temperature of the oven, the time of the year," said a German friend of mine when I said "Bread is just Bread." She scolded me for being such a jerk and made me apologise to a loaf of bread.

Well, for Germans, bread is not just bread, it is a way of life. And I miss it more than anything else. Ah, those Mozzarella sandwiches, the Mozzarella warm from the warm bread just out of the oven, the cold lettuce, the tomato, the cucumber.... sigh....

2. Buses

So, how do you identify a over-developed country? Good roads? No homeless people? Good public transport? Right? Wrong!
All these things define only a developed country - a US, a Qatar or a Italy. An over-developed country is the one where the buses bend towards the sidewalk as you get down. Yes. They have so much money that they can make a bus BEND!

3. Extra Virgin olive oil

So what is Extra Virgin really? What are other olive oils? Just Virgin? And what about olive oils who have had sex? And what about the ones who have babies? What are they called? Mommy and Poppy Olive oil? And what if they have many babies? Extra Mommy and Poppy olive oil?
The point being, I love olive oil. In India, regardless of how much you pay to get that oil shipped, it just doesnt remain the same.

4. Red Wine.

"You-have-a-to-a-try-a-this," said my Italian friend pouring me a glass of red.
To be honest, I didnt think I would like it. I was hoping I wouldnt, considering the cost of these things. I had the first sniff, sipped it, made it cure for sometime in my oral cavity and yessss.... the thrill of strong Italian wine!!!
"How-do-you-like-a-this?" He asked.
"I-like-a-this-very-much-thank-you" I said. I had become Italian!! With just one sip!

I dont dig alcohol, and I dont understand why people go so crazy over it. Blessed with some phenomenal alcohol breaking genes, I have never gotten really drunk, I have never had a hangover and have always repented spending on booze the other day.

I have had some really exquisite wines in my life. Some of the bottles have cost more than 70 Euros, and all of them have changed me as a person. Okay, maybe not. But you get the point.

Whatever you do, dont spend money on French wine. I told a French friend of mine that french women might be pretty, but your wine is nothing to write home about. She got terribly angry with me. Don't say anything about french wine to a french person. They get mad.

If you are Indian your taste buds are used to a certain amount of tingling which the mild french wine just doesnt offer. There. I said it.

The smell of that Italian wine stayed with me forever. I have forgotten the taste, but I swear I can sometimes smell it when I think about it.

5. Blonde babies

God, they are cute. They are good enough to eat. I should know. Burp.

6. Berlin Summer

If you need any evidence that there is a God, and he is a man, you have to visit Berlin in the summer. The country has a winter that lasts 6 months and there are days when you look out of the window and it's like the end of the world. So any presence of Sun is an invitation for the women to show their legs. I have never seen so many near perfect legs together.

7. Wissen Bier

It is wheat beer. It is made out of wheat grain. It is smoooooooth. Beer is an acquired taste. I still havent fully acquired it and I dont think I ever will but Wissen Beer my friend, that is something different.

8. Falafel

If I had a Euro for every time I said - "Ein falafel bitte"
I had so many falafels in Berlin that I became 22% Falafel. I knew the names of the Falafel joints in the city and they knew my name. The Falafel servers were the best German teachers ever. Maybe that is why I speak with a turkish accent! Ah!

9. On-time travel

Okay, so I might be an Indian, but I am more of a Mumbaikar. India is nothing like Mumbai. In fact nothing is quiet like Mumbai. Trains run on time, buses are almost always on time, people dont turn up late for meetings... It is a special place. So, it's not that I am not used to on-time travel. But really, Germany's on time travel is something you could write a book on - for eg-

We were waiting for a bus.
Me: It is 3:43 and the bus is not here yet
Friend: Yeah, it is 3:46 in my watch. Kahan hai yeh bus?
Me: Teri ghadi fast hai?
Friend: No idea. Teri on time hai kya?

Just then the bus arrived and we got in. We quickly checked the timing in our watches. Mine said 3.44 and my friend's said 3.47. The bus was supposed to arrive at 3.41. So according to my watch, it was 3 mins late.

We came home and checked the time online. Turns out my watch was 3 mins fast and friend's watch was 6 mins fast. The bus was on time, our watches werent. We could have adjusted the time according to the bus! No how cruelly awesome is tht?

10. Smooth roads and Mercedes Taxis

Ah, the roads. I have written a very patriotic and moving post about a pothole in Berlin. Enough written.

The 3 pointed star... ah beauty. If I was a car, I would be a Mercedes SLR and I would marry a Mercedes C class and then we would have small Volkswagen mini kids (Dont ask me how two Mercedes give birth to a Volkswagen,it's complicated...)


What I missed about India in Germany:

1. Cheap food

The money I used to spend on eating out in Germany could have been used for nobler causes like feeding Rishi, Shammi and Raj Kapoor uncle ke families. Food is so cheap here. I convert everything into euros when I go out and I have a huge smile on my face when I pay the bill.

2. Cheap domestic help

Yeah, go ahead. Call me lazy. Call me a slave driver. (You shouldnt if you are white, because really, you were the slave driver!) But the truth is, doing household chores is no fun!

Now I have met women whose hobbies included cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom (thts one more thing I miss about Germany, meet interesting women!) but it's not my style. I have a simple funda - Life is about doing what u want when u want. *applause people*

I once calculated how much time I spent in a week cleaning my room. It came up to 4 hours in a week! Do you know how productive I could have been in those 4 hours? Okay, not much, but, I dont wanna do it! And I shouldnt have to spend half my salary on getting domestic help!

3. The weather (Mumbai)

This is true only for Mumbai. Okay, if you talk about the muggy weather, I ask you to name one city where you can land without checking weather.com and carrying extra sweaters! I cite, Delhi's +45 degrees of heat and Berlin's -15 degrees of cold and ask you to compare it with 25 degrees all the time in Mumbai land :)

4. Good veg food

The first week that I spent in Germany, I used to look at all foods with an eye of suspicion that comes after years of travelling in crowded trains with a full wallet (What? I have a rich dad?). Everything seemed to contain meat or fish or some other animal. And they dont even consider Fish as meat. Fish is considered vegetarian! How?

I went to a posh hotel in Paris once, ordered wine, over priced of course and French, of course, they bite if u ask for any other wine. They bit off a friend's small finger, it adorns the walls of that hotel now with a tag saying -'Attention sil vous plait, hand will be bite, if ask for other wine. French wine, best wine. C'est la vie.' So coming back to the point, the restaurant had a menu that ran into pages, but they had no vegetarian dish. Zero Veg dishes. I had to finally order odd tasting noodles with vegetables, for which i was overcharged because - "Monsieur, thees ees Chef's speciaaale noodles.."

5. Hindi movies

Downloading is illegal in Germany, okay I know it's illegal in most parts of the developed world, but there they actually enter ur apartment put you and your laptop in jail, which if u ask me, defeats the entire purpose. For all they know, i might be watching sitcoms on my laptop in jail

Now in India, I can watch Zindagi Milega Na Dobara on the big screen and feel bad about paying money for what I could have seen in Germany for free. Any movie that Farhan Akhtar acts in, should be declared tax free, and that money should be taken from Mr. Javed Akhar for giving birth to a boy who has no acting skills whatsoever and thinks he can act. (Arre, yeh toh review ban gaya!)

6. Rickshaw and taxi tht dont cost a bomb

You know how much a richshaw ride costs me in Mumbai? Rs. 11. That is 20 cents. And I reach my destination in one piece (Well, most of the times)

In Berlin, I had to think if I should take the taxi or not. Okay, agreed that all Taxis are Mercedes, but really, sometimes i just want to get from place A to place B without spending my month's salary on the travel.

7. Air conditioners

In the birth place of Mechanical engg, how come they dont have Air conditioners installed anywhere. In berlin, you can sometimes sweat to death. Fyi, Summer Max temp in Berlin is more than that in Mumbai. There are gang wars in Berlin on which gang will get to use the table fan. Many die every summer.

The thing I love about India is, every big shop has an air conditioner and they do not cost a bomb so most of your engg friends can also afford it, making it logical to remain frds with them.

8. 24x7 transport

Mumbai again. See, how this post became what I miss about Mumbai from what I miss about India? That's how cool that city is. Well, not cool as in cold, it's quite humid that way.

You can get from point A to point B in Mumbai at 3 in the morning. You dont have to book cabs on phone or anything. just walk out on to the street and hail a taxi. Trains work round the clock. They say they shut down for 1 hour sometime, I am yet to find what hour. Note: There is a fair chance you wont get a place to sit in the train, unless you board it during non-rush hours, which again I have told is for 1 hour sometime, I am yet to find what hour.

9. Sunday open

This is only for the troubled souls who have spent time in one the better European country like Germany or France, you know, countries who place a lot of importance on silly and useless things like quality of life.

Sunday, everything is closed that includes malls, departmental stores, drug stores, after all the cashiers at the counter need their rest. It can get very tiring - counting money, opening drawers, returning change, closing the drawer.

Here, in mumbai, (I have quit talking bout India, I have a awesomer place to talk about.) everything is open 24x7x364 (15th August is a holdiday)

10. Friends and Family

Yeah, the sensitive guy that I am, I had to include this. It was either this or "Desh ki mitti ki khusboo" (Which is a real thing, btw).

I missed my friends and family when I was in Germany. I remember thinking about my friends and saying to myself - 'They werent all that bad, eh?'. And I missed my sister the most. I have realised there are so many inside jokes that we share. Some of our jokes are single syllable which only we can understand among ourselves... And I am sure my friends miss me, I mean, seriously, how many awesome mes are there in India? And my sister definitely missed me - she said so once every 3 months, which going by her fake pride means she missed me every 3 days. And why not, my parents dont understand any of her jokes! They give her pity laughs! Pity laughs, my friends!

So that is that. Now that I have showed my sensitive side to you, your heart must be full and your eyes must be watery. I know you must want to pour your heart out to me, to tell me how much u missed me while I was gone. To that I say, wipe your tears, and let it pour in the comments...

Till then... Ich sagt, Gesundheit!

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10 real dumb things to do in Mumbai

I was wondering what dumb things can one do in Mumbai. I dont know why I was wondering about it. I guess, I have too much free time. So here is a list of 10 really dumb things to do in Mumbai. If you have done dumber things, please mention it in the comments.

1. Take S.V road near Andheri or Tulsi pipe road on a weekday between 8.30 am to 10.30 pm. One summer afternoon, I took an autorickshaw from andheri Station to my college at SP via S.V. Road. It took me 30 minutes to cover 200 meters on S.V. road. I got down from the rickshaw after 30 minutes, walked 600 more meters and reached my college.
There will be a day when people will meet on S.V. Road, get married, have children and die all on S.V. Road.

2. Take the Virar fast from Dadar when you have to get down at Andheri.
I once took it, and repented it for the rest of my life. When I wanted to get out at Andheri, I asked a bhaiyya standing in front of me -
"Bhaiyya, Andheri utarna hai kya?"
"Arre yeh Virar train hai, ismein Andheri mein utarna mana hai..."
When girls in germany would ask me if I ever got in a fight, I would think about that day and say - yes.
And yes, I did get down at Andheri.

3. Call any marathi guy a "bhaiyya". All around India, "bhaiyya" stands for big brother. It is respectful way of addressing someone. But not in Mumbai. Not in Mumbai.

4. Riding a bike without a helmet. YOU.WILL.GET.CAUGHT.

5. Not stopping at a red signal. While all over India, it's accepted to break traffic rules, they are taken very seriously here in Mumbai. Dont do it.

6. Going to see Lalbaug's Raja on the 10th day of Ganpati. The line outside is so long it goes on for miles. It is crazy. Children get lost, some get interchanged, it's all good.

7. Say bad things about Sachin Tendulkar while travelling in a local train. You will get BASHED, thrown out of the train etc.

8. Asking a cabbie or a rickshaw - "Bandra jaaneka hai.. kitna lega?" He wont charge you more but you might get a curt reply - "Mumbai mein naya aayela hai kya?"
This is the only city in India in which the cabs run on the meter. THE ONLY CITY.

9. Asking - "What is that smell?"
Well, every area here smells of something. The air here is composed of 50% Nitrogen, 15% Oxygen and rest 25% is the smell. It can be anything from rock salt, burning tyres, decaying vegetables, or just good old body odour. Mostly it is a mixture of it all. So dont ask "What is that smell?" There is no right answer to it.

10. Not bargaining with the guys at hill road and fashion street. You HAVE to bargain. If you dont want to bargain, go to a mall to buy stuff. Or, get ready to pay 900 Rupees (15 Euros) for a pair of boxer shorts.

So that's my list. What is your list?
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That piece of brick...

Short Story

It was a cold November afternoon. The year 1989. I was 19 years old. My friends and I were walking down the streets of Berlin with sledgehammers. Walking alongside of us were so many others like us.

I am German. No, I am not 6 feet 4 inches tall and I am not blonde with blue eyes. It is just an image that the Americans have propagated of the Germans. I look like any other European or American, for that matter. I am 6 feet tall and I have dark brown hair and light brown eyes.

I was born in East Berlin. I grew up here. And there was a time when I thought I would die here. I never thought a day would come when I would be able to cross the wall and step onto the western side of Berlin. I had heard it was sparsely populated. I had heard that there were rich people who lived in those parts. They had enough to eat. I had heard.

Who would have thought the communist model would fail so miserably? Everything seemed so right about communism. After we lost the war and were divided into pieces, I dont think any of us were particularly worried about being on the communist side of Berlin. I mean, even if things got worse, we could easily walk over to the other side and start a new life. It was afterall the same country. We, on this side were Germans, as were the folks on the other side.

My father was a staunch communist. It wasnt a derogatory term then as it is now. Actually, if you were 20 and werent a communist, you didnt have a heart. I say, if you are 30 and are still a communist, you dont have a brain. Communism is good, only if you arent human and are untouched by greed. Capitalism is the naked truth. It accepts us for what we are. Greedy little swines. We dont have to put up an act. Capitalism serves us right. Not that it's a permanent solution, as you will see.

My father was such a strong supporter of the communist government that he offered help to build up the Berlin wall. He was 19 years old then. The same age as I was on that cold November afternoon of 1989. Youth back then was so confused. I wonder, if we were any better and I bet our kids at 19 would be more messed up that we are. My father helped build a section of the wall near Checkpoint Charlie. My mother used to tell me that he was mighty proud of it. He really wanted East Germany to flourish. "Communism is the right way" he used to say. But then you cant be that stupid all your life. In the summer of 1971, only weeks after I was born, he tried jumping the Berlin wall, right over the section of the wall that he had helped build.

He was shot by a Russian sniper.

And that was that. If you ask me, I rather be dead that stupid all my life. My father died a smart man's death.

My mother, a qualified German teacher would get paid only as much as the Janitor in the school. It frustrated her. In those days, German as a language was losing its sheen. The Russian Govt. wanted the kids to learn Russian. The lack of importance to her mother language made her bitter. She had never been a Communist. If you ask me, she has never been anything. She doesnt feel the need to join a group to be recognized. She doesnt really love anything, except a green sweater that her mother made for her. She doesnt hate anyone. Not even the communist government. The only thing she hated from the bottom of her heart was the Berlin wall. It took away her husband. The Wall first flirted with their hopes and then crushed them.

I didnt see the wall till I was 15 years old. My mother had forbidden me from seeing it. She said it was evil. It was tainted with the blood of millions of Germans and of my father. It was only when I was in the marching band in our school that we had to pass through Checkpoint Charlie and I got to see the wall. It was all bricks and stone. It had graffiti all over it with words like - Freiheit (freedom).

And now we were walking towards the Wall, sledgehammers in hand - to claim exactly that - Our Freiheit.


I came back home that night. I opened the door and entered the living room. My mother was sitting in her chair knitting a woolen cap for me.

"I am sorry," I said. She looked up at me. "I am sorry, I went to see the wall when I was 15. And I went there today."

She kept looking at her once obedient son, finding reasons for the disobedience.

I kept a piece of brick on the table next to her.

"The Wall is no more, mother."

Tears swelled up in her eyes. All the pain, the hate, found their way out.

The End.

Dedicated to Antonia Kaul, Hillena Einfeld, Matt Gottwald, Thomas Pallien and all my German friends.

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