Thursday, January 25, 2007

Last minute stuff

Sam inspecting the chair

The person who is going to most miss my wheelchair when I return it to the hospital tomorrow is Sammy. Is Sammy a person? Of course. A cat is most definitely a person, as much as you or me. It may not always behave the way you want it to, (do people for that matter?!) it wont come when you call it, wont suck up to you like a dog, wont give you the time of day if it isn't in the mood but it makes up for that with what you call "personality".

Sam comfortably settled

Sammy is lazy, he is like an Indian cow which never moves out of the way of a speeding car but expects the driver instead to swerve and risk knocking up his vehicle against a tree or a lamp post. Sammy just continues to sit in the way when I run around in my wheelchair, not bothering to make way for me and I am always afraid that I'll run over his tail.

Sam playing with the strap of my camera pouch

But he is a friendly cat, or at least that is what I thought till now, though I am beginning to wonder. He would spring up onto my lap every now and then and sit there purring and it felt so damn good. Since I've been walking around, using less of the wheelchair and sitting on an ordinary chair though, I've been noticing that Sammy doesn't come and sit on my lap any more. He makes a beeline for the wheelchair and sits on it, purring and then actually resents it when I try to edge him out.

I have been sitting and sorting out the mess in my room and am filled with wonder at the way it seems to follow me all the way from Bombay like a ... like a... maybe like some kind of slow growing monster that expands inch by inch in front of me wherever I happen to settle down. I can't figure out how I end up collecting so much stuff from chocolates (which I forget to eat and actually end up rotting in my suitcase at times) to boxes of wet tissues to just plain plastic bags. I've got dozens of them now and sorry to have to leave most of them behind. I think Ariela feels quite happy to see me surrounded by this pile of garbage because she is not the most tidy of people either and it makes her feel more "one with me."

Ruth, with whom I am flying to India, will arrive any time now to pick up some extra stuff which she will take as part of her luggage - my harmonica set, guitar, the old pair of shoes and let's see what else I can shamelessly pile on to her.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Farewell to Prien

View from my bedroom window

Snow has arrived here roughly four weeks after it had been wished for. Much to Lulu's disappointment it eluded us at Christmas, which had a perversely bright, warm and summery feel to it, but now it looks like we're going to have a white January, or at least what's left of it. What a surprise I got this morning when I looked out of the window opposite my bed and saw the rooftops of the neighbouring houses padded with a crisp white layer of snow. The main road running past the house was white, the pavements were white, the branches of the tree outside my window were (and still are at the moment) a Christmassy white. It all looks very nice from inside but I dont know if I'd enjoy messing about outdoors at the moment. The worst thing about snow is what they call "glatteis", in Germany, when snow has been around for a while and turns into a slippery and treacherous layer of ice on which people constantly skid and fall and break their bones - especially the elderly.
View from the living room

Well, this last week has had the typical overtones of leave taking with everyone sighing and wanting to know why I didn't consider making Prien my home. At least that's better than everyone sitting around with bated breath waiting to see the last of me. No doubt when I am actually back I shall be flooded with memories of my time here, playing with Felix, practising the guitar with Lulu, fending off Sammy the cat one of whose past times is to creep up behind me, poke his paws through a slit in my chair and scratch my butt. Our late night conversations over wine (with a cigarette or two thrown in, on occasion, though smoked out on the terrace - not inside the house), the table where I sit with this laptop, surfing the net, writing my blogs and mails, so many things.

Sammy sitting under my wheelchair,
waiting to spring

It's weird but time seems to have no significance whatever. The last four months seem so compressed I could swear I landed here yesterday with a broken ankle. At other times, the day I broke my ankle and phoned Ariela from Frankfurt and she insisted I come and stay with her, seems so far off, like it belongs to another lifetime. The care and attention I've received in this home, well I don't know what to say about it. So I wont try. Instead of asking myself what I have done to deserve all of it and feeling piously modest I decided a while back to just accept and enjoy it and it has worked fine.

Recently there has been a new addition to the household which has added a bit more spice to our lives - Linda, the young woman from Morocco, who helps keep house, looks after Felix, does the occasional shopping and a whole lot of miscellaneous chores. Though she was really shy in the beginning we've started having a lot of fun together and she gets on pretty well with the kids.

So these are the last two and a half days. On Saturday I'll be flying to Cologne to spend a day or two with Ayse and Suhail plans to join me for the weekend. And perhaps if I have time I'll blog again before I leave here. If not some time when I return to Bombay.

Friday, January 19, 2007


There is something comforting about a storm raging outdoors while you're gathered cozily with friends, around the dining table swilling wine and exchanging confidences about all sorts of things. Yesterday all of Germany was swept by a hurricane, which being indoors as I am a lot of the time, I would not have ever known about if Thomas had not happened to mention it when he returned from Munich around lunch time.

In the four months that I've been in Prien I don't think I've watched the news on TV or read a newspaper either, more than about twice - and when I say reading the papers, what I actually mean is skimming the headlines on the front page at the breakfast table before going back to my coffee and toast and chatting with Linda the household help or with Felix explaining some complicated game he wants to play with me. Anyway Thomas and Lulu went shopping for emergency supplies before the "Orkan" was scheduled to rage its way through town. It was the first time I was hearing the word so when Thomas mentioned it I thought he was referring to a volcano and was flabbergasted because as I told him, I didn't think that Prien lay in a volcanic belt. "No," says Thomas, "I didn't say Vulkan, I said Orkan." Well before long I caught on.

Watching the news last night we finally got an impression of how powerful the gale was, (in some places over 200 kilometres per hour) as we saw people staggering and trying to keep their balance as they were buffetted by the strong winds, especially on the coast. And of course there were the usual scenes of trees having crashed down on the roads, and cars lying amidst the wreckage. In Germany train travel came to a complete halt which had thousands of travellers stuck at the station not knowing what to do. Prien being subject to the Föhn (the winds from the south) the effect of the hurricane was tempered, so that although we could hear the wind blowing through the window it was not nearly as dramatic in some other places.
Ose at work
Two items stood out on our list of things to worry about. One was that our friend Ose, who had promised to visit us and to cook Thai chicken for dinner might not be able to make it. (She did land up and the curry turned out damn good. Ose - pronounced "Ose-uh" - is actually a doctor who practises homeopathy, a great cook and also great on the guitar). The second was more like a regret, on Lulu's part that the Orkan had decided to pay us a visit late on Thursday evening instead of on Friday morning in which case her school would have declared a holiday.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Time eating Monster

Elton John will be 60 in March. Ringo Starr is 67, Paul Newman 82, Petula Clark 75, Twiggy is 58, Carol King, 65. Just some of the figures whom Stardust refers to in one of her recent blog posts: "Everybody's getting so old...except me! LOL!". These are singers or entertainers whom I recall I too used to sort of hero worship in my teens. These guys were young when I first got to know of them and now they’re way older than I imagined was possible for anyone to be, when I was twelve or thirteen. It’s one of those things. You wake up one morning and say to yourself, “I’m 56” And then you go “Eeeek!” Because as far as you remember, just yesterday you were 21 and waiting for life to begin. What happened to the time in between?

It’s like there’s some invisible time eating black hole engulfing us which is rapidly devouring the seconds, minutes, days and years and all you do is, look at yourself in the bathroom mirror with a puzzled grin on your face not able to figure out how and when your hair turned grey or the wrinkles started to slowly creep over your face and neck.

The time eating monster has been at work these last few months as well. I figured it is five months since I left Bombay (August 18th to be exact) and four months since I landed in Prien with a broken ankle. The question is, how did it suddenly get to be January 16th? And what happened in between? Where did the days go? Friends would initially call up and make pitying sounds on the phone. "How do you manage to make the time pass?" Don’t ask me how, it just happens. You wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, work a bit on the computer, play a bit with the baby of the family (in this case four year old Felix), read, watch a bit of TV, eat, drink wine during or after dinner, spend the evening chatting and before you know it you’re rubbing your eyes and getting ready to fall into bed. Another day is over.

Well there’s not much else to say. I’m not going to start on a philosophical treatise right now. We’re reaching the end of the day and I think I’ll just pour myself a glass of red wine. It makes the time eating monster easier to bear.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

First Steps!

The lake in Prien (the Chiem See) where Marlis and I went for an outing sometimes

This last week has been very eventful, with me shifting to an apartment round the corner from Ariela’s place, for a few days, together with Marlis who has come down from Berlin to help me get back on my feet. The “holiday apartment” which Marlis tracked down from the internet is perfect. Cosy, well furnished, clean and bright. And it is on the ground floor so that going out is not a big deal.

Marlis at the lake

A couple of days after we arrived the landlady, a friendly soul, probably in her late fifties, came over to collect the weeks rent as she was off on vacation the next day. She talked a blue streak while Marlis and I nodded politely every now and then, hardly able to get in a word edge wise, and it felt like she would never stop. She talked about having lived in Berlin for 30 years and then having moved to Frankfurt and how she came down to Bavaria and how the Berliners in Bavaria never really settle down and look down their nose at everything. Then she told us about one of her regular tenants, a man who has spent a lot of time in India, with Sai Baba and heals sick people in the area with meditation and “energy work”. Finally, almost reluctantly she took leave of us and Marlis and I were able to return to philosophising about life in general.

A slightly hazy pic of me taking my first steps with a pair of crutches

We’ve been at work of course ever since we arrived here which was last Thursday – me exercising, with Marlis helping me to find my feet and my balance again and I am discovering both the joy and pain (literally!) of being able to walk again. The first day was both the most frightening and probably the most rewarding. I was told that the point at which I felt most unstable and was filled with the most fear was the very point to which I needed to drive myself and where I had to learn to stay, in order to be able to take my first step. Anything short of that would mean that I was still hovering in the comfort zone which didn’t offer any promising returns.

I realised that in the weeks that I’ve been immobile I’ve actually lost my sense of balance (if ever I had it in the first place!) and that the straight position which Marlis made me stand in made me initially feel as if I was standing crooked and at an angle. Strange how even your body loses touch with reality if it hasn’t been working for a while.

By and by, with my heart in my mouth I learnt to take the first few faltering steps. When we moved in here the walker had not arrived so we had to make do with the wheel chair. I would hang on to the handles of the wheel chair and push it forward in order to be able to take a step. Today almost a week later, I am comfortable moving around on my own with the aid of the walker and learning to also cope with crutches – which is the next step. I don’t know how long it will take for me to get back to where I was before I fell, but at least at this moment it feels like it’s been an eventful week and apart from learning to walk again I am learning what it means to take risks and how important it is to be able to deal with fear and instability to be able to move ahead.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Another year has begun

Feli, Thomas, Rupert and Brigitte (who came down for New Years from Switzerland)

Andrea,Brigitte and an unknown person
on the dance floor

One good thing about our New Years eve party was that, at least to begin with, everybody was doing their own thing and the usual forced jollity was to a large extent dispensed with. At the outset we seemed to be divided into three lots. The first lot (which included me) was playing charades with the kids, another two or three individuals were munching away in the kitchen and the third lot of people were watching a karate film on TV, in my bedroom which is actually the living room which I have taken over. A little past ten, we got together for dinner after which things got genuinely a bit more merry (no doubt the wine helped). We had some goo...oood danceable music which had everyone on the floor including Suhail who was twisting and turning away and simulaneously clutching his back which has been giving him problems for the last several months.


I think the best thing that evening was Petra trumpeting the New Year in at midnight, from the terrace of the house. The sound floating through the night air while all around firecrackers were strewing the sky with stars and petals of pink, green and yellow light, was awesome. The mound of dishes on the dining table got me feeling a bit down towards the end but with a whole lot of helping hands it was cleared away in no time and we wound up the evening with some live music - Thomas and Petra on the guitar and the rest of us contributing with vocals.
Thomas playing us a goodnight song
As it happens with all good things coming to an end, and Suhail and Shasha having to leave yesterday evening back for Paris, the wind blew in a bit of depression. Even the sky turned grey and the sun was replaced by rain and snow. But life goes on and things are getting back to normal again. Sigh. Oh well, it feels good, in a way, getting back to one's regular tempo again.