Sunday, June 13, 2010


Since I was old enough to learn English - which was three years - I have been told that English is my ticket to freedom and opportunities. Apparently, nobody ever reached anywhere just learning my mother tongue. So once I moved to Europe, I did not expect the Indian languages to help me out.

I was so wrong.

I was in Berlin, and one wrong turn meant I was in the wrong street. In my search for the perfect food, I was suddenly in the middle of a residential neighborhood, most of the apartments looking deserted for the holidays. I was not too worried about the dark buildings, as much as I was about the hunger pangs in my stomach. I wanted to eat something good, and I wanted to eat fast.

I walked towards the one source of light, a restaurant which is open at this twilight time, looking like the only place in earth which is open. I went inside, only to stare at someone who only knew German.

Looking around, taking the decorations of the restaurant in, and discounting the nice Europeans who were peacefully dining, I bellowed into the kitchen - "Aare Bhaisaab!" (Hello Brother) - a girl's gotta eat.

Which brought out the owner pretty fast, much to the shock of his German customers and employees. I continued chatting with him in Hindi. A first generation Pakistani from Lahore, he has been in Berlin for the last forty years, his kids married to 'white women'. He questions me on my province, the number of siblings I have, about my parents and grandparents and if I am traveling alone; just like a polite first time conversation in Hindi ought to me.

One sublime chicken biriyani and a free, unasked mango lassi later, I am pointed out my way on the map; and one of the employees is volunteered by the hotel manager to drop me to where I live.

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