Tuesday, 10 February 2009

End of youth - adulthood

During my apprenticeship in Aachen with at an import-export company I became friend with Bernie. We met at school and decided to go to India, after certification. Our choice fell on India because you can go there by road and thus we had long meetings to work out the details of our trip.

Then came my military service at the Air Force (18 months) and after discharge and back in Aachen, first thing I did was to call on Bernie. His mother answered the phone: "Well, yes, I remember, this trip to India", she told me. "One has to grow up, hasn't one." What could I replay to that? "Give my greetings to Bernie" I said and hung up.

So I was once more on my own. This time to hitchhike to India. And in Istanbul I met an Englishman, Oxford-Johnny, and we decided to go east together.

Somewhere in Western Iran, a truck driver dropped us in a little town or village. So we squatted by the roadside, waiting for the next transport. The dirt road passed through a valley, its right side scattered with little houses, made of mud and stones. Behind many of these houses lay huge boulders that must have come tumbling down from the mountain. Simply by looking at those houses I smelled the danger. The rocks could move again, others might come down and they would not give any warning.

Photo of an Iranian village. But beware, it is NOT the place I a am talking of though this is the landscape I came through. I pasted it here only for its beauty.

Why did these people live there? They could not go elsewhere, I suppose. On the left side of the road, the ground was flat and there was a very long wall, about 1 1/2 meter (5 feet) high. Behind the wall I saw a big stately house.

Suddenly, a door in the wall opened and out came a guy carrying two platters with food and drink. "My master gives you his best wishes. Eat and be restored", he said, put the platters before us on the ground and left.

Wow! We did as he asked and left the cleaned platters at the door. Should we have gone in to say thank you? I don't know. That was neither the first nor the last time people - complete strangers - were friendly to me. But never like that.

About two months later I finally arrived in India. Oxford-Johnny had left me in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. "I think from here on, we better carry on separately", he told me. I liked his company and don't know why he said that. Years later it occurred to me that he might have realized I knew where he was hiding his travel money. But that's just a guess.

One day I came to Amritsar, the Golden City, in Northern India. Looking around there I made the acquaintance of a Sikh who invited me into his house to stay with his people, for some time. This I did, ate their food, slept with them on the roof of their house with the other members of the family.

Photo of people in Amritsar. Found it on the Internet. Nothing to do with the people I met there.

When I left, ready to say good bye to those I have met in the house, the Sikh, the old Gentleman, said to me: "you never asked our name, never". I just don't remember what I answered to this. But it still rankles. I was tried and found wanting. Was I a self-centered young brat or was it only my timidity? I don't know.