Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Slovak Experience

(My friend Amar asked me share this little experience here. Thanks Amar)

In the month of September I had gone to Vienna for a few days. During my stay there, one day I went to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Slovakia separated from erstwhile Czechoslovakia. I will write more about Bratislava some other time. Because there is indeed a lot to write about. But, I wish to talk about one interesting incident. While walking around, on one corner of the city, close to the Danube, I saw a phrase, engraved on the wall. It’s written in the Slovak language; slovenčina. Obviously, I didn’t understand anything, except two names, Dzáwáharlál Néhru (This is the way it was written) and Indira Gándhiova. Even though adapted to a different script, any Indian would understand, who these names belong to. These names could be unfamiliar for hardly any Indian. I took the photograph. I asked a couple of people standing nearby as to what it meant, but unfortunately, they didn’t speak English. I returned to Vienna without any translation. Back in Vienna, I was again busy exploring this beautiful city. Sporadically, I asked people if they knew slovensko, so that somebody could translate that sentence to me, but all in vain.

On my last night in Vienna, I wasn’t able to sleep. I had to catch a flight at 7:30 next morning. Since I wasn’t able to sleep I started walking around, in the vicinity of my hostel. As late as 3 am, I felt hungry and I went to a place Restaurant Mozart, which is generally open from 6 pm till 6 am. I went inside and ordered some rare vegetarian cheese-based dish. Suddenly I remembered the photograph which was still there in my camera. I thought I should get it translated as soon as possible. Because chances of finding someone, speaking Slovensko in Barcelona, were much bleaker. At almost 3:30 in the morning, as the last attempt in desperation, I asked the lady at the bar, if she could speak Slovensko. The pleasant looking, middle aged lady politely said that she didn’t. Suddenly she came back, and said, “Our cook is from Slovakia. He speaks Slovensko. Should I call him?” I was so happy, I couldn’t even say “yes” clearly. I left my seat and walked almost halfway up to the kitchen and met the lady and the cook on the way. The cook greeted me in German. I showed him the camera and asked him to translate. But unfortunately he didn’t speak any English. The lady spoke some broken English. We ended up standing in a very funny position. The lady was standing in the middle with the camera in her hand. He was explaining it to her in his broken German. She was explaining it to me in her broken English. I don’t know how clearly they explained and how well, I understood. In the end all that the sentence meant that “on 20th August, 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi was here for a talk.” Still, it was a nice experience. Both of them were really very nice people. Despite all the problems with language, they showed admirable hospitality on helping me something really trivial. All three of us really enjoyed those 5 minutes of double translations. I remember, in the middle of the translation, the lady had abruptly but quite appropriately said, “We are very international.”
(If anybody reading this post, understands Slovak language, are welcome to send in hir/her version of translation of the text in the photograph.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What's in a game?

Recently Indian cricket team, as usual performed miserably in South Africa in both forms of game. Once again, people started criticizing the attitude of cricketers and started questioning their commitment and sense of patriotism. While thinking over this issue, I came across a nice anecdote in Eduardo Galeano’s book “Días y noches de amor y de Guerra”. It’s a story of Dynamo Kyiv, the most famous football club of Ukraine. In the summer of 1942 Ukraine was under Nazi occupation. The Nazi organized a football match. Between national team of Nazi armed forces and a team of Dynamo Kyiv made up of workers of the wool factory. The Supreme against the starving. The stadium was packed to full capacity. Nazis scored the first goal. The stadium shrunk to silence. Soon, the entire stadium lights up when Dynamo scored the equalizer. Just before the half time, Dynamo scored another goal. They went into half time leading, 2-1. The commandant of the occupying troops sent his assistants with his message. Dyanamo team listened to the message, “Our team has never been defeated on an occupied territory. If you win, you will be executed!”

Players returned. Within a few minutes, Dynamo scored the third goal. People were on their feet, right behind the team, shouting and cheering at the top of their otherwise oppressed voices. The fourth goal and the stadium erupted to unprecedented celebrations. Suddenly the final whistle was blown. Heroes of Dynamo were taken to a high precipice and executed.

At times, a game is not just a game.