This is a true life episode which I want to share with you –
It was the year of the Lord 1951 Anno Domini – the first of the following few that were destined to change my outlook and understanding of the world and the people around me.
As a callow youth of almost 19, I had arrived in England in the April of that year to study Engineering. One day in July, our Hostel Warden came over and asked me to get ready to travel to Denmark for a fortnight, alongwith a group of about ten other fellow Indians, on an exchange program.
And so, we started off on one fine August day. My father, who had many German friends, asked me to break off from the group during the return jurney and visit some of his friends in Germany.
So it was that I tool a train from Hamburg to Nuremberg, little knowing that this fateful journey was to provide me with a profound example of humanity.
It was war-ravaged Germany, witht he destruction caused by WW2 still very vividly visible. Trains then still ran with steam engines and delays of a few hours and overcrowding, were the order of the day; many people standing in the corridor with their luggage – I among them.
It was night time. And it was then that I noticed something that would change the future course of my life. Every hour or so, those seated in the cabin would voluntarily vacte their seats and invite those standing to exchange places. It was the proud German race who had just lost a bitter war, but not their civic sense of being helpful to others in the worst of times.
Suddenly, an elderly German lady beckoned me. At the time, I didn’t understand a word of German, and she didn’t speak any English. But the message was clear. I, a teenager, a half-baked man, brown-skinned, being offered a seat by an elderly lady, with no thought of colour or culture? I experienced a feeling of tender, motherly love and concern, far away from home and my real mother.
I still remember you, maa, after sixty five years of that fateful night, with tears in my eyes.
A thousand salaams, maa!
I moved to Germany the following year to complete my education there. And I formed a deep, emotional attachment which remains with me even now.
Great country, great people. Hail Deutschland!