Categories
Europe Opinion People WTF!

Inducing Happiness: The European Way

It is the process by which people tend to “induce” happiness into their lives at the cost of their fellow beings and then feel good about it rather than deriving happiness by “making” it happen by means of your sincere deeds – quite the European way as I have been observing since September.
Thing is simple. A few weeks ago, I received this mail from a friend based out of Lisbon which read like this:

Hello guys.. As you know I am leaving for the States next week. You guys have been really awesome and I have no words to express my gratitude for all the support and love. I sure am gonna miss you all when I am in Boston. I was thinking that it would be good if we can all meet up one last time for a dinner. I will be very happy and fortunate to have you amidst the company of me and my friends, during the last moments of my stay in Portugal.

I propose that we meet on Saturday at around 2000 at <Restaurant Name> <Address>. The choice of the cuisine is meditteranean as most of you would prefer, includes <general menu>. And the cost per person would be around 20 euros, not more than that inclusive of drinks. 

This man in the letter included  the “You guys have been awesome….my gratitude..support and love“, ” I would be very happy and fortunate….” and then delivered the sucker punch by announcing the “cost per person….” sentence – all in the span of 5-6 lines of the same letter. And letters/mails like these come, every other week.
Well if he was so happy and fortunate and sad that he would miss all of us, he should have hosted a dinner and paid up the expenses by himself. Atleast that is what is done if you are genuinely happy back where I hail from. You invite your friends and spend a wonderful evening with them, spreading laughter and cheer and then you make it even more wonderful by being the perfect host and appreciating their decision to spend quality time with you. I would pay to do this, but then my idea of not believing in celebrations makes life a lot more easier. Why do it when you want to “induce” rather than make it happen by itself?
So to sum up, I ended up going for the dinner because he has been a wonderful man and for the sake of his happiness, I ended up spending 20 euros (1350 INR). That is the price that I burn to see a smile on his face and make sure everything is right between us. Am I happy doing this? Well, you know by now….
Categories
Europe Life Travel

Demystifying Porto

Porto (Oporto in Portuguese) is the second largest city of Portugal. Highly recommended by the Portuguese to pay a visit, I finally had the opportunity to explore the town. Quite a stark contrast from the capital city Lisbon, which is more of an international city , Porto is home to the old school Portuguese heritage. On a first glance, it gave me an impression of an abandoned city with old buildings, mostly damaged and uninhabited. And that was a very disturbing fact to digest. It seemed like people had deserted the city and gone towards Lisbon or other areas of the Iberian Peninsula or Continental Europe.
Old fashioned in all respects, Porto gives the impression of a city which simply refuses to bow down to change. And the same is evident even on the people of Oporto, who are proud of what their forefathers have achieved. They thrive on the Portuguese legacy, its wineries, the heritage buildings and the related aspects, thus not bowing down to the change of the outside world. This aspect would certainly be of interest to an art history graduate, but not for someone like me. Nevertheless a mysterious old school beauty which had turned into a ghost town for reasons quite obvious to us. I was disappointed, so to say. Here are a few snaps taken:
The tram – only three lines are functioning right now
Rua Alvares Cabral – we stayed here, amongst the abandoned buildings
An abandoned church building right in the heart of the town
Ponta Luiz – the bridge, on the UNESCO World Heritage site of Oporto
Rio Duoro , the river and the city of Porto on the background.

I will be adding the whole list of photographs periodically onto the “Photography” section of this blog.

Categories
Europe Life

First Thoughts – 2012

Ola people! Hope everyone had a fantastic new years eve and a grand welcome into 2012. Happy New Year from the bottom of my heart, wish it turns out to be as special as it possibly could be. And I hope a few have already started ruing over their new year resolutions, if not broken them once or twice already. Just a real quick update on life and an extremely interesting incident which has been occupying a good enough space inside my head. Life is quite dull again since work has already kicked off. Exams on the 9th and 13th with a possible resource exam to be taken for Transport Economics and a project due on the 18th, which is evidence enough for the word “dull ” being tagged along with life. It isn’t really that I hate doing this, but there is really nothing else and thus life is quite predictable until the 19th. A bit of travel is also on the plans after the 19th since I have like 4 days before the next semester begins, though not sure how much of that is going to materialize. Now to the incident.
So I had a visitor on New Years eve. Nobody else was in the apartment and I opened the door when the bell rang. A Portuguese lady was standing outside – neatly dressed, posh, in her 40’s if not older. The conversation started in Portuguese, but soon turned to English when she figured out that her English was way better than my Portuguese. And she told me that she was the daughter-in-law of my neighbour, a lady in her 70’s. To talk more about my neighbour, she is Ana Maria, 75+ , rich with two houses in Lisbon alone, knows 6 languages including English (which is way too impressive for a European), quite a rare visitor to our place, largely peaceful and nice. She was working in the Portuguese department of transportation during her hay days, so we found a lot of things in common for a conversation to sprout up. Besides her career, she is vastly read, knows a lot about world culture and history and is very interesting to talk to, something which is very rare nowadays as far as I am concerned.
So yeah, the daughter-in-law. She is  accompanied by another lady who is Ana Maria’s sister, asks for Ana Maria who hasn’t been in touch with them for almost 3 weeks now and they are worried. So they came by to check on her. Soon we realize she is not present at home as nobody answers the door. Realizing that she has a key to this apartment, she opens the apartment to check for her. Its all very dark inside, so she asks me if I can come in too. I say yes and we go in. This apartment is a 6 room, old school place, large with a long alley and rooms on either side. Surprisingly, there is no power inside the apartment. We try the different switches and realize the power supply has been disconnected. And that’s when things start getting weird. I get a torchlight from my apartment and we go in. Its pitch dark and as soon as we reach the living room, its a scene of distress. Papers, books, flyers, clothes, unwashed plates, cutlery are all strewn around. I nearly pierce a fork onto my leg since it was lying on the ground in the dark, largely unnoticeable. And it was hard to imagine that someone lived here, amidst all the confusion that was called this apartment. The six other rooms resembled a similar picture and after seeing all this, I didn’t really have the courage to check the kitchen or the rest rooms. The daughter-in-law was being way too normal throughout this time and I was inching to ask her about her reaction.
So when we came out of the ghost house, I invited them to my apartment and asked her about her reaction on seeing the apartment all messy and weird. To which she replied, “Maria used to be such a task master lady until her 60’s until Miguel (her husband ) was around. After his demise, she lost all interest in life. She did not understand why she had to tidy up the place, and for whom, since no one ever visited her anymore. More so, since she didn’t want them to.” To see the condition of such a well learned lady, in her 70’s reaching a stage where she didn’t appreciate living life anymore was a hard thing to digest. She was very wealthy, but still lived the life of a gypsy. Why did she have to live life anymore if this was so meaningless for her? And that was the hard reality of life, that even a lot of money could not bring any happiness into her life. That’s because the essence of life is not entirely dependent on material things, though it does play only a small role in making it better. People run so much behind material comfort that they forget to live life in between. I have a professor at Tecnico whose story is equally interesting, though that is a story for another day. Though for the sake of debate, if I ever had to encounter that stage in life that Ana Maria was going through, I would just renounce myself from this world and move away. I am sure we all have different takes on it though.
Nevertheless a strange new year realization indeed.
Categories
Europe Life People

The price is 35 Euros

Its almost 11 in the night as I leave Tecnico, for home. After a hard day – fighting deadlines, seeing UNITED lose and bow out of the Champions League, braving the cold (which is rather unusual for me, since I am from Chennai) I walk back, mind flooded with thoughts of the work pending. And of the life that I am living here.
As I descend the flight of steps, I see her standing near the parking lot on the opposite side. I slow down my pace to observe her. She is tall, well dressed and extremely beautiful for a Portuguese woman. A few cars slow down seeing her on the side of the road – some of them slow down, have a conversation with her and go away while a few others look at her and just speed up. Probably they did not like the “package”. Less than 5 minutes and there were already half a dozen cars stopping by her and they go through this routine.
And just when I give up on it and start walking, comes another car. I could see two men inside, mid 30’s. They have a little conversation with her. And yes, the deal is signed. She gets into the car which speeds away, out of my horizon. And I walk back home, the lady in the back of mind, and of the people who seek warmth in her in the chill of Lisbon.
Categories
Miscellaneous

One Year on, Still No Government

 A country with no form of governance isn’t something impossible as I realized yesterday. Apologies if this news comes as being a thing of the past, but Belgium entered into a record of sorts after being government-less since June 2010. After a series of political disagreements, it was decided that there wouldn’t be any form of governance at the national level. No important decisions are made, all of the administration had been handed over to regional or municipal administrators long ago itself. 
And that’s not the best part. The Belgian economy improved in this period than in the same period previous year. The Unemployment rate is at 8.5%, lesser than the European Union average of 9.4%. And that’s just the start of the many things that hit the green without a stable government. Brilliant, isn’t it? 
Don’t believe me? Read these:

  1. Belgium: 450 Days after Election, still No Government | Huffington Post
  2. 2010-2011 Belgian Government Formation | Wikipedia 
  3. Belgium: One year on, Still No Government | CNBC 
Anyway, for a country which is as big as Kerala, all this might work out well. I didn’t mean to generalize when I put this up, you know. Even though we have a shit of a government ruling over us.