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Sunday, November 21, 2010


Foggy Sunday nights are for streaming obscure football matches and hoping someone is on Skype. From my 6th floor room I can just about make out the blurry pin-pricks of light from street lamps and windows across the university courtyard. I struggle to tear myself away from my open window. It is an alien landscape outside. The frigid mist has added flavour to the air: a moist, comforting taste most unlike the stale afternoon that basked in pale sunlight. It gets dark so early and I'm guilty of forgetting the laws of the northern hemisphere.

I love the view from my room. It is a 'before and after' view of this part of Germany, whenever the weather permits. To my right, I see the shiny university building with its glass facades and the quaint church beyond it. The half-hourly bells are the metronome to my lazy life. They are a charming constant, a faint whisper that dances through the curtains of mist and cloth and remind me that there is a life beyond my dimly lit cave. There is even a modest high-rise building, with offices and a restaurant at its summit - an ambassador to that other curtain.

To the left, where the now unbearable breeze is coming from, is the past. To the left lies communism's shadow: there are cobwebs inside the dilapidated warehouses but the warehouses are cobwebs themselves. They sprawl tauntingly across the road from one of the university buildings. I read the graffiti on them every morning as I go to class, like a daily sermon. "To the left lies communism" - ha! I just got that. But let's not get into one of those 'city of contrasts' dialogues that have become so clich├ęd. I'm from India and it bores me.

I fear that when I try to describe this place, I'm trying to put Frankfurt Oder into a box. I fear that as a mere story-teller I have no right or reason to find a label for this place. I was warned - most times in jest - by my German friends that I was going to the 'zone' and it certainly feels unique. But it is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. And though the sunlight is sometimes bland and the buildings are grayer than the sky itself and the bridge is ugly and one can smell the carcass of East Germany in the mornings, I love this place and I'd do well not to put a label on it. By refusing to brand it, I think this arrogant writer may even learn a thing or two.

Sunday nights are terrible, so I am drawing my curtains now. Goodnight.