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A critical overview of Germany's much controversial school system

 

A fair deliverance of quality education is the duty of every responsive and progressive nation, thereby ensuring the process of assimilation through education. Right to education applies to all the citizens and non citizens, it is an inalienable law. However, it seems Germany has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the critics who raise fingers on the credibility and transparency of the alleged system of German schooling. In this topic we would discuss at length the anomalies and the loopholes, existing in the German schooling. Just before I embark upon the critical assessment of Schule politik, I would like to clarify that I have read numerous articles including many Deutsch newspaper editorials, which have openly confronted the present system of schooling which essentially promotes and practices discrimination not just towards children of immigrants but also towards children who don't come from sound financial backgrounds. Secondly, like I had mentioned in the previous blog I completed my B1 from a language institute where we were also taught about the complex German school system and our teachers were kind enough to make us aware of the follies in it.

 

It is said, every story has two sides. I am sure, there would be another side to this story which is hidden from us. So we'd explore the facet best known. Let's begin from the very beginning. How does German schooling differ from others? Well, every country has it's own methods and style of teaching, hence school policies vary from region to region, but the goal is the same i.e. to impart quality education uniformly. The main difference lies here, which I personally find rather bizarre, the system of education differs from state to state in Germany oder die Bundesländer bestimmen in Deutschland die Schulpolitik. It suggests there are 16 different education systems operating across Germany, since there are 16 states. Is it a unique diversity or a delirious intangible mess?? Indeed, the answer is hard to find.

 

In contrast to the prevalent school system in most countries, Germany has a complex three tier high school system. Come fourth grade and the streaming of pupils begin. What?At such a young age?? It's hard to imagine, but this is how the whole schooling structure is built up here. So according to their intelligence, they are filtered out and shown educational tracks that best suit their calibre. This is how schools defend themselves against criticism. The most sane questions that come to mind are, why this insanity or better still idiosyncrasy?? How can a teacher judge a child as young as a fourth grader as being meritorious or not in two hours? Ridiculous! and how absolutely demoralizing!! There are many children who show their real talent at a later age. So if my child for some reason couldn't perform well in the given slot of time, he/she would be deprived of Gymnasium and thus his/her future career options are brutally narrowed down. There could be infinite reasons for the lack of performance of a child, he/she might be very intelligent in real life, what if he/she got nervous during the screening?? That means he/she has no chance of getting into a good school.

 

The three tier system involves:

  1. General secondary school or Hauptschule (grades 5 -10)

  2. The intermediate secondary school or Realschule (grades 5-10)

  3. The academic high school or Gymnasium (grades 5-12 or 13)

     

The children are assessed by their teachers who decide which school best suits a particular student based on their performance.

 

Gymnasium - it is the most sought after or preferred school ; the dream of every parent for their kids to be be selected for Gymnasium. I am sure, parents have a lot of anxiety when their children reach standard fourth. Like I said before, don't be fooled by the common words in English and German. Gymnasium has nothing to do with physical education. It is college preparatory high school which is attended by students from grade 5 to 12 or 13. Yes! 13th grade does exist here. Holiness! Only about one third of the students are picked up for Gymnasium, who continue through the final grades. The mandatory requirement for the Gymnasiasten is to take a rather challenging exam known as Abitur in order to secure their diplomas. This diploma paves their way to University. Das Abitur braucht man normalerweise, um einer Universitat in Dutschland ein Studium zu beginnen.

 

Hauptschule - is primarily a remedial education. Hauptschüler leave school after the ninth standard, mostly such students don't earn a diploma and thus end up taking menial jobs.

 

Realschule - sees the influx of more average students.Realschüler also take an Abschluss or term end exam before they leave school after 10th grade, after which they begin apprenticeships in a number of fields. The brighter ones may also get transferred to Gymnasium to finish their studies.

 

This is the pattern in which the entire Deutsch school system operates, obviously differing in each Bundesland (State). Now my question is, do you think the system is justifiable? And shouldn't education be the portfolio to be handled exclusively by the central Government? With each State prescribing its own set of rules in schooling, the uniformity goes missing. My stance is very clear, there has to be uniformity in the system of education and states should not have any interference in it. There goes a saying 'Too many cooks spoil the broth' likewise too many experiments with education system are only creating more ruckus and complexity in the face of pre-existant criticisms regarding the German schooling. It's high time Germans start simplifying mechanisms.

 

Also, this article is only and only focussed on the school system which has severe yet workable indiscretions. Nowhere have I raised a finger on Higher or University Education. Infact, the latter is appreciable in many respects and Germany has always been known for the good quality higher education. I find it rather amusing, on one hand their Higher education is so well planned and has won laurels, on the other hand their school system is a complete mess. The system is criticized mainly because it starts streaming or filtering out pupils at a very young age. What if your child is intelligent and suddenly the teacher tells you that he/she is not a Gymnasium material? That too, when they are only in 4th grade. Aren't you going to be shattered? Things would have been still acceptable if only the performance of the child was the sole criteria for judgement, but it is more than mere performance. If you are an engineer, and your wife; a doctor, rest assured your son despite being less intelligent than other students would continue with 5th grade in a Gymnasium. However, if your daughter is named Sena who is fairly intelligent and has a good score card in elementary school yet she lands up in Mittleschule. Why? She is a Turkish who's dad is a taxi driver and mom; a housewife. This is where discrimination comes in schooling. When my teacher first told our class about this practice, we were completely taken aback. Upon asking her, “can't we complain against such a teacher or sue the teacher who practices discrimination?? After all, we have grown up seeing and reading that for a teacher all the students are alike”. To which our language teacher replied - “you can sue the particular teacher or even the school. But you can't sue the entire system and this is how it functions in Germany”. I couldn't argue any more. All I can say is, the States are deliberately handicapping the future of so many bright children, who could have out shined others had they been not discriminated on the grounds of their parents' occupations or their origin. Indeed! inhumane and very alarming.

 

My argument is straightforward, no matter how much we brush aside Nazism (which was nothing but cynical and extreme discrimination) it is still very much prevalent in our societies and we have failed to completely uproot its effects from our systems. Somewhere or the other, the demons of Nazism are let loose time and again. I am not pin pointing towards any specific country, but all those societies where discrimination exists, in any form, are active grounds for Nazism. The argument doesn't end here, German schools don't offer much support to students with learning disabilities. And the situation gets grimmer by the fact that students are held back or have to repeat the same class all over again, if they fail even a single subject in school.

 

This school system is sentencing many-many brilliant children to a life of utmost frustration, and a future of obscurity. Fourth standard is not an age to judge the true talent of a child, they are way too small. Just imagine, this way German states are darkening their own future. What prospective and powerful workforce these kids can grow up to be, and what immense contribution they could make to Germany amid its fast ageing and declining work force, if only they are led to fair, uniform and encouraging system of education, and not pulled down by the unfair practice of streaming.

 

But there is some good news, political parties have now identified the fraudulent practices in the education system and are working to rectify them and implementing some hard core changes in the entire system. The conservative Christian Democratic Union for instance, has proposed a draft to put an end to the controversial Germany's three-tier system and abolition of state's monopoly in education sector. Their 30 page draft says - “We currently have too many school forms that confuse parents, pupils and teachers alike. That is why we are calling for a reduction in school forms and the implementation of a two-way model in all states”. The CDU's proposal demands for a merger of the lower two levels into a new school model suggested as 'Oberschule' or the upper school. In fact, some federal states have already introduced the new model. Nearly all the major political parties have collectively identified the lowest-level general secondary schools as problematic, mainly out of the fact, that graduates are more likely to be disadvantaged in the competitive job market. More children with migrant backgrounds are placed in these schools than their ethnic German counterparts.

 

It's upto Germany to decide, whether to embark upon a fair and uniform system of education or to continue with the same practices which have not only earned the wrath worldwide but also locally. Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland which harps on democracy, has all eyes set on it, waiting for some radical reforms to be introduced in its schooling policies. It's the need of the hour that Germany adopts federally unified educational standards to assure smooth and uniform functioning in all 16 states without any discrimination. Germany needs a culture of cooperation between federal and state governments for proper implementation of policies. The strict and often biased method of tracking down students in grade 4 builds an inequity in the system. However the proponents and the supporters of the current education policies are very clear and straightforward, 'hard work is the key to success'. The system is very challenging for German students and it makes them put in their maximum effort. One has to work harder towards the goals in life. Since the system accepts only the creamy layer, so study hard and achieve greater milestones. According to them, the three-tier system grants educational diversity and individualized planning for the students. How policies would be moulded and improvised, only time will tell, but certainly 'educational pragmatism' can solve many related problems.

An impeding baggage or a speedy integration?

 

'Language no bar' is a total misfit when it comes to Germany. If you speak English for example, suddenly you realise, you are not a human anymore, maybe some extra terrestrial creature who has lost his way and mistakenly landed up in Germany in the spaceship of English language. If you don't get the joke, don't even bother running your mind. Precisely, English alienates you from Deutsch. You are treated so differently, you start doubting your own self weather you actually belong to the same planet? All I want to convey is, in this part of west central Europe, English is not entertained nor are its speakers or for that matter no other language exists except German. It's said, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do.' But if you happen to cross Germany knowingly or unknowingly, forget everything else ( you could even at one point of time let go of your mother tongue) but one thing you definitely can't afford to forget is, learning to speak German, else you become a social out caste, somewhat of a ghostly figure, completely desolated. Ironical but unfortunately true. If you are not willing to learn a new language, take my personal advice, don't dream of Germany!! It 's not the right place for you then. No matter how utterly ridiculous it may sound, the fact however remains Germans are pretty stubborn and obsessed with their language and culture, to the extent of scaring away the foreigners, hence the phrase 'German Xenophobia'.

 

Like every coin, it has two sides; good and not so good. Experimenting with German, to put in blatantly is no piece of cake. If you look at the list of the most difficult languages of the world, you'll find German glorifying itself up there. I am not in any way trying to dampen your spirits, I individually like the language and learning it has indeed opened newer gateways for me. From my own personal account, since I shifted to Germany only last year and what all challenges I had to face in my day to day life, I can suggest a few utile tips which might come in handy to all the aspirants or the newly arrived ones. Simultaneously, I will also highlight some of the problematic issues a foreigner can face in Germany owing to the language barrier. So here we go with the theme 'life and times in Germany'.

 

To be very honest and frank, I grew up dreaming of living in Europe ( all thanks to Bollywood movies shot here). America never fascinated me enough, India was not to my liking and Europe was my brilliant imagination. Also, being a History buff, be it the Renaissance or Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions or the Napoleonic wars, the Tudors or the Stuarts or the French Revolution, the works of Leonardo da Vinci, the contribution of Mozart in music etc, etc., Europe was all I wanted and all that inspired me and to an extent I was lucky that I did manage to be here. Coming back to the focal point, what about Germany? Well, Germany is indeed one incredible and irresistible country with even hilariously incredible set of rules. Rule no. 1 is never to forget the rules in Germany...which never cease to end. One rule leads to another, rule after rule, you find yourself trapped in the cobweb of rules. Yayyy!! welcome to Germany.

 

Germans make an interesting race, very straightforward, innovative, engineering marvel, never over committing, slightly stingy or very calculative when it comes to spending on basic items though they can spend hell lot on cars...with cars, I mean German cars, they are passionate about their automobiles (we all are), they like flaunting their cars...that's why I call them the 'Sheikhs of Europe'. Like I said before, they love their rules, one day I had gone to Kaufland for some grocery shopping and the sight at the underground parking was completely hilarious. An old German pedestrian was arguing with a Dutch man who sat in his car in the underground parking of the store. The tiff arose because the old German wanted to cross using only the crosswalk/zebra crossing, to get across, to enter Kaufland and the Dutch had stopped his car on the pedestrian crossing as he was waiting for his wife to come back, who had gone to return the trolley. Since it was late in the evening, the whole parking lot was free and actually the German pedestrian could have taken another route, but he was adamant to cross only through the zebra crossing...now you can see the extent of their obeisance of rules. Being an Indian I found it even more amusing, we are not used to following rules, we create our rules according to our own convenience.

 

Another characteristic feature of Germans is, they are quite reserved, everyone says so. But from my experiences, I can say they might be ein bisschen 'reserved' but nowhere does it mean they are unfriendly. There goes a saying, 'It takes time to make friends with Germans, but once they become friends, they are friends for life'.The other day my friends and I were in the cafe and we wanted a picture of our group together but the question was who would take the picture? After all, we wanted a group photo. Some gentleman sitting nearby, must have over heard us and he offered to take our snap. I think that was a very friendly move. In Germany we do come across many such similar incidents. I have no reason to not call them friendly. Another good example is that of Herr Detlef von Helfeld, I write for him and before I choose any topic, I always like discussing the subject of the topic with him, not because I want to seek his approval but because he gives very sound advice and brilliant ideas which I incorporate in my write ups, even if it's a weekend he replies back and he has always been very encouraging, another friendly gesture which I thought is worth mentioning.

 

Now we take a look at the other side or the grim reality of adjusting in Germany from the point of view of an Ausländer or outsider. If Germany gives you a lot, in return it demands equally from you. Let's view the challenges and difficulties that spring up for the newcomers in Deutschland mostly due to the language obstacle or die Nachteile -

  1. The difficulty and unfamiliarity of the language - During my Deutsch learning course, many a times I felt like pulling out my hair. The grammar, the deklination, the verb positions, the exceptions...ahh!! my mind would go blank after an hour of German class and the remaining time I hopelessly used google translate. Even now after having completed the course, God forbid if someone asks me something on the road in German, by the time I reply a grammatically acceptable sentence, the person already moves ahead. As mentioned before, Germans and their rules are inseparable. The first lines taught to a German infant are most definitely 'Rules, rules here and there; rules, rules everywhere.' Jokes apart, the strict rules are visible in their language too, which makes the already complicated, even more complicated. Though there are many similar words used in German as in English but their pronunciation and meanings are very dissimilar. I once made the blunder of thinking Chef as a cook ( well it means so in English), whereas, it actually means a boss in German. So, please don't try relating German and English or be prepared to be laughed at. To add to our grievances, their words are not mere words they are a train of alphabets, unending, keep aside remembering the spelling, you can't even properly pronounce them. Soooooolongggggggggg!! Eg- Follow the Straßenverkehrsvorschriften (road traffic rules) for your Sicherheit (safety). By the time, the newcomer finishes reading the words on the board 'road rules', he has already met with the accident. Reason- it took him so long to read one word that he got hit by the other approaching vehicle. 'Sicherheit' goes away naturally and your mind is thrown in a complete disarray. Sehr geehrte Frau/ Herr have mercy on us foreigners, phuleezzzz. Can't these gigantic words be shortened? Fancy understanding their sentences, when a single word is such a roller coaster ride...phew!! What a mental and physical exertion.

  1. Difficulty for Asians - As compared to other European languages, Asian languages bear no resemblance not in the least to German. Asians find it relatively harder to grasp the language due to stark dissimilarity between their native languages and German. It's an all new challenge for them to understand the trickiness of Deutsch, notorious for baffling its own speakers, keep aside the poor outsiders. The difficulty in learning the language hinders the process of social integration.

  1. The severe side effects or German Grammar Syndrome - I am a victim of this syndrome. Ever since I started learning German, subconsciously I have started applying the German grammar rules even in English. At a coffee shop, I said to my friend- “My German is so-so, you German better than me speak” hearing it she burst out laughing and my reaction was F*** what the hell does that mean? And why have I placed verb at the end of the sentence?? Daily we were fed in class ' In Nebensatz, Verb am ende'. It is the aftermath of learning German, you start treating every other language like German.

  1. Learning becomes a herculean task- Without previous knowledge of Deutsch, learning becomes troublesome. Despite the Govt's partially sponsored German language courses for the foreigners, the difficulty arises not in getting enrolled but in understanding what your teacher is teaching in class. Due to diverse nationalities in each batch, translating the weak points in English is neither possible nor practical. Throughout the class, German is spoken which is fair enough, when you hear you gradually pick up. But what about those who don't know even the basics? I had already taken my A1 level exam in Abu Dhabi from Goethe institute, still I couldn't understand a word that was being taught. So initially, I just mugged up without understanding, for me translation of the lecture in English was a necessity and it did give me a hard time. Cramming a language without knowing the basics as you can't understand what is being taught in class, makes you lose interest. All I would advice you is to make an effort on your own to understand the language rather than completely relying on class room teaching. More than this, I would suggest you to keep 3G forever on and keep translating. Here I would like to argue, the German Govt. seems partially insensitive to the problems faced by the foreigners in adjusting to this all together weird atmosphere. The learning of the language should not be imposed rather it be made optional. The sole criteria of getting your spouse visa renewed is on the condition that you clear B1 level German language exam within the stipulated time.

  1. Keep your eyes and ears open all the time- I registered myself in an intensive course at Sprachen akademie, (where again you have to take another entrance test) thinking I would become so fluent in German that I would even leave behind the native speakers. After months of learning German, each day for 5 hours and 2 hours of home assignments, I still struggle in speaking the language correctly. What I've observed, I picked up more words and sentences outside of my class than inside, I listened to people talking in the bus or by hearing radio or by reading the headlines of newspapers, all these things slowly helped me in my learning. Class room teaching, I find, is more or less a waste of time, when a person lives in a new country, slowly they adjust to the newer surroundings, it can't be done rapidly. Learning is anyways, a human trait, it's inevitable and a gradual activity that continues till we die. Everyday is a new learning experience. This is how the entire system works. I am personally not in favour of class room teaching of Deutsch, rather we learn it more rapidly through our exposure in our daily life. Intensive courses are very strenuous and they kill the joy of learning. Everyday bombardment of home assignments along with monthly exams, I would recommend the normal language courses to be taken instead.

     

  2. Miscellaneous problems - There are a few Germans for whom their language is their pride, even if they know English, they would still speak in German. Some of them are very rigid. Hope none of us come across such people who could be real pain, no matter how tight a situation is for you or how desperately you need help, they will see you struggling but would only speak German. Also, I have noticed particularly at the Ausländeramt, the officials could be very rude at times. When they see you giving a blank look to what they are saying, they raise their voices as though you are deaf. They don't realise that the poor fellow is having a hard time comprehending what all is being said to him since he is not proficient in the language. At least in offices like the immigration office or the income tax office, bilingual officials should be hired who could speak in English as well, since it's the language majority of foreigners understand. Another fun fact about Germans is, they love to write. Even in this day and age of technology, they rely on letters or briefs. Amusing, isn't it? Germans are known for their technological advancement yet they count on post...are we really in the 21st century?? Anything in writing becomes an authority or a proof. Please keep all your official letters safely and keep translating them, better still maintain a file of all the letters that come your way, letters will keep flooding you. Sometimes I wonder,what if there was no google translate, all foreigners would have died of helplessness and hopelessness in Germany.

     

  3. Discrimination shown in the book during the Orientation Course - Well this is the best and also the rough part. During the German language program, the orientation or integration part lasts for 15 days. It is said to be the most important segment and you can't miss on this. During the integration course, we learn about the German politics, History and culture. Those like me, who are fond of these subjects find it fascinating, infact, I would rate it as the best segment in the entire course. But those who are not interested in any of these areas might be very bored. I saw many of my batch mates yawning and counting every second for the lecture to get over. Besides, what I observed was, instead of focussing on Germany and the ways to integrate in the German society, unfortunately the authors were more critical of Turkish people. All the bad examples and all the trouble making instances were directed towards Turks. I would call it 'discrimination'. No doubt, Germany grants Meinungsfreiheit or freedom of expression but that doesn't mean hurting the sentiments of immigrants. There may be cases where some Turkish people are involved in petty crimes or violation of laws but you can't measure the entire Turkish community on one scale. I am sure, there maybe many Turks living peacefully according to the norms of the society. Russians or for that matter East Europeans are also known for notoriety but why are only the Turks singled out? Another thing, isn't it an integration course, more good examples of speedy and smooth integration of foreigners in Germany be highlighted rather than putting forth the bad examples. For heaven's sake we are in Germany, not in Turkey. We are interested in knowing about the German culture and the process of integrating into the German society. The authors have certainly not done justice to the orientation material, the book could have been authored in a far neutral and unbiased manner. I am taken by surprise why is it even being taught in the curriculum? The targeting on one specific group sends bad signals and clearly shows how closed Germans are in accepting foreigners.

 

This blog specifically deals with the hurdles faced by the freshly moved in, however, take my word, German is a very interesting and rich language. Like any another language, it will take its due course before you can fluently speak it. But don't you think, anything new is always challenging in the beginning,once you get hold of it, learning becomes easier. Consistence and patience are the keys to unlocking 'the made in Germany' lock. Once you are through it, it's really fun. After my B1 level, I feel a lot confident and empowered. We all might crib and criticize Germany for being overly strict with its rules and regulations but the moment you leave Germany, you start missing it. I think it's the charm of this place which attracts people from all around the globe. We do struggle initially but then great opportunities also await us and so do greater rewards. Many find it actually a good system. Undeniably, Germany provides a platform from where you can reach out to your goals a lot quicker and it offers multitude of brilliant realms which are otherwise lacking in our homelands. With UK tightening its visa policy for non-EU immigrants and the same holds true for US, more and more Indians are chasing after Germany, and Germany too on its part is leaving no stone unturned in creating a paradigm shift in its policies, promoting itself as the new big educational hub and at the same time trying hard to come out of its previously foreigner unfriendly image, which was criticised world wide. In short, Germany is in for an image transformation from a foreigner unfriendly land to a foreigner welcoming paradise.

 

Once you get the flavour of the language, there is no stopping you, the sign and the bill boards in German, people talking on streets, all these trivial things around you, kind of instantly connect you to the surroundings, it gives you a sense of familiarity and rekindles a homely feeling. To me Germany is my home away from home! Hope you too feel the same.

 

If you have any queries or confusion regarding the language, you are most welcome to inquire on our website, Trust7. Bis zum nächsten Thema, Tschüss!!

Nature's frenzy!

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink, says Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

Says I,Water, water everywhere.

And we did find a connecting link,

As half of Germany sinks,

by nature's fury in the blink.

Water, water everywhere and all our hopes are on the brink.

 

The ravaging floods, the magnitude of devastation and the agony of those affected can't be summarised in mere words as East and Southern Germany wade through the rising waters. The whole of Central Europe has been put on high alert owing to floods wrecking havoc in this part of the world. The heavy rains that unleashed for several days led to severe damages the extent of which is unimaginable. The swollen Elbe river damaged the fields, inundated properties, took away the lives of many and left others shattered and homeless. As the waters have now receded, the losses and heavy toll inflicted by nature become visible, the cost of which runs in billions of euros along with many irreparable damages such as the casualties. It's very easy to write or talk about the catastrophe, but those who lived through this ordeal know better than any one of us how nature's forces when threatened, could unite together in a moment to wipe out the biggest and the strongest of cities without any trace. All the measures to safeguard ourselves hopelessly fail against one supreme power, God! Like it's said-there is always something larger than what is large. But the question is still the same as before, have we learned the big lesson yet? Ironically, the answer too remains unchanged as before, 'No we have not yet learned.'

 

Time and again we have paid heavy prices for our misdemeanors against nature, nonetheless we are even now on the same self destruction mode which would eventually sound our death knell...but by then it would be too late to make amends! We have often read about Global warming, green house gases, the abnormal pattern of seasons, the rise in global temperature etc, etc but how many of us actually pay heed to the implications all these factors could have on our environment and eventually on our lives. I am sure many of us would not even care to read such articles dealing with environmental hazards and most of us would just turn onto the next page of the newspaper to read Page3 or the happenings in Middle East or how is dollar getting affected or the value of Euro. We frankly don't give a damn to our environment to put it in plainer words. Understanding of Nature and its laws requires time, to protect our planet from the potentially precarious repercussions of global warming requires coming out of that moronic mentality ' ignorance is bliss', believe me, it's nothing but the bane of mankind.

 

Marking a day as World Environment day and celebrating it by lighting candles for a day, won't solve the problem nor will it prolong the longevity of our planet. Without sounding too preachy, let me just put it this way, our little attention and caution in day today life could bring about a remarkable improvement in our environment which otherwise is in a state of great peril. Declining green cover, increased and over industrialization, unplanned construction and most importantly human greed when all these factors combine together to manipulate nature then the revenge comes in the form of Tsunamis, the hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and droughts. In short, world seems to be in the spell of black magic, what we see, we hear and read, are only sufferings at large, East, West, North or South! No matter how much we shrug off our roles in contributing towards Global warming, truth can't be denied the majority of causes are due to us and the future effects on us would be even severe and scarier.

 

Earlier in the month the floods caused by torrents which sabotaged large parts of Germany caught the headlines and the more latest prey to these floods is India where the dance of fury continues to play havoc. With thousands dead, double the number missing and thousand others stranded, the calamity is far from over. Flooding is said to be the most immediate and expected outcome of Global warming. Due to changes in climatic conditions, the warming of seas has created ' Thermal expansion' which in turn has raised the sea surface levels. Already the steep rise of oceanic waters by 4-8 inches has been attributed to the above phenomenon according to National Geographic. Scientists have predicted an increase in sea levels worldwide due to melting of polar ice caps. As the earth is highly susceptible to climatic changes, droughts and wild fires would become a recurrent feature owing to Global warming in Sub Saharan region. Killer storms like Hurricanes and cyclones too would be more frequent. The ravages of nature, the colossal apathy of humans, certainly the future looks grim.

 

Our obsessive reliance on electricity produced from carbon burning power plants releases enormous amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. According to a report nearly 40% of the US CO2 emissions come from electricity production by burning coal which further amounts to 93% of emissions from electric utility industry. Keep aside US how many of us do actually turn off the lights when leaving the room? Even these basic and tiny steps can do a lot to conserve energy. I wonder at times, if all of us turn eco friendly then what would happen to Las Vegas and Dubai, they would suffer massive black outs.

 

Another causal factor is our present day car/ SUV culture. With the alarming increase in our population and the even bigger demand for cars, we are increasing the use of fossil fuels for transportation and manufacturing. I really admire the well developed and efficient European public transport in general and Germany's in particular. Majority of people prefer using public transport over cars any day, European public transport model need to be promoted globally.

 

The abnormal pattern of climate leading to floods in some areas,droughts in many more and increasing the tectonic activity carries jeopardies for mankind to cope with. 'Climate change is expected to have the most severe impact on water supplies. Shortages in future are likely to threaten food production, reduce sanitation, hinder economic development and damage eco systems. It causes more violent swings between floods and droughts.' The Guardian.

 

The failure of crops and loss of livestock due to interrupted rains for two consecutive years led to the recent great famine in Somalia. According to BBC, nearly 260,000 people died during the famine that hit Somalia from 2010-2012. Half of them were children under the age of five, says the report by the UN. From time to time, Nature has warned us, hit and whipped us severely, but we continue meddling with it and its forces.Transgression is often punishable. We keep raising our selfish and destructive hopes high and nature keeps razing them to ground year after year. It's time for some serious introspection and some serious amends, for we won't be given yet another chance!

Seven decades of Nazi downfall yet its menace couldn't be completely uprooted.

Has the collapse of the Third Reich paved the way for the rise of the Fourth Reich and why does the fire of hatred still burn?

 

Is Neo Nazism nothing but a farce or is it really threatening the secular image which Germany has for so long and so desperately been seeking in order to wash away the blood stains of the past. The recent furore in media regarding the trial of Beate Zschaepe, 38 has once again revived the past blurred memories of unimaginable atrocities. Highly controversial, potentially traumatic and definitely historical court hearing has begun in the Higher Regional Court of Munich. The trial has brought to light the secretive, deadly and ever expanding underground networking of Neo Nazism across Germany which breeds on hatred towards foreigners, and immigrants in particular. The execution style killings of eight Turks, one Greek mistaken as a Turk and one female police officer have shaken the conscience of the entire country and raise serious questions about the safety and security of foreigners in the so called multi cultural land. Amid these killing by a neo nazi group called the National Socialist Underground also responsible for several bombings that left many causalities as well as over 15 armed bank robberies in different parts of Germany between 2000-2007, the role of German intelligence agency in failing to timely detect the NSU which fearlessly remained active and undetected for 13 years has earned severe criticism from human rights quarters.

 

The lax attitude of Polizei and intelligence agencies towards these horrifying incidents and their cursory search and investigations quite 'amateurish' in nature have led to fear and feeling of vulnerability among immigrants at large. The apathy of former towards the threats of right wing along with a general disregard for the victims because they were foreigners, pose questions on the credibility and unprejudiced behaviour of the supposed guardians. Prosecutors say the purpose of these execution styled killings could very well be to spread fear among immigrants and prompt them to leave Germany as soon as possible. The killings which formerly went unnoticed suddenly gathered momentum thanks to the pressure built by the human rights' wing which led Angela Merkel to express her condolences to the family members of the victims and her reference to these murders as 'disgrace to Germany'.

 

What is even more harrowing is the fact that after so many decades of the ignominious Holocaust, its legacy still continues and the fumes of hatred are somewhere still present in the atmosphere to suffocate the non Germanic people. A question that often comes to mind is, in this day and age of globalization where the world has shrunk into a global village, why are Germans still resistant to multiculturalism? The breeding ground of the former East Germany continues to manufacture extremists at large and there is no stopping to it. Most of the victims being of Turkish origin, their deaths failed to create a ripple and went unreported in the media initially, but soon revelations that the masterminds behind such killings were members of Neo Nazi campaign who are anti ethnic Turks brought to the forefront the intolerant and unwelcoming temperament towards foreigners. Though a common German, in general, is very conscious of the past and leaves no stone unturned to integrate among the people of other nationalities but there remains a class of Germans, totally against the mingling up of pure blooded Aryans with outsiders.

 

Coming back to the killings by the alleged NSU, let's find out who are these neo Nazis? They are a mysterious group of psychopathic people nurturing sick mentality to inflict their terror among foreigners in Germany and disrupting peace in the name of nationalism. They prefer to work stealthily underground so as to strengthen their hidden network and expand their following by effectively planning political movements without ever being caught. The antecedents of their anti-Semitic views and ideals can be traced to Nazism itself, characterised by the sentiments of pseudo patriotism, racism, Holocaust denial, xenophobia, homophobhia (anti gays and lesbians), racial cleansing and the supremacy of the Aryan race above all. After the Second World War, Germany completely banned the use of hate speeches, display of Nazi symbols like Swastika and other Nazi beliefs and ideology. But the sudden resurfacing of the buried past has critically challenged the openness and acceptance of German society towards foreigners.

 

The trial has begun and the verdict is awaited. From humanitarian prospect we all demand that the Court sentences the perpetrators to severest punishments so as to dampen the spirits of all those who entertain such barbaric thoughts. What these so called Neo Nazis don't realise is, they can never be martyrs, they are and forever will be remembered as criminals. They are murderers and anti social elements in the eyes of law and in the eyes of society. Such dastardly acts can never lead to martyrdom. These inhumane killings are only tarnishing the name of Germany internationally and flushing down the great efforts of all those Germans who wish to get away with the blames of the past. Tolerance and acceptance are the pre-requisites for a brighter and better tomorrow. But what is exemplary is the integrity of the common Germans who came forward in this hour of crises to lend their support to the affected group and walked shoulder to shoulder with the aggrieved in demanding justice to the families of the victims. Various news channels showed footage of a big mob of Germans standing outside the Munich court carrying placards and chanting slogans against the villainy of Neo Nazis and the carefree conduct of investigation by the investigating agencies which led to delay in putting the convicts behind bars.

 

An ordinary German is as against racial killings as you and I, as for the psychos, I believe every society and every country is struggling with this menace. 

What is the purpose of an 'Open Letter'?

Since just a few of you commented and/or shared my 'Open Letter to the German Minister of Foreign Affairs', I will give you more info about this.

I did not write the letter for myself, I am living in Germany and my wife is with me smiley, I wrote it to help those of you who suffer under the endless process of getting a spouse visa!


Please read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_letter

Viele Grüße aus Berlin

Detlef

 

Open Letter to the German Minister of Foreign Affairs!

Sehr geehrter Dr. Westerwelle,

da Sie als Außenminister auch der oberste Dienstherr aller deutschen Botschaften sind, bitte ich Sie, dafür zu sorgen, dass der Visumsprozess für Angehörige der in Deutschland tätigen, hochqualifizierten Spezialisten deutlich abgekürzt und transparenter wird!

Monatelange Wartezeiten, undurchsichtige und nicht nachvollziehbare Abläufe, unfreundliche Botschaftsangestellte und ein Mangel an Information über den Stand der Anträge sind leider keine Ausnahmen sondern eher die Regel! Wenn Sie authentische Beispiele interessieren, bitte ich Sie, die Beiträge in unserem Forum zu lesen, zum Beispiel:

http://www.trust7.com/forum/-/message_boards/view_message/738797

Diese Paxis steht im krassen Gegensatz zu vielen Initiativen der Bundesregierung, hochqualifizierte Experten nach Deutschland zu holen, Experten die unsere Wirtschaft dringend benötigt, um auch in Zukunft erfolgreich und wettbewerbsfähig zu sein. Siehe beispielsweise die Webseite: http://www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/home/

Diese Experten sind weltweit begehrt und umworben und wir tun unserem Land keinen guten Dienst, wenn wir sie in den Botschaften und Konsulaten wie notleidende Bittsteller behandeln!

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Detlef von Hellfeld

------- English Translation---------

Dear Dr. Westerwelle,

as the Minister of Foreign Affairs you are the highest director of all German Embassies and I ask you to take care, that the process of visa application for the relatives of highly qualified specialists working in Germany, will be considerably shorten and more transparent!

Waiting periods of many month, nontransparent and not reproducible processes, unkind officers and a lack of information about the status of the applications are no exceptions, unfortunately they are more the rule! If you need authentic examples I ask you to read the related postings in our forum, for example: 

http://www.trust7.com/forum/-/message_boards/view_message/738797

This way is the absolute contrary to many initiatives of the Federal Government to get highly qualified experts to Germany, experts who are urgently needed by our economy to stay successful and competitive in the future. As an example see the website: 

http://www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/home/

These experts are wanted worldwide and we do not do 
our home country a favor, if we treat them as needy petitioners at our Embassies and Consulates!


With best regards

Detlef von Hellfeld

Germany all set to re-write History as the new Fußball Champs

 

"Queen, did you see that? Bayern are the Kings of London! Arsenal is now too small!" Bild, the German tabloid published and publicized Bayern Munich as 'royalty'.

Fierce, young, dynamic, swift, invincible attacking tactics on field mingled up with the expertise of Müller, Robben, Lahm, Lewandowski, Schweinsteiger etc. clearly Germany has led to the debacle of the once rulers of the arena, Spain. The athletic X factor displayed by Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich did for Germany what every German fan was dreaming of, and guided the two Bundesliga teams towards The Champions League finals. More than a victory for Germany, it was the fall of the mighty Spanish which was unfathomable. The Champions league semi- finals brought about a paradigm shift in power in European and probably world football from Spain to Germany.

 

The 2013 tournament is likely to get a special mention in History books, it's indeed Historical and How?

 

It is for the first time in 19 years since unbeatable Catalans have lost a game on European soil by a four goal margin since their 4-0 defeat against AC Milan back in 1994 in the finals of the Champions League. With Dortmund's 4-1 win over Real Madrid, Robert Lewandowski has become the first player ever to score four times in a Champions League semifinals and also, he has emerged as the first player ever to score 3 or more goals against Real Madrid in the competition. The 2013 Champions league has set many new records and newer milestones on one hand and shattered many old hopes and aspirations on the other. It is indeed Historically Unprecedented!

 

What went wrong for Spain and what did the trick for Germany?

 

Overconfidence is said to be one's deadliest enemy, it brings you down from skies to pits and this is exactly what happened to the two most powerful Spanish clubs. So what could have been an all La Liga final at Wembley is now going to be 'Mia san mia' and 'Echte Liebe' affair instead, as the two Bundesliga teams come face to face at the finals in London on May 25. Barcelona dominated the possession in their usual style, i.e. it enjoyed two thirds of possession, yet it looked blunt in attack and dubious in defence. On the contrary Bayern demonstrated incredible team work. They were precise, well- organized and played selflessly and smothered Barcelona completely in dust and confusion. With its unmatched stamina and speed along with forceful attacking Bayern Munich completely dismantled their opponents. Their tactic worked superbly for them. It seems they got Messi too mashed and messed up, after all there's something called 'planning'. Though admittedly, the star Argentinian was unfit and should better have been rested but even had he been in the best of his form, this Bavarian team was unstoppable. They had designed a rigid game plan to restrict even the best of their opponents' moves.

Analysis- Barcelona looked lame and Bayern, fierce!

 

'By the end it was a humiliation. Barcelona, the team that have made their reputation on merciless thrashings, know what it feels like to be on the wrong end of a good old-fashioned one themselves. They had been outfought, out-thought and, ultimately, outplayed and, from here, who can possibly see Bayern surrendering this position and not making it to Wembley on 25 May?' - The Guardian

 

As for Dortmund, the team had formulated a strategic game plan to nullify Madrid's threat. Besides an exemplary performance by Robert Lewandowski, it was their focussed and enthusiastic approach which worked wonders for them. The strategy of pushing Madrid quickly worked perfectly, sparing Spaniards little time on the ball. Against Dortmund's modern high speed attacking style Real Madrid came crumbling down. They have not just won the match but, the hearts of their supporters and it was visible when after the game the Dortmund players rejoiced in front of their terraces. The mutual admiration between fans and players was very apparent and has paved the way for the rising popularity of Dortmund club.

Analysis- Real Madrid looked disarrayed and exhausted. Borussia Dortmund is bursting with zeal and fervour.

 

'Not even the terrible timing of Mario Götze's 37 million signing for Bayern Munich could derail Dortmund, although there may be a tinge of sadness when it is considered that the team's brilliance on this stage may hasten its dismantling. But on Wednesday night that did not matter. It was time to enjoy it. "If they want to damage us, they won't succeed," Jürgen Klopp had said. Instead, Dortmund damaged Madrid. And it all started with a wonderful Götze delivery, too, a swirling right-foot cross from the left that found Lewandowski dashing in towards the far post.' - The Guardian

 

Though Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated the footballing scene since 2008, has German surpassed Spanish Football at the top league? Undoubtedly, Germany's league is proving stronger by the day. Every weekend throughout the length and breath of Germany, the stadiums are filled with passionate spectators thanks to the relatively low ticket prices. Also the money garnered from TV rights is more evenly distributed among the Bundesliga clubs as compared to Spain where much of the fortune is received by the two major clubs at the negligence of other smaller clubs like Mallorca or Getafe. Hence in Germany the disparity is less likely. Besides, Spain's key players like Casillas, Puyol and Xavi are experiencing career mid life crises (well! it seems so), in Germany the young and dynamic prospects are in full bloom like Müller, Reus, Götze and Gündoğan alongside experienced players such as Lahm and Schweinsteiger who are playing at the prime of their game. With the kind experience they are gathering at club football's highest level, for sure Germans are the best suited to face the pressure at the world stage in Brazil. Well the next year's world cup will give a more definitive answer by stamping on the world's best team. But for sure, Germany is turning out to be a force to be reckoned with, as the balance of power has shifted from Spain to Germany. And who knows, Deutschland creates yet another history. So who are you supporting?

Germany; a victim of jealously out of prosperity or its dark history?

 

“Germanophobia has become a persistent leitmotiv in the crisis hit southern European countries”

International Herald Tribune

 

Although, it is the unanimous decision of all the 17 member EU countries about allocation of aid to the financially bankrupt counties, there is one country which is forever singled out and ends up being the hot target of all the fury and outcry, GERMANY!

 

What makes Germany stand out alone and what causes all fingers to be pointed at it? While other EU countries get spared, Germany gets spanked. Let's try to get over this enigma. Efficient- yes; hard working-yes; successful- yes; financially secure- obviously! And there it is, just the right ingredients that go into making Germany the envy of the world, specially among those with tattered economies. Newspapers and social networking sites namely twitter are over flooded with anti German emotions, showering curses on Germany for dictating its rules over weaker countries. Undoubtedly, Germany has become a bone of contention for many crumbling and crippling nations who view it as more of a perpetual enemy than their benefactor. So naturally such stories about Germany brandishing its might on the weaker European countries have sprung up, and will resurface time and again, which I equate with the phrase 'grapes are sour'.

 

All of a sudden Germany has turned into an object of severe hatred among its neighbouring countries. Prosperity could be explained as one of the reasons, the more prosperous and financially stronger a nation is, it is likely to earn more jealousy of the lesser stable countries. The incidents which sent shock waves across Germany started in Cyprus where protesters took to streets in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia holding placards which depicted moustached Chancellor Angela Merkel as Hitler with words “Get out of our country”. Germany is alleged to have embarked upon the reign of terror once again by attempting to bring the Nazi era back by its forced domination throughout the continent. The frequent reminiscence of the country's dark past is used as a weapon to back stab and weaken its position internationally, thereby making Germany the scapegoat of Europe amid the Euro zone crises. All these allegations hurled upon Germany are nothing but unjustified complaints, totally uncalled for and have caused much hurt among the German populace. According to them, Germany is the paymaster for Euro zone bailout packages and major rescuer of fast collapsing economies hence deserves gratitude and not stark criticism. The Germanophophia stirred up by repeated mentioning of Hitler in media and associating present day Germany with Nazism have caused unease and a tensed atmosphere in the political arena.

 

Coming in strong defence of Germany, its Finance minister Wolfgang Schauble tried explaining why Germans are seen as “the bad guys”. He told ZDF broadcaster “It's always like this, also in the classroom when you have better grades than others, those with learning difficulties are a bit jealous”

Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece and now Cyprus, the recession is spreading like Black Death across Europe, if timely and stern measures are not taken then it might lead to an inevitable collapse of EU in the near future. After all, for how long can one country carry the burden of multitude of crises plagued countries and for how long will it be able to sustain itself? Germans on an average pay more taxes and the money that comes in, instead of being used in improving the country's own infrastructure, a large chunk of it goes in the rescue operation to bailout the sinking economies. According to German Finance Minister “Germany has contributed more than 220 billion Euros, pledged through loans and financial support packages for Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain” Interestingly, Berlin still gets blamed for its merciless austerity measures. However, it was the recent Cyprus deal that sparked up the anti- German fervour and took it to unfathomable depth. The tough terms and conditions of the bailout for Cyprus suggested by Germany were not easily gulped down and led to German bashing with a vengeance during the ongoing Cyprus crisis.

 

In the case of Cyprus, 10 billion Euos support came at the cost of depositors in the two biggest banks (mostly Russians) namely, The Bank of Cyprus and the Laiki Bank, having to pay huge levies on savings over 100, 000 Euros. Angered by the bailout terms which have come as a strong blow to the Russian stakeholders in Cyprus, the Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev said “ The stealing of what has already been stolen continues”. The deal also closes down the island's second largest investor popularly known as 'a casino' financial sector, as part of the overhauling process. Also, it was proposed that drastic reduction in public spending be enforced as a condition of receiving loans to cope up with the devastating debt scenario.

 

“Germany is bringing a spirit of solidarity so that ultimately there is a perspective for crises countries and they may have a future” pointed out Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser Schnarrenberger. Berlin's recommendation that Cyprus' banking sector be improved upon as it was no longer feasible and be restructured has met strong criticism from different quarters which feel Germany is dictating a business model for other European countries. 'Striving for hegemony is wrong and un-European' is the belief which has emerged out of the public furore. To a large extent media in general and social media in particular have fanned the flames of hatred against Germany. “Since the start of Euro zone crises opponents of austerity measures have relied on Nazi comparisons to get their messages across” quoted German broadcaster.

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly broken popularity charts by her sturdy German interests and is regarded as someone misusing powers by exploiting debt mired states further. Germany is said to have become the power hungry villain taking advantage of the crisis circling around for its own vested interests and greed, to make maximum profit at the cost of ripping the countries most likely to default. Germans on their part feel that the reason why increasingly European countries suffer from financial losses are caused by the laziness and inefficiency of the people, and lack of proper planning and ruthless spending on the part of their governments. The best example being the Celtic Tiger period in Ireland in 1990's, once it was over the country could not recover, the collapsing of banks and the Euro zone debt crises led Ireland from boom to bust!

 

“The drama over Cyprus has made clear that the Euro zone crises is developing into a struggle over German hegemony in Europe” wrote renowned German Journalist Jakeb Augstein in Der Spiegel. He further wrote in the column “Just like twice before in our recent history, the Germans are falling deeper and deeper into conflict with their neighours-regardless of the cost. It's a path that could easily lead to fear of German political hegemony on the continent. Indeed, Merkel's idea of European integration is simply that Europe should bend to Germany's political will” Well, I think that is an extreme view of what actually is happening around. Germany is witnessing the reality check of power, with success comes more enemies than allies. As of now the European crisis is turning into a bitter battle of dirty politics involving mudslinging, allegations, counter allegations and digging of the past to gain visibility. It's all about survival of the fittest and has always been, what we can do is, wait and watch, and hope things come under control soon. For God's sake, let's bury the past hatchet and move on. Why bring Hitler, Holocaust and those gruesome memories back in the picture to make your argument heard? If past is to be believed then we must not forget that Germany too extensively suffered after the second world war. No terms and conditions could ever be so humiliating as the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles which Germany was forced to sign. The Nazi nightmare is all past which will never return back, Germans themselves have lived through those past horrors and are now an outstanding example of a well balanced society which is tolerant and maintains harmony with its neighbours. Germany is an active member of the United Nations peace keeping organization and is involved in projects assisting in the democratization process. Like it or hate it, but for sure Europe can't do without Germany, so it's better to accept it.

The unrivalled Germany's Public Transport

 

Ich verpasse immer meinen Bus, weil ich nie pünktlich bin, und es ist immer pünktlich.

 

No matter how hard I try to arrive at the haltestelle (bus stop) on time, I run so fast, literally panting for breath and there.... leaves my bus, 'I have missed it yet again!' I keep telling myself in dismay. Public transport could ever be so much well on time, I had little idea until I came to Germany. Every time I miss my bus my only reaction is 'Darn you silly bus! can't you ever be a little late?' I curse it for being right on time and sometimes arriving even a few minutes early. God!! how do they manage it? I had heard about German efficiency before but it would be to this freaking extent, I honestly find it weird. Rain, thunder or snow, they never go slow! Interestingly, in India neither the transport nor the people are ever on time. In Indian context 'on time' means any time, the waiting period seems eternal. Even in Ireland, buses take their own sweet time to arrive and the waiting time passes by talking to fellow Irish passengers willingly or unwillingly. (Irish are known not just for making you tipsy by their Guinness but also for making you tipsy by their non stop talks).

 

Keep aside the transportation, sometimes I even wonder, whether the Germans are tuned in a way that they are operated by time, eg. Do they have a set Wake up time, Bathroom time, Office time, Sports time, Sleep time etc. etc. As though they are more of living timetables than human beings. Their public transport is very well timed and coordinated, I am impressed to the extent that now I am beginning to get annoyed by their punctuality. Undoubtedly, Germany has a very developed and even better implemented transport infrastructure which makes even the richest of nations feel inferior, it's the envy of the world! German race is so obsessively aligned with efficiency that now efficiency by default means Germans. The efficacy of the dense transport network spread across the country owes its success to the extensive planning strategy. We mustn't forget, that it was only in 1990 that the Berlin wall was dismantled and the reunification of East and West Germany began. Despite the fact, even East Germany's transport has been remarkably worked at in order to bring it at par with the much advanced West Germany.

 

The highly modernised public transport network of Germany is divided into different regions. All public transport in a region operates under a single transport association. Transport associations provide a unified ticketing system, that allows commuters to use a common ticket for all trains and buses in the region (with a few exceptions like ICE trains). They also coordinate the timetables of different buses and trains. The transport associations provide state wide tickets, which in turn provide hassle free transfer and mobility with public transport across different transport associations/regions.

 

Transport associations covering areas on the borders of Germany rely on cooperation with transport associations of other bordering European countries, like Belgium and Netherlands which supply cross-border ticket offers. For instance the Euregio ticket allows commuters to use all public transportation (except high speed trains) in the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, spanning across three counties – Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. Also, the transport associations have a system of monthly passes, which apart from being used for daily commuting, provide the flexibility of taking along additional family members or friends on weekends and public holidays without having to pay any extra price. The terms and conditions of such tickets are clearly mentioned on the website of the transport associations infact, many day tickets also have this benefit.

 

The rich labyrinth of waterways, railways and motorways has not only made internal commutation easier but has also reduced the connecting time with other European countries substantially. The German public transportation is broadly divided into the following categories-

 

The Roads- The road network is an eloquent feature of Germany's transportation. According to a World Bank report published in 2010, the country holds around 6,43,969 kms of total road network. The term road network includes motorways, highways, main or national roads, secondary or regional roads and all other roads in any country. As compared to other countries, German roads face less traffic jams since many people prefer using public transport or riding bicycles on daily basis. The practice has overall reduced traffic congestion on roads. The well developed road system would be incomplete if I don't mention the most sought after German term the 'Autobahns'. All passionate drivers of the world dream of driving on German Autobahns and get an experience of a lifetime. The Autobahns offer an unrestricted motoring bliss like nowhere else. They constitute the nationally coordinated and most safely engineered motorway system with no speed limits in general except for a few congested or dangerous stretches as well as where traffic noise exceeds the permissible limit, an advisory speed limit of 130 km/hour then appears. Overall, German motorways have no blanket speed limit.

 

The Railways- With a vast number of inner city trains running regularly on time during the peak hours, the German train system is indeed phenomenal. Over 40,826 kms of rail roads are run and maintained by the National Railroad carrier Deutsche Bahn AG which includes at least 14,253 kms electrified and 14,786 kms double or multiple tracked. Apart from DBAG, nearly 280 are run by private or local railway companies. Big cities and towns also have U and S Bahns along with Strassenbahn (trams). While the U-Bahn runs intracity, the S-Bahn covers not just the city but also area upto 6 kms outside of the city. There is no better choice to enjoy an unlimited access throughout Germany at high speed than by getting on board the Inter City Express, popularly known as ICE train. It happens to be the fastest train belonging to the Deutsche Bahn with speeds of 200 mph. It connects all the major German cities like Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne, Berlin, etc. and also cities in other European countries like Zurich, Brussels, London, etc.

 

Trains have been the preferred mode of transportation across different regions in Germany. Apart from the convenience and vast network, one of the reasons for this has also been the ban by German law since 1937, for not allowing the long route bus services to connect cities within Germany. This was to prevent competition with the national rail network. Though there are many international long route buses, connecting German cities with other European cities operating successfully since many few years. However, the national rail network still holds a complete monopoly over transportation, resulting in quite high prices of long distance train tickets in Germany. Yet the total monopoly did not prevent the Deutsche Bahn from providing excellent services, they can put to shame train services in many countries that allow competition.

 

Buses- Germany has an elaborate bus network inside the cities. In 2010, approx. 9.67 million passengers used public transport services out of which Buses accounted for a major share of public transport with 44%. It is a good choice to getting around in Germany using a bus. Buses constitute a very popular mode of transport. They are cheap, comfortable and environment friendly. Practically all German towns have their own comprehensive network of buses. Though after 7 pm their frequency gets reduced, however there are night buses along the popular routes to get all the late night party animals safely back home. In cities, buses mostly converge at the Bushof (central Bus station) located in close vicinity of the Hauptbahnhof (the central train station). The tickets are sold by the bus companies, which maintain offices in and around the bus station or you may buy it from the bus driver on board directly. There are special tickets like a daily pass, weekly and monthly passes or special tourist passes that are most commonly used as they are comparatively cheaper. In Aachen, after 7 pm two persons can travel using a single bus pass and all day long during weekends.

 

Last year Germany's upper house cleared the way for companies to offer long distance bus routes from 1st January 2013. This will hopefully intensify the competition in Germany, making it cheaper to travel long distance.

 

Air transport- Though bus and rail transport remain the inevitable choice of the passengers at large, yet with the introduction of low budget airlines and decline in the prices of air travel, the domestic flights have captured much public attention off late. The Frankfurt International airport is Germany's largest and major transportation hub in Europe and is counted amongst the top ten airports of the world. Munich International airport is the second best in Germany and much awaited Berlin Brandenburg airport which is under construction is expected to fill up the third slot with its inauguration in 2013. Lufthansa the flagship air carrier in Germany is one of the leading airlines in the world followed closely by Air Berlin, the second largest airline in Germany.

 

Water Transport- The Federal waterway network in Deutschland covers nearly 7,500 kms of inland waterways, out of which approx. 75% comprise rivers and 25% canals. The major rivers are the Rhine, the Elbe, the Danube, the Wesser along with a channel of canals that link these major rivers and the Oder. The Rhine forms the main network with a length of about 5,100 kms. There are more than 100 modern and public sea ports. Out of 74 metropolitan areas, 56 are linked via waterways. Kiel canal connects the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, the Rhein- Main- Danube canal links Rotterdam on the North Sea with the Black Sea. The German government lays stress on the need for maintaining highly reliable waterways transport to shed off the load of traffic from roads in an eco friendly and cost conducive manner.

 

Despite having such a hi tech and uniformly distributed public transport, I have seen many Germans grumbling about the irregularity of their buses and trains. If at all the poor bus or train gets delayed by 5 or 10 mins, you can read from their facial expressions how exasperated they are, and their constant mutters about how intolerably unreliable their public transport is, can be easily overheard. As for me I just hold back my smile when I observe such passengers, for me it is a novel sight if ever my bus or train gets delayed by a few minutes. I think such cribbing Germans should be sent to India to experience our railways. In India trains get delayed not by minutes but by hours and by hours I mean 8 or sometimes even 24, still we remain patient!!

 

Celebrating the power of pink.

 

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
―Audrey Hepburn ( British actress and humanitarian)

 

Do we need a specific day to remember women? On the occasion of International women's day(which was8th March) this is one thing I'd like to ask you all.

 

As a woman my stance on this issue is that I find the concept plainly absurd. We don't need a day to celebrate the strength of womanhood. It is to be felt and acknowledged every single day. Our bearings, our sacrifices, our achievements and our love don't fall in the scale of 1-10. Our contribution to the world is a treasure to be eulogized forever. Marking a day to remember the beneficence of women is to undermine their merits, it's nothing but commercialisation of women. What about the remaining 364 days?

 

Frankly, a woman is not an event to be allotted a time or space. She is not a date to be remembered once every year and then forgotten... that leads to further gender stereotyping. For all that a woman does and goes through, assigning a day is demeaning to her virtues. Respect her all round the year and make each day in the calender a celebration of womanhood. Make her feel safe, secure and desired, that's what a woman wants, nothing more, nothing less! The lines from the classic Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell As God is my witness, as God is my witness.... I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!”told by Scarlett O' Hara to herself when she and her family had nothing to eat and all their fields and house were burnt to the ground during the American Civil war. It was a firm determination of hers to never let failure overpower her, to never be defeated again though her once flourishing life lay desolate in front of her eyes. Similarly there are countless women around the globe who have the iron will which keeps them going despite severe hurdles and helps them in combating the social stigmas prevalent in not so advanced communities. They have somehow managed to secure for themselves a distinguished place even in inexorable patriarchal societies.

 

A woman knows how to struggle, strive and live through trials and tribulations. Even in times of crises, the poise and optimism a woman depicts have no match. Each woman is a victory in her own way!! Let's raise a toast to the women of the world till eternity!

 

So what if I use my fingers to count rather than calculating in mind.

So what if I love to gossip yet keep myself well refined.

 

So what if I speak more and think less.

So what if I manage to smile even in distress.

 

So what if in my bag, are more cosmetics than my books.

So what if I am enamoured with my looks.

 

So what if I blush with every compliment I get

So what if I take ages to get set, before I am ready to be met.

 

So what if I dab on a little lip gloss every now and then, when I am with you.

So what if I get into my moods without giving you a prior clue.

 

So what if I play the song I like, again and again, till my neighbours complain.

So what if I use tears as my tool to drive you insane.

 

So what if I empty a whole tissue box when watching emotional movie scenes.

So what if my mobile gets discharged when I need it the most.

So what if I read facebook updates even in sleep.

 

I am like a diamond, the more I am cut, sliced and hurt, the more I shine.

I need no garlands, no bouquets, no candles to commemorate me, I am no holy shrine.

All I deserve is respect that should never be wrecked.

 

I am still a mother, a daughter, a sister, a lover and a soulmate.

These are the roles I play without an escape.

I fight with the world for the ones I care.

Like a wall I stand shielding them from all despair.

 

I am beautiful, not because I am blonde or brunette

Fair or dark, I am beautiful because my heart is beautiful.

I have left my imprints on the sand of time.

That's my story completely sublime.

And the one who reads it, deserves me the best.

I am far beyond what words can ever express!!

Review of Conspiracy of Silence.

Bored of reading novels, weary of learning German and the even more excruciating task of getting German Gramatik correct so this weekend I decided I won't go nearer to the books, be it any. Being in an intensive German language course has militated against my freedom to the extent that now-a -days even in sleep the Akkusativ, Nominativ and Dativ scare me. My mind seems to have already reached its supersaturation limit. This Saturday, I decided to stay indoors thanks to the blizzard which has made it quite impossible to step outside. To give a much needed break to my exhausted self, I thought of enjoying a good movie with a steaming cup of brewed coffee on my couch. As I scrolled through a list of films I happened to come across an Irish film. Its title was so riveting, it stopped me from searching any further and I anticipated something worth watching. It turned out to be one of those movies which force you to question religion and religious practices. If only people could open their eyes and not blindly follow the religious dogmas and doctrines, rather, try finding the answer to the question, 'What is religion?' Generally we are so hooked to usual Hollywood or Bollywood cinema, we often overlook the other regional cinema which at times turns out to be far superior in script and plot, than those unrealistic Sci fi superhero films or song and dance sequels.

Conspiracy of Silence presents an ironic odyssey through the clerical sexual abuse crisis that happens at large yet remains unreported and secretive within the high walls of the Church. The film makes you live an Irish dream in 90 minutes and you get the real Irish taste. From cold, dark and dripping weather, to emerald landscape, cottages, close knit middle class families, parents concerned about their children’s career, a whole lot of church politics, to bar brawls, love, passion, romance… enough to sizzle the chemistry between you and your girl, hold on! not just this, there’s something more and more, that never stops …. the 'F' word, so keep your mum and dad away, or Church won’t be the only one to be screwed up today!

Conspiracy of Silence is a melodramatic film set in modern day Ireland. The award winning film and television director, and writer, John Deery attempts to unveil the ugly face of the otherwise sacred Roman Catholic Church hence, raising a big question mark on the chastity of the high priests. Verily, there is nothing more unholy than the holiness of the ecclesiastical order. The movie boldly voices against celibacy as a pre-requisite for priesthood.‘Stop playing politics in the name of Jesus', is what the film aims to convey.

 

Conspiracy of Silence has won many national and international awards, including the US National Board of Review of Motion Pictures’ Freedom of Expression Award in 2004, and Hartley- Merrill International screenwriting Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Conspiracy of Silence dares to bare the Catholic Church on how far will it go or to what extent can it fall to conceal its own corruption? In the past too, the Church had many issues related to the low level of morality among its clergy, many of whom even had illegitimate children. The interference of Church, its misuse of powers and corruption had led to the Reformation in Europe in 16th century. This films brings history to the fore.

 

The story begins with two seemingly unrelated events, an unexpected suicide of a gay priest, living with HIV ( Father Sweeney), and the expulsion of a young, meritorious seminary student. Due to some tenacious investigation by a reporter (who wants to make it big), a missing link begins to resurface. A local investigative reporter, David Foley, aggressively pursues the two stories and sees a kind of connection between the two incidents and thus, begins to uncover a deadly secret that straightway points to the immorality in the highest ranks of the church.

 

After being wrongly accused of maintaining sexual relations with a colleague, Daniel who is the main protagonist in the movie, is thrown out. Torn between his ambition of priesthood and the love of his life, the expelled student meets up Foley, who writes a follow up article exposing a covered up AIDS protest that Father Sweeney had staged at the Vatican three years ago. As the investigation progresses, Foley receives anonymous threat calls against him and his family. He is being chased by mysterious and shadowy figures, hinting on the hidden dangers that await him, if he ever tried poking his nose into the Church’s affairs. The journalist suffers a setback when the editor under the pressure of the local bishop, refuses to go any further with his exclusive story and asks him, to drop it at once. Though later, the editor sends the story to The Irish Times for publication.

 

The high church authorities, try to close the chapter by covering it all up, but in vain. A television talk show where the church is confronted LIVE! turns the tide, and brings guilty to the public eye. The bishop earlier tried to lure Daniel by offering him reinstatement in the seminary on the condition, he publicly proclaims on TV that he was caught in a compromising position with a fellow student. Will Daniel return to the church and help cover up its lies and deceit or will he surrender all dreams of priesthood and return to his love? Go check it out!

 

As the interview begins, Foley stumbles and mumbles (afraid, what if some harm befalls his family?), but Daniel stood firm and fast, and asked the bishop, “ Are you Celibate”?A climax you can’t afford to miss out.

 

Conspiracy of Silence is a one time wonder, that gives a strong social message; wealthy, worldly and corrupt, the catholic church has failed to tackle the evil prevalent amongst the so called priesthood. Deery made a brave and thought provoking debut with Conspiracy of Silence. Why can’t a priest marry? Why was the concept of celibacy introduced? Was it made so that a catholic priest’s bond with God is a direct relationship or for the church itself to acquire the land of its loyal servants after they had died? Suddenly you realize you are surrounded by a thousand questions challenging the authority of Church. Nay!! You haven’t been bitten by the Aristotle bug, it’s the Deery effect.

 

Though the film is potentially interesting, but till the end you feel like, something better could have come along. Set against the backdrop of modern day Ireland, the film has many incoherent shots. Long scenes of people reading letters, and playing soccer; seem a bit of a drag. Though the subject is timely yet the film occasionally suffers from flashbacks upon flashbacks, sometimes of scenes that occurred only a minute ago, thus causing a major distraction. On the whole, it’s a meaningful film and is not blasphemous in its presentation, though Mr. Deery sure must have got churchmen fuming. It only reflects what all is happening inside the sacred Church, something which the newspapers have hesitantly reported time and again.

...and the paradise burns.

 

Is it the blindfold of pseudo nationalism which is preventing us from seeing the ruthless tyranny our own militia in Kashmir? Let's take a look.

 

Who am I?

A lost identity,a broken promise or a shadow.

Neither the country is mine, nor this soil.

I am a wanderer in my own land.

A stranger in my own country.

I am called a terrorist by own people.

This is the title I carry, this is my name.

 

These are not mere lines written, read and forgotten. Rather than a sudden outburst of emotion, they show the predicament of an ordinary native of Kashmir in the world’s largest democracy. India, Pakistan, China and stuck in between is poor Kashmir. Obsession of India, greed of Pakistan and revenge of China (for Tibet), the crown is lost in obscurity among the two fighting nations. Tossed from here, tossed from there, lost somewhere, that’s the tale of Kashmir....once paradise on earth! I have often heard ‘good fences make good neighbours’ but I wonder, is it really so ? Interestingly, we have 24 hours strongly guarded fences with our neighbouring countries, but we are still thirsty of each other's blood. On the contrary, though there are well defined borders in Germany with its neighbouring countries yet there are no barricades, no border checks and no heavily guarded fences by armed personnel. People are free to crossover, and live on the other side of the border if they wish. In short, the Wagah border between India and Pakistan, and Mac Mahon line separating India and China, are to be found only in the geography books of our region. As a matter of fact we are the only ones who raise anti India, anti Pakistan, anti China and anti Bangladesh slogans and we are the only ones who hold placards saying 'Downfall of so and so' and burn effigies of our neighbouring countries' Prime Ministers. We spit venom on each other, time and again, to prove what big serpents we are. It's like saying, 'Beware of us, we have more guns and goons'.

 

Cradled in the lap of mighty Himalayas, Kashmir is said to be the most beautiful place on earth and also the most dangerous. The famous Persian lines by an Indian emperor “Gar Firdaus bar rue zamin ast, hami asto, hami asto, hami ast” define the exquisiteness of the valley as,‘if there is paradise anywhere on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.’ The catastrophe that has befallen the valley seems, as though, some wicked goblin has caste a spell on the region. Instead of cuckoo’s song, we hear the sounds of guns and bombs, the famed Chinar trees, which fascinated lovers and poets over the ages with their beautiful shades of green, yellow and red, stand solitary with no lovers romancing around. The shikaras (beautifully decorated wooden boats) and houseboats, which attracted tourists from all over the world now stand empty on the shores witnessing the bleeding valley. Kashmir, known for its beautiful and intricate handicrafts, shawls and carpets, today is struggling hard to keep alive its historically famous cottage industry. A thousand tourist attractions in the ethereal valley, alas! no tourists, only terrorists. Verily, Kashmir is bleeding!

 

As I try hard to get the answers to the questions circling my mind, I realize the more I read about Kashmir, the more anger and pain, I feel in my heart. It's not about being a Muslim or a Hindu or a Christian, it's about being a human first, and I get agitated when I see my neglected countrymen being used as a scapegoat of two nations. In between their rivalry, it's the state of Kashmir which is bearing the brunt.... Kashmir which is now but a tragedy of errors! It’s the avarice of politicians on both sides of the border, which has ignited the anguish in the once princely state. More than a terrorism issue, Kashmir has become a political issue. To get to the crux of the matter, we have to penetrate through the innumerable layers of lies and deception. Finally we realize, how all these years we have been fooled by the treachery of our political leaders on both sides. Everyone is involved in this dirty game; the governments of India and Pakistan, the militants, they are all allies and the common innocent man in the valley has been victimized. All the militant groups so easily operate because the political parties pay them to remain active in order to create their fear among the people...this is what is meant by corporatization of Kashmir. The surplus profits generated from every quarter in the name of defense against militancy, fill up the pockets of our corrupt leaders. As for the common kashmiris, they are hit by the bullets of terrorists on one side and of the army on the other. Can we ever return back the innocence of an entire young generation who has been exposed to gruesome violence at such a tender age? Can we ever bring back the husbands of countless half widows and widows? Can ever the lost honour of so many women be brought back? To sum up, can we bring back all that they have lost over the decades and are still losing or can we even heal the scars of the state which has withstood the ravages of time....I think a lifetime is too short a period and the canvass of their pain too wide. Just imagine, Kashmir's identity could have been much more than just a victim of terrorism had it not been so alienated by the central government and to a certain extent by us.

 

The recent report on Human Rights violations by Indian Army and its paramilitary forces (CRPF) in Kashmir, paints a worrisome picture of what the reality is. Over 93,274 innocent people have reportedly been killed in the firings by the security forces between 1989 and 30th June 2010. Besides this alarming figure of open killings, there have been 6,969 custodial killings, 117,345 arrests, destruction and razing of 105,861 houses and other structures used by the community. The security forces have orphaned over 107,351 children, widowed 22,728 women and gang raped 9,920 women. There have been more than 8000 victims of enforced disappearances. In June 2010 only, there were 33 deaths including those of four children, besides, torturing and injuring 572 people, and molesting eight women. In all, the number of civilians killed by our Indian Armed Forces is almost three times the number of those killed in actions by terrorists.

 

However, if you ask a common Indian like me, we'd forever blame the Pakistan backed terrorist groups to be the number one cause of atrocities in the valley. ' It's militancy which has unleashed the reign of terror' would be the most obvious reply. After all, we have grown up watching on TV and reading in Newspapers, the heroism of our men in uniform and the sacrifices of our soldiers which have managed to save Kashmir from falling in the hands of Pakistan. It is at this point where our mythical nationalism and chauvinistic patriotism predominates our humanitarian outlook. The two tools used so diligently by our politicians to polarize public opinion and keep us from reaching out to the truth. I read it somewhere,“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” I wonder how many of us would actually be rational enough to step out of their emotions of nationalism (which otherwise lie dormant throughout the year except on two occasions- The Republic Day and The Independence Day) and look at the grievances of Kashmiris from a humanitarian angle.

 

Kashmir is not where people leisurely sit inside Costa Coffee sipping and gossiping. It is an untold tragedy, the true nature of which and the cost borne by the ordinary Kashmiris with their blood have never been revealed to the rest of India. Scenarios have now slowly begun to change, Kashmiris have realized, they can no longer be crucified and fall prey to the vested interest. They have lost their kith and kin, they have seen their children being kidnapped and landing up in terrorists camps, where they are brainwashed and trained to become 'fidayeen' or suicide bombers. They have seen the transition of Kashmir from a God created heaven to a man made hell. It is now a land where people bolt their doors and windows even before sunset, where it’s a curse to be born a boy as young boys are picked up randomly by army for interrogation and never come back, where it’s an even bigger curse to be born a girl, because the filthy eyes of militants and military scan you all the time and wait to pounce on you like a hungry wolf any moment, where the waters of rivers have turned crimson, where unidentified bodies lie buried and unclaimed in graveyards. The wrongs done to the people of Kashmir in the name of nationalism has left behind a tortuous trail of sufferings which has few parallels in modern History.

 

However, it can’t be denied that infiltration does exist and Pakistan’s role has further jeopardized the already complicated matter. Kashmir was a princely state and was given the choice of choosing either India or Pakistan at the time of partition. But while it was still deciding, Pakistan attacked Kashmir thinking it will side with India and took 37.5% of it, now known as POK ( PAKISTAN OCCUPIED KASHMIR). India has 48% of Kashmir, whereas China now holds 17% (initially 14.5%) of the share. Nearly 2.5 % of Kashmir was gifted to China by Pakistan as the two countries maintain cordial relations, and to off course provoke India. At present, Pakistan holds 35% of the valley.

 

With the mounting world pressure, the Indian Government was forced to handle this sensitive issue tactfully and show results. There has been a sharp decline in militancy now, it’s predominant at the border only. Whereas, inside the region, there is only a two - sided war, between the masses and the forces. The protest against the encounter killings of civilians has turned into an unprecedented display of valour, as an entire new generation takes to the streets, their only weapons, the stones in their hands. It’s the wave of KASHMIRI INTIFADA or uprising against oppression, marking a paradigm shift from armed militancy to a mass insurgency.

 

The dilly dallying of the Kashmir issue by New Delhi has further distanced it from the valley and its people. As a huge embarrassment to the Indian government, the United States has faulted Indian security forces for committing gross human rights violations. Be it the infamous Shopian case, where the two young girls in the Shopian district were gang raped and killed by the security men or the sex racket busted in the valley, where the top political leaders and army men were involved, Kashmiris no longer trust the military. If those whose duty is to safeguarand protect us become tyrants, then what are we left with and where do we hide?

 

Shaken they maybe, but firm they stand together to fight for justice. They don’t want heavens, they just want a place for themselves in their ancestral land, they want that identity back, which we have stolen away from them. An ordinary Kashmiri wants peace to return to the valley. Stop manipulating and stop burning the paradise, they are no strangers, they are our own people, stop alienating them. And let's not amputate our own limb. A crown’s place is on the head and not to be trampled under the feet. 

Laugh out loud!

As I struggle to pen down my thoughts.

So as to write down an interesting piece.

I wonder which is more important, to be perfectly boring or to be imperfectly intriguing?

And as I looked for an answer, I stumbled upon the following quote by Marilyn Monroe-

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

 

After thinking for a whole week and searching for a newsworthy and meaningful topic to write upon, I finally decided to try being topic-less for a change. I thought why not experiment with something irrelevantly relevant. Sounds weird, isn't it? Be rather amused than confused. Let's be mad, share a hearty laugh and mock each other. Before I begin, think for a while when was the last time, you laughed so hard that it almost split your sides?? Though, there are many socio-economic issues to discuss about or the mayhem surfacing around the globe, be it the Syria crisis or the unrest in Egypt or for that matter the protests in India to bring justice to the victim of the brutal Delhi rape and so on and so forth, but all the worries can take a back seat for now. C'mon! It's time to give our lucid mind a break and enjoy being mindless.

 

The problem with us humans is that we are too conscious about ourselves, behaving in the best possible way, being obsessively idealistic so that no one can ever find a single fault in us. We start acting as though a BIG BROTHER is watching over us 24x7. In the process of attempting to be perfect, we somewhere loose our innocence and miss out on the pleasures that life brings about time to time. What we are outside, we are not inside, and we all agree to it. So, for a day stop being some artist's smiling and deceptive portrait...let's be ourselves completely. In this blog we will critically view different professions and take a dig at them. It's human psychology not to be content with what we have. At some point in our lives, we all feel underachieved and believe, we deserve much more than we actually have in hand. One thought that keeps circling our mind is, if only we could switch our profession by a magical wand. For God's sake! Don’t say you haven't felt the same at any stage. Dude! If you haven't experienced any such feeling or thought, then there is something seriously wrong with you. So whoever you are; comical, cynical or mental; come and share a hearty laugh.

 

Funny enough, women constitute a class of species that remains happy under all circumstances, reason being they rob their menfolk of all smiles. After all, the cashier husband or partner is always there to come to their aid in times of shopping or partying or random touring plans. Smiling women are the prettiest....now we know why men frown so much and why the ratio of men suffering from a heart stroke is more than that of women.... it’s the stress of maintaining those pretty smiles.

 

LIST OF FAMOUSLY UNFAMOUS PROFESSIONS -

  • Doctors - Only God knows in which script do they write? A doctor's handwriting is so awful; I bet none can ever read it.

A doctor is a man who writes prescriptions till the patient either dies or learns to get cured naturally.'What a noble profession!' is usually the first reaction upon hearing the term 'Doctor'. And every parent in India wishes their children to become doctors. The clean white apparel, the sanitizers, the smiling bespectacled face and then comes the scariest part; the medical bill and lo all your smiles fade away. They charge you or more so, tax you, as though you have committed some crime. Is it the crime of visiting them or they make up for all the money that went into getting those endless degrees? By the time they finish off their medical studies they become middle aged and their once upon a time girlfriends are already married with grown up kids. Hence, doctors take out their years of build-up frustration on their patients. Neither your pills ever cease to end nor do your visits; they ensure you don't get well after one visit until your wallet is left with a big hole, that's the eternal doctor-patient relationship. The art of medicine is lesser to heal and more to fool. A doctor's reputation is made by the number of eminent men who have died under his care. It's a damn business profession which has nothing noble left in it any more. They truly mint money. For sure, a doctor will never die poor for he has the expertise in how to rip off patients. Bottom line - Doctors, pharmaceuticals and coffin industry will never hit a slump.

Make it compulsory for a doctor using a brass plate to have inscribed on it, in addition to letters indicating his qualifications, the words, 'Remember I am mortal too”
George Bernard Shaw.

  • Engineers - the most laid off lot, extremely flirtatious and who have cluttered US and Germany.

Apart from the craze of having doctor children, Indian parents also hold a desire to make their sons engineers. No doubt we are such a big engineering community. Once you become an engineer you are expected by default to be a full time mechanic, electrician and plumber at your home and thanks to your family's bragging habits (about you) also at your neighbour's house. But if you fail to repair any broken fixture or appliance, your degree is highly doubted on and loses its credibility. And supposedly if you happen to be a software engineer, your life is further made miserable by incessant requests of your relatives to install Windows, MS Office and Anti Virus in their laptops and PCs.

So whatever time is left to poor engineers after serving their family and relatives, they use the below lines most often to hit on a girl –

  • Hey baby, let’s make a stress-strain curve together.
  • Our love is like dividing by zero…. you cannot define it.
  • I won’t stop bugging you until I get the address of your home page.
  • You fascinate me more than the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.
  • Why don't we measure the coefficient of static friction between me and you?
  • My love for you is like a concave up function because it is always increasing.
  • I am attracted to you so strongly, scientists will have to develop a fifth fundamental force.

Lastly, they are the only self-obsessed category of professionals who write self-praising jokes thinking the world would marvel at their genius but in reality it's only they who laugh and the rest of the world looks bewildered saying..' Hey! Have they gone mad?' 

  • Lawyers - A lawyer is synonymous with a liar, the rest are true stories. Also, a lawyer is a synonym for vampire, because he learns to suck blood during the first year of law school.

It's said on one occasion the devil celebrates the most. Any guesses? It is the time when a lawyer is born, the devil gets so joyous, he exclaims 'today I have found a new brother.' Lawyers have the knack for lying, they are blessed with such an unusual talent of manipulating and distorting facts, they can twist and turn any truth into a deceit and vice versa. They charge you a fortune but at the end of the day they wash off all your misgivings and turn your life's fabric sparkling white. They remove the stains of crimes you carry on your sleeves faster and better than the most powerful of detergents. The difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer is, a bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years whereas a good lawyer makes it last even longer. And the only similarity between dinosaurs and good lawyers is, they are both extinct now.

  • Poet/ Writer - there is none so fool who wishes to abode in a fool's paradise forever.

This is the rarest of rare species of professionally unprofessional men. Poets and writers are loners, mystical, dreamers, illusionists, architects of romanticism, wanderers chasing a mirage, lost in their own uniqueness, self-listeners and self-seekers. Their fate is decided by their verse or prose which either becomes a classic or gets dumped in trash. So basically, those sleepless nights which went writing novels or poems either lift you to the status of a laureate or make you a banned entry persona for your controversial works. This is the only field which makes or breaks you completely. Writings revolve around the following elements-

 

A Poet – The more eccentric you are, a better poet you make.

A Sports Writer – is one who's anything but a writer.

A Writer's Nightmare – is the point where their mind runs short of any inspiration, like the brain says, 'I am sorry boss but I refuse to entertain any further, a crap of an idea.' It gets so frustrating that literally you wish to bang your head against a wall so that at least your pain may spark up some ideas.

Word trap – is the trick used by the writer who was too busy last night watching porn on Internet that the next day he decides to make up for the lost time by creating a web of words that engulfs the readers and traps them in utter confusion. As it's said 'if you can't convince them, you can always confuse them'.

  • Philosopher - Philosophy is a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

There are two universal laws of philosophy-

  1. The First Law of Philosophy: For every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher.
  2. The Second Law of Philosophy: They're both wrong.

This is a 100% guaranteed profession. But guarantee of what? Hold on! It means 100% rest assured that you'll end up getting social security benefits sooner or later. Those scary and thick books have less of profound influence on you rather they take a heavier toll on your mind....turning you into a lunatic. It's like entering into your room one night and coming out of it the next day with all white hair....excess of thinking like excess of drinking is injurious to health. Philosophy can be very contagious, you read the great works of master philosophers and suddenly you start thinking about life and its intricacies. Good Lord! you become so absorbed in it that now you wish to be the next big thing after say, Aristotle or Socrates or Plato...so you plunge into the sea of philosophy and in the task of becoming an esteemed scholar you end up going haywire and turning into a frightening creature. In short, Dude! Have mercy on your readers, why baffle and unnerve them with your stupid assumptions about life? No doubt, philosophers have to their credit the majority of jokes.

 

“The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.”

Bertrand Russell, Science and Religion

  • Journalist - Ahh!! This had to come up, thanks to me!

Well journalism is the bedrock of controversy, all worldly controversies spur up from here and its practitioners (journalists) are the masterminds behind all the drama in news (either created or real) you watch with so much interest on T.V. or read in newspapers. The only consistent prayer of journalists is for shit to happen every day and every hour...how else will they fill up the columns in newspapers or slots in hourly bulletins. This profession alone has the power to topple severest of regimes. Journalists and Paparazzi are the most hated men on earth...they are the nightmare of politicians and celebrities. My first lesson on Journalism taught me that people want to know about the wicked and ghastly affairs e.g. about wars or robbery or massacre. Good news is no news, only the nastiest, most brutal and filthiest of happenings grab the readers'/ viewers' attention and increase the TRPs of the news channels otherwise why would the news channels conduct sting operations? There is a cliché in journalism - “When a dog bites a man, it's no news, however if a man bites a dog it suddenly becomes the headlines”. That's what journalism is all about. And there are more churnalists than journalists in my profession. It's always easier to recreate the already created stories filed by other reporters, all you need to do is mess up the former story a bit but then off course if you aren't that lucky you pay severely too on charges of plagiarism. A journalist is forever under the threat of getting sued by someone or the other.

 

As for the timeliness of their stories, a rape or a murder will never be out of date, you think humans can ever be so civilised to not commit a rape or a murder or adultery? Hence, the journalists have ample raw material to write about ...and God forbid if it ever runs short, then we are trained to present a lie in the most believing manner that it looks more truthful than a plain truth can ever look like. Below is the best example of how well a journalist creates and recreates a news -

 

'When a visitor to a small town in Georgia came upon a wild dog attacking a young boy, he quickly grabbed the animal and throttled it with his two hands. A reporter saw the incident, he congratulated the man and told him the headline the following day would read, “Valiant Local Man Saves Child by Killing Ferocious Animal”. The hero told the journalist that he wasn't from that town. “Well, then”, the reporter said, “the headline will probably say, Georgia Man Saves Child by Killing Dog”. “Actually”, the man said, “I'm from Connecticut”. “In that case”, the reporter said in a huff, “the headline should read, “Yankee Kills Family Pet”.

 

No matter, how much we crack jokes on each other, the truth Ahem! not in journalistic terms but in factual terms, is that we would forever need Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Writers/Poets, Philosophers and Journalists etc. etc. otherwise our world would be inoperative and we would be in dark ages. So in which category do you fall?? As for me, I am happy being a case of mistaken identity till I find an answer to where I actually belong...and isn't it a hint big enough that I am standing near the precautionary sign board saying 'BEWARE OF PHILOSOPHERS'.

Mitarbeiter aus Indien

Please excuse me for writing this article in German, but in this case my target audience are Germans.

Längst ist es Normalität bei mittelständischen und großen Firmen, dass ihre Belegschaft aus vielen Ländern der Welt stammt. Der Bedarf an Hard- und Software Ingenieuren, sowie an anderen Fachkräften ist in den letzten Jahren stetig gestiegen und nicht mehr auf den traditionellen Wegen zu bedienen. 

Mit der Einführung der sogenannten Green Card im Jahr 2000 wurden die Genehmigungsprozesse der Arbeitserlaubnis für nicht EU Bürger radikal vereinfacht und immer mehr deutsche Unternehmen begannen Ausländer ein zu stellen. Mittlerweile geschieht dies nicht mehr nur wegen des Fachkräftemangels sondern auch weil die hoch qualifizierten Spezialisten internationale Erfahrungen mitbringen, sehr motiviert, ehrgeizig und zuverlässig sind und somit zum Erfolg der Unternehmen in hohem Maße beitragen.

Es gibt jedoch immer noch viele Firmen, die sich davor scheuen, Mitarbeiter aus fernen Regionen ein zu stellen. Die Gründe dafür sind vielfältig, oft beruhen sie allerdings auf Vorurteilen. Zum Beispiel die Angst vor endlosen bürokratischen Prozessen, bevor der Wunschkandidat seine Arbeit vor Ort aufnehmen kann.

Vergleichen wir den Prozess bei der Einstellung eines Software Ingenieurs aus Deutschland und Indien.

Fiktiv: Eine Firma in Nürnberg veröffentlicht Anfang Januar zwei offene Positionen. Es gehen 2 Bewerbungen ein, eine aus Hamburg, eine aus Mumbai. Beide Bewerber haben 5 Jahre Erfahrung und sehr gute Kenntnisse im gefragten Bereich. 

Der Projektleiter führt Telefon Interviews durch und ist bei beiden sicher, dass es die richtigen Bewerber sind. Es werden Arbeitsverträge erstellt und per Post nach Hamburg und per Kurier nach Mumbai geschickt. Der deutsche Bewerber hat eine Kündigungsfrist von 6 Wochen, der indische Bewerber hat auch eine Notice Period von 6 Wochen. Beide kündigen ihre alten Stellungen nach Erhalt der neuen Verträge. Der Vertrag nach Hamburg ist einen Tag unterwegs, der nach Mumbai 2 Tage.

Der indische Kandidat hat bereits im Vorfeld einen Termin beim deutschen Konsulat in Mumbai vereinbart und erscheint dort nach einer Woche um die Unterlagen für seine Arbeitsgehnemigung ab zu geben. Das Konsulat schickt die Unterlagen an die Ausländerbehörde in Nürnberg, diese gibt nach Prüfung der Dokumente Ihre Zustimmung und mailt diese nach Mumbai. Das Konsulat benachrichtigt den Kandidaten, dieser holt sein Visum beim Konsulat ab. Das Verfahren dauert zur Zeit 4 - 6 Wochen, mit 'Vorabprüfung' 2 Wochen.

Am 1. März kann der Projektleiter seine beiden neuen Mitarbeiter begrüßen, einen aus Hamburg, einen aus Mumbai. Die Zeit von der Suche bis zur Einstellung war bei beiden gleich!

In meiner eigenen Firma beschäftige ich seit mehr als 12 Jahren indische Ingenieure und ich habe (fast) nur sehr gute Erfahrungen gemacht. Gern berate ich Sie bei allen Fragen und biete auch Hilfe bei der Suche und Einstellung von internationalen Mitarbeitern oder stelle Ihnen Projekt bezogen meine Ingenieure zur Verfügung.

Arranged or Estranged?

 

I am a woman, I grieve not, if I am stabbed by my clan.
I have dipped my fingers in my heart’s blood.
What if I am duped by that gold wedding band?
And my own have put fetters on my feet.
My soul shall forever remain free.

 

Behind that rising and shining facade of a fast growing economy lie the tearful and grim tales of countless Indian women, some told while others untold...lost in the pages of time or buried in dust.

 

Being a woman is the most beautiful feeling in the world, a woman is a nurturer of life who takes generations forward, she's dynamic and multi faceted, who bears and endures all hardships without a frown for the ones she loves, she is an enigma far deeper than the Monalisa's smile, a revolution when determined, a force to reckon with when tested, yet full of gentleness and care and off course! behind every successful man is a woman.... that's the power of 'She' and there's no stopping her. Yet, she has been trampled under the feet over and over again since time immemorial. Not as a feminist, but as a human I feel women have been victimized in all eras, in all generations and in all counties east or west! However, today the ratio of exploitation of women and deprivation of their rights of freedom is relatively lower in the west.

 

Now comes the basic question, are we free really? What does freedom mean to you? And how come the map of freedom different for men than for women in general and India in particular? Every country has its own set of drawbacks and it's the duty of mature and responsible citizenry to help rid the country of its problems, be it economical or social. As far as my country is concerned, I believe it's more of a disorder in terms of social evils that have perpetrated deep into our system, leaving our country paralyzed, it's time to take the call, to rid India from the clutches of the disease....which is but the denial and violation of the most basic rights of women. Let's take marriage for example, the so called 'big fat Indian wedding' and compare it with the marriage in the west, say for e.g. Germany.

 

In the west, boy and girl meet, boy loves girl, girl loves boy and they get married... sweet and simple! In India, first, there is still segregation of sexes at large, somehow if they meet each other (against all odds), boy loves girl, girl loves boy. The boy’s family has to love the girl and the girl’s family has to love the boy. Furthermore, the boy’s family has to like the girl’s family and the girl’s family has to like the boy’s family….which never happens! So why take the pain of chasing after love marriage? Confused are you? Welcome to India. Here everything leaves you speechless and puzzled, for marriage is a union of families and not just an individual affair. Accepting the free will of young men and women as regards their life partners is still an exception and not a trend. Funny as it may sound, it’s the bitter truth of the world’s largest democracy, where even today women are devoid of the right to free life. A country where we grow up watching Bollywood that harps predominantly on the theme of romance, isn’t it hypocrisy to force us to survive within the narrow confines of the so called societal or suicidal norms. All because developing even slightest of feelings for opposite sex is a reason big enough to raise eye brows. Though, I agree we are now beginning to open up to the concept of love marriages but widely in India, love is still something talking about which makes an average young Indian weak at the knees and gives our elders heart attacks...not to mention becoming the hot target of the gossip mongers...so every time you walk past them, you set tongues wagging. If at all you muster the courage of challenging the set practice, wait till all hell breaks loose on you and suddenly, you begin to feel like a murderer and certainly, our parents do consider us a murderer of their dreams of finding us the match of their own choice....Oh! 'How could we be so cruel to them, after all they are our parents' is exactly how we youngsters begin to feel. So first we are a murderer (of our parents ambitions for us) and then guilty of crime (i.e. loving someone), we are convicted!

 

Unfortunately, the stringent rules and regulations laid down in our social system hundreds of years ago by our ancestors have to be followed at all costs, otherwise you are ostracized by your community. Then what about the west? Don’t westerners get married? They choose their own partners, don’t their marriages work out? “ And for how long do their marriages last? A few years, a few months or a couple of days? No doubt, the divorce rate is so high in the west as compared to the east” comes a terse reply from our parents. Then they narrate the stories of Hollywood celebrities’ marriage debacle from Britney Spear's surprise marriage with Jason Alexander which ended two days later in Vegas (certainly could not have lasted longer) to Jennifer Lopez’ s three marriages with the third one with Mark Anthony on the brink of divorce too and so on and so forth…What! and why are we being told of celebs' divorces? Oh! Come on, can’t we have an example of a normal, happily married, western couple? No, those stories go unnoticed, after all they don't makeup Page 3 juicy gossip. If at all, you try to explain to them that love marriages don't necessarily fail every time, you spur up heated arguments followed by counter-arguments, our elders can go to any extent to prove their point right, hence the term argumentative Indians! Finally you put your hands down and give up.

 

Usually, in India we let our parents take the major decision of our life, i.e. 'Our Marriage' out of both respect and fear. And it's a matter of great pride and honour for them. Interestingly, match making is the favourite leisure of our elders and the biggest horror of the youngsters. Sixty-six years of India’s independence and many milestones already accomplished, today we are counted amongst the biggest economies. We are powerful, we are the world, we are a success story... we are everything but free. We may no longer be governed politically or economically by a colonizer, but socially we are still enslaved by the age old, irrational and rigid traditions and dogmas. A nation’s prosperity and growth are not only determined by the progress it has made in science and technology or the wealth it hoards but also by the way its citizens are treated….and treated as humans. Where you can’t openly talk about your feelings for someone, where it’s still a taboo to go on a date, where you are forbidden to celebrate Valentine’s day (lest you be caught by the right wing activists and publicly thrashed and beaten), where you become a social outcaste if you marry the person of your choice, is that nation actually progressing?

 

Stagnant customs, stagnant mindset and stagnant life that’s the dark side of the great Indian saga. The big question is not about marriage, it’s about riddance from rotten rituals, which have made the life of millions, miserable. India is a land of traditions, in fact the oldest living civilization, our culture teaches us to respect our elders and we do it so religiously to the extent that we literally hand over the reins of our life to them willingly or unwillingly. Perhaps, burying our own individualism somewhere. Parents are believed to have a better understanding of what is best suited for their children since they have better experience of the world they decide whom should their daughter or son marry.

 

An art, most Indian parents have fully mastered in is the Art of Emotional Blackmail. “We’ve always been loving parents, we sacrificed everything to give you the best possible upbringing even in times of adversity.” These poignant lines fed to us three times a day, morning, evening and night, make us loose all our insight. It’s like a tug of war between your family and your desires. Ultimately, you let go of your own happiness for the sake of your parents, obedient yet so miserable! The lovesick couples who initially thought of holding on to each other, constantly face the dilemma whether it is really worth marrying by making so many around unhappy? Truly shows, how your affection for someone is at the mercy of societal and familial customs.

 

In small Indian towns or even in larger cities, love is indicted for misleading the youth. A handful who dare to voice against their family’s wishes are either disowned or the incidents of honour killing are plentiful in our country. What I fail to understand, is there any honour in killing? Or isn't it a murder in the name of honour? Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 16 (2) states, “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” Yet more than 1000 honour killings every year in India are linked to forced marriages. According to a report prepared by two legal experts in India “Forced marriages and honour killings are often intertwined. Marriage can be forced to save honour.” A woman can be murdered for rejecting a forced marriage or marrying a partner of her own choice who is unacceptable to her family. In traditional societies like ours, 'Honour Killings' are justified as a sanction for dishonourable conduct. Though there is a difference between arranged and forced marriages, but mostly, arranged marriages are forced, because love marriages are denied. Matrimony has become a deal between the families, a boy’s lineage, his bank balance, his qualification (sometimes qualification comes after his bank statement) are the three deciding factors to accept or reject him... Age No Bar! “This is sufficient to buy us happiness”, our elders feel. The divorce rate in India is the lowest in the world with only 1.1% against Germany which is 39.4% (according to divorcerate.org), which makes me question Hey! India what's your secret? Once married, we have to live and die in the same hell. There is no respite or rescue for us, does that explain the low divorce rate in our subcontinent? Women divorcees are not fully accepted in our closed and conservative world, besides, the social isolation that follows is traumatic.

 

In the state of Haryana (India), foeticide of girls has led to a ratio of 800 women to every 1000 men, SHOCKED? The reason is even more shocking. All because men don’t want to have daughters who would at some time, develop a liking for someone and thus bring disgrace to the family. India truly is a country of contrasts, a fast modernizing country yet largely agrarian with around 70% of population living in rural India; an influential democracy where you are even deprived of your most basic right (i.e. freedom to live your life your own way); a nuclear power which was once the birth place of non violence; a vibrant heritage still much darkness in our lives.

 

It’s a tough and lonely battle for millions of Indian women against the social evils prevalent in our male driven society. The path to victory is not easy, it never was. It’s the clash of generations, young India vs old India. A lot is being done and a lot more needs to be done. Hopes are high, hurdles many, paths few, still the heart feels… if only we could break free some day.

Crossing the language barrier....try, try until you speak

 

Spanish?- No, Portuguese?- No, French?- No, Turk?- No! Then? Indian. "But you don't look like one. How come you have Caucasian features?" It's one question I frequently face to which I grudge in my heart – If only I could get back in time and pull the culprit out by the collar who spoiled my lineage. And yes! my family even calls me Chinese every time I get my hair straightened. Won't it be fun if I could just learn the local languages of these countries and then hit back at anyone who asks me the annoying question next time saying, 'Dude! I can be whoever you want me to be.' That's one advantage of learning new languages, you can easily integrate in different atmospheres without the feeling of being left out.

 

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, it goes straight to his heart.” Nelson Mandela

 

The purpose here is neither to sound too inspirational nor to dissuade anyone from exploring a new learning experience. The purpose is how to make learning a new language a simpler and fun process to those interested in moving to Germany. If you dream of Germany, dream in German! Yes, it is a requirement, no matter how much you crib or detest, you can't get away with it. If you plan to live in this part of the world you have to learn to communicate in German. Under the proposed bill, all immigrants and foreigners residing in Germany who receive welfare and unemployment benefits are required to enrol in a German language course. Not fulfilling the criteria would lead to reduced welfare and unemployment benefits along with difficulty in getting permanent residency. These serve as penalties for failing to learn the language. Proponents of the bill hold that by knowing the language, barriers to economic and social integration in the country would be substantially reduced. In fact, the government mandates spouses/ partners of those who have migrated to Germany to learn German language and upon successful completion of B1 or B2 level, it pays back half of your total fees.

 

Now two questions arise-

  1. How toilsome is learning German?

  2. How many hours do I need to dedicate each day?

To which as a learner of this language I'd suggest- Relax! fellas, it's only a language and not any rocket science? I'd counter question you by asking, 'Is there anything really difficult, if you have the will to do it'? We should always possess win-win attitude, like I said before, after all, it's only a language just like the ones you already know. However, I would firmly advice you not to get haunted by those scary stories about the difficulty of grasping German if you stumble upon them on the internet. They would indeed have a psychological effect and you'd lay down your hands even before attempting, so THINK first! As regards German as a language, some find it difficult, some find it easy to learn, there is always a mixed reaction to it, I personally fall in the category which says, no matter how difficult a challenge is, if it's thrown upon you, beat it anyhow, somehow! Interestingly, our life is a continuous learning process, the day this process ends, our survival in this world ends. And hey!! am I sounding like a sudden reincarnation of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates explaining the metaphysical aspects. Damn! To hell with this philosophy, let's get over with it, in plainer words for those you speak English, learning German would be relatively easier....cheers! The German language belongs to the West Germanic group of languages within the Indo- European language family and is considered a close relative of English. As I've already told you in my previous blog, my first reaction when I came to know about us moving to Germany was 'No Way' and it felt as though a catastrophe had befallen me. But once I started taking German classes for my A1, I realised it isn't that arduous as I first thought it to be, in fact much to my surprise I found German fascinating.

 

Mind you! When I said close relatives, German and English could very well be even step sisters. Don't think similar spelled or sounding words mean the same too and don't be mistaken by its alphabets and numbers...they are pronounced differently as well. 'Gift' in German means poison...oh!! boy it's safest not to receive any gifts from your German friends. Likewise, German word for 'advice' is 'Rat'...so it's safe to accept rats from them but certainly not gifts, besides the German word 'Bald' has nothing to do with hair, it means 'soon'. ( if only poor English 'bald 'would get some hair soon). German could be slightly or correction! a lot confusing for the beginners and to be frank, I still get confused with it and a lot of times. Deutsch has three genders-

Masculine (der)

Feminine (die) and

Neuter (das)

 

Unlike English, German is a language clearly specifying the genders. To avoid sounding stupid and illiterate among native speakers, do learn each noun with its gender...if you can't remember, then go mute when among Germans, at least you won't make a fool of yourself. I have one question to ask from my German friends, when auto mobiles fall in the category of neuter noun ie das auto, then for God's sake why is it written der Golf Volkswagen? C'mon guys! why do you baffle us new learners by contradicting your own grammar rules? Further, the gender for child is understandably neuter i.e das kind, surprisingly, the gender for girl i.e das Mädchen is for some weirdest reason neuter too and so is wife das Weib. What? Mark Twain was right when he said “In German a young lady has no sex, but a turnip has (die Ruebe)” I think not just B2 level, I should do my PhD in the language to unravel the mystery behind these unexplainable and highly complicated gender rules. Guess! We will get used to them, sooner or later.

 

As though these grammar rules were not enough to befuddle us, German turns out to be a language rich not just in vocabulary but also famous for its exceptionally long framed words. For eg- ' 'Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz'

This 63-letter word means: Beef labelling regulation & delegation of supervision law! Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften is a 39-letter word meaning: Legal protection insurance companies. According to German Wikipedia and the Guinness World Records book, the longest word in the German language is- Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft. The English translation of which is ' Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services'. Ohh! I have got my head spinning, I see stars. One single word takes you on a sabbatical and it's like travelling all day in one word which leaves you too exhausted to move to the next...truly these are alphabetical processions. I shouldn't fiddle with the language any further lest you get demoralised about learning German. These are just fun facts. Don't forget, we never learnt English in a day, it took its own time and years of practice (something like, Rome was not build in a day). The best way to get mastery of the language is to read, hear and write, whenever and wherever you can. When you hear, you get the diction right and you start picking up by understanding what is being said. Read newspapers like Super Sonntag and Super Mitwoch freely delivered to your mailboxes, I would also suggest you to listen to local radio and focus on spoken German, this is the most entertaining way to correct your German otherwise you would speak German in your own unique dialect and poor Germans would go blank! Apart from its familiarity with English, I believe those who know Arabic or Urdu languages would have a better hold of the right pronunciation. There are words in German which you pronounce deeper in throat quite similar to Arabic or Urdu.

 

Did you know German is spoken by more than 100 million people worldwide which makes it the third most taught language and has 35 dialects. German is also spoken in Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, south Tyrol region of Italy, the Opole Voivodship of Poland, parts of Belgium and Romania along with Alsace region of France. It's considered to be one of the most important cultural languages in the world. Many renowned musicians and scientists like Freud, Beethoven, Goethe, Mozart and Einstein wrote and spoke in German. According to a legend, Deutsch almost became the official language of the United States of America. Following the American war of independence, the Continental Congress held in Philadelphia at one time considered adopting a new language for the future of the US, primarily with the aim of cutting off all ties with England. Among the suggested languages were German, Hebrew and French. However, German lost to English by just a single vote.

 

Nonetheless, I still maintain, German is one of the most natural, rich and powerful languages, very distinct in its style and rules of prosody. It is unusually pleasing to the ears.... thus becoming a lot more sexier than French, somehow Danke sounds better then Merci and Guten Tag better than Bonjour! So keep trying, practice does make a man perfect.

Christmas Markets; taking Germany to the world

 

Christmas is not just a time or a season,

It offers a smile and a reason.

To take us back to the delusions of our childhood days,

To put a stop on our daily confusions and enjoy the festival phase.

And for a change these lines do rhyme in a strange way.

Voilà!

 

Neither the rain, nor the icy wind could dampen my spirit to enjoy the carnival like atmosphere surfacing across the length and breath of Germany in full swing. Of course, being new to the land, these gala occasions have left me wide eyed and enormously excited about Christmas which is just round the corner. This is the time when each day is a celebration and each night a party! The magic and grandeur of traditional German Christmas Markets leave the visitors spell bound. This is exactly what happened to me when I got the chance to visit the much talked about Koln's Christmas Markets. The whole city is decorated like a new bride and the smell of festival in the air evokes an enchanting fervour to the whole atmosphere...I felt lost, I felt rediscovered, I was awestruck, I was stunned....I was rejuvenated!! The music played by the street musicians, the vibrant ambience, the colourful lighting, the giggles of children, the curiosity of tourists like me, the childlike expressions of the elderly, the flirtatious looks of teenagers amid the investigating eyes of Polizei mingled with the aromas of food and beverages....am I dreaming?? Obviously not, this is Koln's Christmas markt, where dreams meet reality.

 

Bored of Mall Culture and Commercialism? Why not take a break and explore the traditional and romantic Christmas Markets; Germany's Christmas gift to the world. Be right there, right away to live life galore which is an experience of a lifetime and cash in to buy your near and dear ones Christmas gifts that are hand produced (craft work of real quality) and not mass produced. Give your family a German taste this festival. Merchandise of all sorts, particularly traditional items like crib figurines, toys, wood carvings, marionettes, beautiful candles, leather bags and wallets and a whole lot of variety to choose your gifts from is readily displayed at the Christmas Markets...a gratifying treat for all ages.

 

Every year Koln attracts nearly two million visitors during December. The four famous Christmas Markets held in Koln are-

  • The Dom Christmas Markt

  • The Alter Christmas Markt

  • The Neu Christmas Markt and

  • The Rudolfplatz Christmas Markt.

 

The Christmas Markt at the Dome is the most spectacular one in Cologne due to the huge backdrop of the historically imposing Cathedral. Beneath the Cathedral and the biggest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, we see over 160 colourfully designed wooden pavilions. Watching artisans at work, shopping, sipping the special Christmas mulled wine and hot rum in the festively decorated mugs, picking up the chocolate coated fruit sticks, enjoying the fried fish pieces dipped in garlic sauce, the ever tempting Pommes with Mayonnaise and ketchup or the baked potatoes with sour cream ....the choice is all yours, but the aroma of hot chestnuts, roasted almonds and grilled sausages suddenly lifts up your mood and my mouth is already watering as I am mentioning all this. To all the foodoholics, shopoholics and alcoholics, this markt at the Dome is a real treat, a treat to your senses which you can't afford to miss!

 

The Christmas Market on the Alter Markt lies in the very heart of the Altstadt (old town) and in front of the old Cologne Town Hall. My first reaction upon visiting it was 'am I in some German village?' Lined by narrow gabled houses with smoke coming out of the chimneys and half timbered stalls....it looks as though it has come straight out of some medieval artist's painting. The old Christmas Markt has a strong rustic feel to it. The old Cologne legend has it that this was the home of the elves who were said to be exemplary craftsmen. The old Christmas Markt or 'the home of the genomes' is a true delight when it comes to food, liquor and gifts....all hand made. Smoked salmon in wood fired traditional oven and ginger bread biscuits 'Lebkuchen' are worth tasting. The Alter Markt with its high quality vintage goods, leaves you craving for more...it is an experience you can't live just once!

 

The Neu Markt Christmas Market is Cologne's oldest Christmas market. Strategically located on the new market amidst the backdrop of St. Aposteln's Church and Cologne's main expanse of shopping. Glamour and high quality products are a great attraction to the visitors. It offers good wine and dine options.

 

The Rudolfplatz Christmas Markt is set against the historic backdrop of Hahnentorburg, one of Cologne's three medieval gate houses. It takes you on a journey to a fairytale land. Large fairytale figures and merry illuminations create a special atmosphere very unique and very interesting. The Rudolfplatz Christmas Market is a paradise for the children and takes grown ups back to their own childhood naughtiness....take a walk down the memory lane and relive your childhood days here!

 

Other than these epic Christmas Markets, Cologne showcases a few others as well. The Cologne Harbour Christmas Market is situated near Malakoff Tower, Swing Bridge and Lindt Schokolade Museum....wow! just a perfect location. It is based on maritime theme and sells high quality art products and culinary delights from all over the world. The colourful programme with pirates, shanty and stage performances makes it a big hit among the visitors. I was so excited at the sight of pirates with eye patches and maidens dressed in red traditional frocks, that my husband literally had to pull me away from them...felt as though I was watching the making of Pirates of Caribbean in real life with Johnny Depp around, sigh! This nautical Christmas market presents itself in the picturesque scenery on the Rhine. With fake ships all around this market, it adds a pinch of adventure to the surrounding festivities.

 

After my day out at the Koln's Christmas Markets, I'd like to suggest three things to all you fun seekers-

  • One, don't forget to take digestion pills with you, after all those yummy irresistible treats, you sure would require to pop a pill or two.

  • Two, leave your husbands at home if you plan to shop to avoid all those nasty stares and frowns on your endless purchases.

  • Three, take your cameras with you, after all who doesn't want to get clicked near the adorably cute Santa or to capture those brightly lit stalls and the décor.

Truly, the Christmas Market offers a tantalizing treat to all, it provides warmth in the chill of winter. My experience of Koln's Christmas markets was absolutely enthralling. You have to see it, to believe it! Be a part of the celebration...be at the Christmas Markt.

Blue Card - Short Info!

Hi, this is the picture of a Blue Card from one of my engineers. It is limited until 2014 because his passport will expire in 2014, otherwise they would have given a 4 years validation.

It is mentioned that this comes under § 19 a, which is the Blue Card law. When new engineers arrive in Germany they will get a visa for 3 month or for 12 month first and when the first period is over, they will receive this Blue Card. As long as § 19 a is mentioned in the visa it has the same value as the Blue Card and the time for the permanent residence counts from the 1st month of stay.

Have a nice weekend

Detlef

Open Door Policy... coming together to shape the future!

 

As Germany gears to woo foreign professionals, the influx of skilled migrants has already increased manifold. In a bid to retain its top position of being a global technology leader, the German government is doing all it can to bridge up the gap in the labour market of Europe's up most economy, for Germany knows too well, It is not Anyone, It is the Only One!The introduction of the EU Blue card scheme in August2012 is further enticing the skilled employees across the world. This is a law regarding the implementation of guidelines to call upon the highly qualified employees to the European Union. Apparently with its announcement, foreigners are flocking the German Embassies worldwide to avail the life time opportunity of working in a specialised and technology driven German environment.

 

The concept of Blue card is similar to the Green card in US, it aims at luring foreign professionals, managers and executives to work in Germany. However, unlike the US green card, the EU blue card is applicable only to a specific job category. Under the scheme, qualified staff from non EU countries can now apply for the right to work and reside in Germany provided they have a job salary of euro 44,800 or more annually, and in certain occupations of euro 34,944 for eg. scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and IT specialists. However, if the employment lasts less than four years, the blue card is granted for the duration of the employment contract plus three additional months. The main advantage of blue card is that now the family members or spouses of blue card holders can accompany them at the same time and secure residence permits in Germany easily. The A1 language certificate is no longer required for getting spouse visa. Another salutary feature of it is that it entitles the family members of skilled professionals to work anywhere in Germany thus making it easier for the families to relocate to a new land without any hassle. Those holding the blue card can now receive permanent residence after 33 months, but this period can be favourably shortened to 21 months if B1 level of German language proficiency is proven. With the arrival of Blue card, highly qualified persons may even move to other EU countries after a period of 18 months. EU blue card holders can also stay outside EU upto 12 months without their residency permits becoming invalid. The implementation of Blue card has revised residency regulation for foreign students as well, they can now stay for 18 months instead of the previous 12 months after completing their studies to find a job. The provision comes as a big relief to the international students, they sure have a reason to applaud. That's a Blue Card Boon for them.

 

Besides, the German Govt's Immigration Act is largely focussed on making Germany, the prime hub of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology thereby, attracting scientists, academicians and IT professionals in large numbers. Their policies are designed to rally support for German labour positions and to arouse curiosity among the international skilled workers about Germany. Infact, the policy doesn't restrict itself to IT alone, rather it caters to the wider issue of huge skill deficit across the economy amid an ageing workforce. Thanks! to the timely reforms in the immigration policies now it is much easier and quicker to gain permanent residency status for the highly skilled migrants. Statistics prove that the number of Indians applying for permanent residence permits is multiplying each year. No doubt, Germany with it's attractive immigration policies is steadily rising as the popular choice of international students and workers. Precisely, it won't be wrong to call it as the new benefactor of the ever increasing migrant group of skilled workers by providing them with value jobs, quality education and social benefits....a reason big enough to grab the eye balls.

 

Germany is the land of ideas and is counted among the most innovative countries of the world. With its plethora of internationally renowned institutions like RWTH University of technology, Fraunhofer- Gessellschaft for applied research, the Leibniz Gesellschaft, Helmholtz Association and many more, have made Germany a rich centre of cutting edge international science and research. It offers a very conducive and student friendly atmosphere. Among Indian students Germany has always been the most sought after academic pick with its over 350 state and private universities and a wide variety of courses. Of the 250,000 foreign students currently pursuing higher studies in Germany, around 5,998 are Indian. The exchange programs offered by India and Germany form the very constitution of Indo-German scholastic partnership. The task of providing information about advanced learning and research programs in German institutions, grants and scholarships is done through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). It is a body responsible for the academic exchange between India and Germany. It invites Indian scientists to Germany and supports mutual research projects. In 2011, over 1200 Indian and 720 German students, academicians and scientists received financial aid for their study and research from the DAAD.

 

In the last decade the number of Indian students studying in German institutions has risen 5 times. For a specific segment of scholars, Germany forms the most preferred academic campus with its top rated research facilities and resources. Also, the cost of education here is relatively lower than most countries. German universities have affordable tuition fees since they are resubsidised by public funds. Moreover, international students who don't come from EU or EEA are allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days in a year, for this they need the authorisation from the Employment Agency ie The German Authorities. If they wish to work more than 120 full or 240 half days, the approval of the Employment Agency and The Aliens Department is required.

 

Through its appealing and timely reforms in immigration policies Germany is sending strong signals across the world that they are an open, flexible and immigrant friendly society characterised by 3 D's

  • Dedication,

  • Devotion and

  • Discipline

With the dangers of economic recession prying into the affairs of even the most powerful of nations leaving them with jittery economies and their citizens jobless and with no job security. Under such circumstances, Germany is playing its trump card by pulling towards it, prospective work force from these debt stricken economies to fill up its labour shortfall.

 

If you are looking for a big leap in your mundane career, Go Germany!! So are you ready for the great migration? If Yes, 'Willkommen in Wunderland. Deutschland!'

 

For further information about Blue Card, you can visit the dedicated web page about Blue Card on trust7.com.

6th of December is Nikolaus!

Hi t7 members,

I guess most of you, at least those who have children and who are already living in Germany, know about the 'Nikolaus' day. For all the others I want to explain this very special day. Although this is a religious story about a Saint of the 4th century..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas

..nobody takes care about this, but our kids (and my spouse) are cleaning their shoes and put them in front of the door in the evening of the 5th and awaiting Nikolaus (or his substitutes) to put some sweeties and gifts inside the shoes. Early in the morning of the 6th they kids (and many spouses) are running to the door, looking after their shoes. If you forgot (or Nikolaus) to put something in, you will get into trouble wink

Have a happy time!

Detlef

This is a picture of our private Nikolaus Avida:

Avida am Nikolaus Tag

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