A couple of months ago at Munich, Germany.....
Sunday Mornings are often colder than weekdays and the process of getting out of bed makes you act like a tortoise who is not interested in any kind of race for that matter! However as a true devout whose commitment was unquestionable, I did not think twice before waking up when the clock struck six...
It was dark and chilly outside...It does not matter when your faith is strong and unwavering....I took a quick shower as the urge to get there as soon as possible was overwhelming...At 6:30 am I started my brisk walk towards the holy place… It was overwhelming to be part of the august gathering of people who were marching along to offer glowering tributes at the shrine...It actually reminded me of what it really means to be part of it...About sharing happiness and sadness...about touching people’s lives...and about forgetting... Being someone who hates to be late, I was glad that I could sit right in front along with passionate gathering... Glancing at the faces around me I realised how over blown were talks of atheist’s taking over the world... There was a collective sense of hope...and an electric vibrancy in the air...I wondered, wasn’t it amazing that thousands of people sacrificed a lazy sunday morning to be part of this offering...to be part of something truly special...At precisely 8:30 am after a long wait, when the first german frau wearing a dirndl and holding 8 mugs of beer arrived...ten thousand devotees from around the world at a beer tent for Oktoberfest had the widest glee’s in the whole world!!
The crowd roared in unison… The blessed moment we all waited anxiously had truly arrived.
Oktoberfest is as important to Bavarians as yeast is to Bread! The annual event which attracts the faithful from around the world does bear justice to the magnetic reputation it has. I had tried to get into one of those tents with my friends on a Saturday morning and we had to return disappointed as we underestimated the strength of people who took the pilgrimage…So it was with brahminical devotion that we made our second attempt that Sunday morning. What makes Oktoberfest amazing is the fact that it proves wrong a myth that Germans are cold (well the beer is…J), unsocial and hard to have fun with… I can imagine why Oktoberfest may not be as great in a place like Brazil coz we expect the Brazilians to be fun loving people… The first Mass (1L mug of beer) is drunk by the locals with all the stereotypes typically attached to Germans… People talk in hushed tones at the tables as if they were discussing the second quarter results of an IT firm! The first Mass is usual the tonic what the Germans need to shed that inhibition to talk to strangers and start singing and dancing.
Besides your friends you would often have random strangers sitting beside you...In the beginning the strangers start talking to you in German and you reply in a mix of broken German and English...However after the second Mass I faintly remember that we had a deep and intellectually stimulating conversation in Malayalam... Schmidt chetta, if you are reading this, Kottayam is not a 10 minutes bus ride from Bombay as I had claimed that day.
Although I don’t remember much of Schmidt, I do remember the beautiful german ladies whose appetite for beer can only be topped by Kalmadisque penchant for buying expensive refrigerators! Most of the local girls wear the German version of chattayum mundum called the Dirndl which actually is cool and pretty. And the guys wear the lederhosen which can make your Levis denim look cheap...As the drinking and the music continues you could occasionally see some daredevils grabbing the attention of everyone in the tent and proclaiming his/her attempts to drink the one litre mass in a single gulp which is by no means a small feat...The crowd cheers such daredevils but usually fizzles into good hearted boos when they fail... The local Bavarians look at in amusement when outsider’s attempt that and fail gloriously and later as a sort of vindication they show the tourist’s how it is done...Believe me these guys have tummy’s as big as a fuel tank of a decent sedan.
The mood in the tent gets progressively jovial over time and the real fun starts when the music begins...Almost everyone in the tent are up on the benches with hands on each other’s shoulders and sing passionately beer songs...
“Allee Allee Allee Allee Allee
eine Straße, viele Bäume,
ja das ist eine Allee
Allee Allee Allee Allee”
It is an amazing feeling when a group of people who did not know each other a few hours ago start showing camaraderie like they were best buddies in town...People take photos with each other bridging nationalities and although there are sporadic cases of bad drinker’s creating havoc, most people in general are jovially happy and soaking the moment...The beer girl’s (actually middle aged women) make sure that the ale is supplied at the tables with precision typical of Germans. You look at in awe how they hold 8-10 glass mugs each containing a litre of beer which is a feat in itself...Besides the beer they make sure that the revellers are supplied with roasted chickens, steaks and pretzels... It was really hard for us to leave the tent afternoon as the atmosphere is something which you don’t want to run away from...Unfortunately we had to catch the train to Hamburg and we did not want to end up as beer corpses (as the locals describe the passed out fellas).
Over the years and places I have been in Germany, it was easily one of the best experiences I had...As we came out of the tents and marched to the exit, I thanked the beer gods for the pilgrimage I could make... The satisfaction of being at the holiest of shrines…of having tasted the beer which might have inspired hundreds of poets and writers…Schmidt did tell me that I am a blessed man having come all the way from Kottayam…duh...He was drunk it seems!!….But as I strolled out, the true sign of being blessed was charmingly displayed in that outrageously zigzag spaghetti walk to the train station…or as I prefer to call it ….my Beer Ballet!