I was on my way for a Strategic Management conference in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia and one of the poorest countries in the European Union. It was December in Paris and the cold for a Mumbai-based, Indian like me was too much to handle. I had exactly 10-days to kill before my program in Slovakia began and I decided to buy a 15-day eurolines pass. Eurolines, a bus service in the EU allowed me to hop from one country to another, as frequently as I wanted for the next fortnight at a meagre cost of 185 Euros.
I spent the first 4 days of my journey, including Christmas, in Belgium with my scientist-brother and partied through New Year’s Eve in Alphen a/d Rijn, a small town in The Netherlands with a Russian friend. I had spent the last few days eating the best food of my life, from home made White Rabbit Moscow style to La Cubanita’s Spanish special at Rotterdam and I still had 3 days to kill.
I decided to use my pass and visit Amsterdam. I had already been to Amsterdam, a month earlier with a few friends and had had my share of fun, but I knew travelling alone to the wild, wild city all by myself would be an exhilarating and exciting experience. I decided to keep
my plans away from my Gujarati mother, who would have spent sleepless nights back in Bombay, owing to her daughter’s escapades. I reached Amsterdam at 8am the following day.
The first thing you do when you reach Amsterdam is ...Roll!
I decided to visit Amsterdam’s countryside and took the day tour to the windmills of Zaansa Schans and the cheese and wine factory at Volendam. I boarded the tour bus and took the only single seat available. Seated next to me, was an old, fat lady with a huge camera and an American accent.
“I’m Dr. Kristina,” she said first.
“Hi, Sanyukta!” I replied.
After a lot of attempts at my name, SanYaakTha... Sannyutaa, Sayata... She finally decided to call me San.
“So you’re a photographer?” I asked intrigued by the huge lens she held.
“No, an industrial chemist and at present a tourist. My flight back to Canada was post-ponned by a day and I didn’t have anything else to do. I cannot smoke weed, because my profession does not allow narcotics and I will be checked at the job,” she sighed, continuing to explain, “I was here on business and anybody returning from Europe has to undergo the narcotics scan apart from other tests after an industrial visit.”
It was an easy match. Even though we were from two completely different worlds and age groups, we spent the next four hours of the tour chatting about everything from Bollywood movies being hits in Germany to why Amsterdam is overrated. Instead of bidding goodbye to each other after the tour, Kristina decided to do something she had never done. Watch LIVE sex.
“I can’t indulge in the greens, I might as well enjoy some naked, live, good-old porn,” she laughed. I said, “Ok,” after Kristina said, “I’ll pay!”
One hour later, Kristina and I sat across two emotion-less, white people jabbing into each other. It had taken Kristina four hash brownies and me, two joints to get through the sad state of affairs. Now that Kristina had broken her vow of service to her company and was petrified that she would not have a job back home, she decided that this was a time she would never get back. She would not leave any stone unturned.
Two tattoos, one visit to the Anne Frank museum (Where both Kristina and I cried profusely after listening to the audio-biography of Anne Frank’s father after her death) and a lot of burgers and Belgium fries later, we both bid farewell to each other.
We never exchanged numbers or email ids and we both knew that we would never see each other again! It had been an eventful day to remember.
I spent the next day sleeping, eating, shopping and visiting the Van Gogh museum. I boarded my bus to Bratislava the next morning, my bag filled with three rolled joints for my friends, eagerly awaiting my arrival in Slovakia.
The ride was going to be a long 22-hours and I had every intention of sleeping right through it.
I jolted awake at the Netherlands-Germany border when I heard the sniffer dogs barking. Germany’s famous ‘Bundespolizei’ had entered the bus and were checking for drugs. The man seated before me was asked to get off the bus and his passport seized. “Show meee yourh Passe port,” said the tall German, while I searched my bag. I handed over my passport, the emblem, with the 3-lions and the Ashoka Chakra, gleaming in gold on the cover.
“Where arhe you goingh?” he asked. “Bratislava,” I said.
“Very farrh bhy bus,” he said and handed me back my passport as he moved on to question the man behind me.
...And right then, my phone buzzed and I was delighted to have received a Facebook friend request from Dr. Kristina. It said, “I lost my job, you bitch!”
Sanyukta Iyer has a Master’s degree from the ESC Rennes School of Business, France. She presently works as a brand consultant at Zero Hour Entertainment and is the Media Head at Pittie Group. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org