Sunday, October 14, 2007

You Made Us Proud

On the flight from Frankfurt to Amsterdam's Schipol airport, I am seated next to Mr B Muthuraman, the Managing Director of Tata Steel. It is a company he has worked with since 1966 after completing his B Tech from IIT-Madras. I lean across the aisle and introduce myself then tell him that the deal involving Corus Steel's takeover by Tata Steel has made every Indian proud. The diminutive Muthu smiles in acknowledgment before disappearing into the crowded Schipol airport. He has ambitious plans for Tata Steel. He was recently quoted in Business Week magazine as saying that he is "aiming to be a 20 million-ton company by 2010 and 35 million-ton company by 2015." Tata Steel currently makes 7 tons of steel a year, and this includes Singapore's NatSteel and its China plant. By [2015], they'll be among the top five steel companies in the world in size. Good luck to people like Muthu who make us walk with a swagger. Schipol Airport has a casino, a museum (the Rijksmuseum) that gave me a glimpse of Van Gogh's sketches of the lion. The airport has its own mortuary - so that you can fly through Schipol dead or alive and has of late been in the news for being a place where couples are getting getting married. No question of missing the flight to the honeymoon destination - just get the pilot as the best man at the wedding.

In Amsterdam you are more likely to be run over by speeding cyclists than with a one of those fancy bikes. Public transport is a plenty but if you are not a gawking tourist you want to have at least one bicycle of your own. The canals garland the city like a giant windshield wiper swishing from side to side. It is hip to have your own houseboat in the canal though the stench sometimes is truly overpowering. On weekends - IF the weather is good, you can see loads of cyclists doing a leisurely trip along the canal with a loaf of bread, some cheese and a bottle of wine stuck prominently in a basket tagged in front of the bike.

The Dutch are fairly liberal people when it comes to things adult. The cafes serve cannabis in small quantities for all those who have the appetite for it. The tourists are equally stunned to see the openness with which the red light district rubs shoulders with the rest of the commercial district. The Anne Frank Museum attracts visitors in large numbers as do the painters - Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Bol.

What did I like most about this city? Hmmm... I loved the cobbled streets and the lush green parks - my favorite was the Vondel Park. You see families coming there jogging, on bikes, pets in tow and children dutifully following their parents. The leaves were just falling off in preparation for the winter months. What did I not like about Amsterdam? The weather. It was cold and damp for the better part of the week. The Sun made a guest appearance like a Bollywood star in an art movie - brief but impactful and left us wanting more.

No comments: