Falling in love with Vienna

Falling down as an adult can be messy business, especially if the fall involves a staircase. You don’t quite know how you’ll land and how badly it will end. While coming down the stairs at a U-bahn station in Vienna, I missed a step, twisted my left ankle and fell down. All I remember of the fall itself is a sharp pain shooting through my foot, that horrible feeling of losing all control and then finding myself down on the ground. The camera slung around my neck bounced twice on the floor in front of me (while still being slung around my neck) and concerned strangers around me rushed to get me back up on my feet. I had just validated our 72-hour transport ticket and was trying to read the date that had been stamped on it when I fell down. It had slipped from my hands as I fell but someone was kind enough to retrieve it and hand it back to me. The pain in my ankle was quite intolerable and I just sat down on the step to compose myself.

I and the wife were headed to Schönbrunn Palace. The initial adrenalin rush from the fall made me want to go on but we did the sensible thing of returning to the hotel. I put some balm on my foot and tried to rest. The area around the ankle was quite swollen but it didn’t look or feel like anything serious. Still, this sort of thing is bad enough when it happens to you at home; in a new country with a significant language barrier, it is quite overwhelming. We decided that the wife go and salvage whatever she could of the day.

But of course, her thoughts kept drifting back to me.

Next to our hotel was a shop that sold second-hand goods. It’s a horrible thing to say, but just that morning we were joking how most things there looked like they had been pillaged from old people’s house after their death. The wife tried to procure a walking cane for me from that very shop. Surprisingly, they had none. She moved to the shop next door and tried to buy a strong umbrella that I could lean on and walk. The kind proprietress of the shop instead pointed the wife to a shop dealing in orthopaedic goods just a few paces down the road. She came over, and took me limping to that shop.

We managed to communicate what was wrong with me and procured a pair of crepe compression socks and a crutch. A few hours had passed, the pain in my foot had lessened quite a bit and the crutch made getting around quite feasible. Of course having never used a crutch before1, I was using it all wrong. The wife observed a couple of random people using walking sticks/crutches2 and suggested that I try and hold the crutch in the “right” hand – i.e. one opposite the broken limb. And indeed, it worked a lot better.

By next day I was in much better humor. One of my wisdom teeth had been extracted two weeks ago, but I was still on Ibuprofen to help me deal with the residual pain. I was now deriving double benefit from each dose. I also joked about not needing a tripod at night for my camera any longer, being able to cheat at hopscotch and being able to give Dr. House a “run” for his money.

Yes, a part of me is quite upset that I couldn’t make the most of my time in Vienna. But the fall was entirely my fault and it could’ve ended much worse. That said, we still managed to catch live telecast of Rigoletto on the big screen outside the Opera, took a day trip to Bratislava and made the most of the free first Sunday at the Wien Museum.

The glass is a little more than half full.

1. My only brush with a serious leg injury to date had been a severe sprain that had required a cast. This was way back when I was in grade III. The injury was acquired when attempting, hold your breath, long jump into a sand pit. I was still light enough and parents just carried me around

2. In a city as big as Vienna, you are bound to come across someone if you use public transport for long enough

Even and odd

Urban planning in India is patchy. Nowhere is this more evident than the way houses are numbered. Whenever we’d visit friends or relatives living in a part of city we hadn’t been to before, the instructions for finding the house would have nothing to do with the house number. They’d be something on the lines of – turn left near a petrol station, take the third turn after so and so temple, walk to the fifth house on the right side of the street, yes, the one next to the one with a green façade and white gate.

Our own house in Delhi used to be on a plot of land that was once divvied up and sold to three different owners. Same house number, three different houses and owners. Confusion with mail and food delivery was common.

The real estate boom of the past two decades or so must’ve only made this worse. Where I lived in Bangalore, I saw old colonial bungalows torn down and multistoried apartments come up on the same patch of land. What they did to the numbering scheme of a street is anybody’s guess.

Naturally, the orderliness of house numbering here has taken a little getting used to. I didn’t realize it till recently that all houses on one side of a street are numbered even and the ones on the other sides odd (something the wife drew my attention to). It’s not something most people will make much of, but I am still quite fascinated by the thought and planning that must’ve gone into it.

p.s. The Dutch word for even is, well, even. The Dutch word for odd is oneven.

p.p.s. Don’t even get me started about postal codes.

Photoblog: Photo #38 – Jordaan

Jordaan is one of the prettiest districts of Amsterdam and I am fortunate to be living quite close to it. I’ve always wanted to be up at sunrise on a still, clear day, go around and take pictures. But it’s one thing to *want* to do something, it’s another to get out of bed on a nippy March morning and actually do it. Besides, the combination of still and clear days is quite rare in Amsterdam. Yesterday, I managed to muster up just enough motivation to get out a few minutes after a promising sunrise and carry my camera along.

This picture is a panorama was stitched out of three different pictures. I had no intentions of making a panorama while taking them, but once I saw them on the computer screen, they seemed to fit together quite nicely.