Sunday, November 9, 2014
Remembering a Great Occasion of Sharing Joy With My East German Friends!
Today, the 9th November 2014, is the official anniversary day to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany that paved the way for reunification of the German people who were forcefully separated out by the flawed ideologies of their leaders.
Google doodle most appropriately has reminded all Googlers about this important anniversary lest they forget the importance of this event in the history of our modern times.
25 years ago, on 9th November 1989, me and a couple of my colleagues were hosting a small official party to a couple of our East German engineer friends working with us in central India. They wanted to go back to their country urgently due to the political unrest that began there some time ago. They wanted to be with their near and dear ones immediately and be part of some imminent historic moments. They were too happy with the developments at home. Some thing that they had been desiring for a couple of decades was apparently going to be fulfilled soon! They did not want to miss it out!
They were project design engineers from a renowned government owned company in East Germany. They were in India to renovate and modernize a steel rolling mill in our Indian government owned steel company which was installed some two decades ago by the technology suppliers from erstwhile Soviet Union.
The modernization project was planned as a joint effort by the East German company and by the Indian owner company. A joined team of engineers from both sides had been working on the project design aspects for some months already. I was a member of the Indian side.
My counter part from the East German side was one Mr Dieter Sommer. He was a very unassuming and simple gentleman who understood little English and I understood little German. The German team had brought in one or two language interpreters for us to over come the language barrier. But it was our common engineering skills and our common sense that usually worked.
I was astonished the way Sommer developed the ability to communicate with me in improvised English without the help of the interpreter. It gave us the confidence to work together and even to travel together to various places in India in connection with the project. Soon we developed a good friendship.
By age, he was elder to me by at least ten years. I remember many things that he shared with me about his parents, the world war, his difficult life after his country's division as east and west , about his grown up children and their ambition to see their nation re-united once again. His broken English was no barrier for our communication.
While working together, I could feel the joy they were feeling while they read about the news of glasnost effects spreading in the soviet bloc. The fall of Poland from the communist grip had begun to show its positive effects in their East Germany as well.
Sommer's parents were Christians. That was what he told me. But he grew up in the GDR's communist regime as an atheist. Yet I could sense the sparkle in his eyes when he told me about the Bible reading habit of his grown up daughter.
The German engineers, as I observed them, were very systematic and devoted to their work. Germans were the same, whether they belonged to the east or the west. But, the communist experiment in East Germany caused the biggest economic disaster among half of the Germans who lived in GDR.
Those in the eastern side were struggling hard to live. Even expert engineers like Mr Sommer lived in small apartments. He could own a small car very late in his career. On the other hand, his fellows who lived in the liberalized capitalist economy of West Germany were living in prosperity. Both started from the same conditions of ruin after the world war-II that resulted from the misguided rule of of Adolf Hitler and perhaps even events that began earlier.
There was no reason that the East Germans did not aspire for re-unification of their nation!
While we were having our party dinner, we were watching the TV. We watched the news clippings that showed the Germans from both sides pulling down the cursed Berlin wall.
We watched our German friends and their lone american interpreter shouting in joy. If they had wings, they would have flown right away!
They left and returned back to work for the completion of our project back in India after a couple of months. We could complete that project successfully. When they left, they were citizens of re-united Germany.
The re-unification was not a bed of roses. Many from both sides faced problems. The government company where Sommer and his colleagues worked disintegrated and privatized. I met a couple of them later who came to India in search of potential markets for their industrial products.
I have not met Sommer or heard about him.
25 years have gone now. Many things have changed in this world. And many things will change in future. That is the way our world is planned!
It will not be possible for those among us who want to stick to the mores, customs and ideologies of the past based on erroneous concepts and ideas for long.
If we do not accept change, we are perhaps not humans!