Monthly Archives: August 2013

Visit to Germany – Language School (Part 3)


In the morning we arrived at Munich. This railway station is a huge one. Munich is connected by railway with all the European big cities. On the station I did not see Arun. I was worried. I wondered what to do. I had Arun’s address. But I knew that it was very far from the station. I was informed by Siemens, that arrangement and reservation was made for me in the Siemens hostel for a weeks stay. So I decided to take a taxi and go to the hostel. I hired a taxi and asked the driver to take me to Siemens hostel. The driver told me he did not know the hostel’s address. But he knew there was a big Siemens building near the station. So he took me there. There I went to the receptionist desk. I asked the lady about the hostel. So she gave me the address. She told me to wait there and let the taxi go. Then she contacted the hostel on the phone to check about my stay there. The hostel replied that they can not find my name. So the receptionist contacted Erlangen head office. It so happened that there were two hostels for trainees. The head office assured that the reservation/booking for my stay was made. They gave her the correct address and telephone number. They had difficulty in pronouncing my name.

In German alphabet “v” is pronounced as “f”!! They thought my name was “Jaferi”. The receptionist arranged for a vehicle to take me to the hostel. So at last I reached the hostel.

The telegram to Arun reached a little late that morning. He, with his friend Vijay Kapasi, ran to the station. Not finding me on the platform he contacted the hostel on telephone. The supervisor informed him that I had reached there. They immediately came to my hostel. They had some medical check up in the college. So there were no lectures or classes. After meeting and greeting they went for their medical check up. I was very much tired. I took bath and slept for a while. Arun and Vijay returned at 11:30. I had brought a lot of goodies for them. They were very happy to see “chevdo” and “ganthia”.

The hostel room was very comfortable. It was well furnished. Arun had brought some beautiful flowers, thus making the room cozier. This was a five story building. There were six rooms on each floor. There was a dining room on the first floor and also a small office room of the supervisor. We got breakfast in the morning and dinner was optional.

The next most important task to be accomplished was to open an account in a bank. We reached the bank just half an hour before the counters closed. There was a young girl at the counter. She thought she would complete the work quickly. Arun and Vijay had come with me to help me. But instead of helping me, they would discuss and give me advice against each others opinion. This made me and the girl at the counter confused and nervous. I had several transactions to be done. The first was to open a new account. Then I had travelers’ cheques in English pounds. So these were to be converted into German marks. Then I told her to give me three hundred marks in cash. But Arun advised me to get four hundred marks in cash. Then I gave her the name, address and account number of Mr. Ziller. I asked her to transfer 8 Australian pounds from my account to that account. This was equivalent to 76 German, i.e. Deutsche, Marks (DM).

She filled up relevant vouchers. She asked me to go to the cashier to collect the cash. He gave me 400 marks and also an additional 800 marks. These 800 marks were to be deposited in my account. This crediting of 800 marks she had already done. And by mistake she also made a cash voucher. The cashier called her. He instructed her to mend her mistake. She felt very sorry for the mistake. She apologized. Then she told me that, if I had not noticed the mistake, I would have made a profit of 800 marks. And that she would have to pay from her pocket. She thanked me profusely. She was a trainee only. Arun and Vijay made sarcastic remarks. They said she is a good girl. She will be willing to go with you for dinner and dance!!

Learning the German language was a prerequisite. Siemens had recommended that BBL personnel going for training should learn German at Goethe institute in Germany. So my program in Germany was as below:

  • 1-3-1961 to 30-4-1961       Goethe Institute – Kochel
  • 1-5-1961 to 30-7-1961       Trafowerk  – Nuremberg
  • 1-8-1961 to 30-10-1961     Elmowerk – Bad Neustadt


Now I had about one week free in Munich before joining the language course in Kochel. One very important task for me was to report to the liaison officer in charge of BBL matters. His name was Herr Warmuth. I phoned him and informed him about my arrival in Munich. I made an appointment to meet him in his Erlangen Office. He had often visited BBL office in Bombay. I had personally met him there. He knew me well. He also knew English well.

Normally people go by train from Munich to Erlangen changing trains in Nurnberg. It takes about 3 hours. But Arun always had different ways of doing things. He had found a system called ‘mitfarhen’. He took me to Munich station. There instead of going into the station we went into a bye-lane. There was a very small office. When a car owner is traveling from one city to other and willing to take one or more travelers as passengers, he registers his name in this office. People like us who want a lift in a car, go to this office and register their names. We pay 3 DM to the office per registration and 7 DM per passenger as “petrol cost” to the car owner (in those days 1 DM was = 1.25 Rupees). The train ticket was 16 DM.

The car ride from Munich to Nuremberg (Nurnberg) was just wonderful. The Autobahns of Germany are world famous. We traveled at an average speed of 80 kmph. We had some spare time so we took our lunch at Nuremberg station. Then we reached Erlangen by train. Mr. Warmuth himself had come to the station to receive me. I was very nervous. I was to meet different bosses. I was wondering how I would go through the meetings with each of them. Bur Arun gave me a lot of courage. He told me that these people are very polished and well mannered. They will make you “moto-bha” (treat you with respect). My meetings went through very well. The officer in charge of my training was Mr. Simon. He was almost double in height and four times broader than me. A huge personality. When he shook my hands, I was just staring at him. I was mentally trying to figure out as how to deal with a person like this! He was in charge of my complete training program. Anything I wanted to do in Germany, I had to take his permission. The last person I met was Dr. Mair. He was in charge of all Indian collaborations. He was a good friend of my father. He talked to me about my journey, my health, my family and such matters. The last thing he told me, “If you have any serious difficulty or problem, come to me”.

After all the meetings were over we went to see the office building. There was a guide to take us around. This is a huge building. There are about 8000 people working in this area. They have their own post office, telephone exchange, teleprinter machines, etc. These offices work almost 24 hours. They have contacts in every country of the world. After the tour of the building, Mr. Warmuth took us to his home for tea, coffee and snacks. He had also arranged for our night stay in a Nuremberg hostel.

We were invited for dinner by another family; the family of Dr. Schmidt. Dr. Schmidt was the head of one of the research division of Siemens. He became a very intimate friend of my father. He and his wife both were very much interested in Indian philosophy. They had three daughters. They considered Arun as their son. We had cheese toasts and vegetable soup and fruit juice. We had a nice evening after a very busy day.

The next morning we had our breakfast in the hostel. Arun took me around the city. He often came to Nuremberg to visit the Schmidt family. We went to see a church where there is a big clock tower. At noon/12 o’clock the clock opens and a group of puppet musicians come out and play music for some time. We took our lunch in a vegetarian restaurant which is just opposite to this church. We were left with very less money in our pocket. We thought of going to the bank to draw some money. But it was late. By now all banks would have closed down. Arun had some other idea. We sat in a tram and went to the end of the city from where the autobahn to Munich starts.

Arun explained to me that here it is customary to give and ask for a lift. He had many times traveled between Nuremberg and Munich by taking lift. We signaled several cars, but in vain. It was very windy and very cold on the open highway. We were wondering what to do! A delivery van (tempo) stopped. We just got in. But we found that he was not going to Munich. So he dropped us on the highway near a small town. Again we waited for another 15 minuets. Then a nice car stopped. He asked “who are you?” Arun replied, “Student”. He took out his college ID with a photo. So the driver took us in. He talked a lot. He gave us two big Swiss chocolate bars. He was taking these chocolates for his daughter. But he said, “My daughter will be happier, when I will tell her to whom I gave the chocolates”. He dropped us right at the hostel. He gave us his address and phone number. He said he would invite us. Arun has become very clever in dealing with Germans. He knew their pulse very well.

On 1st Mar. 1961 morning I reached Kochel am See (Kochel on lake) – a small village in the Alps. Here I would be staying as a paying guest for two months.

Goethe Institute

In Germany they have a beautiful institute to learn the German language. The institute has its headquarters in Munich.  They have about 50/60 or may be more schools all over the Bavarian Alps. All these schools are located in very beautiful natural surroundings of mountains, valleys, lakes, fields, rivers and small villages. Students come from all over the world. They are from different fields of life and from different age groups. This creates an atmosphere of universal brotherhood. In my group there was an Afghan professor – 78 years old. There were four Egyptian school teachers. There were Japanese, Chinese, Pakistanis, and Europeans. There were two American girls (school students).


Our daily schedule started with getting ready before 7.30 in the morning. We had to reach school at 7:30.a.m. It used to be dark and very cold in the mornings. Our breakfast was arranged in the school premises. They served bread, butter, jam and tea. As I do not drink tea I had to make my own arrangement for milk. This I made with my landlady. Every morning she kept a thermos with hot milk ready for me. I paid extra for this milk. After finishing breakfast in one hour, the lessons would start at 8:30.a.m.

img068In my class we were 16 students. We had individual chairs with attached desks. I was sitting in between two South American lady students. One was married and another was unmarried. But both did not understand English. Both understood only Spanish! So I could communicate with them only in German or by sign language. There was a short recess for ten minutes. We would all go out in the veranda or compound and enjoy the sunshine. Then there was a lunch recess from 11:30 a.m. Our daily lunch was arranged in a big hall in a hotel. After lunch it was rest period till 3:00 p.m.There were afternoon classes from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. But we were given a lot of homework to be done during the rest time and in the evenings. The dinner was served at a dining hall in a hotel from 6:00.p.m. 7:30 was the time to go home.  Saturdays school was only for a half day. There were tests every Saturday. Sunday was a full holiday.

img074Kochel is a very small town, similar to our Panchgani. It is on the bank of a beautiful small lake, like our Mahabaleshvar lake with boating facility. All around we saw snow-covered Alps mountains peaks. It was very cold. Even in this month of March it was snowing. The temp. went down below zero. But soon it would be sunshine. Then temp. would go up to 10 C. Indoors, the temp. remained between 15 and 18. At night we used the heater for a comfortable 20 C. There were heaters in all school rooms, hotel dining room and other public places. But, whenever the room temp. would go higher than 20 C people would start shouting that it was hot!!

We were four students in two bedrooms in the house. The name of the family was Soul (pronounced Zoul). Here the housefrau (landlady) has more power than the husband. But our housefrau was a very kind lady. She would give us hot water for bath on every Saturday. My brother Arun was staying in Munich. That was only less than an hour by train. He often visited me. In German the brother is “der bruder”. So Arun was well known as “der bruder”. Whenever he visited me, all will welcome him calling him “der bruder”.

img058One evening I was talking with my landlady. I told her that I was missing my wife and my family. She then told me her story. She said, “You are away from your wife and family for a few months only. But I was separated from my husband for nine years. My husband was compelled to join the army. At the end of the Second World War, he was in a prisoners-of-war camp.” She described her pitiable condition. She said, “Every morning I got up and very anxiously waited for his news. The whole day just passed away. I would wait till late night for his news. This way I passed days and months and years.”

img030My roommate was an Irish ICS officer, married, working on deputation in Antofagasta, Chile, South America. His name was Patrick Whelan. He was in his late forties. He had three children. There were two English boys in the other room. We could converse in English very freely. There was an Indian girl Miss Cherian. Her family had settled in London.

By and large there was a big group of English speaking people from UK, USA, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Our land lady did not like our use of English language. She would advise us to converse only in German. The philosophy of putting language schools in small villages and staying in farmers homes is to compel the students to use German language only. But this philosophy was defeated by English language!

There were people from different age groups and different walks of life such as professors, teachers, artists, engineers, journalists, lawyers and so on and so on. Thus a friendly group was formed. I was one of the popular ones in the group.  We played many playing card games. I knew some playing card tricks. One of them was a trick of vanishing card. I would arrange some cards in a particular formation that will form four sides of a square. The total of cards in each side of the square was 14. Then I would ask one of the spectators to add one card on one of the sides of the square. Then I would do the magic, my trick. I would mumble some words. I would shuffle the cards and rearrange in such a way that the addition of cards in each side will remain 14 only! This I could do for adding up to 10 cards, but one at a time. This made me famous as ‘the Indian’ with vanishing card magic.

We arranged several picnics. We would go to watch English movies with German titles in the local Kino (Movie Theater). Once we were watching one of the most favorite movies of that time viz. Ben Hur. The hero’s friend was named Messala. In one scene the friend was helping the hero lifting a broken wheel of the chariot from the mud. He was struggling very hard. I was deeply engrossed in the scene. And just shouted very loudly in Hindi  “Messala tera masala nikal jayega”! The whole theater was laughing loudly. This made me more popular.

On 28th March 61, my room partner Patrick Whelan left for his home- Ireland. We stayed together for one month only. Even then we became very good friends. He was very intelligent. He was an IAS cadre officer. He was warm and considerate. We talked a lot about our countries our lifestyles and families. He would now spend a month with his family in Ireland. From there he would go to Antofagasta, in Chile, South America. Chile was a less developed country. UK was helping them by giving civil officers on loan/deputation. Pat was working for Chile railways.


We had arranged a small send-off party in a small hotel. This was organized by me and another Indian girl Miss Cherian. Her family belonged to Cochin, Kerala. But they had migrated to England when she was a child. She grew up to become a typical English girl, but for her complexion. She had typical South Indian dark rosewood complexion. She was also very popular in the school. She was always ready to organize events. Our party was a grand success. Adequate atmosphere was established because of music. People enjoyed dancing. Miss Cherian was in great demand as a dance partner. She had sported a saree. She was getting booked as a dance partner three dances in advance. People, when not dancing were talking, saying jokes or just enjoying watching dance and listening to music. I did not know dancing. So I was sitting talking and drinking coffee. After mid-night, the dancing stopped. But singing with low music continued. It was Easter Sunday. There was a Greek gentleman in our group. His name was Papadopoulos . He was singing very well. He sang many Easter carols. After 1:30 in the morning, people wanted to go home. Pat and I reached each one to his or her house. We reached home after 2:00 in the morning. A personal friend of Pat had come from Switzerland to see him. We accommodated him in our room as it was too late to go to a hotel.

img040We had arranged for a picnic/trek for the next day (Sunday). We were seven. Pat and his friend, Robin, Margaret, Cherian, Nader Moses and me. There is a beautiful village named Benediktbeuren about six miles from Kochel. There was a trek going through the hills and forests. The weather was very good. It was not very cold but very pleasant. We walked through enjoying natural beauty. We had brought picnic food with us. We went to a small hotel. We ordered some drinks and took hoteliers permission to eat our food. We wandered about in the village. Pat’s friend separated. He took a train to Zurich. Pat and I went to see a monastery. All others returned to Kochel by train. The monastery was about 200 years old. (now 250 years old). There were big prayer halls. The walls and ceilings were painted in beautiful colors. These are called frescoes. There were pictures of Jesus, angels etc. They were wonderful. We returned to Kochel in the evening by train in ten minutes. In the morning it took more than two hours trekking!

Our school had arranged a mountaineering trip. We started at about 10:00 am. in the morning. We were about 60 people. We traveled about 70 miles in the state of Bavaria. We traveled through mountains, valleys, forests, lakes etc. we stopped in the foothills of a mountain. The plan was to go up the mountain by wire-rope chair-cars to the bottom of the pinnacle, then climb up to the pinnacle-top on foot. There was snow on the top. The snow had started melting. This created a lot of mud. It became  very difficult to climb up in the mud. It took a much longer time. At last we all reached the top. We were very tired. We rested for a while. Then we climbed down till the wire-rope chairlift. And then by the chairlift to the bottom of the mountain. At last we reached the bus. We were very tired and very hungry. It was about 3:00 pm. We went to a restaurant in the nearest town. It was a funny but pitiful situation. A cosmopolitan group of 60 very hungry and very tired people were shouting for food. And the restaurant had no food to offer!! Another restaurant however agreed to give some food at an extra cost. It was the most dear food!!


My Pen-friend Albert Nadler

One of my hobbies since my school days was pen-friendship. I had pen-friends in many countries.  I had a friend in Germany. His name is Alfred Nadler. My regular correspondence with him lasted till my college days (1947 to 1954). When my tour to Germany was finalized, I wrote to him, informing him about my tour. I had informed him about my language course in Goethe Institute, in the town Kochel am See.

One Tuesday afternoon my pen-friend Albert Nadler from Augsburg, Bavaria came to visit me. He wanted to meet me in Munich but as he was busy then, he could not make it.  He inquired about me in the office. He waited for me outside the class room. As soon as the class was over, he entered inside and asked “Who is Mr. Zaveri?” I replied, “I am” extending my hand. I was trying to figure out, who this person could be? May be some one from Siemens office? He held my hand and replied, “I am Albert Nadler”.  This was a complete surprise to me. I was very excited. I had never dreamed that I will meet my pen-friend in person. I was very much exhilarated. He was also very happy. We shook hands for a couple of minutes. The whole class was watching the happy meeting. He took me out to a restaurant for coffee. We talked a lot. He said he would get married in May or June. In a couple of weeks he would come to Kochel to take me to his home and for sightseeing. He was working with a good business firm in their marketing division. He had to travel very extensively all over the country. The company had given him a car also. I found him to be a very jolly fellow. He could speak English very well.

img022One Saturday morning (1-4-61), Albert came to pick me up in a beautiful Austin car. He came! And he came with his fiancée Martha!! He was engaged only a few days earlier. He had planned to take me for a tour in the mountains. We went into the mountains and drove up to the Germany-Austria border. In the mountains we could see snow all over on all sides. This was my first experience of walking in the snow in Alps. Mother nature was in the most beautiful facets all over. We reached Germany–Austria border. Passing the international border we went about 60 miles in Austria near the city of Innsbruck. We took our lunch in a small restaurant. I will never forget that day of meeting a pen-friend, with his fiancée, in the Alps, covered with snow. There was sunshine. But it was still very cold. We sat on a table outside on the pavement.  This was like a scene from an English movie. It was such an exhilarating experience.


Then on return journey we entered Germany by the road leading to Augsburg. We passed by/through Garmisch, the famous city for international skiing stadium for ice and snow games and sports. We reached Augsburg by about 5:00 pm. Just when we reached the town, the car engine started giving peculiar noise. No garages or mechanics were available on the holiday. Martha’s home was not far. We waited there. Albert phoned the manager of Austin dealership in this town. The manager was his personal friend. He opened his garage to repair Albert’s car. Albert returned at about 7:00 pm. Martha introduced me to her parents. We took coffee and passed time talking and watching TV.

I asked Albert to drop me at the railway station. But he insisted to leave me in his car. It was about 100 miles and about a little more than one hours drive. We reached there by about 9:00 pm.

“Noch Eine” (One more)

img005One Saturday afternoon after lunch, I was doing some home-work. Many students had gone to visit some church. After finishing my home-work I went out for a walk. At the end of our village there was a beautiful bungalow with a big garden. This belonged to a rich farmer. There were beautiful flowers. There were very tall trees all around. I saw a young girl about 13-14 years old. She was playing with a bow and arrows. She had several arrows. There was a target board at a distance of about 15 feet. I was just watching from a distance. Only one or two arrows would hit the target. Others all would go astray. After exhausting all the arrows, she started collecting the arrows. At this point I entered the game and also started collecting arrows. As soon as she found one arrow she would shout “noch eine”. This meant “one more”. When I found one, I also started shouting “noch eine”! meaning “another one”. Then she found one more and shouted “noch eine”! So it went on. We searched for the arrows shouting “noch eine”.  I will never forget that Saturday afternoon, shouting “noch eine”, with a German maiden, in a garden surrounded by tall trees, in Alps Mountains.


My stay in Goethe Institute, Kochel am See. was very valuable. It was not only one language that I learnt there. I learnt so many valuable virtues of friendship. I learnt many aspects of life. I understood and enjoyed “universal brotherhood”. Each person who was a stranger till then, became a close friend for a lifetime of memories. The vast dimensions of life (time) and the farthest city of Antofagasta (space) became very near and dear. I comprehended this vastness of time (life) and space. Each person has a very different personality and yet has the basic character of human beings, that is friendship. I experienced and enjoyed this beyond imagination. It is difficult to express this in words.

 Next | Part 1Part 2 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Visit to Germany – The Voyage Out (Part 2)

The Steamer Conte Grande

img099The morning of 3rd Feb. 1961, the D day was full of excitement. The whole family came to see me embarking on this journey aboard the steamer Conte Grande. It was a big steamer. All the cabins of the passengers, all the halls like dining halls, dancing hall, games hall, etc were air-conditioned. We were two passengers in my cabin. My cabin co-passenger was a young Parsee man who was going to UK for higher studies. This steamer came from Australia. A majority of the passengers were Italians. There were some Germans, a few other Europeans and a few Indians. I took a round of the steamer to get familiar with its topography.

img018The steamer was no doubt very big. It was on its first voyage from Bombay to Genoa. But, to my utter surprise I came to know that, this was THE LAST voyage of this steamer! The steamer had completed its total duty of its life span. Now it was on its last voyage proceeding towards its graveyard. During its total life time it was plying between Australia and South America! After reaching Genoa it will be scrapped!

Another shock was that the entire crew including waiters spoke Spanish and Italian languages only. They knew only a few words of English and German. All the passengers were assigned a specific chair at a dining table. We were supposed to use that place for all our meals, viz. breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.  For the first meal we were all at the table a little early. We were six on my table. We were all trying to understand the menu card. For me it was totally Greek and Latin. I called the waiter by sign language. I wanted to make him understand that I was strictly vegetarian. I, therefore very distinctly, very clearly and very slowly told him. “Me, NO FISH, NO EGGS, NO MEAT!!”  He gave me a totally blank look. His face became very miserable. But, he did not reply. So I repeated my part of the conversation. Now he replied. He said very firmly, repeating what I said, “NO FISH, NO EGGS, NO MEAT!!”  And added, “NO EAT”. This was the master stroke.

Many Indian passengers were vegetarian. We all met the purser, the officer who looked after passengers’ needs. For him this was a first time problem. But he promised to do his best. He immediately made arrangement for vegetarian food for the first day and every day. The food no doubt was not very tasty, but was palatable.

img011During the next two days I explored the steamer in greater detail. I also made a few friends. There was a German family in the next cabin. They were the Zillers. They were husband, wife and two sons 3 and 5 years old. They were originally Germans. He was a farmer. Now for last 6-7 years they had settled in Australia. He has a big farm there. He was happy and well settled. He knew both English and German languages.

The sea was very calm. Sailing through the sea was very steady. Only when you see the vastness of the sea from the deck, you realize how small the steamer is!


Aden to Cairo

There was an announcement that the next port of call was Aden. We reached there at about 11:00 a.m.  In those days Aden was a big duty-free business center. The purser informed us that there will be some arrangement for the passengers for going to the shore. We were to return within four hours. As the steamer was anchored a little away from the shore, there was a ferry service provided. Aden at that time was developing fast. Many Indian businessmen were  settling there. I knew one who was a relative of my wife’s brother. I went to his shop and asked for guidance to do some shopping. I also told him that I would borrow some money from him and pay him later in Bombay. He was very helpful. I bought two shirts and a Favre-Leuba extra thin wrist watch. I went round the market doing window shopping. Whenever one or more steamers came to Aden the prices in the market went up! In the market I met 3 co-passengers. They were looking for some vegetarian eating place. I joined them. We were missing our home food very much. A good-hearted gentleman (bhalo manas) guided us to a Jain temple where simple good veg. food was given free of cost; because that day was a Jain festival day. We blessed that stranger while consuming our lunch.

During the next few days the day temperature would go very high. We were sailing through the Red Sea. Very few people were seen on the decks. We were approaching the Suez Canal. This canal is a wonderful work of modern engineering.  The canal joins the Mediterranean Sea with the Red sea. Before the canal was built, the northernmost tip of Egypt (on the African continent) was connected with the Asian continent by land. Ships and steamers from Europe sailing to India and far-east countries had to go round the whole continent of Africa. This was a very long journey. Instead of several months and days of sailing round Cape of Good Hope, now it took some hours. But here, a strange phenomenon existed. The seas (Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea) had different sea levels. The engineers designed a canal with a system of locks.

There was an announcement. The steamer company had arranged for a land tour, by luxury a.c. bus to go to see the Pyramids and the city of Cairo. This was unbelievable, fantastic, beyond all dreams. This was a chance to see one of the wonders of the world in person. I immediately went to the office of the purser. The cost of the tour was five and a half pounds. This equaled to appx. Rs. 75 only! But to my utter disappointment they refused to accept my travelers’ cheques which were negotiable only in Germany. I almost started crying. All my dreams crumbled. Deeply disappointed I went to the lounge. I was thinking about how to solve this problem. And an angel came there! Mr. Ziller, the German farmer came there. He asked me why I was so sad. I explained to him my problem and asked if he was going for the tour. He said he was not going, but he told me that he can lend me that much money. I could return the money in Germany in his bank account when I reach Munich. What a gentleman! This way I saved an invaluable opportunity of my life.

On the morning of 11th Feb.1961 we were in the port of Suez. We were about 65 passengers going for the tour. We were waiting to disembark. There I heard my name on the announcement system. I went to the office wondering what it could be.  Well I had post (letter) from home. This doubled my excitement and happiness.  The letters during the journey were received or posted at the ports.

img033On the shore we saw a beautiful luxury bus waiting for us. On the shore it was very cold. I had put on enough warm clothes and a jerkin (jacket). Cairo is about 90 miles from Suez. It took about 2 hours traveling through the desert of Egypt. The roads were good. At that time Col. Nasser was ruling Egypt. Cairo city was very beautiful and modern; far better than our Mumbai. First we were taken to a seven star hotel, Continental Savoy. This was a very beautiful hotel; much better than any of the Mumbai hotels. Better than the best of them. We had a very sumptuous breakfast. Many vegetarian food items were there.

img053Then we went to see the Pyramids, one of the Wonders of the World. These are the most ancient, technically very superior structures. Our bus was parked a little way from the huge structures. We took a camel ride to reach the Pyramids.

img051We had to climb up several steps on the slope. Then we reached a door. There we had to bend down to enter the door. After some distance through a narrow tunnel we climbed down into a big hall. There we saw a mummy. It was a king’s mummy. The whole atmosphere was very mysterious and eerie! There were some more structures in the surrounding area. Some were converted into small museums.

img049From there we went to see the most famous great museum of Cairo. It was full of wonderful things of the past. 5000 years of Egypt’s history was displayed there in many ways in the form of various objects. Many mummies of royal family members, kings, queens, princes, princesses, their dresses, and ornaments together with their servants were dug out from the pyramids. They were all displayed here. It would take more than a week to see everything in detail. The whole scenario is just fantastic.

Now we were tired and hungry. We again went to the same hotel, Hotel Savoy. For lunch, I had vegetable cutlets, rice and curd. The curd was very tasty. And then fruit jelly as dessert. After a very satisfying lunch we were ready for more fun and adventure. We saw several palaces, famous mosques, and such historical places. After seeing some mosques the guide on the bus announced that we were to visit one more famous mosque. But by now we were not in a mood to visit any more mosques and tombs. I shouted loudly that you take us to some lively place. All the passengers agreed with my suggestion. So the bus was taken to the center of Cairo city. We wanted to see the modern Egypt and their markets. There were many malls. In those days they were known as department stores. The prices were very high. There were 2-3 other steamers also in the ports. So the shop-keepers had increased the prices. I did window shopping.

By now it was evening 6.30.p.m. and it soon became dark. We again went to Hotel Savoy for tea and snacks. Then we were on the return journey. The bus was running at full speed of 70 mph. All were in a good mood. Every one was enjoying. People started singing and telling jokes. The tour guide on the bus was very cooperative throughout. He always gave much details of everything. It was a cold pleasant day.  At about 9 p.m. we reached Ismalia city. Here we had a good dinner at a very posh hotel. The dining hall was very big. It was a very well decorated and very well-lighted dine and dance hall. Then by 11.p.m. we reached our steamer “Conte Grande” in Port Said. This was a once in a lifetime experience. I felt so much grateful to Mr. Ziller. Without his help I would have missed a wonderful opportunity in my life.


After more than 24 hours in the land of the Pharaohs (Egypt), and making a journey through centuries of different empires, the next morning we left the continent of Africa for Europe. From Asia to Africa to Europe. Now we had entered the Mediterranean Sea. It was getting cooler every day. The next port of call was Messina. This is a port town on the island of Sicily. The famous island of Malta is very near by. This is the southernmost part of Italy. There was an announcement by the purser. We were given 3 hours shore leave. We were informed that a festival was being celebrated in the town. We were all invited to take part and participate in their enjoyment.


On the shore there was an atmosphere of festival. It was a glamorous spectacle. A big procession in colorful dresses was moving along the main street of the town. People were dressed in fancy dresses with fancy head-gears. There were gold and silver colored ribbons and multicolored balloons flying. There were several groups of musicians playing all kinds of instruments. People were dancing and singing to the tune of this music. We also joined these people. They were distributing chocolates, pastries and other sweets. We were honored as guests and given a basketful of these sweets. Soon I became very popular, as I was dancing freely with them. A group of girls surrounded me. They fully covered me with the ribbons. It was like visiting heaven where beautiful fairies were at your service! We enjoyed one more unique experience. We never wanted to go back to the ship!! I said, “ What a dream!”.

Now we were sailing along the west coast of Italy. It was getting cooler and cooler. It was the European winter. Our next port of call was Napoli (Naples). Many Italian passengers disembarked here.  A lot of cargo was also unloaded. Here again passengers were informed by the purser that a bus trip was organized to visit and see the famous ruins of Pompeii.  This is a historical place. The site is that of the ruins and remains of a historical civilization. The volcano Vesuvius had erupted in the year 1554. The burst of volcano vomited tons of lava. The temperature of the semi-liquid earth coughed out of the volcano was more than 1000 degrees Centigrade (Celsius). The lava spread around the mountain very fast. It destroyed the civilization in the surrounding area totally.

The lava got solidified while it was proceeding through the city of Pompeii. Half of the city got burnt and was buried under lava. It was a very peculiar scenario. On one side you could see ruins of the old civilization. On the other side you could see buried and burnt civilization. Italy has preserved very well all the remains and ruins in the whole city! We could see half burnt buildings, roads, market places, palaces, gardens. We could see the horrible power of destruction of Mother Nature. Mother Nature has time and again shown her displeasure and punished human beings through many natural calamities such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tornadoes, etc. But the humans are incorrigible. They forget all the lessons and behave like devils.

Now we were only one day away from our destination. In the earlier days till we came into the Mediterranean Sea, it was warm during the daytime. So I was wearing shirt and cotton pants. But then the evenings were getting cooler. So I was wearing a suit for dinner. The first time I went in a suit for dinner and the common rooms, my Indian friends greeted me warmly: saying “Wah , wah! You look smart.” Somebody said, “You look charming.” Dr. Rele said, “lai chhaan diste”.

After Naples, the next and the last port of call was Genoa. This is a very busy port. It is well-developed for the import-export trade of Italy and also for passengers like tourists, businessmen, professionals, etc. It is very well connected by railway with the hinterland. We had our last lunch on the steamer. We disembarked and passed through the immigration procedure and customs. I had train tickets from Genoa to Munich (Germany), via Milan. On the steamer we had heard rumors that there will be a railway strike on 16th Feb. But luckily the strike was called off.

The train station was not far. I walked down to the station. The train for Milan was at 11.45. The journey to Milan was about a few hours. We reached Milan in the afternoon by 3.00 p.m. Milan is one of the very big cities of Italy. The railway station is very big. It is bigger than our VT (CST) station. The whole station is at an elevated level and not at the street level. For entering and exiting from and to the street, all passengers have to use escalators. All facilities for passengers like waiting rooms, left luggage room, restaurants, information desks, post office, rest rooms, etc. are well equipped and well furnished.

I put my baggage in the left luggage room. I wanted to go out of the station to do some window shopping. I made enquiries about my train and got my reservation checked. I also sent a telegram informing my train arrival time to Arun, my younger brother, who was studying engineering in a Munich technical college. I was feeling very lonely and nervous. I was looking for some Indian face. I saw a Punjabi gentleman. He also saw me and came to meet me. We exchanged greetings and asked each other our plans for further traveling. He was expecting his wife who was also in Conte Grande, to come to Milan by train. But because of railway strike rumors she changed her plans and disembarked at Naples. From there, she went to London by plane. This poor husband did not know where to go! Now he was planning to go to London by plane. Milan has a very big modern international airport also.

Coming out from the station I saw two very big buildings. One was 40 and another was 60 stories high. This was the first time in my life I saw “sky-scrapers”. It was very cold on the street. But the atmosphere was still festive. Children were seen in fancy dresses. I was observing people and they were observing me! It was very funny!

My train was an international overnight train leaving at 8 p.m.  It passed through Switzerland in the Alps. During the night passport and other papers were checked twice. First when we entered Switzerland, and then again when the train entered Germany. The night was very cold. There was a heater in the compartment. I was in second class. The seat was much better than our first class. One extra-wise passenger instead of putting the heater on maximum heating turned the switch the other way around. So we suffered for about 3 hours. Then some wise passenger adjusted the heater properly and we became comfortable.  That time Euro train did not exist. Now Euro train is a boon for traveling all over Europe.

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Visit to Germany – Prologue (Part 1)

I ventured for my first voyage in the year of 1961.

After passing my Inter science in 1951 from Ruia college, I joined Govt. Law College at Churchgate. They had morning classes and lectures. After college, I was attending Bharat Bijlee Ltd. (BBL) for practical training on the shop floor. But I was not an employee. I passed my LLB (Bachelor of Laws) in 1954 (at the age of 21).  Within 3 months thereafter I passed my Bar-at Law examination to become eligible for practicing. But, I never wanted to practice the legal profession. Instead I was put as an employee in M/s Hindustan Equipment Suppliers Ltd. (then sales agents of BBL), as a trainee in marketing.

BharatBijlee_logoAfter about 15 months, I joined BBL in the month of Dec. 1955 as a regular employee with a salary of Rs. 150/- per month.  I got married in the month of May 1956 (age 23 years). In 1958, I joined post-graduate evening course of Bombay University in the school of Economics. This was a 3 year course in business management.  Here I met many young industrialists and professional senior managers and worked with them on several projects as part of the curriculum.

BBL was a closely held public limited company in the private sector. The total financial and management control was with three managing directors: Mr. P. C. Mehta (Chairman), Mr. J. R. Danani and Mr. Jethalal S. Zaveri. The first two were financiers and Mr. Zaveri was a technologist. All three wanted to keep a total independent identity for BBL.

In the year of 1959, a miracle happened. It was more of a feat of intellect, self-confidence & sheer perseverance. Managing Directors of Bharat Bijlee Ltd. (BBL) went to Germany to negotiate and finalize a technical collaboration with the international giant of electrical engineering companies – SIEMENS!

Till then Siemens did not have a presence in India. For them, India was a poor country, backward in technology and bereft of resources. They were represented in India through M/s Protos Engineering Co. Mr. J. S. Zaveri  (my father) started the collaboration dialogues through M/s Protos. After a lot of correspondence, Mr. J. S. Zaveri was asked to visit the SIEMENS office in Erlangen W. Germany. Siemens have several big and small factories all over Germany. Their headquarters are in Erlangen, near Nurenberg in Bavaria. Siemens directors, their top executives and their experts on international business have their offices in Erlangen. There, the decision was taken that Siemens will collaborate with BBL for manufacturing electric motors and power transformers in India.

Normally when Siemens enter into a collaboration, they like to have a lot of control over the local company. They would put such terms and conditions to take over control, over all technical and certain financial matters and affairs of the local company. But BBL did not agree to that. BBL wanted to remain a fully independent company, financially and in administration. There were two agreements made between the two companies:

1. An agreement to impart technical assistance to BBL, for which BBL would pay certain sums of money. This included the latest design drawings, latest manufacturing techniques and training of selected personnel in Siemens factories in Germany for manufacturing electric motors and power transformers in India.

2. An agreement to market and sell electric motors and transformers manufactured by BBL, under license from SIEMENS Germany, all over India through Siemens offices and their dealers.

AND this collaboration lasted for 20 years – 1959 to 1979 till Mr. Zaveri retired!!

Within six months of signing the agreement, BBL started to send engineers to Siemens Germany for training. My training was scheduled during the year 1961.

Once the program was finalized, activities and procedures for obtaining passport, visa, foreign exchange permission, medical check up, smallpox vaccination and yellow fever certificate, etc, were put into top gear. This was the period when air traveling was considered expensive. People traveled to Europe by steamers (steamships). I also preferred to travel by steamer. This would give me a good vacation. BBL office booked my passage through Tradewings. Tradewings recommended that I should travel by M.V. Asia (air-conditioned steamer) of Italian Steamship Company Lloyd Triestino up to Genoa and from Genoa to Munich by overnight train. So the passage was booked accordingly. But, just after one week there was an advertisement by Lloyd Triestino in the newspapers that a fully air-conditioned, very big steamer named Conte Grande (almost double the size of M.V. Asia) will sail from Bombay to Genoa for the first time. This steamer was coming from Australia. They had praised the steamer in the advertisement so much that I was tempted to change my booking from M.V. Asia to Conte Grande. Tradewings very gladly did that for me for no extra charge! The steamer was planned to leave the port of Bombay on 3 Feb.1961.  (Can we say D day?)

Next | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6