Blogging from Germany: Palace of Tears

Not much to say. Just that the phrase Tränenpalast is achingly beautiful. Palace of Tears. A nondescript little station it was. The station at Friedrichstraße. The point at which families and friends and lovers said goodbye. The one headed West and the other to remain East. Feels like West should be in capitals while east should remain all lower case.

Much as the seperations of families and friends during the partition of British India in 1947. Much as all separations.

My paternal grandfather, Bhagat Ram Kumar, came from Quetta, Baluchistan. His mother's name was Maya and he told me that she was buried in the Quetta eathquake of  1935. But tough old bird that she was, she was taken out of the rubble alive, and lived till the age of 104. Pre-partition, he taught at the university at Karachi and after Partition, the details are unclear for some reason, but Bhagat Ram's family ended up in  business in Chandigarh and Ludhiana. He, on the other hand, ended up in Benares Hindu University where he got swept into Theosophy by Annie Beasant, met my father's maternal grandfather Sri Ranganatha Mudaliar (who was a widower raising his only daughter, Jaya) and the rest is family history.

Bhagat Ram and Jaya were married by Annie Beasant in a secular ceremony beneath the great Banyan Tree in the Theosophical Society in Madras and went on to live in their grand old house, Nanda Kuti, on No: 20 Beasant Avenue. This house, with its yellow walls and bougainvillea covered verandahs still plays a large part in my dreams. 

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the year that I went to America. Exactly 10 years before, Pink Floyd would record their anthemic album, Another Brick in the Wall, that made us feel, no, we refuse to be cogs in some giant, invisible machinery. When I finally returned home, thirsty, and feeling like I had never been away, India was liberalized, unrecognizable. The machinery had changed form.

Talking about the East, last night. That people weren't allowed the idea of luxury. If they had a car, they must share it and it was impossible to have more than one home. To rent a home out, unthinkable. The good heritage of socialism.

Soon it will be the end of another era, as Zui writes. Enjoy every leak and every cobweb. Tränenpalast.

Soon she sets off on her own journey West.


  1. As an expatriate German, I really enjoy your impressions!

  2. Kirtana, thanks now I know what blogs are for - stringing together pearls of observation. Foolish me continues to think and feel that we can live here without crashing in on each other's lives and building Tränenpalasten...unless of course they could be temples for tears of joy for the wonders we encounter.