I like festivals. Not just because they give a respite from the daily drudgeries of life, but also because I get to use the word ‘gaiety’. It’s one of the few English words which is highly contextual and hence hasn’t lost its charm. And as a 3-litre-beer-down me reflected on yesterday’s mood, all I had felt was gaiety.
Oktoberfest is a 16-day long fair, ironically, with just a few days in October. The entire arena is a congregation of huge tents, small shops and mind-numbing rides. The first time I saw the giant flywheel, I was reminded of my childhood, when acting like a kid didn’t require alcohol. What didn’t remind me of India were the shops though, as they housed toys, shirts, pants and gowns but no bangles and bindis. The tents are the heart of the fest, each tent with classic German wooden architecture, able to accommodate at least 500 people. And just as the single men are vying for their chance with single girls inside, the tents are fighting for the unassuming customer outside. As you enter a tent, you are invited by a beautiful damsel, the artery of this heart, eagerly waiting to send your money down the vein. At the centre of the tent is a stage, where a band performs German songs — with bugles, horns and trumpets. You don’t really know what you are dancing and cheering to, but then, the term boundary has neither been associated with music nor with alcohol.
There are young men dressed in traditional Bavarian lederhosen (chequed shirts and brown capris) and women in beautiful, necklined dirndls. The funky look of the dresses also reinforces the common theme — gaiety. As I saw couples enjoying merrily in the fest, I would imagine this would be the German equivalent of prom, where the guy would ask the girl out — “Oye, aati kya Oktoberfest?” My Gujarati brethren are gearing up to do the same in Navratri.
This one was special for reasons more than one. It was the first festival I have attended in Europe. I have been in Europe three times but never had a chance to attend a festival (including one instance when I marginally missed attending San Fermin). More importantly, all my festival celebrations have been with my family. This one was the first with friends, that too a rather random group that had converged to make the experience unforgettable.
For me, the first sensation of awe came when the waitress held 9 jugs of beer simultaneously and thumped them on our table. Since then and later into the day, the word capacity had no meaning any longer. As we hopped on from one tent to another, devouring on fries, wedges, beer and washrooms (:P), the mood became livelier. The girls, prettier. The smiles, broader and the laughs, louder. The clinks of beer jugs became more frequent and even before we could see the Western classical music turn into an electric and jazz rock show, we were thrown out of the tent for not being able to digest the beer properly.
And as I travelled from Munich to Cologne in that inebriated state, I kept cursing myself and promising not to do that again. Promising not to create such awesome memories, have great conversations and be unconstrained? Promising not to liven up to the environment? Aah no! this one is definitely meant to be broken.
P.S. I have started writing regularly on Medium and would soon shift to that. Interested people can follow me there. https://firstname.lastname@example.org