This was the first trip in Europe which Namrata and I had carefully planned over our Christmas break. We decided to meet in Hamburg and after spending a day there, we went to Berlin. We had chosen to be in Berlin for new year because we thought that it would be a crazy place to be at for new years and we were right.
Every year, on the new year’s eve, an open party featuring sing and dance performances, food and drink stalls is organised at Brandenberger Tor. At 8:00 p.m. we decided to leave for the venue because we wanted to beat the crowd. Even as we walked early towards it, we saw hordes of other people who had apparently decided to do the same. In our journey to the Tor, we crossed two checkpoints of security checking and arrived at the ferris wheel in front of the Tor. There were stalls selling noodles, crepes, sausages and whatnot. Gluhwein and cocktails were flowing. Radio jockeys were hollering at you for attention from their high mounted stages. There was a light drizzle which was slightly uncomfortable but covered in our newly purchased jackets and caps, we felt alright.
As we were crossing the third check point, the security guard told me that rucksacks was forbidden from the venue. We tried arguing, pleading, sneaking but nothing worked. Another frustrated girl complained that this information was not given to us at the previous gates. Finally, we were forced to walk back to the central railway station where we thought we could rent a locker for the rucksack. It was a long painful walk, but even more painful was the walk back to the Tor. By the time we got back, most gates were closed, for overcrowding. However, about two hours later we had managed to cross the checkpoint where we were stopped earlier. We could not get ahead, since the area in front was already full, as we were told by the message flashing on the screen in front of us. The spot we found ourselves in was still nice since we could hear the music and see what was going on at the stage. It was around 10:30 p.m. by now accounting for the walk to the central station and back. We were both a little unhappy because of the fiasco but realised that there we still had enough time. As the evening progressed, we began to enjoy the atmosphere, despite the rain and alien music. Finally, the clock struck twelve giving way to the fireworks. We wished each other slightly soaked but happy nonetheless for having resuscitated the evening.
A little while later amidst the growing chaos, I noticed a man howering about us as I clicked a picture of namrata on her iphone. That man had taken the liberty of touching the screen as i was trying to adjust the focus. I didnt attribute much to it then, but Namrata told me later he had been by her side throughout, creepily hanging close for comfort. Not much later, a man approached us and began talking to me. After I returned his hello with a smile, he continued talking and poking me with his elbow and wouldn’t shut up despite being ignored. We decided to move from our spot which we had dearly held for most of the evening. By this time the crowd had thinned out and the area beyond the third checkpoint was accessible. We jumped barriers and ropes and arrived several yards from where we originally were. Seconds later, however we noticed that the man had followed us. A couple more attempts to run away were unsuccessful as this man would always manage to find us. Finally we lost our head caps figuring that it was easy to spot a white and a blue cap in the crowd, we found a spot where we could stand. As I constantly looked over my shoulder to check if we were followed, I was reminded of the feeling of vulnerability which had managed to find thousands of miles away in another continent.
We asked a man perched atop a railing to take our photo. As he clicked our photo we felt a presence close behind us. As we turned back we saw the same man who had been following us, was standing triumphantly posing with a victory sign. The man taking our photo told him politely in arabic that we wanted a photo without him. He however egged him to click it with him still in the frame. We firmly refused him and this time, instead of leaving, we stood resolute until he left.
Still later, as the party was in full swing, when we went ahead to see what was going on. Everyone was dancing, and things looked joyous. As we walked through the crowd, several people would go “happy new year” seemingly inviting a hug. Namrata and I merely smiled and refused the invitations with horizontal nods and walked ahead. Interspersed in the dancing crowds we saw a woman having been encircled by a few men, with all their gazes fixed on her. As she continued to dance the men encircling her waited for her to stagger close to one of them. As it happened, one of them attempted to kiss her. Visible annoyed and disgusted, she pushed him away and continued to dance. The man merely laughed, and continued to stand there.
A few minutes later, as we walked back to the train which was to take us back to Babelsberg, we were disillusioned and slightly relived that the evening had concluded.