Roland Dürre
Thursday October 31st, 2013

Impressions of Bombay and India

Opposite extremes!

Here is the first really extended report on my last three days in India.

Due to the concept of “National Identity”, Bombay is no longer called Bombay. Instead, it was re-named Mumbai some time ago. Other famous places or institutions in Mumbai, too, such as Victoria Station or the Fruit Market, now have Indian names. Except that even the young Indian persons mostly do not take this too seriously, still calling the nice railway station built in the times of Queen Victoria: Victoria Station.

To some extent, I can understand the sentiment of re-nationalization in India. After all, the huge and certainly today also quite powerful India gained its independence as late as 1947. And it constituted itself as an independent nation rather late. Also, India already suffered its first secession (Bangla Dash), which, in a certain sense, means a rather complex history. On the whole, the nation is far from comfortable. Regardless, I think these newly established names are a little silly. After all, the official language is English and the Indian people are actually quite proud of the fact that the majority of persons speak English rather well.

Additionally, my Indian friends will never accept any criticism of their beer, wine and whisky. In Mumbai, as probably in most Indian districts, something like alcohol can only be bought in special liquor selling shops. Only a small number of restaurants actually have spirits on their drinks menu.

I also notice that alcohol is treated differently in India when I visit the swimming pool at the western housing complex where my son lives with his wife. After my first long day (Monday), when – due to the travels – my night was rather short, I go to the swimming pool in the afternoon in said housing complex. Shopping was rather strenuous – consequently, I would like to make good use of the last rays of the sun in the late afternoon. Because in Mumbai, too, darkness comes early.

Consequently, what I do is swim a few rounds in the tepid water, lie down on my recliner, enjoy the remaining sun shortly before it disappears and do a little reading. To accompany it, I take a small bottle of beer – which I had helped myself to from the my son’s refrigerator – out of my bag in order to enjoy my reading so much more through indulging in its content. Well, it turns out this was a cultural misunderstanding. Because in no time, a uniformed person comes my way and informs me in excellent English that no alcohol may be consumed near the pool, which, of course, also goes for beer.

Mind you, it said nothing about this on the public list of prohibitions (no using the swimming pool without a bathing cap, no jumping, no entry without prior showering and the usual). Of course, I accept this ban and subsequently only empty the bottle rather discretely by wrapping it into my t-shirt and bringing it to my mouth.

As everywhere in India where service is offered, you will see more people neatly dressed and working, cleaning, brushing and sweeping in the “B-Club” of the housing complex than others. Some of them also have to keep a watchful eye on the guests in order to prevent their misbehaving. Later, we went to a real Indian restaurant for dinner. It was a truly nice evening.

On the second day (Tuesday), “Reality Tours” takes us to the best-known slums of Mumbai: Dharavi. Naturally, the slum is sandwiched between railroads and motorways.

We are a very small group of four. Besides us, Françoise is part of the group. Françoise is an 81-year-old French lady from Paris. She travelled the whole world already and is still active in an NGO. Our small group is in the hands of a competent tour guide. Françoise, too, knows a lot and asks many good questions. For us, it is also quite exciting.

In the slum, people work hard. Here, self-organisation and “building society” are the strengths of the people. They are proud of their combined turnover. The slum is a city within the city. It has a million inhabitants and is totally different from what I had expected. Sanitation is problematic, the supply of water and electricity are only functional in parts.

Regardless, the slum looks clean and seems orderly. I can imagine that there is enormous social pressure on the individual person. You will never accumulate riches here, but you can actually live. Provided you like living together on a small area and “community”. And they say living in the slum is a lot better than living on the street – which is what many people do.
Inside the “Slum City”, there is again a city within the city. It is significantly darker, probably also poorer, seeming a lot less well-tended. There is even less space than in the other slum area. And, allegedly, there is only one communal toilet building for the entire population – which means endless waiting times. This is the Islamic part of the slum. Our guide describes the difference with the explanation that the important commodity “education” is not something the population finds desirable.
While I am in the slum, I think of home. Just imagine 3.5 million (or perhaps more) unemployed persons in Germany starting to organize themselves. … If they and their families alone were to vote and agree on one party … before this background, the debate about minimum wages in Germany looks a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? To be sure, we all want fairness, also when it comes to wages. Except that, to me, it seems that the problems in Germany lie totally elsewhere. You might call it “pompousness” or stupidity, because we do not want to (or cannot) understand what happens in the world. But the world has become global – and will consequently catch up with us, too. It is really about time we understood that and we should also be prepared to give up some of our prosperity in favour of behaving ethically.

Touring the slum was quite strenuous. Consequently, we take some leisure time in the afternoon before visiting the race course in the evening with daughter and daughter-in-law. This is where you meet the rich and beautiful. Things are like this: the poor work in the slums and the rich enjoy themselves at the races.

Also, the rich leave Bombay over the weekend. For instance, they take a short recreational trip to Goa (600 kilometres away, which is about as far as Berlin is from Munich). Since everybody tells us what a beautiful place Goa is, we, too, will do this. However, before we leave, there is another day in Bombay for us. We plan to take part in a guided bike tour very early and then drive to Elephant Island from the “Gate” on board a ship.

The bike tour through Bombay on Wednesday was absolutely great. I can only recommend it. Because of the traffic and the heat, you meet at 6.15 a.m. and it is over by 10 o’clock. We are only three, because, apparently, two more guests cancelled due to the early starting time.

Riding a bike through Bombay gives you a truly intense experience of the city. We see a mosque and a temple – and numerous markets. On the fruit market, the many exotic fruit types are impressive, the flower market is just a beauty. When we arrive at the meat market, I start feeling strange and the fish market too, is only just tolerable. I start understanding why they recommend that you should eat vegetarian in India if you want to avoid getting sick.

All markets are diverse and colourful. But the fish market in particular is extremely noisy and smelly. You really must have seen it, but perhaps this is also one of the experiences that make you look upon the world a little differently afterwards.
The bike tour is organized by the same Reality-Tours as the slum tour. It is one of many NGO-s working here. The profit is used to finance all kinds of projects.

As a finishing touch to the bike tour, there is a vegetarian Indian breakfast. It tastes truly delicious. Incidentally, I rode on one of those typical Indian bikes – and I have to say that, regardless of some limitations, it was not a bad experience. However, the total length of the way was only about 10 kilometres. The rest was pure “sight-seeing”.

After the tour, our driver picks us up and takes us to the next destiny of our travels. Starting from the “Gate”, we want to cruise the ocean and visit Elephant Island. On the way, we can again see those packed trains with persons suspended from the doors on the outside. Every day, about 10 persons die in this way in Mumbai, because, naturally, you sometimes fall down. But this is something that is ignored in this country.

Incidentally, the railways I see in this country use the same broad track width as you will find in Russia and China. This means that the individual compartments, too, are a lot wider than in Germany. Regardless, the space in the trains is not enough.
There is not much to say about Elephant Island. The cruise on the ship out and back in (almost 90 minutes each) basically makes it worth to do the trip. For the traveller coming from Bombay, the island itself is an oasis of peacefulness – although totally touristy. Its caves are a World Cultural Heritage and nice to look at. Since, however, they were apparently destroyed by an army in the Middle Ages, they have now been encased with concrete – which is something I personally did not find all that fascinating.

So what else is there to tell? At this time of year, it is nice and warm in Bombay / Mumbai. The air conditioning in the not at all insulated buildings, however, is always on maximum. Suffering from the cold in restaurants every day is only one of the prices you pay for this habit.

On the third day of our journey, we go to Goa, which is probably the dream come true for all Hippies. The trip there is exciting. We were a little late, setting our alarm clocks to 4 a.m. in order to depart at 4.15 hours. Then we find out that, as an exception to the rule, today the flight is not at 5.50 a.m., but as early as 5.25 a.m. And the lift in the huge apartment building (the brand is Mitsubishi, but I do not think this is the reason) are out of order. This seems rather unusual, considering that the building has 48 floors. Also, it is quite remarkable how much time you need in order to walk down  30 (high) flights of stairs with little luggage only…

Eventually, however, we manage to be just fine. After intense discussions at the check-in to Goa, we actually catch the plane we had already given up on …

From whence I will write later. Pictures so follow.

(Translated by Evelyn)

”Does this ’Northern Light’ actually exist, or is it something you only know about after drinking yourself comatose?” – Maria put this deliberately stupid question before the gossipy assembly at the ’Artemis Palace’ in Gelnhäuser Straße, where the perspiring regulars had already been waiting for their Gyros for what felt like a hundred years… …

Quarkteilchen_if_blog”How come you can start talking about this – when we are all sitting here suffering from the far too high temperatures?” Gerald moaned next to her while his dripping wet upper lip gave a scarcely noticeable tic.

”Well, I thought I had heard someone at this table talking about the Northern Lights just now”, Maria was surprised. Irritated, she moved her black abundance of hair into the thunderous babble of voices.

”Nay“, Gerald bloated while tiredly drying his forehead and drowning his second glass of beer, “I heard nothing remotely like Northern Lights?“

”Hey – listen: who of you intoned ’Northern Light’ just now?”, Maria shrilly trumpeted into the wafting round.

”I did”, Kurt called from the rear end near the edge of the table, “I told Martha – quasi to cool down a little – about our last cruise to the North Cape and about those unbelievable Northern Lights we had there to look at every evening  – they are truly spectacular!“

”There you go – I heard Northern Lights, didn’t I? I am not deaf, am I? But you, Gerald, maybe you should move from getting drunk on beer to having your listening devices checked, what do you think?“

”Haha – how funny”, Gerald mumbled. He carefully dried his perspiring face using two paper towels and immediately proceeded to order his third beer, since he was already talking…

”So Kurt … do you now know how one of these ’Northern Lights’ are created?” Maria was in an aggressive mood.

”Yes … or rather, no!“, the dark-tanned,  tall Kurt said with a regretful frown on a face sparkling with wetness.

”To be sure, our guide explained it three times a day, but I forgot – and besides, to be perfectly honest, I never really understood it, anyway. All I know is that it has something to do with the magnetic field of the earth.“

”And? Is that all?”, Maria brashly dug deeper.

”Yes – that is all I remember, Madam Schoolmistress.…“

”Well, this is less than nothing, Mister Kurt … What was you name again?“

”Canpourer “!

”Sit down – your grade is F, Mister Canpourer!“

”Well, I am sitting already, am I not?”, Kurt laughed and returned to his illustriously painted Northern-Cape- Martha.

”And – you, Johannes, maybe you know how this ominous ’Northern Light’ is created?”, Maria suddenly asked the man sitting opposite, since she could not help being her usual deep-digging self, after shortly having mustered Johannes.

Simultaneously, she provocatively pushed one of her black strands of hair behind her protruding ears and enjoyed the bashfulness she caused in the ’silent potter’, as she derisively called the industrial ceramics worker, with her surprise question.

Actually, Johannes was truly a very quiet person! And extremely inconspicuous!!

His sparse, dirty blond hair – cut short, too – added to the entire impression, although the wide-spaced face improved significantly whenever he showed that impish grin.

He was thirty, a bachelor and, regardless of his shy nature managed to sit opposite Maria during every single meeting of the regulars held every third Friday; in fact, it seemed like he wanted to make absolutely sure that all her evil arrows of venom landed exclusively in his body, just like with Saint Sebastian, and could not harm anybody else.

Perhaps that was also the decisive reason why he was still – eight months after Kurt had first brought him along – sitting in this circle; because he had been hired by the company Heraeus of Hanau for a two-year research program in the field of industrial ceramics and was a total stranger in Rodenbach.

And it seemed like the glowing heat of this summer was exactly what he liked best: how else could you explain that he – who was always so reticent – was always in a good mood and even paid for all the drinks for everyone; even for the ’venomous Maria’, as he provocatively called her. This, however, was answered by her with no more than a forgiving smile that barely involved a downward movement of the left side of her mouth.

Also, Maria had no problem with the brutal heat at the ’Artemis Palace’: as soon as she had worked her way through her Gyros without any large-scale heat attack, she immediately commenced by asking the ’Northern Light’ question in the direction of Johannes and the totally faded, atrocious Acropolis picture hanging on the wall behind him in her loudest voice!

Since, however, Johannes was still busy chewing a huge lump of calamari, he only replied “is that so” after Maria had tauntingly commented to him that, after all, he was the one who habitually behaved like your know-it-all.

”Yes, that is so”, Maria cuttingly remarked; for a moment, she had the attention of the entire group.

”Is that really what I am doing?“

”Well, you know, sometimes that is what you are doing… “ came the reply from everywhere.

”Aw – I am truly sorry”, Johannes said with a faded red colour in his face “basically, if I remember correctly, I never wanted to get the reputation of being a know-it-all – but still: here’s to you all!”. He took his glass and raised a toast for all of them before swallowing the remaining Amthystos – some sort of Greek ’Grüner Veltliner’ – in a single go.

”It is truly great that we now clarified this issue – but now let us return to the ’Northern Light”, my dear Johannes. Because you can rest assured that you are not going to sneak out of this one!”, Marias words after a short interval were friendly but still put before him in such a way that Johannes knew what was up.

Because, even though having to look at the orange-coloured sparkling long-drink Maria had been nipping at all the time like an Indian Trunk made him sick deep into his bones, he courageously said: “Ok, I will try!. But first we have to clarify a few basics, otherwise there is no chance! Are you fine with that?“

”If it is absolutely necessary?“ Maria grunted.

”So, Maria, do you know what an ’ionised particle’ is?“

”I am assuming that with ’particles’ you do not mean the extremely delicious cheddar cheese particles you can get at the Briegel bakery, or the even more attractive ones with butter streusels I so very much like stuffing my mouth with? Because, my dear Johannes, those are all but ’ionized ’… “

”Johannes – you pig! Is ’ionising’ something you would not wish to talk in the company of ladies?”, Kurt interrupted from his corner of the table.

”Or maybe some precious antiquity?”, his colourful Northern Cape Martha sniggered.

”Or do you mean one of those boring ’atoms’ every German who thinks in terms of sustainability has to avoid these days when you say particles?”, Maria suddenly asked surprisingly seriously. She emphasized her spontaneous attack of seriousness by a cunningly lady-like sip from her ’orange-coloured manure extract’.

”What do I see”, Hermine, sitting next to her friend Maria, taunted, “our pain in the neck is now suddenly leaning towards natural sciences. If that is not something totally new!“

”Now, if I am correct, Johannes, then what you mean when you say ’ionizing ’ is that an atom is separated from an electron and the remaining atom is horny enough to change into a ’positive ion’, or what?”, Maria asked into the silence while now provocatively putting both her elbows onto the table.

Johannes, a little confused about Maria seeming to have sudden strokes of genius when it comes to physics, closed his open mouth and clucked in Maria’s direction: “yes – that – is what I mean, Maria! In fact – that is exactly what I mean…!“

”And do you also mean that, during this ’ionizing process’ the other electrons of the thus divided atom are pushed to higher energy levels, producing a truly illustrious spectacle of light whenever falling back down onto lower levels?“

Johannes only nodded mutely, since his mouth, faced with such an amount of physical knowledge, had fallen open again by itself.…

”What? And this is supposed to be all there is to the ’other-worldly Northern Light’? Johannes, you cannot be serious about this, can you? Or were you just choking because you can no longer manage to close your throat?”, Maria, visibly content with the reaction her stale physics paper caused, giggled. After all, it had only been a few weeks earlier that she had graduated from high school with extremely satisfying results. …

”No, Maria, that alone is, naturally, not yet the ’Northern Light’, Johannes replied slightly acerbically, even though he was impressed. His eyes never left Maria and at long last, some perspiration was building on his forehead, “incidentally, it also depends on circumstances where and how this ’ionization process of atoms’ happens!“

”So what circumstances are we talking here, why don’t you continue, you wisecrack?”, Maria urged him on.

”Well, for instance the geo-magnetism on the North Pole …“

”And why is that?“

”Because on the North Pole, the geo-magnetic lines are directed into the ocean at right angles …“

”Or into the ice”, Maria interrupted him, “which makes it twice as fascinating, doesn’t it?“

”Yes – you could put it like that. That is why, for example here, over the Kinzig, you will never see any Northern Light – because the geo-magnetic lines are never directed into the Kinzig at right angles. Instead, they lie over it in flat lines, if you know what I mean…“

”Do you mean lying in flat lines … or laying flat, Johannes? Incidentally, there is a slight difference, as you might actually know…“

”Didn’t I tell you all that this ’ionization process’ must be something you would not wish to talk about in the presence of ladies!”, Kurt yelled over the general bawling.
”But now, other than those geo-magnetic lines allegedly lying flat over the Kinzig…”, Maria kept at it, “what other ’fascinating circumstances’ are we talking here when it comes to the Northern Lights? Can’t you stop building up all this unnecessary tension, Johannes?”

”The cycle of the sun… my dear Maria – and this strange eleven-year-period“!

”Are you telling me that this hellish sun, which makes us all perspire so profusely, also has a period? Now that would be really freaky, wouldn’t it?”, Maria screeched. At long last, she took at least one of her elbows off the table and pulled another wet strand of hair back in such a way that Johannes saw her sweaty, shaved armpits for a moment …

”Now, Maria, you do not want to become unappetizing, do you?”, Hermine interrupted her while all the others were so totally exhausted that all they could do was give Maria a silent toast.…
Johannes, too, no longer smiled. His enthusiasm to give a ’scientific explanation’ about ’how the Northern Light is created’ had totally disappeared.

And since all the others were also fed up both with ’Greak Cuisine’ and ’Greek Heat’ and Maria’s nagging Northern Light interrogation, Kurt spontaneously declared it was time to go, with which he put a rather unexpected stop to the Northern Light spook in an uncool way.

Even Maria remained silent while embracing everybody around and exchanging body fluids …

But when, endless weeks later, on a Tuesday in November, which, incidentally, happened to be her twenty-first birthday, at 6 p.m. the iPhone started ringing in her flat-sharing community in the Old Village where she had been living ever since she started studying in Frankfurt and it was Johannes at the other end, she was more than a little surprised.

And she was even more astounded when Johannes said he wanted to apologize, because of the time in August when the sub-tropical circumstances had prevented him from continuing with his Northern Light explanation and because he had never shown up again afterwards.

“Consequently” – he said – after having taken several deep breaths, today, on her birthday, of course purely coincidentally, provided she had nothing better to do, there might be an opportunity to, well, not precisely explain the Northern Light to her, but at least give her a chance to look at it in a really cool manner … if that was what she desired?
”Look at what?“

”The Northern Light!“

”But where?“

„Where – where, where, Maria, stop asking questions …“

”But I want to know where?“

”Well – what do you think: naturally over the Kinzig, where else?“

”You really must have lost it now!“

”No Maria, you can really see it today!“

”Maybe you can see it today, because you are drunk, at least that is how it seems to me?“

”No – and so are you, Maria, even if all you are slurping all the time is this strange ’Orange Manure’…“

”But you said yourself that there can be no Northern Light over the Kinzig, because of the flat magnetic field”

”Yes, that was yesterday, Maria. Today, there is one… “

”That sounds like you want to knock me flat, doesn’t it, you joker?“

”No, that is not what I want – I mean, naturally I would not mind you lying flat – if you know what I mean, but not today!“

”So when?“

”I do not know, Maria. But today, I would like to show you the Northern Light – really …“

”Are you telling me really only the Northern Light, Johannes?“

”Yes, as truly as anybody can honestly be truthful …“

”Fine – then I will trust you, Johannes, and I will come – or maybe you want to meet me, since I do not know where exactly I am supposed to be?“

”Of course, I am already standing at your door …

”So why don’t you come on in?“

”Well, if I may?“

”Stupid. You may…!“

And quite apart from what nonsense they wrote later about this alleged laser spectacle in the bird’s preserve area near the Erlensee on the Kinzig in the ’Rodenbacher Boten’ and in the ’Hanauer Anzeiger’– the duration of which was just on the wrong side of making it possible for the authorities to, even after several weeks, find the bold originator who cared neither about upsetting the angry citizens nor about the scared animals  – Maria never wanted to talk about the ’Northern Lights” after that Tuesday. And she also did not want to hear about them ever again. But this was certainly not because she felt sorry for all those scared birds …

And she also never again sat opposite Johannes during any of the subsequent “Artemis Palace” regular’s meetings. Instead, she sat next to him while he, like in former times, silently smiled and tried to catch the occasional venomous arrow sent out by her even in this position that was definitely less than fortunate in terms of defence.

Incidentally, during those meetings the hands of the two of them mostly remained invisible! Basically, the only times when their hands were seen above the table was while they ate their Gyros or the usual calamari pieces – and, of course, when Johannes paid for both himself and Maria.

And when, at one time, Kurt Canpourer boldly put the loud question before them if they both had no lower arms left since you never saw them – just like they had been amputated – Johannes and Maria only looked at each other and then at the circle of friends – without blushing in the slightest.  …

Totally cool!

(Translated by EG)

This story is taken from the book “LichterWahnSinn” by the group of authors: Wortspieler; the picture is by Ralf Weingärtner

Here are my tweets of last week on:
Blogging and Twittering, Wisdoms and Rules:

131107 Watching the game is the best teacher – also true for twittering and blogging. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131108 If you do not tend to the field, you will have weeds growing – also true for twittering and blogging? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131109 The hunter will also tire – also true for blogging and twittering. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131110 He who stirs the dirt will also have to smell it – be careful when blogging and twittering. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131111 If you want to eat the kernel, you have to break the nutshell – also true for twittering and blogging. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131112 The laugh is always on the loser – of course, also true for twittering and blogging. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131113 The winner is always right – also when twittering and blogging? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

There is a new tweet each day. See and “follow” RolandDuerre!


(Translated by EG)

I took the proverbs from Alle deutsche Sprichwörter .

Roland Dürre
Wednesday October 30th, 2013

(Deutsch) “A serpant in thy bosom warmed”

Händel’s  fascinating oratorio SAUL

The IF Blog is one of the few blogs in Munich, and even in Germany, which is mostly published both in German and English. This is thanks to our Evelyn (EG), who translates most of our articles into English at high speed.  She is doing this out of friendship and out of her love of the English language. And it sometimes happens that we like her English translations better than the original German text.

As to myself, I keep thanking Evelyn all the time for her service!

Her second and very special interest has already been mentioned .  A huge amount of passion and a high degree of professionalism characterize this part of her private life. Together with her son, she sings in the choir:

arcis vocalisten

under Thomas Gropper.

Since the picture has been taken some time ago, Evelyn and her son Martin cannot be seen on it.

Now, the ARCIS-VOCALISTEN again realize a very special project. It is their third co-operation with stage director Dieter Reuscher and Gerrit Jurda (light effects) in the Himmelfahrtskirche at München-Sendling, Kidlerstr. 15. On Saturday, November, 9th, and Sunday, November, 10th, at 7 p.m., they will sing and perform

“A serpant in thy bosom warmed” – Händel’s fascinating oratorio SAUL

In a fully played-out version. Extraordinary soloists will sing and the special orchestral ensemble  “L arpa festante”  – who play in the original baroque pitch – will play. The entire concert is conducted by Prof. Dr. Thomas Gropper.

About the oratorio:


1739 – while his operatic career was still under way, George Frederic Händel turned his attention towards the famous material from the Samuel Books of the Old Testament. The Jewish king Saul invites the shepherd David who, by winning over Goliath, becomes a great hero and commander, to come to his court and then tries to link him to his family by marriage. With growing envy, he discovers how David is ever so charming and even more popular both with his people and family. He tries to kill the hated upstart boy, also wanting to induce his son Jonathan to do the deed. Jonathan’s friendship with Saul, however, is stronger than that. We are witnessing how Saul’s mind gets more and more confused and envy eats him up.

In emotional and magnificent pictures and quick musical succession, Händel draws this monarchical tragedy, the triumph of friendship and the fate of Israel – one of his greatest oratorios. It is rare for Händel to use such a huge amount of musical instruments – timbals, trumpets, trombones, carillion, flutes and oboes will complement  the strings.

So what you should do now is look at your calendar and see if you can make it – and then order tickets!


Roland Dürre
Monday October 28th, 2013

INDIA – welcome in Mumbai

Safe Arrival – the First Two Pictures and a Little Anecdote

Now I have spent my first night in India. On this picture, you see the view from the balcony of my bedroom. It is on the 29th floor of a building full of luxury flats with many more floors.

India2Note the obligatory racetrack.


The construction site on the right is not the only source of tremendous noise. There is one thing I already know after the first night: it is rather loud in Mumbai.

Trains rumble, streets buzz, you can hardly hear the planes…

I should have provided an audio file and included the noise level.

The building I will be staying in for a few nights now and from where I took the photos is not on the picture. Even though it is only two years old, it is already rather in disrepair. I will be glad if it does not collapse before I leave in a few days…
And here is a little episode:

At the airport, a huge Toyota cross-country picks me up. On the car dashboard, a statue of St. Mary is sitting next to the “Elephant God”. I ask the driver if he is a Christian. After all, I know Indian people in Munich who were brought up Christian in India. In a very special way.

The answer is simple: the “Gods” on the dashboard are the usual extra provided by the car dealers. And since the vehicle has an Indian driver but is meant to pick up “German Experts” in particular, there is also a statue of St. Mary. Quasi as multi-cultural bonus.

This reminds me of the 1960ies and 1970ies in Germany. In those days, the Stadtbergen VW dealer also supplied a St-Christopher badge for every car. And on one Sunday of the year, you could have the vehicle baptized by the priest.

Apropos vehicles. The much-loved TWS (three wheel scooter) vehicles I know so well from New-Delhi  were also something I saw crawl all over the place like mosquitoes as we came in from the airport. In the south of Mumbai, however, they are not permitted.

But now let us face new adventures!

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday October 26th, 2013

A History of and Manual for PM Camp

(and barcamps in general)

Life-long learning and development are important for everybody. As an addition to “auto-didactical studies” and working alongside a master (in the sense of craftsmanship), barcamps are the best opportunity to enrich your own learning curve through the experience of third parties.

In traditional teaching-learning situations, you probably learn 90 % from the “teacher” and 10 % from members of the group. As the situation progresses, this proportion changes in favour of the other group members. In the best seminars, you can get a ratio of up to 30:70%. On barcamps, 90% and more of the learning happens through the knowledge and experience of other participants! Persons open up and share what they experienced, saw and learned.

This is face-to-face lived “Open Source” on an open event. Communication is experienced at eye-level, based on the empathy of persons you have either known for a long time or just met for the first time. Trust is built up from scratch. You learn a lot, not just in the technological sense, but also in the “personality promotion” department.

In 2011, Kornelia Hietmann, Eberhard Huber, Jens Hofmann, Dr. Marcus Raitner, Dr. Stefan Hagen and yours truly (Roland Dürre) thought that it was about time to introduce a barcamp for project managers, entrepreneurs, leaders and managers. The first PM Camp was at Dornbirn in 2011. This year, we already had four of them – in Vienna, Stuttgart, Bad Homburg (Rhein/Main) and Berlin. And now we will see each other at the third Dornbirn PM Camp.

Why are barcamps such a success?

A barcamp depends on the persons who attend it. The actual realization and the success, the joy and delight, the quality of discussions and results, the degree of added knowledge, agreeing  upon a consensus, the experience of meeting and the development of new contacts and relationships: all those and much more is caused by the people who participate, bring their experience and share their knowledge.

This is how all participants take responsibility for the “camp” becoming a success.

The same is true for the PM-Camp. We call our barcamp for Project Management (PM) PM Camp. “Project Management” is meant as a metaphor for leadership, management and entrepreneurship. PM Camp wants to reach persons who are prepared to take responsibility and shape our future together and in social harmony with other persons.

Each PM Camp is organized by a local “Orga-Team”, usually 3 to 5 people doing it on an honorary basis. They plan, communicate and prepare the event, at the same time trying to organize everything in the best possible way together with the PM protagonists and the friends of openPM .

Ideally, there should be between fifty and a hundred participants, otherwise the Camp would probably no longer have its human character. In order to avoid  collisions, the date is coordinated with other PM Camps. Thanks to sponsors, the participants pay a rather low attendance fee. Still, we are careful to not violate the independence of PM Camps. As a general rule, the organization team will only invite a very limited number of impulse speakers.

PM Camp is the supplement Face2Face movement accompanying openPM. Besides the virtual platform openPM, PM Camp deals with the organization of “face-to-face” meetings.

As a general rule, a PM Camp will last two days. During the day, the motto is “work hard” and in the evening of the first day, the motto is “party hard”. More often than not, some participants already meet for a comfortable get-together or walk&talk on the preceding evening – simply in order to meet old friends and prepare mentally a little bit for the coming PM Camp.

Then the time comes – and the actual PM Camp starts. The participants meet at the appointed time and place. There might be a little “ice-breaking”, the organization team reminds everybody of the central barcamp rules (“whatever will happen is the right thing to happen”, “what is over is over”, “the law of feet”, “freedom”,…). And then we start! Consumers become producers and a wonderful session plan will be drawn up in no time.

In a nutshell:
PM Camps and barcamps are such a success because they actually function on the basis of self-organization and self-determination, not only with respect to content!

barcamps and PM Camp (3) – “Typology of Sessions”

The sessions are the core of every PM Camp. It might be a good idea for the participants to prepare mentally and think about what topics are important to them in advance. If you do that, you might be able to head your own session as early as during your first PM Camp.

Basically, there are three models for sessions:

Type 1 – Sharing Knowledge!

The initiator of such a session thinks he knows something important and wishes to share it!

Let us assume someone made a very special experience, was introduced to something totally new, understood some basic concept… And he assumes that others, too, might be interested. Consequently, he announces a session and tells people in advance what he would like to speak about. Of course, he will not bore his audience with a lengthy oratory. He might only come up with a few theses or give a short description of what he experienced. And then everybody starts debating and discussing.

Type 2 – Make use of other persons’ experience!

The initiator finds himself in a new situation and needs assistance!

Someone might have a question he has been labouring on for quite some time already. Or perhaps something happened to him and he does not know how to deal with it. He might even have a huge problem and need people to talk to.

And then he will also announce a session and look and see who arrives and wants to help him.

With this type of session, of course, you need particularly “good” listeners. You need listeners who try to listen extra carefully and who can mirror what they understood with the least possible degree of distortion.

The important thing is that the participants are capable of empathy, instead of being persons who immediately “want to know better” and shine with “unwanted advice”.

If you can get this, then the result of this type of session will often be truly great. And, again and again, I am surprised to see what excellent “participants” you usually get with these PM Camp sessions. And how many problems we were already able to solve, at least rudimentarily!

Type 3 – New experiences!

The initiator wants to actively do, play or try something!

In this area, there is countless potential for successful sessions! Every PM Camp will give you a surprise. It might be something about physical activity or something that made people thoughtful. New experience is collected actively and relevant things are playfully acted out. You try new things and test them against the standard of established strategies. More often than not, you get a shared experience of “frontier exploration”. And if during this kind of session you try something new and it does not work out as planned, then this is no problem on a PM Camp.

All you need is the courage to take part and also to jump over your own shadow. And something surprising will immediately happen. There might be a regression which will suddenly trigger a lot of creative and wise things.

More session types…

Of course, these three types are far from all. They are merely three “patterns” for sessions you will often remember in detail and with pleasure!

social web

During a PM Camp, you are not only permitted to, but actually encouraged (forced) to twitter. Basically, playing on your mobile telephone is just as much allowed (and even encouraged) as leaving the room and attending another session.
As a general rule, you will find a “twitter wall” on a PM Camp. Tweets written in twitter and marked with the event tag (for instance #pmcamp13ber for the PM-Camp in Berlin) will run through it in real time. In this way, you will get a thread which might already serve as a first documentation of and comment on the event. You will know what is currently happening on the PM Camp, what other persons experience or feel and how they think.

Naturally, every participant can also look at the twitter wall with his or her own device. When doing so, you will often notice that many persons participate in “real time”, even though they are not actually physically present. All the tweets taken together are a beautiful retro-perspective of the event. You will enjoy looking through them and mentally re-living the Camp later.

There is no “official” documentation of a PM Camp, such as proceedings or the like. This is absolutely intentional! Because the documentation, too, is voluntary. It, too, is organized and determined by the participants. As a matter of facts, the model works well and consequently you get a thorough, and – above all – well-balanced multi-media documentation in no time at all which contains texts, pictures and videos. All the important things are included and everything is centrally available on openPM and beautifully connected.

To be sure, in this article, I only mentioned “twittering”. But, of course, Facebook or google+ are also potential tools for you to use during a Camp. Or you might wish to initiate a community. Basically, you should choose a medium where as many people as possible can participate.

Culture and values

What is true in real life is also true during a barcamp: nobody should be made to feel inadequate or even hurt. Personal attacks are to be avoided at all costs, even if you might be hugely disappointed. And if you really misbehaved, you have to apologize.
The only thing you cannot tolerate on a PM Camp is intolerance. But intolerance is the one thing you should always approach directly and in person, rather than circumspectly.

Where special care is needed

It is not much. To be sure, good manners will not do any harm at a barcamp. In fact, it is usually a matter of course during a PC Camp. The rule you know from the old meta plan: “Everybody is everybody’s butler” is also one you can never go wrong with. Other than that, barcamps, as well as the PM Camp, are free events. Nobody has to do anything they do not feel comfortable with.

As always in life, helpful behaviour is more helpful than buddying. Every participant determines by himself to what degree he wants to integrate himself. There is no obligation to have your own session. Many participants remain rather passive and quiet during their first PM Camp – until the spell breaks and they suddenly make the transition “from consuming to producing”.

If you are a first-timer or someone who likes remaining in the periphery, I would recommend that you try your first own session as early as possible, even if, by your own estimation, the topic is still half-baked. Usually, being courageous early on is rewarded. And I would ask the “oldies” to wait as long as possible when it comes to volunteering for session chairperson, before they finally fill the last empty spaces. Some participants need a little more time before they get courageous enough. And it is always a pity if new contributions will not happen because someone else was needlessly impatient.

Communication is all

As a general rule, the organization team of a PM Camp will recommend to the participants to “thou and thee” each other. Thou-ing and thee-ing each other will bring you closer together and facilitates the communication. It makes sense in a community where everybody has the same goal and everybody is prepared to share their most precious commodity – experience and knowledge – openly and fairly.

If a participant prefers to be addressed formally, this is, of course, accepted. But no matter how you address each other, the central issue to always keep in mind is that you have to respect each other. Even in the middle of a battle, violation of honour must not happen. And if it does, it has to be corrected immediately.

PM Camp demands from and promotes in the visitors a little empathy and “altero-centrism”. It means that you put your own ego to the background and open yourself up for the values, expectations, interests and needs, as well as emotions of “the others”.

So here is what I recommend:

Participate! Be courageous! Bring joy! Accept delight, maximize all these things and hand them on! No need to “wear a mask”! It is not necessary on a PM Camp!

Respect and appreciate others as much as yourself. Give and take knowledge and experience. And then nothing can go wrong at all!

(Translated by EG)

Many thanks to Eileen who helped a lot with this summary.

Currently, I think a lot about morals and ethics. And it seems to me that “sexual morals” are an example that deserves particular attention.

Calzedonia1On a daily basis, we see totally opposing morals when it comes to sexuality. At the bus stop, I notice the poster of a lady in the nude wearing a lascivious pair of tights. On the bank, an Islamic lady is sitting, totally veiled.  And not far away, there used to be a huge poster wall until recently with the invitation to carry on as colourfully and as often as possible, but only using “rubbers”. The motto was “do not give Aids a chance”. It was probably sponsored by the association of condom producers.

calzedonia2In Germany, too, the sexual morals changed significantly during the last 50 years (and, of course, before that, as well). What a scandal it caused in the 1960ies if a high-school student became pregnant! I still remember quite well how we students at Jakob-Fugger-Gymnasium organized a demonstration for a girl at Maria-Theresia-Gymnasium who was to be evicted from school because she was pregnant – and I also remember the rather unpleasant consequences said demonstration had for us.

There is a good example for diverging moral standards in France and Germany that happened only recently. Probably a little more than a hundred years ago, a young woman who, for instance, got pregnant in France where she was serving a family, was most strictly forbidden to tell anybody the name of the father! After all, it was the woman who was to blame, because she had seduced the man. And the man was the victim in need of protection. If, in her desperation, she told the father’s name, the understanding knew no borders and there was a total outrage! First she seduced the father of the family, then she got pregnant and, to top it all, she had the impudence to name the father! That was how people thought at the time.

At the same time, there was a totally different rule in the probably a little more modern Germany on the other side of the river Rhine. Young women in this situation had an obligation to tell the father’s name! One of the reasons was that the authorities wanted to make him responsible for the care of the child.

Perhaps these “differences in moral standards” were also one of the reasons why the two countries were still natural enemies at the time. Another example for the problem with morals is the topic “homosexuality”. How much were people with a heightened homophile tendency socially ostracized? How much unhappiness were they suffering?

All these things happened because of morals that simply took for granted that the hetero-sexual tendency is the only acceptable one! Because everything else is against nature or worse? How people lied and cheated, suffered and, of course, also reacted perversely. Not to mention instances where this kind of situation was made worse by applying allegedly particularly honourable principles, such as the celibate?

Or think of abortion. The range of moral judgements is still between the extremes of calling abortion a crime to the contraceptive almost taken for granted, similar to the “pill after”. In the 1960ies and 1970ies, German women were part of an unappetizing abortion tourism to England, Holland and Yugoslavia, supported by the differences in moral standards throughout Europe.

Prostitution, too, is viewed very diversely world-wide, regardless of the fact that it exists everywhere. You can find all varieties, from criminal and secret business to the socially accepted variant of another kind of service.

In China, for instance, prostitution is officially strictly prohibited. The legislation puts it under draconian penalty. However, if I am standing around on any highly frequented place in one of the big Chinese cities waiting for someone, I do not have to wait long before getting rather explicit offers (“do you want a baby?”). In Wikipedia, you can read that, regardless of the prohibition, prostitution in China is a mass phenomenon. Communal and state organizations even support it in order to fill the national coffers.

Mind you, I do not wish to judge or moralize! All I want is to point out that morals as such are a very difficult topic. The famous “we do not do this”… depends very much on time and place and can differ or even be at opposing ends. And that “we do not do this” will again and again seem very random and can actually be questioned. Which is also why we can voices our doubts.
(Translated by EG)

As to the pictures: they are all snapshots by smart phone S4.

Roland Dürre
Thursday October 24th, 2013

Tweets on Twittering and Blogging #190

Here are my tweets of last week on:
Blogging and Twittering, Wisdoms and Rules:

131031 Those who blacken others are not white themselves – careful – twitterers and bloggers. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131101 If you want to sit on two chairs simultaneously, you are likely to fall through the middle – also true for twittering and blogging? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131102 Shooting out of many canons will rarely hit the target – also true for blogging and twittering? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131103 Those who spend will also have to earn – also true for blogging and twittering. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131104 If you want fire, you have to accept smoke – also true for twittering and blogging. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131105 If you fear adversity, you have to stay at home – also true for twittering and blogging. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

131106 Following the masses means you will have plenty of comrades – also true for twittering and blogging? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom

There is a new tweet each day. See and “follow” RolandDuerre!


(Translated by EG)

I took the proverbs from Alle deutsche Sprichwörter.

Roland Dürre
Sunday October 20th, 2013

Morals as Education or The Emptiness of Morals

While preparing for my next presentations, I keep thinking about morals, both in theory and practice.

For me, interesting examples of the species morals can be found amongst the traffic morals and the sexual morals. And there are other variants of morals currently very highly thought of, such as tax morals or the morals of compliance-conform behaviour.

Today, I would like to take a closer look at traffic morals. Many rules were created for road traffic. In fact, it would actually make sense to stick by them. After all, a recent survey showed that the average human might easily suffer 40% less accidents if he or she stuck by the traffic rules. The people tested throughout the experiment only agreed to doing so because they were given a small tracker from their insurance companies where all their driving data were registered. In return, the insurance companies offered a considerable discount.

40% fewer accidents! In Germany, that would mean no less than 2,000 traffic casualties less each year! And the number for fewer injured would be even higher. Strong morals could actually prevent a lot of death and misery. At long last, here we found a “We do not do this!” that makes sense. After all, with most other laws it is often hard to find any really valuable usefulness, isn’t it?

Except nobody is interested. On our streets, you will find “permanent illegal behaviour”. All the time. Incessantly. At intervals of seconds. The reason for this might be that some kind of overlay morals have been superimposed over the “normal” traffic morals. They suggest that the traffic rules are only for “the others”, but not for yourself. Because we think of ourselves as invulnerable in a very special way.

These “overlay morals” make the secret speed look amoral. Because it is “treacherous” or unfair. Driving too fast is no longer dangerous.

A short while ago, they practiced a nationwide “radar marathon”. It was supposed to monitor more intensely than usual how the rules are adhered to. Yet, paradoxically, they also published the locations and times of the actual radar controls on all sorts of communication channels.

Even the public radio was enthusiastic about announcing them, regardless of the fact that they are financed by compulsory fees.

Basically, this is like the police publicly announcing all controls for whatever and whoever they have them for. And this is something that definitely should not happen.

Consequently, you have to be really unlucky if you are caught speeding. Or else you have to belong to the most stupid of all. Still, nothing changes about our traffic behaviour.

This was it from my side on the absurdity of our traffic morals.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Friday October 18th, 2013

SUPERB! – This is True Project Management!


What you just read are the title and sub-title of a book I received today. I open it – and I am fascinated.

All is being said! All that is modern and important in project management. And everything fits, adds up and enlarges my “mental concept”!
Formerly, you would have called it a “bible” – probably a “project bible” or “universe of project management”. Or some such. Because it is truly a great piece, a collection of wise stories. They all complement each other, describing in a fantastic way how project management can be done “just right”.

It is a book where every story introduces something individual. With much of it, the “agile manager” will be quite familiar. For the “dogmatic manager”, it will not be news, either. However, it might hit him surprisingly (but healthily) like a cold shower.

The important issues are described in very simple and clear images. And in order to prevent misunderstandings, you get excellent illustrations along with them.

It is actually a non-fiction text the reading of which is delightful and brings real joy. Well, it is basically not a non-fiction book where the author and his helpers force the reader through hundreds of pages, always wanting to convey the same message and wishing to prove with ever more examples what actually was clear after the first fifty pages.

No, there is no obligation for you to read the “Turn/around” book from the first through the last page. In fact, you can jump through the book. The way it is usually done today. And you will always find the next “Highlight”.

It has been written “collaboratively”. The entire project was initialized and controlled by Roger Dannenhauer, Torsten J. Koerting and Michael Merkwitza. Together with more than 40 co-authors, they made up the developing team.

Some of them are well-known to me. For instance the motor (and super-marathon-racer) Torsten. And all the authors more or less speak directly from my heart.

In fact, they offered me a co-authorship. Unfortunately, however, I felt there was not enough time for me. Now I regret it. It would make me so proud if I were now part of the team of authors.

But it is too late. If there is a second volume, I will definitely be part of it.

As to the book itself, I will occasionally describe one or two of the chapters particularly important to me. That gives me the opportunity to share with my readers the joy of seeing how there are simple approaches to problems that seem to be unsolvable.

It is definitely about time I complimented all the authors on their work!

(Translated by EG)