Life in Dublin began as two separate settlements, “Atha Cliath” and “Dubh Linn”. The modern name of the City is derived from these two names – Dublin is the internationally recognised name while “Baile Atha Cliath” is the Irish translation. Research has established the fact that Vikings were the first settlers of the city around the 9th century. The city is steeped in history and has a turbulent past. Ireland was under British domination and rule for over 750 years; the Anglo-Irish treaty of 6th December 1921 ended that when 26 of the 32 counties gained independence and formed the Irish Free State, which is presently the Republic of Ireland. I wanted to flavour some part of the past in Dublin, weather and organised schedules permitting.
As it panned out, the weather held for most part of the day, even though it was overcast and threatened to rain any minute. Dale and his wife gave us excellent Dosa and Sambar to start the day. Weather had interfered and made a mess of their annual holiday plans. Before we ventured out for the day another interview was done with Beji, a freelancer based in Dublin. Interviews and features are his hobby. Joji had confirmed appointment with the Indian Ambassador, Ms Radhika Lal Lokesh, an IFS officer of the 1982 batch. I had been told that the visit would be for 20 minutes. But that stretched to almost an hour. Before leaving the Embassy we handed over the souvenir mug to Her Excellency and got her to affix green stickers on the car signifying the visit to Ireland.
It was about 1 pm by the time we moved from the Indian Embassy. The next function, to be attended by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, was scheduled for 6 pm and we had to be at the venue a half hour earlier. This gave us very little time to flavour the city. We parked near the National Museum and walked about a bit before having lunch of fish and chips. During the city tour we saw the birthplace of Duke of Wellington, the eternal flame opposite the National Museum, old bridges across the River Liffey, traditional retail markets, monument of Jim Larkin, the tall Spire, etc. then we went to the Guinness Storehouse to flavour the Guinness experience. The brewery has been the pride of the place since Arthur Guinness signed the famous lease for the 50 acre property on 31 December 1759. The amazing visitor experience includes a tasting and brewing session as well as the complementary pint of Guinness. The museum takes one through the process and history of the biggest beer brands in the world. I got to understand the importance of malted barley, yeast, water and hops in the entire process. The museum also has a wide variety of souvenirs one can buy. The view of the city from the 7th level of the museum is awesome, to say the least. All the major landmarks are signposted on the glass windows such as The Liberties, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College, St Patrick’s Tower, St. James’s Gate Brewery, Ushers Island and Phoenix Park.
The reception by the Malayalee Association was in a venue inside the Phoenix Park in Dublin. The park is considered to be the largest in the whole of Europe – 1760 acres of green in the heart of the city. The park includes the residence of the President of the Republic of Ireland and the Dublin Zoo. Pope John Paul II had addressed 10 lakh people here in 1979, a year after he had become the Pope. A huge cross was erected at the site on a mound created for the purpose. Deer can be seen in plenty in the park. The turnout for the reception was huge – it took me by surprise. The Lord Mayor arrived just a while late and the kids put up an amazing display of dance, done to the tune of popular Malayalam and Hindi songs. The reception was grand in attendance and content. There was a welcome address, felicitations, address by the Lord Mayor and the two of us followed by the vote of thanks. The function was intended to last just 20 minutes and when it wound up because we had to vacate the premises it had lasted close to an hour and half. Once the Lord Mayor left the function, proceedings continued informally in Malayalam and Lal regaled the crowd in his inimitable easy style laced with humourous anecdotes and observations during the journey. Photograph and autograph sessions were cut short by the security staff asking us to vacate the premises. It was wonderful to experience the enthusiasm of the young, the attention of the seniors and the curiosity of genuine travel enthusiasts. A huge thanks go up from Lal and me to the organisers and the attendees of the function.
Baby and Sunil then took us to the latter’s house. It was a marvellous half hour we spent there. The home is filled with happiness, love and contentment. All through the two days I was with Sunil never did I hear a negative thought translated to words by him – he saw positives in everything and everyone around him. I found that his wife and kids had the same energies around them. May their tribe increase. In these times when negativity has taken a vice grip of our lives it is people like Sunil that bear the torch of hope and courage in adversity. Lal and I were amazed by the talent of Sunil’s daughter, Medha, who is an expert with clay – the kind of things she had made took our breaths away; they were miniatures of things we use and see daily life like Pizza, Book, Oyster with a pearl inside, Ice Cream cone, and many, many more in graphic detail. With no formal training and skills picked up from her mother and encouraged by the father this girl is an amazing talent, about who we will hear more in the future.
It was getting to kitchen closing time when we reached the traditional Irish restaurant for dinner. I had an Irish Steak and a couple of shots of Malibu with orange juice. The discussion at the dinner table with Pradeep, Justin, Joby, Rajan, Baby, Sunil and Ajit on a wide range of subjects would have gone on and on had it not been for me being the wet blanket. 9.30 pm is bedtime for me! Especially when the next day involves travel I like to be in bed early. Therefore, regretfully, I requested that the party wind up when it touched 11 pm. I was almost sleep walking and talking robotically by then.