Tuesday to Belgium

It was the best of times in my life. Not a month passed without an outing to the night show of a movie with my father, who was then a high court judge.

We would have an early dinner on a Saturday night. Dutiful hands would then get busy winding up at the kitchen, with each member in the family seeking to outdo the other in domestic chores which on other days went abegging. Soon, we would be all ready and set to go for an English movie in one of the theatres in the Cantonment area of Bangalore.

The few theatres in that area which screened English movies then — the Lido on MG Road, Imperial Cinema on the parallel road, Rex on Brigade Road, or BRV theatre on Raj Bhavan Road — were our favourite Saturday night destinations where we watched many classics.

I am writing this story from Brussels in Belgium. What was just a celluloid dream has come true now after 49 years. It was in 1969, during one such movie visit, that I saw David L Wolper’s comedy, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”. The story is about a group of American tourists who set out on an 18-day bus journey in Europe. Constantly packing and unpacking their suitcases, sleeping in one country this day and waking up in another the next, the group lose track of the cities and countries they have visited and identify the city they are in by the day on the itinerary. Tuesday is the designated day for Brussels in Belgium.

Today, Tuesday still continues to be the day for Belgium. On August 28, 2018 (a Tuesday!), I took a bus ride from The Hague in the Netherlands to Brussels in Belgium. As I entered Brussels, my thoughts happily went back to the movie I had watched 49 years ago. Did I ever think that I would visit Belgium at all and that too on a Tuesday? Not in the least. The moral of the story: Tuesday is not an inauspicious day after all.

I could not resist watching that movie again, thanks to YouTube. The Atomium and the Manneken Pis remain unchanged. What is significantly absent in the hands of the Americans of 1969 are smartphones and Google Maps. The bonhomie among tourists, singing Row Row Row your Boat, will not be seen in 2018 with everyone immersed in electronic gadgetry and earphones plugged into their ears as if each is a connoisseur of all the music in the world.  

The familiar sight of the tourist with a map in one hand, being ably assisted by a gracious lady in reading it and figuring out the right direction is a relic of the past. The search for a landline to call a friend or relative in the city hoping to be invited for an eat out is also part of history.

From 1969 to 2018 is a sea change in terms of technology, attitudes and social behaviour. A 2018 tour of Europe will never be as hilarious as the one in 1969. To be in Belgium in today’s world, all that you need is a smartphone in your pocket (make sure it is charged) and an international credit card. And that’s all I had. Belgium beckons you and wishes you “bienvenue”. Oops! How can I forget my two enterprising and endearing daughters but for whose insistence this visit would not have been a reality. Thank you.

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Tuesday to Belgium

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