The largest exhibition for our printing industry has been Drupa (Internationale Messe Druck und Papier – a title soon shortened to Druck und Papier, and then to DRUPA). This is held every 4 years in Duesseldorf in the month of May. I got my first chance to visit the same in 1990; the dates being April 27th till May 10th.
Since this was my first foreign trip, I was extremely excited.
There were many operators like Orbit, Sita Travels etc. offering Drupa conducted tour. The only problem with them was they would put you in hotels which were minimum 2 hours away. Hence I decided to try Bed & Breakfast option within the city, about 30 min away from exhibition grounds. Luckily someone gave me a reference of an old German couple, Krings. There was no email or mobiles then and hence booking was done via phone call. Fortunately Dr. Krings was quite fluent in English so it was relatively easy.
I reached Duesseldorf on 28th April and landed at Krings residence. The couple heartily welcomed me. Old lady of the house offered me something to eat even though it was not part of the contract. She also asked me several questions about my food & other preferences. I was offered a small attic room on the first floor which was very cosy. I was told that European’s generally don’t like being asked personal questions so I didn’t really inquire much about them.
For next 8 days, I was savouring a sumptuous breakfast every morning. The couple made me really comfortable and gave a feel of being home which was just wonderful.
My first day at exhibition (29th April) was of just awe & turned out to be a jaw dropping experience. The exhibition was spread over some 16 halls covering total area of 127,000 sq mts (Approx 14 lakh sq ft). The total number of exhibitors were 1760 from 42 countries. The sheer size was intimidating.
At the entrance there were many shops selling some knick knack stuff. I was in in rude shock when I realised that the beer was for 1 Deutsche Mark (German currency equivalent to ₹ 10 then), Coke or Fanta was 1.2 DM but water was 2.5 DM. Now even if I like beer, it was unimaginable to have it at 9.30 am. Things must have definitely changed now but back then even the food options for vegetarians were very limited. Since I relish all types of meat so there was no problem for me at all. The most popular dish seemed to the Frankfurter Sausage in a relatively small bread and lots of pungent mustard sauce. I genuinely enjoyed but the immediate problem was I felt very thirsty. One can of beer didn’t help it at all. I was really desperate for a glass of water but felt it was criminal to pay ₹ 25 for it. Those were the days when I had no credit card and availability of foreign exchange was very hard to come by. Hence every penny mattered a lot.
Suddenly an idea struck me so I went to the restaurant and told the old lady at the counter to give me glass of water from the tap behind her. When she realised I wanted it drink the same, she freaked out. She told me, I am not too sure whether this is potable water or not. I told her, just don’t bother, give it to me. My thirst was quenched after drinking 2 glasses. The old lady was looking at me as if she has seen a ghost. Next day I again made it a point to go to the same place. The lady was relieved when she saw me alive. She asked me laughing, water? I said, yes that’s why I am here. She again asked, do you know what you are doing? She had no idea what kind of dirty water we used to digest in India then. For next few days I made that as a ritual to visit the same place for quenching my thirst.
The experience at the end of first day dinner was also unique. I went to some local restaurant; had a drink or two before having dinner. I had gone in around 7.30 pm & must have come out around 9.30 pm or so. There was still bright light when I stepped out. I was literally pinching myself to make sure I was not dreaming. I realised later than the sun sets really late there, around 10 pm or so, being summer.
DRUPA 1990 was meant to be first stepping stone for Digital Print. I was just unaware about the technological jump the western world had achieved over manufacturers like us. It was as if they were light years ahead.
Coming back to my trip, my interaction with Krings couple was very cordial. One day before I was to leave for India, the couple told me in morning that I would be having the dinner with them that evening. In any case I was bored eating some sort of junk food everyday for lunch and dinner so I happily agreed. I was asked to be home by 6 pm. Dr. Krings took me to his basement which turned out to be a huge wine cellar. He was one of the biggest wine dealers in Duesseldorf with imports from all over. He asked me to select any wine. My knowledge of wines even today is laughable so back then it was just non existent. When he realised that I had absolutely no knowledge, then he took our 3-4 different bottles and made me taste all them. Luckily he wasn’t expecting me to finish the bottles. Then he also showed me their family album. The dinner was just outstanding. I don’t know the German names but there was some chicken, pork, home made bread, Apple Pie et el. I must have really let myself go as old lady was watching me intently and told me that she was very happy that someone enjoyed her cooking so much.
On the day I left, both oldies had become really emotional. They mentioned that their earlier experience with Indian guests wasn’t very good and were very sceptical while agreeing with me. They had consented only because I had gone through some reference. But they were happy as they found me of not being pushy, no small bickerings and hence they had invited me over for dinner. Before leaving, I told what I intended to do and then bowed in front of them. They were simply floored and didn’t know how to react. The old lady just hugged me and bid me goodbye.
I came back from Germany with such wonderful memories. Unfortunately with non-existent communication network back then, I couldn’t keep in touch with Krings. I am pretty sure that they will not be around now. But they have occupied a small corner of my heart for last more than 28 years.
Similarly I have a huge regret that I was unable to keep in touch with 3 wonderful people from AM Multigraphics viz. A.L. Bussey, Les Henderson and David Law. It would have been so wonderful only if the mobiles had arrived little early! But that’s life; acceptance is the key.
#travelogue #drupa #germany #dusseldorf #krings #multigraphics #bussey #DavidLaw #henderson