After a lapse of seventeen years, one is reminded of Brussels, the attractive capital of Belgium. In this centre of tradition and modernity, around 35 innocent people were recently killed and more than 200 were injured .Series of explosions ripped through the busy Zaventeem airport and the Maalbeek Metro station. The P.M of Belgium rightly termed them “blind, violent and cowardly”. Significance of the attack can be possibly assessed from the fact that those handling NATO and European Union headquarters over here were supposedly to get alerted. The mere fact that it happened within four days of arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect of Paris terror attack, was perhaps slated to send a warning signal.
The blast shattered the main hall of the country's biggest and one of Europe's busiest airports fairly early in the morning. Two explosions were caused by two suicide bombers. A third blast hit a train at a busy Metro station. Scene was usual-victims lay in pools of blood at both the locations There were chaotic scenes as passengers and visitors fled in panic. Some lost limbs. One man reportedly lost both of his legs. And one cop, as per newspaper reports, was left with a totally mangled leg. To add to the woes, an un-exploded suicide vest was also discovered. At both the locations, the relief and rescue teams immediately swung into action. Paramedics attended to commuters with bloodied faces as the nearby streets were filled with the wailing of sirens of security vehicles. The saga of violence perpetrated by the worst kind of suicide unfortunately goes on unabated. It is extremely difficult both to detect and resolve.
As expected, people in India showed immediate concerns having been exposed to such violence several times in the past. Apart from issuing alerts, MEA began giving assurances. At the airport two Jet Air employees were reported injured and one of them, a lady, was immediately taken to hospital. Nothing happened to India bound passengers. The Prime Minister of India was reported certain to go ahead with his 30th March Brussels visit to take part in the India-EU Summit.
Down Memory Lane.
Seventeen springs ago, in September, 1999 I had spent four unforgettable days in Brussels in connection with the APPPA Course of IIPA, New Delhi. Apart from visiting places of Interest, such as, Atomium (built in 1958),Grand Place, St.Michael Cathedral, The Manneken Pis (Miniature statue of a tiny tot pissing),Town Hall etc. we were fortunate to have visited two amazing places in Holland-Maastrich and Amsterdam.
During day time our schedule with EU and EEC personnel would be very very hectic. Sometimes we had to skip lunch. Gradually we picked up the habit of carrying some fruit and juice bottles in our bags to cater to the emergencies. In the evenings, even if we were tired, we would attempt seeing a known place/monument, do window shopping and hogg fast food just ahead of hearing the alarm from our quiet Bus driver. One tiny replica of Manneken Pis and a White & light Grey shawl of Dupatta kind ($14) for my wife turned out to be memorable purchases from Brussels. Latter I would not have got but for the patience and perseverance on the part of the young woman seller. I very much now regret having taken more than the required time to decide on my purchase.
We made two visits to the Grand Place (Market Square) which had a tower of 96 meters in height. Built in Brabantine Gothic style, the place started off as a market for trading goods. In 1455, a Town Hall was added. The owners of the houses in surroundings were bound to preserve as much as possible, the original style of their buildings. The houses, therefore, looked similar to each other and would appear very attractive. It was the venue of annual flower shows as well. Flower arrangement was reported to be such that the whole area would look like series of carpets next to each other. It was learnt that locals and the tourists alike would throng the place on the days of show.
A few words about our hotel need to be mentioned. A medium sized cosy joint, it was located in the outskirts of the city. The most interesting part was that it provided Breakfast even at 5.30 am. Hold it-one of our colleagues, by the name of Puri Saheb, would be the first to report. He would hog on for nearly two hours. Any guesses, what he ate and after gulping the food and the drinks, how did he digest the whole thing?
Another memory of this hotel I have, concerns Sri Rao who would spend hours with a lady Professor in the lounge as also the dining area. He would chit chat to glory. Again what they conversed in the cold and windy surroundings could be any body's guess.
For the first time after visiting Brussels, I could realize that in the West, they waste a lot of energy. Offices close to our hotel would be well lit even inside, at night. Design wise some looked ordinary but those with heritage features, simply looked gorgeous. There was plenty to see and explore but time was the constraint. May be, next time. Places of unique culture and heritage need to be protected and admired. Not to be harmed.