Gay Amsterdam! Do they refer to Amsterdam so? Or is it only Gay Parree! Anyway, Amsterdam excites me. It is the Mecca of the liberal spirit and for one so inclined, it is as stepping into an ideological temple.

I was worried when I arrived and cleared immigration. My son was traveling abroad for the first time alone. I had to reach him. The whole world had arrived at Schipol that morning and the lines were long at the immigration. (George Bush was going to arrive the next day, Sunday.) After some flutter and anxiety we located each other. Yashas (my son) was disappointed with my instructions on how to reach me. I had thought they were very clever and crisp. But we found each other, and stepped out into a rainy morning. I was dressed in my suit, no coat. He was in a thin sweater. We shivered and waited for the bus to take us to Crowne Plaza. But we were a happy pair - Yashas taking in Europe, and I, happy and proud to have my tall son with me, so far from home.

A lot of Asia was in the lobby of the hotel. Japanese. Chinese. No Indians, save us. At the registration they took us in, but asked us to check back at three, because no room was yet ready. They pointed to all the others waiting. Everyone was very polite. And sweet. There was no way I could get annoyed. We checked in the baggage and went out to get some outer clothes for Amsterdam. Some lunch too.

That afternoon, we walked in the Leidespleine and Rembrandtspleine.

How beautiful this city is! I can walk forever by these canals. The liberal sense pervades here. Abundant graffiti, people living on boats in the canals, litter, unruly people. But the goodness of the of the human heart allows all this to exist without a loss of positive energy. This is the place where over twenty thousand Dutch families sheltered Jewish people from the Nazis at great personal risk. It is where Anne Frank (though her family was later anonymously betrayed) was sheltered and sustained courageously by Dutch sympathizers. A growing Muslim community is in a tense relationship with the rest, post nine-eleven. One can see everywhere the gentle tension between magnanimity and the rebellious human spirit. That is how Amsterdam has seen life for decades (centuries?) now.

An eighty two year old man made this trip to Amsterdam memorable for me, though we met but briefly. Some words about him tomorrow.

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