Happy Anniversary
By Kamal Sunavala

It's my anniversary. This month I have completed one year of my life in Prague. Am I Czech yet? No. Do I speak more than basic Czech words yet? No. Do I think like Czech people? No. Do I want to leave the Czechs? Nope.

What is it about this country that has a hold on a person, who fancies himself to be a tourist who has found some work? When I think of the places I still haven't seen or the people I still haven't spoken to or the battles I still haven't engaged myself in, I fear that my time will run out and it will all be left undone. I have grown to love this city in unconscious ways and conscious ones. I love that dogs are kings and smokers are not publicly flogged, I love that parks are plentiful and old people are given seats on the trams. I love the buildings and I could go on forever about the value of their histories. But this article isn't about what I love and what I hate. It's simply about survival.

It's about facing up to life in Prague. Which God knows can be a challenge especially when one is a foreigner. Especially when one is dealing with people all the time, as I do, in my job. But what amazes me is that all this can reveal a wealth of resilience and enjoyment of what Prague is. What it will wonderfully always be and what it will annoyingly always remain. Life here can be such an inexplicable contradiction in terms that it sometimes boggles the mind. A lawyer's mind goes absolutely still when he cannot process the craziness and the irrationality. So I suspend my disbelief and embrace it for what it is.

In the one year that I have been here, the one important thing I have learnt is, change cannot and should not be foisted upon the burdened shoulders of this city. What it must be is a smooth complementary cocktail. A dash of hot change, a generous pouring of understanding about why things are the way they are and then an enticing cherry of what things can be like if there is some change. That's the cocktail I use at work and that's the one that bars are able to sell the most. My analogy may seem a little strange but I assure you that it works.

The other thing that life in Prague has brought to attention is that people are threatened easily. They can perceive you as an enemy before you say hello and after you have actually said hello they are fairly much convinced of it. Now this may seem a little harsh but try seeing it from a foreigner's point of view. We don't know and will never know what drives the Czech person on. We can only guess. As a result we are unable to understand how to truly appeal to his sensibilities. We only go by what would appeal to us and sure enough they find that odd or unacceptable. This is a cross I have learnt to bear. It pokes its head out from under the rug when I take a step and trips me up. It keeps me humble and reminds me that knowledge can be so relative.

This is a weekend of taking stock. A weekend of trying to understand why I love Prague and why I love what I am doing here. Why all my experiences have been so enlightening and interesting and why I choose to remain here for another year. I don't really know the answers to all the questions. I do know that I shall stay on. I do know that I want to. I do know that as time goes by this feeling can either grow or go away. It's a wait and watch game. Meanwhile, happy anniversary to me.