Some of the good, bad and ugly things that Margaret Hilda Thatcher indulged in as Britain’s longest-serving and only woman PM were inspired by Vienna-born Friedrich August Hayek. The economist, philosopher and Nobel prize-winner lived at the turn of the last century when monarchies were being torn down and crowns dribbled like a football in the interest of the maximum good for all in society.
When I first arrived in Vienna, way back in 1982, I made a beeline for the city office of Solidarity. At that time the popularity of Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarity two years earlier in Poland, was at its peak. Not much was known about eastern European countries in those days. It was extremely difficult for people of those countries to travel abroad and foreigners found it almost impossible to visit. But there was so much to know about what was going on in that closed country. The question was how?
West or East, it seems that the plight of many women worldwide is depressing. In Europe, at least 45 per cent of women face physical abuse, and 10 per cent have suffered sexual abuse at some stage in their lives. European Union figures show that at least 1,000 women die every year due to domestic violence. For the same reason, European countries continue to struggle to put domestic violence at the centre of all reforms of national policies.
There is absolutely no way of knowing whether Muslim people annoy Narendra Modi as much as Jewish people had annoyed Austria-born Adolf Hitler who instigated and then lost the last world war.
But both Modi and Hitler are mentioned here in the same breath because of a sense of deja vu over the euphoria in Gujarat today.
In leaderless times like today, people like Bruno Kreisky are missed most.
Eric Hobsbawm, who died recently at the age of 95, was admired for speaking against social banditry. Throughout his life, the illustrious historian nursed his conscience and highlighted the barbarity of modern times.
Why did Hobsbawn think and write the way he did? Did his work emerge from a particular cultural milieu? How much is Vienna responsible for shaping the thought of one of the greatest intellectuals of recent times?
Irene and myself became friends because of our mutual love for food. Founder of BookaCook, Irene is quite a celebrity in Vienna. She is the fuel in the kitchen of Austria’s Slow Food movement and the toast of events that matter most not just in the Austrian capital but around the Alpine country. Although her catering company, BookaCook, is booked out for months at events ranging from weddings to international conferences, Irene had little clue about what vegetarians eat in India.
I don’t know if his fans from around the world do this as well.
Mehrdad Oskouei, 42, travels around the world with an amazing repertoire of films. Unlike many Iranian filmmakers forced to live in exile, he says that it will be impossible for him to make films if he ever chose not to live in Iran. It is one thing to screen films abroad and quite another to make films outside Iran.
Even if he travels to study or attend a festival, in the end, he returns to Iran. And no, he says he has zero problems making films in a country where it is perceived that the government is unfriendly to activities like music, dance and films.
Last weekend was spent in Steyr, also known as Austria’s iron town. It is called iron town because iron ore is mined here since times long before the birth of Christ. Today, the whole world is familiar with bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks and buses manufactured by the company, Steyr Daimler Puch, but once the town was famous for rifles produced by Josef Werndl.