Memories of Valparaiso, Chile

Amartya Ghosh

Until 9th March 2013 when I landed in Santiago at  Chile, I hardly had a note of how that part of the world was, how it looked like and so on, well to be upfront ‘who cared’;; I remember my friend Dr.Haque expressed his utmost surprise sitting in a south Calcutta coffee shop when I told him about the trip- his reaction was -‘hey dude, I haven’t heard anyone traveling Sud America in the last decade…wow, that would be interesting ##…$$$????’ And today while I’m back from Chile and I try to Penn down whatever gathered in the nooks and corners of my memory lane, I would say yes, it is. It’s interesting and not only from the perspective of being a different continent or a place, but  something more – humans, human relations and humanity.. apart from visiting place, trying out typical Chilean food and of course the work for which I was there; Nevertheless, I would deliberately keep office aside with a small note that Mahindra is a quite renowned brand in Chile with the mighty muscular Scorpio leading the line. This was itself a positive thrust for me to work there and make the upcoming vehicles more sustainable.

From the time I landed there I started receiving the ‘bienvenidos’ (well-come) from the Chilean Spanish people, and by now I can vouch upon the fact that Spanish people, be they from Spain, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico or any other country, are the most warm in welcoming, mixing and letting one feel at home. And as my job is, it allows me to mix with a whole group of people from different backgrounds, mentality, economic conditions  leading to lot of thought and knowledge sharing. I discuss, I resonate and hence I retrospect.

So there I was at the Pacific coast port city of Valparaiso, a hundred and twenty kilometers away from Santiago, the capital city of Chile. Valparaiso is one of the biggest and known ports of south America which bears  a naval base along with it’s main commercial port and since it’s inception this commercial port has been playing the pivotal for the economic upswing of the region, especially through it’s leveraged and developed import/export facilities. In fact it’s commercializing was a watershed in Chilean history. Very near to this port was my apartment located at the heart of the city on avenue Brazil, well the avenue doesn’t lead to Brazil though; it’s just that most of the roads there were named after neighboring countries of south America for example avenue Argentina or plaza Ecuador etc.

As far as commutation or transportation is concerned, it was like in India, with ample public transport options from little ‘micros’ or mini buses to ‘collectivos’ or share taxis and to trams. Even market places were size-wise somewhere near to our sabzi mandi or fish markets, no comparison though as Chile itself is a country as small as any state of India. But the biggest difference was roadways. If someone juxtaposes with India, he or she will definitely be disheartened.. oh my NHAI(National highway authority of India)…  why this negligence and why this taking Indians granted while providing an utmost necessary facility? Though I understand  it’s a onerous task considering Indians’ mindset and population, but … ; Nevertheless Valparaiso being an old city there was a downtown, tranquil and quite niche and what I enjoyed most was walk around that part on moderate sunny afternoons. An ideal place to chew some nuts ‘dulce'(sugarcoated nuts) on the go and observe and feel, take deep breath, contemplate and forget your daily glitches, haves and have-nots. Eventually that was what I was doing on holidays  apart from trying out range of Chilean eateries which needs a separate mention.  purposefully this time I kept myself aloof from much hullabaloo and hotchpotch. Like the downtown to name a few more there was the plaza conception on top of hill where from the whole city looked like a painting during daytime and as the dawn fainted and the quaint little houses on the hills turned on their lights, it seemed as if someone has garlanded the hills, specially the view from my apartment balcony was majestic, divine and eternal. And there was the Plaza Sotomayo square near the port, the embarking ships and vessels and boats, the old houses made of tin and then the illustrious wall paintings on them briefing some story or someone’s life. Wow.. My heart often sang out- such a lovely place, such a lovely place… Muy, muy bueno y muy tranquil…

Now coming to Chilean food.. yummm !! slurp slurp !! The most common culinary variety being preparations of beef namely Chorillano, Churasco etc, a quick hunger quencher used to be an Empanada i.e. a big sized fully stuffed(Cheese, egg, meat/fish and olives) Pattie as called in India. ummm.. :) I just experienced an tasty Empanada burp :D  In addition, being in coastal belt I experienced good number of delicious fishes over there viz; Merlusa, Reneita,Tilapia etc, with  recipe of either roast or fry. Wine, as in Chilean wine is one of the most famous in the world and I availed the opportunity of tasting them too.

While this was the weekend curriculum, with great elan I continued to quench my thirst to know the credo of Chilean people, their culture. Apparently this might seem to be of no-good, but somehow I reached a stage to discover my inner self through others following an eternal belief – “Manusher byabohari manusher porichoy”. A major underscore which needs mention at this point is the pattern of human relationship followed in Chile, specially post adulthood relation. It’s different than the western culture as marriage is a far fetched thing here, most people following the ‘cohabitation’ or ‘living together’ style. According to them if two people like or love each other it’s their choice to stay together or not; They are free to take decision or make their moves. ‘Marriage’ is but a social impression which possessively puts a couple to commit. Well I won’t speculate about this topic in this forum, but it being a major difference of opinion than people of many orthodox nations, specially Indians, needed a mention.

And then came a feeble earthquake followed by heavy  rain on my last evening at Valparaiso; unfathomable how and when and why.The quake went almost unnoticed apart from being a  topic of discussion but  certainly the rain provided an ephemeral tranquility after the long two months of stressed activities and my heart started singing tunes of my return to my city of joy –

‘aji jhoro jhoro mukhoro badol dine, janine janine, kichute keno ke mono lage na”……

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"Memories of Valparaiso, Chile" by @bongbuzz