We never thought we would make it. Two hours on the bus stand and not a bus in sight. We should have planned this in advance. A New Year night in Amsterdam, when there are many people on the road, how could the public transport be working. It was obvious that some of us would just drop off. Eventually Seven members reduced to five. We almost gave up on the New Year celebration in Amsterdam. It was freezing. Somewhere about 8 degree Celsius. Much better than what we have been having when the temperature dropped to zero but still very cold.
So there we were standing in Amstelveen (Small town next to Amsterdam) waiting for a bus to go to Amsterdam central because that is where the action is. After a little bargaining with a taxi driver we were off to Leidseplein. At 10 in the night the place was buzzing with activities. Leidseplein is lined with Shops, lots and lots of restaurants and theatres. It’s the place where some action is going on all day. But we had to reach the Dam Square.
The Dam Square is very close to the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The Dam square itself is a big area with the Royal palace at one end and the War memorial at the other with trams crisscrossing the square. The Royal Palace was actually the town hall which was turned into a palace.
So on 31st December 2004, I and my friends made to the hugely crowded Dam Square. A big stage was erected in front of the Royal Palace. Large speakers hung from big cranes and music was played without interval. Beer was flowing like water and people with champagne glasses moved to the sound of music.
The Tsunami dominated the celebration. The announcer was asking the people to donate generously. The Beer stalls promised the tip would go to the tsunami victims.
Slowly we made it to the center of the crowd right in front of the stage. The announcer said there were 25000 people in Dam Square that night. I looked around. So many people? It did not look possible. People were dancing everywhere. I am not a dancer at all, but my feet’s moved to the rhythm. It did not matter, because no one was looking how we danced. We all were just there to welcome the New Year.
As midnight came closer, the excitement grew. Being in the crowd was very warm. It never felt that the temperature today was about 8 degree Celsius. Everyone had his or her hands in the air. Everyone was taping to the music, dancing to the music. Most of the songs I haven’t even heard but music didn’t matter did it?
Finally midnight. The mayor of Amsterdam came on the stage. He made a brief speech about community and terrorists. But the surprise was nobody wanted to listen. Everybody booed and he finally left the stage. At the stroke of midnight, actually after midnight the countdown began. As numbers were called by the crowd in the descending order we all shouted with the announcer.
Happy New Year
Everybody wished each other a happy new year. It didn’t matter if we knew them or not. It just mattered we all witnessed the new year together. It didn’t matter if you were of different continent, country, state, province, city, race, religion, caste, sub caste, sub-sub caste or creed. It just mattered that you with everybody else had witnessed passing of an era. You with everyone else had welcomed the New Year together. Each one on that crowded Square had dreams for the New Year. The problem, the hate, the discrimination, the differences were to be the things of last year. I, being a part of the huge crowd wondered how insignificant I am between all these people and still surprisingly I am a part of them. It didn’t matter how different I was from them, I still had hope like all of them. On that night hundreds of people came together to celebrate hope. The spirit of hope had a warm feeling.
It was 8 degrees in Amsterdam, But standing on the Square that day, I was warm