In Vienna, I lived on a slope for almost three decades. Further up, the slope merged into the magnificent Vienna Woods at the foothills of the Alps. That path is aptly called Himmelstrasse or street to heaven.

The nearest supermarket however was a ten minute walk down the slope.

A few weeks before the birth of my first born I would get quite breathless carrying even tidbits for the kitchen including milk, bread, butter, a few onions and some delicacies like apples or strawberries.

One day when Otto could not believe how big my tummy had grown, he forbid me to carry a shopping bag.

“You can stroll down with me to the marketplace. But you will not carry the bags up the incline,” Otto said.

Otto was my 83-year-old neighbour. He had long retired. He was a bachelor, a great storyteller and a lover of Indian food. One day over a plate of basmati rice and chicken curried in spinach, Otto told me that he was a teenager on the eve of the first world war.

He remembered quarreling with his peasant father who wanted to gift away the family fields to the monarch at a time when the Austria-Hungary empire and Germany were raising funds to wage an offensive against England, France and Russia.

Otto was against war and he fought his father who was supporting it. When he failed to convince him, he fled his landlocked home deep in the Austrian countryside to the free port Italian city of Trieste. Illegally he had crawled into the first ship that he saw docked on shore that day.

He hid in between cargo and waited in the bow of the vessel for it to take him far away from his father, and from war in Europe.

Somewhere in the middle of deep waters, he was discovered by officials who threatened to deport him at the next halt.

An affluent Indian traveling on the same vessel took pity on the nice looking Austrian teenager and immediately paid for his passage to Addis Ababa, destination of the Indian businessman who was traveling with his family.

All was good for a while till Otto got into further trouble for falling in love with the beautiful daughter of the Indian. The father was furious when he found out about the affair. He told Otto to get lost once they landed in Addis Ababa.

Otto worked hard in his new home and did well in the Ethiopian capital city. He returned home to Austria only decades later after the end of the second world war. His adventures during the inter- war period are as thrilling as the tales of One Thousand and One Nights but that is talk for another day.

Back in Vienna, Otto told me that I reminded him of his Indian love lost so soon after he had found her on the high seas.

When he got to know that I was expecting my first child he became protective. Throughout my pregnancy he was very helpful. He routinely did the grocery shopping and after the baby came he accompanied me on long walks. He was happy to push the pram into one park more lovely than the other, and scattered all over the imperial city of Vienna.

What irritated him though was the way I picked up my baby and parked him on a folded arm. Holding him in the standing position close to my chest I would rub his back to make him belch. Then I routinely patted him with the palm of my other hand till he fell asleep.

“Don't do that!” Otto said.

“Do what?” I wanted to know.

“Why do you always hit the baby? I will hit you too if you do that again,” he said, making me laugh.

I dismissed Otto's dictat as so silly at first. That made him angry. To keep peace I did not pat my baby on the back when Otto was around.

One afternoon he came home carrying two bags of shopping filled with milk and honey. He heard me sing as I walked up and down the room and saw me pat my baby's back as usual.

I smiled at Otto but he was hysterical to see me do, what I was doing.

He slapped the grocery on the kitchen table and hurried towards the telephone stand.

In rage he dialed 112 and spoke excitedly into the phone.

Then he banged the receiver back on its cradle and faced me with hands on his hips.

I was speechless.

I could not believe that Otto had just called the police station, accusing me of child abuse.