26 October 2010

Growing old…gracefully?

Norway 707As we got off the cruise ship at Molde, a lady caught both my friends and my eye. At the risk of sounding ageist…she was, I would say, a senior citizen…maybe in her seventies.

Enchantingly dressed…what with matching shoes, bag, hat and  chunky jewelry.  A designer haircut – top half of her hair were naturally grey, she seemed to have dyed the lower part a black!

I would say… dressed to kill.  

My ideal…that's how I would like to age. It reminded me of a poem that a friend forwarded some time back.

Warning – Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

19 October 2010

Quotable Quote!

"Better to get a sore neck from aiming too high than a hunch back from aiming too low”


18 October 2010

Miss Meena

Finland was fun…a lot of fun, but one thing I really missed about Bangalore was the theatre scene especially Rangashankara. I returned and was dying to catch a play…it didn't help that Rangashankara was closed for 2 weeks for maintenance and renovation.
Finally, Miss Meena was playing one weekend. I hadn’t heard about the group before but it sounded good. Couldn't find any company to join me, so heights of desperation…I decided to go alone and that also the evening show. It was so worth it.

Miss Meena‘s script is loosely based on ‘The Visit’ by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The tagline was "A Play In English and a Smattering of Other Languages". Only it wasn’t just a smattering. There was some Hindi, wee bit of Kannada and a bit too much Tamil for my liking and understanding.It was a bit irritating, but the play was so brilliantly creative that I would still recommend it to people who don’t speak Hindi, Tamil or Kannada.

The plot revolves around a film star Miss Meena (earlier Asha), who is returning to her native village Pichampuram after two decades. In the meantime Pichampuram has descended into a state of dire poverty. The play opens with the villagers hoping that Meena will rescue her village. The onus is put by the villagers on Ravi to plead their case since they had something going many years back and she must still have some feelings for him.

Ms. Meena arrives …and that was the 1st glimpse of creativity. So we have this group of people singing a song (Miss Meena, Miss Meena, avala pere Miss Meena) and it suddenly they converge into a circle in the centre of the stage. The lights dim a bit, but its not totally dark. The circle opens up to give us our first glimpse of Miss Meena who has apparated in the middle of that from god alone knows where. How the hell she reached there…I still haven't been able to figure out.

Miss Meena agrees to help the village…in totally filmi style she announces that she will make her final film here and that would boost the village as many people will visit it in her remembrance and to pay homage to her. The film will also star the villagers. But in return for that…she wants the life of Ravi. It seems he had dumped her…and as they say - ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’

And suddenly from the sweet Meena….she transforms to the bitter. Throughout the act  effortlessly she reflects the pose-for-the-camera-sweetness and underlying bitterness.

What I liked best about the whole act was the creativity that shone in the usage of the props…simple props like iron bucket, brooms (the big bamboo ones used to sweep fields etc), winnowing baskets and other handicrafts, a roll of bubble wrap were used in such inventive ways.

I was just wondering what they are trying to achieve when the broom handle was used to suddenly lift the bubble wrap to a height…it was a waterfall! Complete with round winnowing baskets placed as stones to walk on!

A bucket and table frame turned into a cow….and believe me it looked really good. During the shooting of the film, a bicycle pump is used as a microphone, a broom and a churner used to create a boom microphone, and a bucket on stick represents a camera.

The bus scene was amazingly hilarious. A winnowing basket became the steering wheel, the brooms the handrails, the table frame the frame of the bus…this complete with the the slow-motion of the people moving backwards and forwards had the audience roaring.

But the most inventive was when right there in front of us, the cast constructed a statue of Ganesha using the brooms for this ears, sun glasses for his eyes, a length of red fabric(which was elsewhere used to represent a garland) his trunk…it was a very recognizable Ganesha!

Another interesting aspect of  the play was the spoof on films and the parodies on movie clichés. So whether it was the rendition of a film climax with the gunfire and screaming or the ‘baaap ki beti’ sequence, they sure were a hit with the crowd. The father in the sequence is a cripple, and the way the actor enacted the crippling walk was hilarious.

And finally, a brilliant cast makes the play a must watch. Not only did they play multiple roles to perfection, but they way the enacted insects and winged moths accompanied with oral percussion was brilliant.

07 October 2010


Almost half of 2010’s July in Oulu has been classified as ‘helle’. Helle is used to refer to temperatures above 25 degrees!!! All days in Summers in all cities in India by these standards would be Helle.

Trust my luck – the year I go, Finland has the most severe winter in 40 years followed by a Hot Summer as Oulu temperatures broke records with the officially recorded highest temperature of 33 degrees.

33 is not that hot, but with no fans and AC, a top floor house and blinds needed to block the sun in the middle of the night, it can be Hell!

06 October 2010


One Summer weekend I decide to visit Turkansaari, the open air museum in Oulu. There was a guided tour conducted by GoArctic,  at a price of 40 € (incl. lunch) - traditional tar boats with the help of engines would be used to follow the old route of tar transporters in Oulujoki river to the Turkansaari museum area.

The other option was to take a bus (free as I had a pass) and an entrance fee of only 3€. Somehow a ride in a tar boat on the hot summer day didn’t excite me that much that I would want to spend 40 € so I decided to go for the 2nd option.

So off I was on the Sunday morning …30 mins later as the bus left the city The lonely waythe apprehensions and doubts on my decision started haunting me. The linjakas site showed that the walk from the bus stop to the museum was 2 kms. I assumed that there would be something like a city with people all around whom I could ask for directions etc…but the bus had got on to a highway kind of road and there was not a soul in sight. Vast endless green grassy fields with a house here and there!!! No cars also on the road. That's a picture of the road I walked!

Attacked hereI had asked the bus driver to let me know when my stop came…as I got off he smiled and with a look of disbelief said you are joking that you haven't been here before. You know your way around here, right? I didn't know what to say.

Got off the bus and looked around me in disbelief…I was like in the middle of nowhere! I nearly thought of running after the bus and trying to get on to it again!  Then I thought, what the heck…let me see. Otherwise after 1 hr another bus will come across the road on the way back to city and I will get onto that. 

Forest!Luckily there were some road signs for Turkansaari.  But they didn't really help in addressing my apprehensions….as soon I found myself on a narrow road with forest on both sides.

And then I was ATTACKED….by mosquitoes. It was impossible for me to walk. I was soon hopping, jumping, skipping and smacking myself trying to ward off the mosquitoes. I am sure I must have looked a funny  sight. It was so bad that when I finally reached the museum car park I approached 2 total strangers for the mosquito repellent they were using!

Turkansaari was an important market and fishing place  as early as the 15th century. The islet in the valley of the river Oulujoki is now what is called an open air museum (its been there since 1922!). 

Open air museum – the  old ways of life: farming, cattle-farming, fishing, logging,
timber floating and tar burning are replicated as is. So there are huts and farms as they would have existed in the 1500s. The traditional tar boats and tar pits can also be seen here. I really enjoyed the whole concept …made a museum so much more interesting. Instead of being in one closed building its like walking in a small ancient village!

The pictures say it all. The ancient Coffee machine is really pretty

A farm Cooking
A small Hut Coffee!!!
Tar Boat Inside the house

The Old Lutheran Church from the year 1694 is was restored here and still is functional. There is a service every Sunday and I was lucky enough to attend it. I really enjoyed the service…even though it was in Finnish! ChurchSaw some similarities with a Gurudwara. One man came around collecting some money in a hat and then the priest said a little prayer over the collections, blessing all the people who had made those contributions…..like we give money to the priest or giani in the Gurudwara and ask him to say a little prayer for us. Then often they would stand and the priest would say a prayer and they would sit again.

The church itself was very quaint and nice.  No idol of Jesus but Jesus was represented as a fish!

Good experience…leaving me a fan of open air museums.

05 October 2010

Oulu Tidbits- II

Finnish people eat the 2nd most ice-cream in the world…2nd only to the Americans. The latest average is 18 ltrs per person!

The people of Oulu also read a lot! The average is 23.4 books per person. They have a wonderful City library and there is this very interesting anecdote about it. There was this lady who wanted to loan some music but couldn't remember the name of the album, so she sang the song on the phone, and they were able to provide her with the CD. So you can get service by singing at this library!

Romeo and JulietOulu has a FACEBOOK page!

The worlds Northernmost Pyramids are in Oulu – Romeo and Juliet, the 2 greenhouses at the Oulu University Botanical Gardens!

There is a 300 year old Pine tree in Oulu. This was used by the sailors to navigate when arriving in Oulu. The farmer on whose land this tree grew was a smart fellow. He threatened to chop off the tree unless he was paid 2 sacks of salt  by the sailors…hence it is now called the Salt Pine Tree.

From Fortress to CafeOulu boasts the longest land bridge in Finland. Just step out of my flat and look right and one could admire the Swan bridge…so called because the street lights are in the form of Swans.

Not to miss…Castle of Oulu- from Fortress to Cafe! Bit surprising since its such a young country…and one associates castles with ancient and medieval times…but Oulu has it all, I guess:-) 
Built in 1590 and destroyed by lightning in 1793. The lightning set the wooden parts of the store cellar where the weapons were kept on fire.  The fire reached the powder magazine and  there was an explosion that destroyed the building and caused what is called the Big Bang of Oulu – it is said that the blocks of stones were thrown to the town and in many houses the windows shattered!  The old observation tower built in 1875 for teaching astronomy now serves as a summertime café.

Fish Passage Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London…was Oulu to be left behind. Hupisaaret with the Ainola park competes with the best in the world. It’s got beautiful natural scenery, a summer theatre, a large playground and the longest fish passage in Finland. When I went to Hupisaaret for the 1st time, I didn't know it was a fish passage, I thought it is just some nice landscaping. Later I was told that the Salmons travel upwards on these steps to spore here. Its amazing how they can swim uphill…i would think it is more like jumping or flying!

Merikoski  Fountains And of course the Merikoski fountains in Hupisaaret – a very popular concept seen in Oulu. Having water fountains in the middle of the water bodies.

Nallikari island– oft visited by me in Winter and Summer was actually 4 islands that merged into one due to the 8mm uplift of land every year.

My 2nd weekend in Oulu I went to Tietoma. Close it it I saw this big building which said Oulun Vankila. I wondered what it was, I even got a snap of the place….was quite tempted to go in and check it out but was tired. Thank god I didn’t, as couple of months later I realized Vankila is Prison!!!

Oulu has its wee bit share of scandal. Sara Wacklin was very popular writer in Oulu, who began her career as a teacher. She founded 4 schools for girls in Oulu, Turku and Helsinki. Unfortunately both the ones in Oulu burned down!
She wrote a popular book, A Hundred Memories of Ostrobothnia, with ironic and sarcastic stories from the area during the Finnish war of 1808-1809. These stories had make believe characters, but the way she wrote them, one could easily point them to real people of those times causing quite a furore at that time.

Am trying to get hold of a copy of this book but cant. Its on my list of Must Reads!

As I have described Oulu above, would you be able to imagine that till the road network was built in Finland (in 1800s), it was possible to reach Oulu only via sea in Summer. No access in Winters!

When I started out on the 1st post, I never imagined that I would write so much…after all Oulu is a small city (head count only 2,20,000)…albeit a mesmeric and intoxicating one. I never thought that I would miss Oulu, but I do. Like I often say…cold, cold city, warm, warm people!