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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela

There have always been leaders who could be called as statesmen ,To be labelled as on ,certain virtues are called for ,like sincerity of purpose ,persistence in ideals ,and ability for self sacrifice for a greater cause ,such people are becoming rarer in public life people like Mahatma Gandhi and of course Nelson Mandela of South Africa .
I recently read the" long walk to Freedom "by Nelson Mandela his  Autobiography published in 1995 thanks to my book lover friend Wendy who lent me this excellent book .
Madiba as Mandela is endearingly known was the adopted heir of Thembu dynasty and was groomed to be a tribal leader ,Mandela means the one who pulls the branch of a tree which means the trouble maker ,he did live up to his name to the racial regime of the whites that ruled over South Africa with the hated apartheid system .
Mahatma Gandhi had done his bit as an young Indian lawyer in South Africa by opposing the inhuman system of segregating people by color in his own non violent protest and to young Mandela this appealed a lot .
As a budding lawyer he joined the African National congress and grew up the ranks .
He was for non violent protest but the Sharpeville massacre made him change his policies to a certain extent He knew that the regime that ruled South Africa would never bother unless they are pricked and hence to a certain extent advocated selective acts that would hurt the Government and its minions but with non violent protests as the dictum .
Nelson was put in prison and banned for several occasions and had to live underground for some years
Finally over the famous Rivolini trial he was incarcerated sfor more than 27 long years where for a major part he was in the infamous Robben island off Cape town .

“The authorities (at Robben Island) liked to say that we received a balanced diet; it was indeed balanced between the unpalatable and the inedible is his qoute on its diet 

The indignities and tortures he encountered and the pang of separation from his near and dear ones he went through is narrated very vividly .
“Prison itself is a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is above all a test of one’s commitment says Nelson about those hard times 
Finally with international pressure increasing to release by then the well known prisoner of freedom Nelson was released by the authorities
“I always knew that someday I would once again feel the grass under my feet and walk in the sunshine as a free man”
he  went on to be the top negotiator with the government
 he went on to share the Nobel prize for peace with the South African president and was by then a well known world statesman and became South Africas first president on its freedom
Madiba is still active  for he says
“I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Norwegian Nostalgias

I had written this down in 2008 but never blogged it
So better late than never

In 2008 when me and Premila went to Stockholm Sweden to attend the European society of oncology conference ,
We decided to go to Oslo from there for a day as we had some relatives .
SAS Airlines takes just an hour to fly between Stockholm and Oslo ,

In Oslo dusk settles fast and the sky was overcast with a definite chill in the air as we sauntered down the spacious lobby to our waiting cousin couple .
( premilas cousin a Singapore citizen now a a Norwegian teacher is married to Andreas a Norwegian doctor )
After the initial warm up of meeting them we cruised in their sleek vehicle to Riechstag a drive of more than two hours from the airport .

The roads were neat and pristine ,but literally empty with a few cars zipping past ,
For us Indians  emptiness was always rare this was a treat .
The scenic landscape was mind blowing , there were farms with undulating green hillocks delicate as  a damsels waist , with intermittent mounds of grey hay clusters like the peeping wisps of a an ageing woman ,
Bright cottages with coloured roofs smoking chimneys  with warm lights glowing in their souls , twilight sky burnished by the setting sun ,meandering streams looking like shivas locks  ,pines and ferns growing tall like shy teenagers ,the hush of nature ,the twitter of the birds and all the other  secrets which nature reveals to us in some places ..
We stopped often to click and glimpse at these gifts of the divine .

Soon we crossed the Glomus a famous river of the country ,it was broad and flowing and we could feel the chill of its waters
We  went under a Moose bridge covered by green  ( moose  bridges are built over highways for moose to cross to reach the forest on the other side ) as Moose crossing by road could turn dangerous where  there was considerable damage when a speeding car hit them
 more to man than moose .

Moose incidentally is the national animal of Norway  , it was  something between a reindeer and a cow and was huge with big horns .
Moose meat was a known delicacy there and was said to be tasty though a bit stringy and hard .
We did taste it as Andreas had made a jugalbandhi moose curry for dinner flavoured with Indian spices for our spoilt tongues .
The towns were small with one stop restaurants bars ,schools and offices ,
cottages and villas were  neatly painted with box gardens ,trees ,and flowers punctuating the place .
Everything was well organized and neat but people were hard to find ,either there was mass exodus  or enforced hibernation or they went to bed early !
Even petrol bunks were  unmanned so were  parking slots and this created  an eerie sense of desolateness reminding me oof the Salems lot
( Stephen kings famous novel and later film  ).

We reached the clinic of Andreas our brother in law from Norway ,went inside and discussed the ergonomics of a Norwegian medical practioner ,with three of us doctors ( premila ,me and Andreas )and a teacher Sudha  (Premilas cousin )  the subject should have been boring only to one !
you know who !

Home and to a sumptuous dinner lovingly prepared by the couple with both Norwegian and Indian flavours tickling our palates .

The huge cottage with an internal swimming pool was homely with wooden floors ,wide verandahs and soft cushions ,bathrooms had floor heating which was a first for me ,their  warmth and of our hosts spread into our hearts as we slumbered like babies  in the cosy bed for an undisturbed sleep .

Morning was bright and sparkling and with a cuppa of warmth we went under the apple tree in the compound which rained juicy fruit  and walked over mushey apples strewn in the ground plucking ripe ones and crunching their sweet delights .
A walk into the town made us see more empty roads and lovely picture postcard cottages
One lingering thought we had of Norway was its emptiness .
Norway has high taxes but provides security for its seniors giving them good houses to stay medical facilities and all the necessities till they die ,the idea is work hard during productive years pay tax and the government looks after you in old age ,lovely ( only hassle don’t die early )
 Oslo city where we went to later in the day dispelled the notions  of emptiness as it was as crowded as any modern city could be .
Norway had a checkered history being under several countries over the times ,the early vikings were known for being fierce seafarers and Norway even today has retained its romance with the sea ,some of the best sailors and naval men are from this country and it is known for ship building and navigation .The Viking museum in Oslo is just the place one needs to visit to dip into the fable of the great Vikings ,bearded and tall these brave men of the past strode tall in their exquisite boats which were as sturdy and powerful as them ,the boats were huge and were buried along with their statesmen and have been unearthed now to be housed in the museum ,every boat had the essentials needed for the nobleman and even his servants were buried with them ,the museum could take one back to those ages when the savage wildeness of the earth  was dared by the strength of the men who inhabited it .
One bounces back to the present after leaving the museum to drive along the roads of the city ,climbing up a hilly road which  lead one to the famous ski jump where many have skimmed down into fluffy snow for the winter Olympics ,the jump has a park around it with benches for picnickers and this is where we had our lunch when  Andreas our Norwegian doctor brother in law joined us for an indian lunch eaten with hands
this evoked considerable curiousity for the locals as they saw one of their own  sitting with two Indian women and an Indian guy comfortably tucking in with his  fingers the  spicy concoctions with ease !

There was a statue of the Norwegian king gazing at us benignly as he retuned from sking with all his dogs ,it is said he died of frostbite after one such excursion .
Down the hill and into downtown Oslo we saw the heritage buildings like the parliament the Nobel hall where the Nobel peace prize is given even though all the others are given in Sweden
We went into the cruise harbour and almost into a huge cruise ship which was getting ready to embark to Germany ,we did stop before getting into its bowels and into probably an unwelcoming Germany !
The opera house  a recent landmark to the city with its sloping roof touching  the floor one could walk up the roof and gaze the skyline .
And suddenly it was all over as it was time for us to return

Our Norwegian romance ended there but then we had fallen  in love with the country and its people  for ever
Night  saw us flying back to Stockholm after fond farewells .

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