Monday, May 28, 2007

Be warned or die

(Cross-posted on all my major blogs.)

One of my alumni friends sent me this post which I think is very important.

Coke cans stacked in a warehouse.
Not all warehouses are so clean and tidy!


This incident happened recently in North Texas.

A woman went boating one Sunday, taking with her some cans of coke which she put into the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken to the hospital and placed in the Intensive Care Unit. She died on Wednesday.

The autopsy concluded she died of Leptospirosis. This was traced to the can of coke she drank from, not using a glass. Tests showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and hence the disease Leptospirosis.

Rat urine contains toxic and dangerous substances. It is highly recommended to thoroughly wash the upper part of Soda cans before drinking out of them. The cans are typically stocked in warehouses and transported straight to the shops without being cleaned.

A study at NYCU showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated than public toilets (i.e).. full of germs and bacteria. So wash them with water before putting them to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.

Same goes for the envelopes, do not lick it.

I do not know how many times I have drunk directly from cans. I have been lucky but may not be next time.

In an article which appeared in an English online paper Milton Keynes Citizen dated 22nd May 2007Rat infestations on the increase this was stated:

Among the 70 diseases that rats are known to carry are cholera, typhus, bubonic plague and leptospirosis, a bacterial illness spread by their urine contaminating water or food.

Leptospirosis is also known to infect anglers who can come in contact with rats' urine when fishing on the riverbank.

Council environmental health officer Simon Teesdale warned that bird feeding is one of the top causes for attracting rats to residential properties.

I am not an angler, so I need not worry about that. Annikki is planning on feeding the beautiful birds that visit our garden. We will now follow rules that will endure that no rats come to eat at the same bird house.

My thanks to my good friend 55er Bunny Rao of the Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai, for sending me this message. He may have saved many a life, including mine, with this one.

Part 2: Why do I do the things I do?

(Cross-posted on all my major blogs.)

The reaction to the first part of this blog title was so overwhelming that I thought I would share another of my very simplistic theories with you.

This blog entry covers the subject of physical and mental endurance.

Beautiful Rauma.

Two scooters belonging to my friends had to be delivered to Rauma, a lovely small town in south Finland. In the normal course I would have just booked them in a truck service and sent them on.

Not having done a long distance drive since 2003, when I drove 1300 km to Helsinki and back the same day, I wondered whether I could repeat part of this by driving to Rauma and back the same day - a total distance of 1100 km up and down.

When I told Annikki my plan, she said I was crazy. She tried to talk me out of this foolhardy mission. But my mental make-up was such that I knew I had to do this trip.

I loaded the scooters onto the trailer. Just as I was tying them down as firmly as I could, my Zambian friend, Kamutaza Tembo, turned up. He did the job of tying both the scooters down as tight as he could.

It looked as if we had done a good job.

Friday was a busy day. We had been invited to dinner by Indu and Asheesh, an Indian couple newly settled in Oulu. Their 4-year old son, Karthik, is a real whiz kid. I get on famously with him.

Indu and Asheesh decided we would dine at the Indian Cuisine, the new Indian Restaurant in Oulu. The owner, Michelle, was there to look after us. She produced an absolutely great meal. For the first time in the last 10 years we had tandoori chicken which tasted as much as tandoori chicken from Moti Mahal on Chandini Chowk in New Delhi.

After this meal, eaten slowly and enjoyed till the last mouthful, Indu and Asheesh suggested we visit their new home. Indu has done a wonderful job with this flat, bright and airy and really home-like. We chatted and finished with ice cream. I had to drag Annikki away, as I planned to leave at sunrise, about 3:30 am.

When we got home, I go a shock.

Annikki said she would also accompany me on this long journey! Although grateful to have her company, I was wondering how she would last this journey, as I had no intention of stopping halfway!

She has not done such an arduous journey in the last 15 years.

I had a shower and hit the sack. I was tired when I went to bed, but I was up, fresh as a daisy, at 3:30 am. As it was raining I decided to wait till it got a bit brighter. I let Annikki sleep while I got all the paperwork for the trip ready. Just as I was going to fill the petrol at 4 am, I told her that she should be ready in about half an hour.

As soon as I hit the first bump on the road, I realised that the scooters would give me trouble en route. After filling the petrol, I thought of a great idea and put the spare tyre between the two scooters, wedging it in tight. I then re-tightened all the ropes. When I tested it driving home, I was sure that for the most part there would be no damage en route.

I was home by 4:30 and we were able to get on the road by 4:45.

We took a route which is non-traditional. Although driving slowly because of the load in the trailer, we made good time. We stopped at a petrol station for a cup of tea. I stopped another 3 times to ensure the ropes were tightened. By 12 noon we were in Rauma.

After unloading the scooters, we dropped in to see our friends, Padma and Mika. It was Mika's birthday so we had a piece of cake and some great Indian tea. We had to refuse the meal that Padma had cooked for us as Annikki and I had eaten crisps all the journey down to Rauma.

Kannan is moving to a new flat at the end of the month. We went to see his nice new apartment. Then we drove to a lovely restaurant, HR-Kala in Olkiluoto, which specialises in Fish.

The lunch, two pieces of beautifully smoked salmon, a large fish cutlet and sliced gravey salmon served with freshly cut vegetables was superb.

HR stands for the name of the fisherman, Hannu. He has two boats, a 5 metre and a 10 metre one. He fishes in the waters of Olkiluoto and sells his fish at the Rauma market. He and his wife run this great fish restaurant.

We had this delicious early dinner. By 4 pm we set on our way back, Kannan taking the trouble to put us on the highweay.

We took another route, the main road between Rauma and Oulu, but we discovered it was a ghastly mistake.

This route is lined with camera speed checkers. I am not averse to camera speed checkers, but in the Swedish-speaking section in Finland, the Police have deliberately placed the cameras in a way to catch offenders by creating them.

The cameras are set up in one speed zone (say 100 kmph). Then, all of a sudden, one hits a speed limit change sign (say to 80 kmph) and even before one has the chance to reduce one's speed to the new speed, less than 50 metres away, they have placed the camera.

In other parts of Finland the cameras are at least 200 metres after a speed change sign.

Keeping the cameras so close to the speed change sign, has one hitting the brakes, causing the cars behind you to focus on why you are braking, and then they too realise they are being forced to brake to reduce the speed dramatically to avoid being caught for speeding.

This is catastrophic and causes a great deal of mental anguish while driving.

The whole object of this exercise is to trick drivers into a mistake and then they get caught for speeding.

It was close to 11:30 at night that we were on the last stretch home. I had been driving well within the speed limit, but as the last 5 minutes were ahead of us and we were on a motorway, I told Annikki we would be home in 5 minutes and I speeded up.

Just as we were pulling of the highway I saw the Police car behind me. I pulled up, knowing my mistake instantly.

With a trailer one is limited top a speed of 80 kmph. I had been at 110 kmph. I knew I was going to be fined. The Policemen were courteous and sympathetic, but I got my dose of the correct medicine!

Because if this slight deviation from the routine we got home just before midnight.

The entire day for me was from 3:30 am till midnight: 20+ hours approximately, in which I had driven 1155 km. The real pick-me-ups on the way had been three extra strong cups of tea, two lie-downs of about 5 minutes each to rest the eyes and limbs, and a couple of stops to fill petrol and stretch my legs.

After a quick sauna, I hit the sack at a quarter past midnight and I was asleep in less than a minute. I slept like a lamb till 9 am, five hours longer than normal, but on waking up I felt on top of the world.

The moral of this story is quite simple.

Test your endurance capacity regularly as you grow older. It is important that you know where your body stands. Any weak links will be shown up immediately when stressed to the limit. Then, you can work to correct the problems.

My weak link is that when driving for a long spell, I get an ache at the knees. Stopping and walking around for a couple of minutes eases this ache completely for the next couple of hours.

I must find out the reason for this. That was the only problem I had during this 1155 km 20 hour drive day. Mental agility and reactions were as perfect as when I used to drive like this in my younger days.

Annikki also lasted through this trip without any problems. We mid-60ers can claim to be in a reasonably sound condition as our bodies have spoken!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Censorship in Oulu by 65 Degrees North?

(Cross-posted on my Jacob'sBlog.)

I was approached by a teacher (Mr. Eric Mwai from Kenya) from the Oulu International School with a strange request.

Eric had written an article about the inauguration of 3 schools in Oulu who will cater to "the English speaking, Anglophile Finns and Foreigners community in Oulu", under the broad label of "International".

Eric submitted it to the Oulu City run online web site, 65 Degrees North. (You can read here our coverage of the event on the web.)

65 Degrees North published "his submission". To his horror, Eric found that the version printed had little resemblance to what he had submitted.

Eric wrote to the Editor asking him/her that the edited version should be removed from the web site. It was removed.

Eric found he had not saved a copy of the 65 Degrees North edited version. He asked me if there was any way I could find him a copy.

Snapshot from the Internet of the "edited version"
of the article submitted by Eric Mwai.

Although I am a complete computer idiot, there a couple of things that I do know. "Hey Presto" - within a minute I had sent him the text of the "edited version"! (See above for a screen image from the internet of the page! Click on the picture to see a larger image.)

When I read through the two versions, I was astounded with the liberties the Editor of 65 Degrees North had taken with Eric's submission.

Either the Editor has a personal agenda in running 65 Degrees North or the Editor feels all powerful in rewriting articles by authors based on his/her interpretation of events!

In order for you to judge the situation, I am including the two versions below, the one in BOLD ITALICS, being the Editor's version of Eric's article which is interspersed with Eric's original submission. [Spelling mistakes and punctuation errors in the 65 Degrees North version (a sign of bead editing) have been corrected by me!]

Oulu International School Celebrates New Finnish Links
Written by Erik Mwai
Monday, 21 May 2007

Oulu International School, Oulun Lyseo Upper Secondary School IB Diploma programme and Leinonpuisto school have started their co-existence in the newly built and renovated campus at Kasarmintie 4 in Myllytulli suburb.

Oulu International School, Oulun Lyseo IB and Leinnonpuisto schools have begun a co-operation initiative and celebrated in an inauguration ceremony this week attended by a senior Finnish politician.

The three schools held their inauguration ceremony in colourful celebration on 4th May 2007 officiated by the former minister of defence, former UN Special envoy for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Croatia and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and presidential candidate in 1994 and 2000 Ms Elizabeth Rehn. The choice of Ms. Rehn as the guest of honour can be explained through her extensive experience in international affairs and her minority status as a Swedish speaker in Finland. What cannot be easily explained was the chosen theme of Finnish Kalevala epic for the ceremony.

The newly co-operating schools are now housed in a renovated campus at Kasarmintie 4 in the Oulu suburb of Myllytulli. The opening ceremony was attended by Elizabeth Rehn, the former Finnish Defence Minister who came second in the 1994 Presidential Election, standing for the Swedish People's Party. 'The choice of Elisabth Rehn as the guest of honour can be explained through her extensive experience in international affairs and her minority status as a Swedish speaker in Finland,' claimed one of the teachers.

Kalevala epic poems are very national in many ways. They have been used through generations to unite and inspire Finnish nationalism and identity. The epic poems role in Finnish national identity in magical, like sampo! So then, why would Oulu International school staff members agree to this very Finnish theme? Is it not alienating the non-Finns or is it "doing as Romans do while in Rome?"

The theme of the opening ceremony was the Finnish Kalevala. 'Kalevala epic poems are very national in many ways. They have been used through generations to unite and inspire Finnish nationalism and identity,'said one of the teachers. He admitted it might seem 'alienating' to 'Non-Finns' but apparently there was a good reason for the choice.

'Though Kalevala is a Finnish; creation myths and epics are similar around the world,' Also, 'those who choose to leave their countries accept that they become representatives of their country of origin and students of the ways of the country that hosts them. Therefore, knowing Kalevala epic poems would do no harm to international students!'

These are important questions for Oulu International School, Oulu City and Finland in general. Oulu City Innovation strategy 2007-2013 includes an internationalism and aims and attracting non-Finns to come and do business in Oulu. In order to attract the international investors and experts, structures like an International school are necessary. Internationalism is vital for Oulu as a city and the school plays an important role in making it possible. On the national level, discussions are held every now and then on how foreigners are received in Finland, how they adapt if they do and what roles are they expected to adopt.

According to a school press release, the co-operating schools have a vital role to play in Oulu City Council's strategy of attracting more international people. However, the school emphasised that 'Oulu International School wishes to be part of the community and not an isolated school for foreigners. Cooperating with other schools like Lyseo Lukio, Leinnonpuisto, pre-schools, Myllytulli Comprehensive School and other institutions makes it possible to be, and feel like part on the community.'

There are three ways foreigners can live in country that they were not born in. One, assimilate and try to act and behave like their hosts as much as possible, two, integrate meaning that they maintain their cultural practices but try to co-operate and interact with the hosts as smoothly as possible and three, isolate themselves as much as possible from the locals. These three methods are not entirely dependent on the foreigners but they can be triggered, supported or encouraged by the hosts however, in most cases most of the responsibility lies on the individual.

So then, was the Kalevala theme aimed at assimilating or isolating the international students? Definitely not! Though Kalevala is Finnish, creation myths and epics are similar around the world. The students made the point throughout their presentations. Secondly, those who choose to leave their countries accept that they become representatives of their country of origins and learners of the ways of the country that hosts them. Therefore, knowing Kalevala epic poems would do no harm to international students. On the contrary, they can compare it with epics from other countries of their interest.

Oulu International School wishes to be part of the community and not an isolated school for foreigners. Cooperating with other schools like Oulun Lyseo Upper Secondary, Leinonpuisto, pre-schools, Myllytulli comprehensive School and other institutions makes it possible to be, and feel like part on the community. The school should be one of the venues and avenues that foreigners and other minorities meet the Finns and begin to build bridges. If someone watching the students presentations asks what is Kalevala, that makes a good start.

According to the school, the new co-operation can allow foreigners and other minorities meet the Finns and begin to build bridges.'One of the teachers felt that the Kalevala themed ceremony might seem strange but knowing about the Finnish epic would certainly be a good way for foreigners to come together with Finns.

Ask yourself:

  1. Is there any relation between the article authored by Eric Mwai and the one put up (and subsequently removed) on the web site 65 Degreees North by the Editor of this site?

  2. What was the purpose behind this mutilation?

65 Degrees North has no space restriction, so that could not be the "Motive"!

If 65 Degrees North intends to run its Editorial Policy based on what is the "Hidden Agenda of the City of Oulu" mainly "Positive Image Creation" or of the Editor of the Web Site, it would be better that the journal does not ask independent-minded authors to write for it!

©Photographer: Eijas Sallinen/Kaleva

As you know, Annikki and I stand for "Free Speech" and are willing to stand up in Public and shout for it.

Maybe the Editor of 65 Degrees North can answer us about this "censorship policy" being adopted by the City of Oulu Web Journal run with "tax-payers (read as Eric's, Annikki's and my) money"!

We will certainly publish any reply (most probably SILENCE) - UNEDITED!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A genuine "Finnish" misunderstanding by me

(Cross-posted on my major blogs.

When I was told by Ville Suomi that we would have two visitors from the Palam Rural Centre in India, I believed that they were from New Delhi, assuming Palam to be related to the Palam Airport.

However, when I went to the chappal making demo on Tuesday noon, I saw a humble "moochi" sitting on the floor making a sandal using his traditional skills.

Daniel Jesudasan, and his boss Benjamin Sundarkumar, are from Tirupur in Tamilnadu.

The real name of the organisation should be Paalam. Paalam mean "bridge" in both Tamil and Malayalam.

Tirupur is the major textile centre of India producing undergarments and t-Shirts by the millions and these can be found in even the most exclusive of shops around the world.

Daniel is a humble cobbler, having learnt the profession from his uncle over 30 years ago. In the period since, he estimated that he has made over 50000 sandals plus a variety of different products as leather bags, key ring holders, and many other leather products. His wife and his children have also been part of his professional activity.

Range of fragrant soaps "literally" lovingly hand-packaged in beautiful hand-made paper cartons from the Paalam Rural Centre.

Benjamin Sundarkumar is the Secretary of the Paalam Rural Centre, which is a cooperative of around 130 families, who are working to create an honest and good life for themselves and their children. They are producing leather products and also about 30 different fragrant soaps at their facility. They now intend to diversify into liquid soaps and shampoos.

Over the last 30 years the cooperative, started by a Swedish pastor, has taken legs of its own and has become part of the Fair Trade worldwide programme. (After Oulu, Daniel and Benjamin were on their way to Sweden so see this 80 year old pastor, now living in retirement in Stockholm.)

Kati Hjerp of Juuttiputiikki introduces the visitors from India.

In an evening programme at the WALDA Youth Centre, Benjamin said that the prices they received from the Fair Trade programme was certainly "fair" and had helped the cooperative to develop itself. The small profit had been wisely invested in improving the livelihood of the families that form the cooperative.

Impressive was the Primary School which was equipped with computers and which they hope, with further improvement in profits and help from a few friends, that they can develop into a High School.

Daniel and Benjamin at the Tropical Botanical Greenhouse.

On Thursday, I took the two of them for a tour of the city of Oulu, showing them the Oulu University Central Hospital, the Medipolis area, the Technopolis area, the University of Oulu including the fascinating Botanical Gardens and the Zoological Museum, and then a trip to the Oulu Nallikari Beach including a visit to our friends at the Children's Park.

The first ground bloom flowers in Kampitie.

View of the Kampitie garden.

View of the Kampitie garden.

View of the Kampitie garden.

Annikki's new experiment this year - peat bricks as a border.

After this I took them home to meet Annikki and view the Kampitie garden, which today is a splendour bathed in much colour.

We had a delicious Indian meal at the Indian Cuisine Restaurant. Then, I dropped them off at Juuttiputiikki, where Daniel was once again going to demonstrate his artisan skills to a much larger audience than on Tuesday.

During our conversations, many serious thoughts struck me.

Firstly, with the children of the now cooperative members being educated presently in modern facilities, it is most likely that the artisan skills of Daniel and his friends will not be passed on to the next generation to follow. It is, therefore, imperative to develop their cooperative in a manner that does not drive these educated children away from their roots and homes as they are forced to seek employment in the metropolitan cities.

Secondly, I felt that as water is a scarce resource in Tirupur, when making their liquid soaps for export, it would be far wiser for them to export the liquid soapconcentrates, and market these concentrates in the Fair Trade outlets, just as Juuttiputiikki is doing of products from many other producers of liquid soaps and shampoos.

Thirdly, the cooperative should cooperate with Universities and other organisations to ensure that the water scarcity which plagues their region is solved using modern scientific methods. Otherwise the entire region, which today depends on fast depleting groundwater, will be led to total ruination!

And finally, the manufacturing facilities are truly primitive, but yet they produce a great range of products suitable for the elite of the western world. Here, I am caught in a dilemma as to what to say. If I say that the facilities should be modernised, it will take away the glamour of the humble way of life of these people. But if they do not modernise, their competivity will be lost and they could grind to a halt in the not too distant future.

The primitivity is what impresses me, YET depresses me. To think that India, with its explosion on the world economy, still has such manufacturing primitivity is extremely hard for me to accept.

Having spent many years with Annikki in villages around Karnataka - I know this is a reality. Maybe someone will help me clarify my thinking!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why do I do the things I do?

(Cross-posted on all my major blogs.)

Recently there was a programme on an American internet radio station about how humans were less developed than animals. Examples cited included the fact that all the animals moved to higher ground before the tsunami struck. Several other examples were given and it reinforced my view that animals are infinitely superior in all respects to human beings as far as knowing themselves and their environment.

The programme also highlighted how much we have to learn from animals. For instance, when the super-fast train was being built in Japan, there was a sonic boom when the train emerged from a tunnel at the high speed. This was solved by watching how a kingfisher enters the water with its specially formed beak and it moves effortlessly from one medium into another! The front of the train was designed to be like the beak of a kingfisher.

I have been a strong believer in the philosophy that my body tells me exactly what I should eat or drink. As a result I have never been a pill popper AND I have not been seriously ill for many a decade. In my 23+ years in Finland I never missed a day at work.

People find it hard to believe my very simplistic theories. Usually, when I draw their attention to facts when they are published later, they forget that I had told them the reasons well before scientific evidence had proven something.

I must go back in time when I was a heavy smoker, consuming nothing less than 80 Charminars a day, drinking several bottles of beer and finishing the day with a bottle of rum. This was also a time when I drank about a dozen cups of coffee per day!

Even with this I had never been drunk. I lived and worked hard, usually a grueling 20 hour day.

I also had an unbelievable memory where I could recall facts instantly. My ability to scan a letter and pick out errors was uncanny. My secretaries were astounded by how I glanced down a sheet and faster than they came in they were out of my office with a pageful of corrections on the sheet.

Then, one day I walked into my office in Bangalore and could not find an important paper, I realised my memory was failing. My body immediately told me to lay off alcohol.

Within 24 hours I had given up not only alcohol, but also coffee and cigarettes, as the consumption of one to the other was interlinked.

People were astounded how I had such enormous will power - but it was not me doing the choosing, but my body.

It has taken close to 25 years to rebuild the small portion of my brain that was damaged. Although it was a small partr, it was quite a considerable portion.

My alma mater web sites and my blogging were part of a long term programme which helped me rebuild my damaged brain.

When I quit all the "harmful" parts of my intake, I went on to consuming water for several months. Then my body told me to take to tea.

From then onwards I have been consuming anywhere between 5 to 8 cups of tea per day. The effect on my entire body as well as my brain has been so invigorating. If I told anyone that my tea intake was being controlled by my "intuitive" need, I would be laughed out of the room.

Today, when I read this article on BBC Tea 'healthier' drink than water, I knew my body was the one which had been right all the while.

I quote a couple of passages from this article:

Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits, say researchers.....

....Experts believe flavonoids are the key ingredient in tea that promote health.....

....These polyphenol antioxidants are found in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been shown to help prevent cell damage....

...Other health benefits seen included protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.....

Besides tea, I also consume about 5 to 7 litres of water per day, as my body demands that.

It is my contention that tea not only prevents cell damage, but it helps restore damaged cells, although that is a painfully slow process and needs much outside stimuli to repair the cells to its original form. Maybe this will be discovered in 10 years!

That is how my brain cells have been regenerated!

So I say, learn to listen to your body!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mother of Mine

(Cross-posted on Jacob's Blog. Copyright of photographs is acknowledged.)

It has probably been over 10 years since Annikki and me have visited a cinema theatre to see a movie. Yesterday afternoon, we went to the STUDIO in the Youth Centre to see a Finnish / Swedish movie called "Mother of Mine".

During World War II, more than 70,000 Finnish children were evacuated to neutral Sweden to avoid the conflict. "Mother of Mine," is the award-winning movie by Director Klaus Haro.

The story tackles that painful history in the story of 9-year-old boy, Eero, a child who increasingly feels abandoned by his biological Finnish mother and yet not attached to his Swedish foster mother. When he returns to Finland, his confusion intensifies and it lasts through his entire adult life till he understands what really happened when he goes to attend the funeral of his foster mother.

The movie is heart rending. To someone like Annikki who lived through those times in Finland, it was particularly difficult to believe that this really happened, as she knows her mother would never have sent them anywhere!

The movie is in Swedish and Finnish, with English subtitles. There were several mistakes in the sub-titles, but that did not detract from the powerful impact of the movie itself. The acting was superb and the photography simply exquisite.

Eero help his Finnish mother.

Eero with Hjalmar, his Swedish foster father.

Eero with Signe, his Swedish foster mother.

Topi Majaniemi starred as Eero and gave an outstanding performance. Marjaana Maijala acted Eero's Mother with Maria Lundqvist as Signe, the Swedish foster mother who looked after Eero in Sweden. Michael Nyquist acted as Hjalmar, the Swedish foster father.

What was especially sad was that all 45 seats were reserved making the organisers cut off the number of people who could attend. More than half the people failed to turn up, depriving many of seeing this movie - which was for free!

All those from CHAFF who took tickets did turn up, however, although many more could have benefited from seeing this powerful movie!

Friday, May 18, 2007

No CHAFF Meeting this week on Sinday

We will not be having a regular CHAFF meeting this week as many CHAFF Participants are busy this Saturday as many NGOs (Amnesty, SINNI, Red Cross, Oulu Setlementti, etc.) showcase their work in the City Centre in something called "Mahdollisuuksien Tori 2007".

It starts at 11 am and will last all day.

(I am surprised that this programme page has been made available only in the Finnish language! Correct me if I am wrong.)

I will be attending the absolutely great Finnish Movie (with English sub-titles) that I had circulated info about in my last CHAFF up-date.

I think all the 45 seats have been distributed.

There are only three left with me, which will be given on a first come, first serve basis at the location on Saturday.

I will be at the STUDIO by 12.45 pm.

Maybe after the movie we can have a coffee/tea together!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A cold day, Thai spirit and warm feelings

Yesterday, the Oulu Thai Community, had their version of Mother's Day.

Many braved the cold weather to attend, but it was nowhere near the attendance there was last year on a clear sunny day.

The Buddhist Monk started the days proceedings early with communion with his flock. At noon visitors arrived to partake in a great Thai buffet as well as see the dancing and music as performed by Thai children, young boys and girls. Several CHAFF participants were present.

What is the importance of such celebrations. Some people frown at all this dancing and prancing, saying it is not meant for them.

It is my humble opinion that they are wrong and this sort of festival performs several important functions.

In a foreign country, the youngsters from oher countries tend to lose their links to their traditional customs and culture as they "integrate" with the host country. It is quite impossible for every parent to instill on their own the best cultural values to their children in isolation, as the pressures of the host society, which is everywhere, overshadow all else.

A festival such as this acts in different ways. The youngsters who come forward to perform, learn some of their culture from what they learn from their peers. Although they may not understand the meanings of the hand movements as they perform a dance, once they learn a movement, they later can understand its significance.

By learning the songs that they sing, they learn some of the traditional values contained in them, rather than those values that they find in the pop television from their parents country that they may watch.

Additionally, they learn about the foods that they can eat in their country and learn much of the rich traditions of this at such festivals.

And if they are lucky to have an artist displaying his/her work, then they get a bonus to see their culture in its true glory.

So do not prejudge a festival based on the superficial, but look a little deeper and see how much good was achieved by holding of such festivals.

We are lucky to have so many talented Thais in our midst, and especially those interested to instill some of the important values to their children.

Thank you dear Thai people for allowing us to take part in your festival yesterday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This is no laughing matter!

The newspaper coverage of my performance at the Free Speech Day had both Annikki and me in splits of laughter. It was not about what I said but the attitudes shown by those that covered the event.

As I have mentioned earlier, the newspaper Kaleva tried to neutralise the effect of accepting my challenge to prove me wrong by introducing in their Main Editorial the fact that Freedom House had claimed that Finland was rated among the top countries of the world as regards the Freedom of the Press.

This is what Annikki and I wrote to Freedom House:

from Annikki Matthan
date May 4, 2007 11:55 PM
subject Surprised ay your rankings!

Dear Sirs,

We are truly amazed at your ranking that Finland is at the top of the Free Press list.

Either your ranking system is run by some incompetent people or you have fallen for the beautiful Finnish methodology of creating an IMAGE, an image which is far from the truth.

See this Blog Entry at

Annikki & Jacob Matthan
Oulu, Finland

Kaleva index page coverage.

Oulu and the neighbourhood page coverage.

The Finnish radio and tv may not have covered my outburst, (as far as I know), although I have heard reports that I was covered!

Wonder how they pushed it?

Oululehti coverage.

Another Oulu newspaper, not mainstream, Oululehti, had no coverage of the substance in the event, but in a section called "Bridge view" shared with its readers what a passerby would have seen and heard. What they wrote was truly hilarious, but substantially off the mark.

They referred to me as the "talkative Indian", "speaking in English which flew above the heads of the listeners", "creating the flavour of Hyde Park", "was certainly heard"...

The writer was right in all these issues except that what I said flew over the heads of the listeners. The journalist obviously did not hear the thunderous applause that I received.

But the Kaleva certianly got part of the message which they highlighted in "blue".

It reads as "The Police is corrupt, the Magistrate is corrupt, the Public Guardian is corrupt."

Of course, I did not stop there, as the main thrust of my speech is the reason all these forces of power are corrupt is because the "media, symbolised by Kaleva, is corrupt."

The content of my talk was certainly no laughing matter, and none of the audience laughed at the substance.

But the press coverage certainly amused us!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Freedom of Speech - Whose?

(Cross-posted on my Jacob's Blog.)

Annikki's new book is being released today.

Titled "Freedom of Speech - Whose?", it is a collection of her submissions to the local newspaper, Kaleva, over the last two years, who have ignored her powerful voice on several major issues, as she speaks the truth.

Out of 42 messages submitted by her, 34 were not published by the newspaper.

Last year, the newspaper asked for readers to submit their opinions on this subject. Annikki wrote a piercing piece, which was ignored by the newspaper.

From this Annikki got the idea to publish the text messages she has submitted to the newspaper which were not published.

She leaves it to the reader to decide whether she was censored, ignored, or whether her submissions were not worthy of publication.

As the newspaper and the local national radio station have organised a London Hyde Park style Speakers Corner in the main Otto Karhi Park in Oulu for today, I will talk on the subject of Freedom of Speech, Corruption and other matters, between 11 am and 1 pm.

Unfortunately Annikki cannot be there as she will be engaged in looking after her mother at that time.

The book, in Finnish, which will be only available from us, can be ordered from Annikki at

The price is Euro 15 including packing and postage. Payment can be made to the following bank account:

Nordea 249818-69968

with the Message stating: Sananvapaus - kenen?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Walda - May Day Eve

Another hit for CHAFF who helped organise the May Day Eve Multicultural Event at Walda.

The turnout and participation were excellent.

Among the many CHAFF participants who made their way to the event were: Dilip and Reshu Joshi, Emilia Frantsi, Gizella Tauriainen, János Horváth (who did a great job on the piano), Lauri Gardner, Nadaj Mikkonen (who danced a couple of grea Spanish dances), Olga Sorvanova, Pupe and Irin (who did the Thai dance), Shahnaz and Yrjö Mikkonen, Soda (who played the drums and guitar), and Unnop Khungrai who did the video recording. Also many thanks to Pupe's mother, June, who dressed the Thai girls.

The CHAFF spirit was very evident at the event.

The food was plentiful and free. The Somalian samosas were delicious. Everything was to a perfection.

There were wonderful performances by Nadja Mikkonen (Spanish dancing), a group of youngsters from Sudan and Ilmi and Matti of Walda accompanying János in some light music and some outstanding Jazz renditions! Soda was at his best on the stage performing on the drums and the guitar. Khim also did a great job on the guitar. (Sadly, I missed the Afro dance performance which I heard was absolutely great.)

Real appreciation must be made to to Mirjami Ndiaye, Matti Korvela, Anna Katariina Pesonen, Ilmi Dibrani, János Horváth and several others who worked hard behind the scenes to ensure the success of this event.