Sunday, May 18, 2008

Never heard of the NOROVIRUS before Wednesday!

(Cross-posted on all my major blogs.)

I have been missing on the Blogosphere and in my Google Groups for a few weeks. It has been because of the sheer workload and also as I have found the Facebook experience quite fascinating. I found many relatives, even quite distant ones, many many friends, Cathedralites, Stephanians, CHAFF and many other groups, including my School House Group, SAVAGE, on Facebook, that I have been familarising myself to all what could be done by me on Facebook.

Although I am achieving quite a lot in creating my corner in Facebook, it is no match for the direct Blog or a Google group - and that is why I am back at blogging!

In my 24+ years in Finland I had never missed a days work or events because of any form of serious illness. I have been ill (including a bout of painful herpes inside the mouth), but it was always possible to get to work and work without having to take time off.

But this last week was different.

While at the funeral of a dear friend, Willie, Michelle's husband, I felt claustrophobic in the Small Chapel, which meant I had to go outside for some fresh air. Annikki and I went back inside to place the wreath from the whole MATTHAN Family on the coffin, but I continued to feel very weak.

Michelle (with Willie) owns the best Chinese / Indian Restaurant in town - the Royal Garden.

Michelle is from Calcutta and is a close friend of our daughter, Joanna, and consequently, a close family friend of ours. Any visitor to Oulu usually gets a treat at one of her restaurants. So Michelle is known by our family and friends around the world. (Cousins Chacko and Ammu, niece Nirupa, niece Preminda with husband Chris and Malayika, Cathedralites Sunil (and Kamal) Sahni, Sadhana Madhusadan (née Shah) Viney Sethi, Stephanians Ajay Verma, Prof. Ajeet Mathur, are just a few who have enjoyed the hospitality of Michelle and Willie.)

I suggested to Annikki that we go home and rest before attending the farewell reception for Willie at the Royal Garden Restaurant.

After getting home and resting for about half an hour I was violently ill and unable to lift my head. I did not know what had hit me. Annikki treated me all the best remedies that she has up her sleeve, Silica to line the stomach, magnesium tablets, and one pain-killer. I managed to retain a bit of everything to help me sleep off the next four to six hours, but the vomiting and diarrhoea did not abate. It was absolutely miserable.

Next morning Annikki read in the local newspaper about something known as the NOROVIRUS and the symptoms were exactly what I had been through.

A quick Google Search yielded all the important data and I was sure that absolute fasting with only liquids was the right answer.

By evening I was able to consume some of Annikki's great Fish Soup and it stayed in.

By the next morning the main symptoms had vanished, but at 5 am the Norovirus hit Annikki.

Despite her agony she took quick action to ensure that her mother, Hilja, who was supposed to be brought home that afternoon, was looked after while Annikki recovered from this virus. According to Jonana, who sent us a text message from Newcastle, it can be fatal for the elderly.

I had a good friend from Tampere, a town 500 km south of Oulu, coming to visit me on Friday evening / Saturday morning.

I did not want to disappoint Nadir or miss meeting him as his visits to Oulu are only once every two years. Rather than ask him to cancel, I booked Nadir in at a hotel across from the Railway Station, as the Norovirus is extremely contagious. I was clean but the house would have been disturbingly filled the virus.

We spent a few wonderful hours together and he was on his way on Saturday afternoon.

I would like to know which of my efforts you appreciate more - my blogs, my Facebook entries, my direct posts to you - or maybe I should just SHUT UP....

(OK Ubi, I know what you will say, but believe me you are not too old for Facebook. However, although it seems easy, it is quite complicated to work out all the ins and outs and it is not intuitive as it should be.)

Indifference or lack of the correct communication channels

I have started a new Facebook Photos page which documents my week in PHOTOGRAPHS - thanks to the wonderful camera so many of you CHAFF participants gave me for my 65th birthday. Take a look the page at it when you have time, and do add me as a friend in Facebook.

It was quite disturbing to read this email from Ildikó:

Hello again everybody,

I´m a bit disappointed since only two people answered my question about the party. I´m wondering whether it´s worthwhile organizing anything like that if there´s so little interest. Could you please give your opinion about this? Once more, I am asking if we should organize the new CHAFF kickoff party sometime in May or early July, I´d be willing to engage myself in organizing it and we can also invite other people, who are not on the list yet to try and widen our circle.

About the homepage I haven´t had any answers either, could Artem or Osku please let me know what´s going on or what is planned. I know that everybody is busy, it´s just that if we want to keep CHAFF alive in any way we must at least communicate via email now.

About the kid´s group. From Anu Holappa I heard there are many mothers with kids interested in an international group, and she has their contact info. I think that if we seriously consider to start something like this up, there should be first steps to contact these people. That way we can get a pool of interested persons and ask around for the best time to start the group. I believe now before summer it´s not the best time for this, but Jen and Burcu, you could start contacting these people via email and then if you want we could sit down and talk together about how we´d like to inform other people as well. We could make some flyers, posters etc. But I don´t think it´s enough to go through the CHAFF mailing list since there are not enough people with kids. Please let me know what you think. I also went to the International Women´s Club´s one meeting for moms and kids last week and we should certainly also involve them, Renata, the coordinator has already been asking me what will happen with our planned group.

Have a good weekend! Best regards


Why did Ildikó get only two replies?

To me the answer is that some of the real motivating factors behind the OLD CHAFF, the regular meetings which helped people know one another, understand issues in a direct manner, get direct answers about difficult problems from people with experience, and many other issues which were handled during the early years of CHAFF has evaporated in the NEW CHAFF. Instead of embracing the other spin-offs from CHAFF as the Oulu Thai Association or the O-India Group, slowly the distancing from each group is hardening.

In addition, when one receives an email, the SUBJECT LINE is most critical. It must drive the person to read what is written, not just glance through it. It must be all three factors that I describe below - that is why advertisement copy-writers are paid millions, so that they can get a reader interested to read past that bold headline, but first they must identify with that HEADLINE!

In any project there are three issues - Innovation, Motivation and Communication. The present CHAFF is loosing in all three areas. People associated me with CHAFF as I used all three methods continuously. It was never about ME, but using these powerful pillars to ensure that people felt directly embraced and they felt that they were one with a powerful group.

We lost a golden opportunity at the "Market of Possibilities Event" that took place yesterday. If we do not reach the newcomers to Oulu who, and when they, are searching for us, then how are we going to spread the powerful message of CHAFF.

Let us rethink CHAFF, not as a social club, but as a result oriented group going out there to look at issues and help people in their difficulties. If funding for this is necessary, there are really good experts who can help CHAFF get that funding.

With a great summer ahead, let us revitalise CHAFF wit or own "Market of Possibilities".

And Ildikó, if the CHAFF relaunch get-together is when Annikki's mother is in care, we will be there. BUT let us make it an all-embracing event WITH A PURPOSE so that CHAFF and its principles are shown to be alive!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I will cry this Wednesday

Only a few weeks ago we had a joint CHAFF / O-India / Oulu Thai Association meeting in the premises of the Royal Garden Chinese and Indian cusine restaurants.

Some important people were missing that day - the owners, our hosts Michelle and Willie.

The reason was not known to many.

Willie was slowly losing his battle against cancer. Michelle had decided to spend every last minute of Willie's life with him, suffering the same terrible pain that Willie was going through.

Last Wednesday, Michelle rang me to tell me that the end had come.

Michelle and Willie have been our dear friends for many years. They showed us great respect, always addressing us as Mr. and Mrs. Matthan.

One year they asked Annikki to make the birthday cake for their son, Kachun's birthday. Kachun was into Ninja turtles, so the turtle was the theme of the birthday cake.

Our daughter, Joanna, our ward, Fazila, and Michelle were great friends when Michelle started her restaurant. Over the years they have remained close to one another. So this loss of one of our family members has caused us much grief.

In Saturday's KALEVA newspaper, the obituary of Willie appeared.

The funeral will take place in the Small Chapel in the Intiö cemetery at 09:00 hours this Wednesday, 14th May 2008.

We will be there to say goodbye to a dear friend, Willie, and ensure that Michelle gets all the comfort and support she needs to carry on what the two started over a decade ago.

There will be tears in my eyes as I read our parting words. But it is not something I am ashamed of. It is better to be honest in one's expression, as it shows our love and regard for our loved one, and if tears say it best, then they are there in true sincerity.

Those of you who feel they should be there, please do come to say goodbye.

Oulu CHAFF Blog is now on VerveEarth

You will see a VerveEarth link on the right of the page.

This is the email we received from that new concept which will, in our opinion, be something outshining many new trends.

Your blog OULU CHAFF caught our attention.

I'm the founder of a recently launched startup for bloggers. We are searching the internet for the world's blogs by geography, and we found yours for Oulu. I would like to invite you to our site which plots the content of the internet on an interactive map of the world.

VerveEarth is an entirely new way to surf the net. It shows spatial and geographic connections that a blog search engine could never reveal.

The site is

Once on board, you can easily claim your blog a place in the VerveEarth world. The site is free to use and a way to drive new traffic to your blog. If our vision resonates with you, please give us a mention or add our widget to your blog. Please see our FAQ for any questions, and we welcome your feedback.

The VerveEarth team will make a timely reply.

Kind Regards,



We think the Oulu CHAFF Blog will stay ahead of all by this move.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

May 3rd 2008 - Oulu's Hyde Park Style Corner

Many of you may remember my last year's blog postings:

Freedom of Speech - Whose?
Oulu’s Hyde Park Corner

The same event appeared on the calendar this year.

I prepared better for the event. Last year, Annikki was shouting at me from the living room window as I took off on my scooter, armed with one of her wobbly creations to act as my soap box. This year she insisted I have a proper stand and equipped me with two packing pallets which she knew would carry my weight!

Annikki and her sister, Anneli, who was here from south Finland, were present at the event. These photographs were taken by Annikki.

Kaleva conveniently did not carry a picture of me although I spoke non-stop for over an hour on 25 or more issues. They gave pictorial space to those who spoke for a minute or two, some of them on totally inconsequential topics which do not need a Freedom of Speech Day to be aired!

I announced from the main stage that I was having my own soap box to speak from (in English), so I was able to draw my own audience. Also each of the speakers on the prepared stage held forth only for a couple of minutes, a few drunks also stopping to shout "Viva Finland".

My rant however went on for over an hour as I tackled major subjects about Oulu - Police, Judiciary, Media, Bureaucrats, and a whole host of subjects including corruption, racism, suicides, lack of democracy values and oppression of foreigners and the less fortunate in Finnish Society.

One lady, who obviously worked in the Oulu University Central Hospital, took objection to my criticising the emergency section where patients are made to wait for as long as 8 to 10 hours to get attention. Although she disagreed with me she then ran off saying that I did not understand how many things they had to do in the hospital.

Another young man chose to disagree with me about the corruption in the Finnish Police. Only when I showed him a report which I had from the local newspaper that he chose to concede the point.

That made my point that the people of Finland live and breathe only what their media chooses to tell them.

I told the story of when we felt the earthquake in Oulu in 1984, the media chose to tell the public that it was Swedish jets breaking the sound barrier many hundreds of kilometres away which was causing earth tremors!

One Finn thought that I was being too aggressive - but when I told him that 10 years of sweet talking had not moved the matter an inch, he agreed that some things may require an aggressive attitude to get attention.

The Kaleva, in today's newspaper, covered the fact that I had a separate platform to take up my issues. However, they made a comment which was quite out of place: They said the Finns speak when they have something to say, but foreigners speak because they enjoy speaking. They are totally wrong, as I abhor speaking about issues and only do so when there is no other alternative!

I was especially pleased that so many O-Indians and Findians came out to take part in this event and cheer me on. I was also actively supported by Annikki as she was there to give her point of view on many issues.

What disappointed me was that not a single person from CHAFF was present at the Freedom of Speech Day!

CHAFF may be changing direction with the younger crowd. But if CHAFF Participants choose to bury their heads in the sand with regard to important social issues that affect all levels of people in the City of Oulu, then that change in direction of CHAFF is, in my mind, not a welcome one.

This is not the first time that this has happened. When CHAFF Participant Benjamin Hayes gave a absolutely great talk about the Asia Pacific region, O-Indians and Findians were present. But not a single CHAFF Participant thought it important to come and hear their fellow participant.

With the end of face-to-face weekly meetings, and the lack of enthusiasm to cheer on fellow activists, the meaning of CHAFF today is something I do not quite understand!

Annikki, her sister and I had a really great Kerala meal, including the wonderful fish curry with Nisha and Sunil as we visited them to see Sunil's mother, Sarala, who is visiting Oulu. What was amazing was that little Hannah carried out a non-stop conversation with Annikki and her sister IN FINNISH - and perfectly good Finnish.

After that we went to the Nallikari Beach to enjoy a beautiful sunset while Annikki went about her life-long task of moving the beautiful stones from the beach to our residence. :-)

We will continue to enjoy a glorious summer, but watch out for a few cold days in between.