Monthly Archives: June 2005

Töpsy türvy 10

A lot of things here are quite the opposite of what my senses and sensibilities are used to. The traffic is obviously right hand driven with the driver’s seat on the left hand side (unlike Japan). It takes a while to get used to it. Some of my colleagues have in fact been so baffled, that they have ended up taking transport in the wrong direction – the very direction they came from in the first place! Thankfully I am still sane. People walk on the right hand side of any street. They stand on escalators on the right hand side (Unlike Japan where they stood on the left). All doors open on the outside. That’s a real mess. We have made fools of ourselves several times by pushing every lever attached to the door in every possible direction (at times there are some weird ones attached), when all we had to do was ‘push’ the door knob instead of ‘pull’! Even the handles are pulled up (anti-clockwise) instead of being pushed down to open any door.
The electrical switches here function in exactly the opposite way. The ‘Off’ position would mean ‘On’ here and vice versa. Those who don’t know this, get quite confused at first.
The letter ‘j’ is pronounced as ‘y’ here. So the name ‘Jari’ becomes ‘Yaari’ as in “yaari hai imaan mera yaar meri zindagee’ and not “jaa ree”. Similarly ‘Jani’ becomes ‘Yanni’ as in the composer and not “jaanee” as in “jaanee yeh chaku hai”. Well at least they write it with the same letter. The japanese even *write* ‘r’ for ‘l’ and ‘English’ becomes ‘Engrish’ there! It’s written that way and pronounced the same way. In fact as a conclusion, ‘Rohit’ becomes ‘Lohit’. I dont know what a tongue twister ‘Rahul’ would become!
I have barely been able to pronounce the name of the place I am staying in. It took me two days to get my tongue used to other words apart from Helsinki (where I stay), Espoo (where I work) and Vantaa (where the airport is). ‘Pursimiehenkatu’ is not such a big deal now. Neither is Leppävaara. Nor is Linnavuorenpuisto. Want some more tongue twisters? You would be barely able to pronounce these words, when they assume that your memory is volatile and vanish from your memory. It takes a while to learn to pronounce a word and then *remember* it so that you can reach that place.
The first thing that every PC user from India asks is – where the @ symbol is. Obviously everyone has to send email and the @ symbol is not visible in the first look or in the second (neither are a whole lot of other ‘normal’ keys). Some ppl assumed that finnish keyboards don’t have a provision for one, so they started the ‘typical copy/paste from other mails and make do’ kinda stuff. My typing skills have gone töpsy türvy as well! Normal symbols like even <> / etc are now typed with a different key combination! The ‘normal’ places are now occupied by ö ä å ü € and the like.
The TV remotes here seemingly didn’t function. Only later we realised that the power does not come on by pressing the same button which was pressed for switching it off. Instead you have to press any channel button and it comes on! Weird.
Thankfully one thing is still not totally awry. The toilets here are equipped with jet sprays and toilet paper both! Phew!

The place 9

If you haven’t come here via this link, then please read that first.

The view from the planes was great. Europe seems to be covered with forests, at least the parts I saw. Finland is smaller than Rajasthan. Its population is much lesser than even Delhi’s. It’s got more than 40,000 lakes and has its own archipelago! It’s a very scenic place full of natural beauty. Every small little thing is appealing to look at, be it the weeds, the twigs in the lush grass or the leaves in the tall trees. As expected, everything is clean, dust free and pollution free (including noise pollution). I could take a deep breath freely after a really long time without getting the feeling that I am harming my lungs. The cool, crisp mountain air laden with the foresty smell (minus the smell of thick vegetation) is an instant energiser. The place looks like its mainly a forest dotted with houses. The heart of Helsinki is not really like a forest though. Since it’s the capital, it’s more populated and has more hustle and bustle due to the harbour. The languages spoken are mainly Finnish and Swedish. Thankfully most ppl understand English which is a welcome respite from Japan. I don’t need to hone my dumb charades skills any more.
Helsinki has a mix of old architecture and modern glass buildings. In places it looks more like a Nordic kingdom and in some it looks like an ultra modern city and still in others, it’s a mix of both. It’s a different feeling altogether, seeing a hi-tech bus standing on cobblestoned streets or seeing a beauty salon showcased in a building which looks like a fortress in its own right. The architecture is mostly Jugend. Common houses look like small little castles built of rock, with their own barricades. At times I get the feeling that I have jumped into an old Scandinavian novel – the architecture, the people – all look like they belong to a make believe world. The midnight sun phenomenon appears quite bizarre to many ppl. Though I never found it so bizarre (heard about it so much), it does seem odd when you feel the need to wear goggles at 10 in the night! It is confusing my body clock. Everyday I have been out till 12 in the night at least. It’s never really time to sleep. Sleep comes only with fatgue. Fatigue comes with a lot of walking which I have been indulging in. The weather is perfect and the place scenic – what else does one need to be outside!

The story so far

The journey from Delhi to Helsinki was nothing great. Instead of the much planned hop via Vienna, (Austrian airlines), I got my tickets and insurance finally a couple of hours before leaving for the airport; confirmed through Lufthansa airlines. Who said Lufthansa was a great airline? To add to the disappointment of not being able to see Mozart’s & Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s birthplace and Beethoven’s adulthood place, was the fact that the airlines was in no way a match to what Austrian airlines would have been. There was no inflight video entertainment! Sacrilege I would say. The announcement system was so bad that I could not hear a single instruction rattled off by the staff and I doubt if anyone else did. I just did what I knew from past experience. The airhostesses were nothing great – not so young women, with not even a smile on their face and unwaxed arms (what else does one need to be put off entirely – yes even females get put off by these things). The seats were cramped and the service was bad enough. I was served a Vegan meal inspite of specifying “Indian Vegetarian”. The only good thing it had was “internet access in the sky” but that was of no use to me since I wasnt carrying any laptop.
Frankfurt airport was also nothing exceptional. Especially after having seen Changi airport. The same 4-5 shops got repeated in the entire airport. Nothing really appealing. The flight from Frankfurt to Vantaa (Finland) was again very different. The aircraft was very small, like a chartered plane. But then that’s inevitable. I guess not many ppl go to Finland. There was no inflight entertainment. Seats were the bare basic. Meals were same for all (thankfully nothing like octopus salad). The space in the aisle was less than that in a DTC bus. At least the air hostesses were smiling. Finland airport looked as if no one ever frequented that place. There were barely any planes and hardly any ppl. I took a cab to Helsinki and the cab driver was quite chatty. We even managed to crack a few jokes on India and Finland.

While I gear up for the usual stuff in a foreign country (different ppl, customs, foods, language, crossing the roads at a pedestrian crossing ONLY and when the light goes green ONLY, no sign of dust or pollution, no brouhaha like in Indian streets, no poverty, more safety, 24 hr daylight), you can read this for an account of the ‘Land of the midnight sun’ (well Finland too is that). While I am at it, there are bound to be some comparisons with my experiences in the ‘Land of the rising sun’ too, since I was not able to chronicle those while I was there.

In the meantime

I have reached Helsinki and am still settling down. Would be back with more soon. I have been updating other blogs in the meantime ppl. Do give them a look if you are visiting this place and bored of finding no updates.