Tampere – The Time Machine

Continuing from the last blog of our visit to Finland .




My visit to Tampere and Helsinki can not be explained unless I narrate this story.

All of us have witnessed the scene where a mother is dragging high pitch crying  child from the cake shop or the chocolate shop. Mother yelling at the child , ” I had told you before we entered the shop that you will get only two chocolates and you agreed ” now you want ten , that’s not allowed ” the child , being one of the smart kids now a days, says ” but you never told me that they have so many varieties ?”

Cutting the story short, within an hour of leaving the hotel for the walk around the city in Tampere, I realized that I made a blunder by agreeing to spend only two days in the city .( as mentioned in the previous blog , this entire trip to Finland was gift to me by my daughter on my 65th  birthday, she had also accompanied me). to cap it ,the daylight available to shoot is only three hours a day so my photography passion would also suffer a setback.

Looking at my predicament she told me ,but Dad , You only agreed to two days here and more days in the Lapland . Crying was not an option here LOL.

The first amusing thing I witnessed, while coming out from the railway station at Tampere and walking to the hotel right opposite , the traffic lights , have you even thought that you can touch the traffic lights ? well here I could, they were so low , not all ,but those which were designed for the pedestrian and cyclists traffic .I was feeling more like being in a toy city LOL.

Next day morning we started our walk ,for a die-hard fan of European architecture , that too with a camera in hand , it took me about an hour to walk hardly half a kilometer, I was like a child lost in the Disney land .



The first thing to take my breath away was pavements with cobble stones and stone blocks.It felt like walking with in the past .To cap it all ,we came across Tampere Market Hall,popularly known as Kauppahalli.  This was opened in 1901 ,it was  hidden among the new shopping malls. It is place to rejoice , with food,drink and the real authentic “period “wooden chairs tables  and benches , it is like entering a TIME MACHINE that takes to back more than 100 years with all the magic of the yonder years .



yonder years 

However long ,you wish to stay in past , it is future that holds the promises ,so we carried on the walk and came across some of the most stunning buildings and churches. Thankfully for me ,my daughter was very patient with me and allowed me to imbibe the surrounding and  take photos to my hearts content , but the weather was not with us , it was soon to be dark  ,hardly three  hours of light in December .We made the best of it , with the promise that I AM coming back during summer to accomplish what I could not finish , taking few hundred more photos and wanderings round the most part of the city that I could not due to the limited time we had allotted to this extraordinary city .



On the short visit ,this city has left such a deep impression on my mind , like a treasure you find deep under the sea but due to the shortage of oxygen in your tank you have no other choice but to surface back and prepare for another deep drive with the bigger tank . Tampere ,HERE I come again .


Journey, Travel , Finland , Northern lights, Aurora ,kakslauttanen ,Rovaniemi., Uncategorized

Travelogue-photo-essay, Finland in Winter

blog title

We were one-up, we landed in December!

Some people are so lucky, that they get what they must have, at the age, when they require them the most .Well, I am blessed in that context.

My daughter, Minty Soni a practicing veterinarian came to me and asked, Dad, would you like to join me to witness aurora borealis? I would say, that God can not accompany you everywhere so He sends daughters. This was her present to me when I turned 65, and I must say what an awesome trip it was .I had heard about Auroras but never in the wildest dream thought that the opportunity would knock so unexpectedly.
We decided to go to Finland,and at the end of the journey ,I have become a die-hard fan of Finland.

The glimpses of what is in store for us in Finland ( she was turning 99 yhdeksänkymmentäyhdeksän , Finnish tongue twister for number 99 LOL ) was evident from the Embassy in Windhoek, where they issued the visa to us , smiling, friendly and warm and also warning us that we are going in the extreme temperature. In Namibia, December is the height of summer + 30 C as we are in the southern hemisphere and going to minus 25 C and if we are lucky it could be minus 30 / 35 C.

The ability to read and write, sometimes is a curse! It does not allow you to have the life full of suspense and unexpected adventures, and as if that was not enough they invented internet and Google, whole world at your fingertip.

We landed at Ivalo , via Helsinki , Mr Henri Könönen owners Naverniemi Holiday Center came to pick us up at the airport , it was snow all over and the day light was already on the way to sleep LOL. Our excitement while driving to the accommodation can hardly be described in words. A new world was unfolding in front of us.At minus 18 C , it was cold but not uncomfortable .

We Indians and particular the vegetarian Indians are very finicky about the choice and taste of the food. What they served us for dinner was the most amazingly tasty vegetarian, European food I have ever had, don’t ask me the names of the dishes, they too are the most difficult tongue twisters I have ever heard.

So far what we experienced was just a preamble, the real adventure began the next day when we reached Kakslauttanen the famous and iconic glass Igloo accommodation. At minus 25 C, I must tell you that nothing can ever prepare you for snow / deep snow, at any age you instantly become a child, who says there is no Time Machine? We discovered one , right after check-in at the reception, they told us that the igloos are 500-700 meters away behind the reception and we must walk, luggage? How to carry? Wait, they showed us the sledge , self driven , freely available lying outside the reception , Lo and behold, childhood returns ! , fun and excitement of carrying the bags on the self-driven sledge, hopping on and off gliding thru snow, incomparable.

On the sides of the path almost knee deep snow, the day light was almost waning. We could shoot some excellent, exciting pictures and videos to take back and chew our cud in future. The first time I realize the real meaning of “IT IS THE ROAD ,The Journey and not the Destination that counts “travelling from reception to the Igloo, the thought, even today brings the goosebumps. Snow covered frozen lake on one side, dim lights of the Igloos in distance ahead, silhouettes of snow covered pine trees. The magical environment can turn a silliest soul into a poet. I can vouch for it now LOL.

Next two days lazing round in snow , one chance of witnessing Aurora borealis at night , the dream sequences of fading day light and next day brightening of short three hours day light again, changes the same snow, pine trees and those Igloos and log huts so much , it is a photographers delight . Sauna, in log huts with glass windows, where you are comfortably sitting and watching the outside scenery at minus 25 C is in this climate , is another high of the visit.

After spending three nights we thought that we have seen all and experienced all , but that was a grave underestimation of the next destination , Rovaniemi , It is situated about 6 kilometers (4 miles) south of the Arctic Circle.
First time ever I had booked thru AirBnB and there was anxiety about the place, people and location. Everything turned out to be unbelievably pleasant and positive. Anna and Juha , our hosts made our stay most enjoyable and stress-free by guiding us extensively .The location of the place ,on the frozen river bank was icing on the cake.
Two events made our stay unforgettable in all the respect, visit to the iconic Santa Clause Village built on the arctic circle and night trip to witness Aurora borealis with Alexander Kuznetsov, a soul totally dedicated to chasing, so to say, untiringly photographing with his most modern photography gadgets and making aurora witnessing most enjoyable experience to his clients, I am sure majority of which become his lifelong friend as I am.
There is nothing that one could have experienced in life that can be comparable to watching and being awed by Northern Lights. Sheer size. Colors and graceful movement in the sky , makes you wonder ,are you so lucky to witness this grandeur of God.!Camping over a frozen lake,we were lucky to witness, for almost 25-30 minutes, taking picture frenetically and shooting videos as if this is the last chance in the world. I almost felt that one should live there for at least 3 months and witness these phenomenon to the heart’s content.

Santa Clause Village in Rovaniemi, though an amusement park ,has charm of its own for adults and children alike. The ambiance at the place where one can meet Santa and take pictures with him is truly reminiscent of the Santa Clause that one has always dreamt in the childhood. They have Reindeer, snow slides and ICE bar etc. When we were there ,the maximum crowd was of Chinese people, they were literally frolicking and enjoying the most, may be the CHIdren and CHInese have something in common. LOL.

Rovaniemi , I am definitely returning soon .There is still a lot more to explore and enjoy.

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Journey, Travel,China, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Uncategorized


AS they say ,continuity is an essence of life and continuity also makes sense in life. Here it is from where I left in my last blog.

I have always been a vagabond, a rebel, all my life. Had it not been for the institution of arranged marriage, I would have remained a bachelor. No lass (girl), with the right kind of mind would ever have fallen in love with me. During those hippy revolution years (70’s and 80’s) ,only in an arranged marriage, I could meet a girl ,with motherly attitude, (LIKE mother Teresa) who would take  pity on a  funny, vagabond, idiot, buffoon boy and agrees to marry him with the sole purpose of changing him into a humanoid.Thanks to Raj Kapoor’s movie roles. My wife , Jayshree , decided to experiment and till today I see her in the lab called home , happily experimenting on the guinea pig called Valmik. Both are happy .

That’s how my travelogue starts. I consider my self ,a born a human, after my marriage.

I have always traveled from point A to point A. Started from home and always returned home. They may have developed the drones with home button now, once you press it the drone returns to the same position where it started. Researchers  may not acknowledge but they learnt this from my wife, it is her invention. Whenever I would travel, she would press the button after few days and bingo! I return, that’s why my journey is always from point A to point A.

To understand my words, you need to understand my silence.

I was told that if you write a sentence like above ,you are considered a smart blogger , (Frankly I have never understood this sentence yet. LOL.)

Today I will write about the Journey to Urumqi in Xinjiang and Ulanqab in Inner Mongolia . Both are in China and both these places have unique distinction of being far away from so called civilization .The earthiness  of these places is so invigorating that I almost forgot that the HOME button is embedded in me .

My first destination after landing at Beijing was Urumqi,( almost five hours flight within China) the capital city of Xinjiang province of China, with very old cultural history, being part of major hub on the Silk route of bygone era. Also have the distinction of being a city farthest from any ocean. The only place I found in China having so much of cultural diversity.  Han (majority ethnic group of China), Hui (Han people who are Muslim), and Uyghur (a Turkic ethnic group). Other ethnic groups in Urumqi include Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Mongols.

Temperature between minus 10 C  to minus 17 C , was to my liking.The only city I saw in China with road signs , hoardings with any an additional language Urdu. I love one thing about China and that is  it brings the best of you in playing Dumb Charades. Their language is different and difficult, but their sign language is more difficult and different .For example ( if one were indicating one’s self in China (as in saying, “You mean me?”), you would point to your nose. So unless you know little bit of it or you have the print out , (now a days a screen shot on your mobile phone ), you cannot reach anywhere or ask anything. One may be highly educated ,a doctor, or an engineer or Ph.D , your feeling is same, Am I so dumb that I can not explain to them what I want ?

My first stop “Grand Bazaar ” though newly constructed , they have kept that Bazaar an Islamic look of the years of the yore. when you are wandering inside the many lanes you definitely get that nostalgic feeling that you are in the market of the Silk-road of bygone era .Carpets, dry fruits, silk dresses and material,gem stones and more of Jade and Jade carvings , local handicrafts and a very unique variety of musical instruments , from palm size ( can be played) small to full size almost 1.5 meters , very beautifully created .A lot of wooden crafts , medicinal herbs. The genuinely smiling and charming faces of the locals in shops made me wonder if our Corporate world  should send their marketing staff to learn the art here . We are so synthetic and transparent in our hypocrisy as sales people in the malls and most star hotels.


The Xinjinag province is home for some very unique white Jade called Hetian white jade and jade carvings .It is so exquisite that I spent almost half a day in just three showrooms having hundreds of carving tables , vases and other expensive wares.


There are weathered (with wind and water )stones ,each one is like a piece of art created by nature . They have Petrified wood  reminiscent of millions of years of existence. Nature competing with man made articles in these showrooms will definitely  take your breath away.


I felt so lucky to be here and witness such an awe-inspiring pieces from nature .Can the modern 3D plotters / printers ever match them in exquisiteness and originality?

Next I flew to Ulanqab  via Beijing , the place in Inner Mongolia.Technically It was not the right season as they are grasslands ,one should visit in summer or after summer , but definitely not in winter. My purpose was to be there , when no one goes there so see why? Why not winter ?It was again minus 10 C or cooler and instead of vast green grassland you see brown glassland and intermittent with white snow spread around ,like cheese spread on brown bread .I have always been fascinated by Yurts and that was one more reason to be in the place where they originated . The city Ulanqab is like any other city of China but much much less populated. I drove out side the city limits with friends from local manufacturing units .

Within one hour of driving we came across the most amazing site of my life . Hundreds of wind turbines producing electricity .The total power generated by wind turbines has reached 5.2 million kilowatts in Ulanqab. The wind farms occupies 6,828 square kilometers, a third of the region’s total area that is currently occupied by wind farms.You see gently undulated land with white wind turbines and feel that harnessing natural  wind may be the ultimate solution for our power crisis in the world . The beauty is the scenery , you can see hundreds of yurts of different sizes and colors below these wind turbines , modern age co-existing so beautifully with age old historical living .If that was not enough to shock your visual senses , you have the white snow patches here and there and sometimes almost few kilometers wide . Wild horses with thick hair growth on legs  roaming around freely .You fail to understand why do we have cities ? may be it is a rhetoric but a valid one .


Journey, Uncategorized

“A short flight out of the Golden Cage”

This is my first blog, what prompted this, is the strong feeling of being successful in completing a very hectic business trip (almost 36000 km, travelling by air, train and taxi) in eight days, after a sabbatical in 2015.

My China journey

I am a product of Mumbai, where having a stressful working life, (during my working years) was considered an achievement lol. ” I am 24/7 type of workaholic” was a proud statement. I invited diabetes at the age of 35 and till today it is a successful reminder of my foolish and pathetic life style.Though, no regrets as I was a successful part of system that rewarded the fools. Diabetes, has stuck to me more faithfully than the money I had earned. Today this is considered suicidal, and I too believe so,wisdom of old age LOL.


Well, to cut the story and go back to where I want readers to lead, my children decided, when I was 63, that enough is enough and there was moratorium on my business travel. I could go around anywhere but only for pleasure and holidays .I can help them in their business sitting at home, online, yes I am computer savvy. Trust me initially I felt like being in a “golden cage”.

It is very difficult for me, emotionally and even intellectually to challenge my children. They followed our guidance and advice all their growing life without ever counter arguing, trusting our judgment that whatever we did was always well thought over, and best options, for them. So now it is our turn to trust their judgment and respect their love and care for us.

Hence, to keep myself busy, I developed a hobby of making jewelry from natural stones, leather, copper wire etc. available locally, went on photography tours, which was my hobby but could never pursue. But every now and then I had bout of stress, I was itching to travel for business. I was feeling like an old lion, given all the tasty meat required to enjoy, but wanted to hunt and eat. The pleasure of hunting was absent.

(Here it may be appropriate to say that I used traveled 20 days every month to China and other Far-East countries for business for 15 years).
So these two years were sort of mixed feelings, loved to be with family, playing with grandchildren, the happiest moments of my life so far. To pursue and excel in hobby, photography, and enjoy the tours to wild life reserves. Best life one could imagine, but suddenly I would feel, OMG!!!, I am good for nothing fellow, not earning a penny. That would take me to depression for week or so, itching to work to earn, to travel. I had opportunities but children were firm on the decision that I cannot travel for work.
I don’t know how many people of my age have had this experience but it is, at times feeling proud that children are so caring, and at times feeling that I am such an idiot, I would not be at peace with myself. I don’t remember being so ambivalent in my whole life.

I must also mention here that I like to experience the extremes in physical thresholds, be it continuously working without break or sleep for three/four days, going hiking till I literally drop on ground etc. Last year my daughter took me to Northern most part of Finland, almost 350 km above the Arctic Circle, (Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort )for Christmas holidays in minus 25 Celsius, with preparations for weather up to minus 35 C. I thoroughly enjoyed it to such an extent that this changed my life in terms of what I want to do every winter, nothing but being at place where the weather is inclement, snow, deep snow and temperatures below minus 25 at least or lower. I had suddenly found a purpose for me during winter.

Again this could not have happen this year due to reasons beyond my control. There you are again, at the cross road. As December approached I was feeling restless.Children were against this misadventures due to my age.Though there was nothing wrong with me in terms of physical and mental fitness.

Then suddenly in the first week of first week of December, an opportunity knocked. A relative wanted to find our best source for buying certain chemicals, I sourced for him and gave him all the details as they are the best and most reliable and reasonable dependable manufacturers. (I am good at sourcing and supplying from China and Far-East, have been doing this for almost last eighteen years).

Now comes the crux of the matter. Where I found the factories are all the area with minus 15 centigrade, or lower, during this time of year and my son would not travel, leaving his family during Christmas, lo and behold ! there is no one but me, the buyer himself was not ready to go as he is not comfortable even in zero degree, so minus 15 was out of question.

When you want something, the whole universe conspires to make it happen .Paulo Coelho

God replied to my ardent prayers, travel for earning and travel to minus 15 degree Celsius, all in one trip

It was at this moment That children agreed to send me to this trip. I completed the journey, successfully visiting and placing orders with the factories, logging, 36000 kilometers in ten days. Flight, train and car travel. Returned on 31 st December,in the afternoon to the abode, where I truly and happily belong.

Feel like, away from the golden cage, an old lion has hunted his prey and enjoying as new year gift on 31 St December.

Gift given by me to myself. 😂.

Soon writing a second blog ,detailing these ten days amazing journey thru some of the most exotic places with snow and cold weather.