Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Santa Maria reached Grønland - 2010

[Memories of 2010]

In 1492 expedition ship (invading war ship) Santa Maria carrying a crew of prisoners and one remarkable explorer (ruthless plunderer) reached India. 

India… err… it was so at least for the man who dared the journey in the look for a little more spice. I am unaware whether Christopher Columbus knew that it wasn't India, or whether he was happy for where he reached. But we were happy when we reached Grønland and knew perfectly that it is the best India that we could find in the Norse-land.

It all started while wandering. We were hell-bent to find a place with spicy food at cheap price, and few other accessories of life that we were used to. We found ourselves fortunate to meet one Pakistani shopkeeper at no other place than Sentralstasjon [oh how many times will I write this name] who was extremely helpful. He wrote the word Grønland with a Norwegian ‘
ø’ in a piece of paper and gave us with vague directions. Grønland sounded as if in the other side of the moon, yet we went on.

After endless troubling to people we met on the way, with a silly rain wetting our shoes, we found our way in a maze of Gata and Gate [Oslo’s two words perhaps standing for Road and Street] of tong-twisting names. Directed and misdirected with their perfect English to sign language instructions, it sounded like almost impossible to find this unknown dot of the suburb in Oslo’s mesh of places. To make matters worse, the map we found seemed to cut its limit before the mark, maybe composed by someone who had bad taste for spicy food.

Finally we reached there. Even before we reached the mark its signs appeared. Oslo’s usual order and cleanliness deteriorated. Passers changed the color and boards changed language.

“Communication Café” one board read. It should have been “Kommunicasjon” my one-day-long Norwegian talents suggested. “Tandoori Take Away .... Kr” read another. It was too much priced, so we’re not yet there, we thought.

Roads narrowed and crowd got noisy. We walked into a mall of some sort with reducing price for rice and curry versions of Indian names. Sarees and Kurthas replaced the display windows of Textile outlets which were closed on Sunday. We believed we got there.

If Indians were a familiar sight, Africans were total opposite. Do not take it derogatory as I didn't mean anything about their racial backgrounds. But those Somali vendors who ran make shift shops that piled with mess in once-upon-a-time beautiful courtyards of an "ancient city", sounded and behaved pretty much like a bazaar in east Africa. Threatening and scary at times, never inviting to wonder into those ghettos and dark corridors.

There is a bit of a story about this Asian/African wonderland in suburban Oslo. Long time ago when the city became industrialized, the factories were built in the two banks of the stream. With that village folks who were considered lower than citizens in class hierarchy of that time started to migrate to city looking for a living providing cheap labour. Naturally they settled near the factories. Little by little the "common man" population grew and moved towards those Noblemen (or so called). They did not like it. So they collected money and bought a huge chunk of land separating them from those "untouchables" in their view. The big chunk of land was made into a park separating the two classes. Time rolled on, and those labourers grew in wealth and they also found the ghetto region not so entertaining. Timely so, Norway started giving refugee visa to a big chunk of Pakistanis (1960s). The locals sold their houses at cheap price to refugees and moved on. After several decades the region has primarily non-Nordic population, visited and controlled by them. Today, it is the King's palace that sits in the lovely park that separated the two regions.

Anyways, it was the little India (or little Somalia) of Oslo. We found a wide range of dining places for our choice. Prices were reasonable and look was familiar. Place was full of a variety of people. I was pretty good at guessing their nationalities, which I dared asking and even getting right. We spoke to the Asian and African culture nursed in the vibrant colour of Oslo. We had many lunches, on many times, and found many food items with the spice of homeland in it.

Santa Maria finally reached the real India we concluded.

All the way to Oslo - 2010

[Memories of 2010]

After a series of bureaucratic transits and endless waltzing across the allies of airports we safely landed in Oslo. Oslo, being built upon the roof top of the world map, makes you take an essential hassle and tussle to reach. Yet the last descend justified it all. The tiny tube of E190 “ails-only” toy aero plane dropped over a fine mix of water and land, by means of islands, thin strips of peninsulas and fjords. It was like a childhood dream to float over them, looking down over the window in clear daylight.

Daylight is almost impossible to be missed out during summer in Oslo. When we landed it was bracing for yet another summer with 20+hours of daytime. Hence the mercury did not batter us deep. Yet the breeze flowing over those yet unknown mountains did so occasionally, whenever we dared to walk into the shade. Oslo has a pretty bad shade-to-sun temperature difference which makes you hate the chill on the dark side of your own shadow. However it was the best time to face the worst climate for the tropical species.

After leaving airport we carried on to the city, passing numerous farmlands with little houses in those prairies. Their big storage like buildings next to residencies housed the big machinery. Acres of different crops, laid on bouncy hills up to the horizon, separated the neighbours of the seemingly tranquil community.

Tranquillity was abundant in the City too. Yet Oslo looked lively and kicking. In contrast to our preparation to face the Northern chill, people were getting ready to face the upcoming sunny days. So was the city. Trees looked greener and getting ready for flowers. Sunshine was all over.

Roads bent over the sharp edges of city harbour. Tramps spoiled the smoothness of the Town. Sea water filled a series of inland canal-like formations [or Fjords] without breaking into big sea waves. It was calm, enigmatic, and as green as the deep sea should be. From the distance rose the yet unknown hillside. On the other side of the zigzag of fjord tips, slept the great blue ocean [which is yet again a fjord, for the record]. Some small islands added colour to the busy harbour with its flotilla of cargo ships, cruise liners and small boats of you don’t know what.

City’s architecture was a mix of times. Modern skyscrapers rose over the gloom of medieval looking gothic stone dungeons. Most roofs looked very much Nordic, with symbols, shapes and sharp inclines to which ordinary roof tiles may not be able to cling onto. The odd incline maybe essential to shake off the winter’s pileup, I theorized.

People pushed and puffed everywhere. Oslo life looked very much centred upon its Sentralstasjon, or the Central Railway Station. In every ally of any road in the busy surrounding, there was an entrance to the mammoth plaza on top of the railway platforms and ticket counters. Almost all the Oslo dwellers seem to set foot on the premises at least once every day. It was the grand centre of almost everything. A place of happening. A place of gathering.

One fact notable about the happening and gathering was that Nordic lifestyle has a big place for family. In contrast to mad bull liberalism, funk and the spike of the western world, I was embraced with a silent culture which the Norsemen [and their women] built over the centuries. It is undeniable and hardly unnoticeable from every passing group. I have landed in a deeply bound place which was knotted in the same fundamentals of humanity which I was so accustomed to. It was a great homely feeling.

I found myself home in Oslo.