Tuesday, December 18, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 46: Alleged sexual harassment

Two media reports reached me about an alleged sexual harassment of a foreign student in St. Stephen's College.

The Daily Telegraph headline to an article by Charu Sudan Kasturi read only as Stephenians buck trend, speak up, but the one by Puneet Nicholas Yadav in DNA (Daily News Analysis) screamed Molestation of US student brings forth dirty side of DU.

NEW DELHI: The allegation of sexual harassment by a visiting US student against a senior faculty member of the Delhi University’s (DU’s) prestigious St Stephen’s College has once again brought to the fore the grimy side of the elite university with a student strength of about 3 lakh.


So long as the top leadership in the college is stunted by its internal wranglings, it will be impossible to handle such matters with a strong principled hand.

Does anyone wish that the college was still only a male only preserve?

Monday, December 17, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 45: “St Stephen’s is one of the best colleges...

In an interesting short article today in iExpressIndia.com Back to Campus, Akhil Katyal, a student of St Stephen’s is quoted as saying:

“St Stephen’s is one of the best colleges in Delhi University and after studying here I can see teaching here as a viable career option.”

When I was in college, I do not think any of my lecturers in my main subjects (Physics and Chemistry), other than Maths, were past Stephanians. We had Ranjit Bhatia who returned from his stint in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar to teach us Maths in our final year. Ranjit was a member of the athletics squad to the Rome Olympics 1960. He ran the 5000 metres and the Marathon.

I am not sure whether Principal Sircar, who also taught Maths, was a Stephanian! I do know his son, Raj, who came back and taught (not me) during my final year was a Stephanian. Raj now lives in Canada.

I do think that having a past student as a teacher would certainly make the bond between teacher and student quite strong. But one has also to remember the phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" and guard against those who are employed. They must appreciate the limits of relationship between staff and student.

A larger gap, as 10 - 15 years, seems more logical, rather than just 3 to 5 years.

Your opinions please!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 44: Latest published articles

Posted on ALL our major blogs - my Jacob's Blog, the Oulu CHAFF Blog, the Mumbai Cathedralites Seventh Heaven Blog and the Delhi Stephanians Kooler Talk Blog.

Annikki was Chairperson of The English Club of Oulu almost 2 decades ago. We were also the first Life members of the Club. The Finn-Brits Magazine is the publication of The Federation of Finnish-British Societies under which English Clubs function all around Finland to promote the English Language and the cultures associated with English speakers.

Cover of Autumn 2007 edition.

The magazine decided to do a special feature about Oulu in the Autumn 2007 edition and they asked us for a couple of articles.

The first was an article about the Chamber of Assistance for Finns and Foreigners which was founded by Jacob and a few friends a couple of years ago. The article was authored by the present CHAFF Monitor, Ildikó Hámos-Sohlo, along with Jacob.

The second, a highly controversial one was authored by Annikki and Jacob about the lack of Free Speech in Oulu.

Hope you enjoy them!

KTWV 08 Issue 43: TODAY: Mumbai Unplug / Batti Bandh -- This is how Mumbai will "Unplug"

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, Mumbai Cathedralites Seventh Heaven Blog and Delhi Stephanians.blogspot.com.

I have received this message from many sources and I thought to give it the desired publicity and pray that this is not a "one-off" event but one which will be repeated again and again across the world.

Old Bombay - Apollo Bunder.

This is how Mumbai will "Unplug"

Batti Bandh! Switch off Mumbai
Mumbai Unplug / Batti Bandh tells you how

Mumbai city uses an average of 550 megawatts of electricity on a Saturday between 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm. Let's see how much electricity we consume on December 15 between 7:30 pm -8:30 pm. Unplug tomorrow and vote for a green planet! Switch off and come to enjoy electricity-less entertainment at these locations.

Shaair and Func
Cirkles—Timir and Abhishek (band)

Carter Road
Gullywood (performers)
Dischordian (band)
Concorde (band)
Ideal Drama and Entertainment Academy (IDEA ) enact a Hindi play

Marine Drive
Gullywood (performers)
Anoushka and Friends
Violin Recital
Sophia College carol singers
Something Relevant

NSC/NCC Human Chain – MG Road to Station

For more updates on performances at Gateway, Kala Ghoda, Hard Rock Café and InOrbit Mall visit Mumbai Unplug.com.

So far, the Marine Drive landmarks, The Hilton Towers and the Air India building, have promised to switch off their façade lights for Batti Bandh. Essar is accommodating Batti Bandh on their Founders' Day conference which happens to be on December 15 too. As a part of their event, they will be switching off lights from 8:30pm-9:30 pm. Bank of Rajasthan will unplug all branches across India for Batti Bandh. Restaurants along Colaba causeway like Café Mondegar, Hard Rock Café and Shiro at Lower Parel have also pledged to "switch off". Perfetti India and Mentos have created an ad campaign centered around Batti Bandh. Students at St. Xavier's College are forming the Batti Bandh logo with candles in their campus.

There will be music bands playing at Carter Road, Marine Drive and Bandstand. At Kalamboli, Panvel and Navi Mumbai Dhol players along with 50-100 rickshawwallas will hold a peace rally. Bombay Catholic Sabha is holding another peace rally from Sahar to the Airport in Andheri. Residents of Raheja Hillside society in Powai are planning an antakshri competition during the Batti Bandh hour. "You don't have to wonder about what to do in the absence of electricity. Have a community hour," says the Batti Bandh team.

Modelled on the Sydney Earth Hour 60 held in March 2007 (that had 2.2 million citizens of the city switch off lights), Mumbai Unplug / Batti Bandh is an initiative taken in order to educate the masses and make them aware of their contribution to the deteriorating environmental conditions of not only Mumbai but India and the world. "Unlike Earth Hour 60, which was initiated by organisations like Leo Burnett and WWF, Mumbai Unplug / Batti Bandh is a citizens' initiative," said Keith.

WWF has also supported the Mumbai Unplug / Batti Bandh initiative. For more information and updates on other performances happening across the city on December 15, visit Mumbai Unplug.com.

Take a stand. Unplug.

For more information, contact:
Keith Menon
Email: info@mumbaiunplug.com
Phone: 9819769933

Rustom Warden
Email: info@mumbaiunplug.com
Phone: +91-9820806355

Neil Quraishy
Email: info@mumbaiunplug.com
Phone: +91-9820353067

Shiladitya Chakraborty
Email: info@mumbaiunplug.com
Phone: +91-9833229449

Web Site: Mumbai Unplug.com
SMS Unplug to 56363

Thank you for all the concerned Mumbaites for sending me this amd I will be there with you in spirit.

I will symbolically UNPLUG here in the Arctic between 16:30 and 17:30 today!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 42: Kamalesh responds

Posted on Jacob's Blog and the Kooler Talk Blog for Delhi Stephanians

A couple of weeks ago I sent the congratulations from all of us of the Stephanian era of 1960s to Kamalesh Sharma, High Commissioner of India in the UK, when he was elected to serve as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Today, I had his response:

from Kamalesh Sharma, High Commissioner of India, London
to Jacob Matthan
date 11 Dec 2007 17:03

Dear Sushil,

Thank you for your kind message of felicitations and good wishes. This is greatly appreciated. The assignment with the Commonwealth is one of great responsibility and challenge but I look forward to it with anticipation and enthusiasm.

It is strange to see oneself on Kooler Talk, having been associated with its birth. But I appreciate the efforts that has gone into it and the warmth of sentiment.

Very best regards and happy new year.


Kamalesh had better be careful with all these fake Santa's pumping his hand.

My sleigh-pulling Elk (not reindeer) with me!

There is only one genuine Santa from the Arctic, ME! (As Rudolph, my ELK, will testify!)

Reindeer are too weak to pull my sleigh around the world. Only a set of powerful Elks can do that job!

It is also great to be the one continuing, 47 years on single-handedly, the pioneering work of the original creators of Kooler Talk, which included
Kamalesh, Sarwar Lateef, Peter Philip (Tubby), Prakash Joseph, Sayeed Rizvi, Zaffar Hai, Swaminathan Aiyar, Chinmoy Banerji, Montek Singh Alhuwalia, etc.!

My version of Kooler Talk (Web Version) has out-lasted any other incarnations of this rag!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 41: Carrying on the farce

The farce about the appointment of a principal for the college seems to be continuing. This is from the Express India web site:

Appoint principal in Stephen’s, says varsity

Five months after St Stephen’s College appointed Rev Valson Thampu as Officer on Special Duty, Delhi University has asked the Church of North India (CNI) to find a principal for the college. The letter, sent to the Bishop of CNI Rev Sunil Kumar Singh in the second week of November, says the OSD’s appointment could not be ratified as it is “not in accordance with the university statutes”.

A university source said, “Now that former college principal Dr Anil Wilson has resigned, there is a clear vacancy at the college. The university has also asked the college to advertise for the post of principal.”

Thampu was appointed OSD this May, after then principal Wilson went on leave to serve as the vice-chancellor of Himachal University. Wilson later sought voluntary retirement from the college.

Thampu’s six-month tenure as OSD is nearing its end, and the university has now asked St Stephen’s to appoint a principal through “correct procedure”. On May 18, the university had asked the college to suggest three names for appointment as principal. The college, however, sent a letter seeking ratification of Thampu’s appointment as OSD.

University Vice Chancellor Prof Deepak Pental confirmed that the letter was sent with directions to appoint a principal. “Every college has to follow the Delhi University ordinance,” he said, “and there is no way norms can be relaxed.” Rev Sunil Kumar Singh refused to comment.
If the intention was to drive Dr. Anil Wilson from holding on to the post of principal was an objective, that has succeeded. Diverting attention to other issues, however noble, as admission policies for backward classes, will not succeed in the long term.

I hope the college administering authorities will spin themselves out of this cycle of bad publicity which is not good for either the staff or student morale and certainly not good for the image of an institution we much love!

Founders Day is fast approaching. I hope sense will prevail and there will be some good news to inform you by then.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 40: 60/62er Kamalesh Sharma

Posted on the Kooler Talk (Web Version) Blog and my Jacob's Blog.

College ragging is much in the news.

The first person who "ragged" me in college was Kamalesh Sharma!

He, along with his friends, Jerry and Chinmoy Banerji, took me, after my very first college dinner, to Kamala Nagar to buy me a masala dosai and a cup of coffee!

I still remember the knock on my darkened college room window on my first night in college. When I opened it, I saw this huge guy, whom I had never met before, telling me to get dressed and accompany three of them for a walk!

During the 10 minute walk to Kamala Nagar they never revealed who they were but asked me probing questions. My heart pounded not knowing where I was being taken! And when they ordered the dosai and coffee, I thought I was being made to pay for their after dinner snack!

It was only after we finished eating they all laughed and introduced themselves as block-mates and friends of my elder brother who had lived in Rudra North (Q Block) during the previous three years!

It was with this friendship and their solid support that I was able to be elected as JCR President the next year, the first second year student to enjoy that honour.

As I watched the tv yesterday, the BREAKING NEWS was that our very own 60/62er Kamalesh Sharma had been elected as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Commonwealth, but it is the secretary general who is responsible for its effective day to day functioning.

The Indian Diplomatic corps and especially our Stephanian alumni scored a major diplomatic success in Kampala, yesterday, when Commonwealth leaders chose the current Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Kamlesh Sharma, as the new secretary general of the 53-nation grouping.

Sharma, 66, was the pick of the Commonwealth when its leaders met at the retreat at Munyonyo.

Outgoing Secretary General Don McKinnon, a former New Zealand foreign minister, announced that Sharma was the unanimous choice of the Commonwealth, a grouping of English speaking countries that works on the principle of consensus.

"I would like to express my gratitude to all the leaders for the responsibility and trust they have given me to carry forward the task of the Commonwealth," said Kamalesh, who will take charge in April 2008. "It is an honour and privilege to serve this great institution."

Kamalesh is one of the few Indians who has won such an honour in a major international body. [Mr. K. M. Philip, my late mother's elder brother, now 95 and still playing golf, father of Stephanian 62er Peter (Tubby) Philip, uncle of 63er myself and 64er Mammen Mathew, was the first Indian who served as the President of the World Alliance of YMCAs (Young Men's Christian Associations)].

Kamalesh has also been India's representative on the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth since 2004. He was the first Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to East Timor in 2002-04 with the rank of Under Secretary General.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was "delighted" by the selection of Kamalesh.

"(Kamalesh's) long record of public service in the international community has been capped by this recognition of his capability and his inclusive vision of the Commonwealth," the prime minister said in a statement.

"I am confident that he will acquit himself well in his higher responsibilities as the first servant of the entire Commonwealth."

Besides doing his English Honours, B. A., and his M. A., from our alma mater, he went to King's College, Cambridge.

Kamalesh has been a member of the Indian Foreign Service from 1965 to 2001 and has been India's ambassador five times.

Kamalesh also served as the permanent representative of India to the UN in Geneva where he was spokesman for developing countries in the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

Kamalesh later became permanent representative of India to the UN in New York during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations (1996-2001).

I remember that when he was in this post, he was interviewed by the B.B.C. on Kashmir. When I heard this interview, in which he expressed the issue about Kashmir in a crystal clear format, I emailed him. He expressed surprise that someone had actually heard that interview!

An official said that throughout his career Kamalesh had shown a strong commitment to all facets of equitable global relationships, enlightened governance, gender equity and engagement with issues of global regimes involving trade, technology and finance.

Congrats Kamalesh. All Stephanians will be watching your performance in this important post and we know you will do us great credit. The Kooler Talk (Web Version) Blog will be recording your historic tenure.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 39: Issues continue

I am not surprised that the issues regarding the appointment of the Principal, as well as the Vice Principal and the Bursar, are still continuing.

Yesterday's New Delhi edition of The Hindu had a report Notices issued over St. Stephen's appointments that says that the petition states that the appointment of Rev. Valson Thampu as the Officer on Special Duty is illegal and as there is no Principal, the appointment of the Vice Principal is also not legal, and also the appointment of the Bursar is also illegal.

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) on Thursday issued notices to Delhi University, Chairman of the Governing Body and Supreme Council of St. Stephen’s College and the University Grants Commission on a petition alleging illegal appointments of college Principal Valson Thampu, Vice-Principal M.S. Frank and Bursar N. Raghunathan.

It pains me greatly to see Stephanians, anonymous letter writers, a Bishop, a Principal not acting as Principal but enjoying his posting as a Vice Chanceller in another University, and other grown men behaving in a manner which is totally non-Stephanian in character, and certainly not Christian.

With this sort of disturbing story hanging around the neck, no amount of great work or positive programmes will be able to get the necessary traction, and the only thing that suffers is the wonderful name of our College.

I wish that people would learn to work with each other in the spirit of what was instilled in me as a Stephanian in the early 60s. And for wanting that I am being labelled as a fundamentalist Christian!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 38: 25 years on

Posted on my Jacob's Blog and the Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog.

On Tuesday, I went Oulu Airport to receive a friend, a very dear friend. In fact, my very best friend when I was in College between 1960 and 1963. He was my inseparable friend of those years.

Ajay arrives in Oulu.

Ajay Verma did Mathematics Honours between 1960 and 1963. Like me, he lived in Mukerji Court. There was only one Mukerji Building block those days. He was in T Block while I was in S Block. We went together for breakfast and dinner. Spent the evening hours after college together going for some scrambled egg on toast for tea and later, after dinner again went to the Cafe to have coffee and a smoke.

We played table tennis together in the JCR or played chess, draughts (checkers) or bridge. He was my bridge partner and together we almost won the first JCR Bridge Championship, except to beaten on the very last hand by the twins, the Rai brothers, Suraj and Chander, who bid an unbelievable 7 spades against our bid of 7 clubs and made that hand. Only the intertwined thinking of identical twins snatched certain victory out of our hands!

Ajay came to College from Pondicherry, where his mother lived in the Arubindo Village. He completed his pre-university from Loyala College, Madras before joining College, although he would have preferred to do engineering at one of the IITs.

Ajay left college and joined the Indian Army by going to the Officer School at Dehra Dun. From there he went into the artillery at Deolali near Nasik and then to Cooch Behar in West Bengal. He was sent to the front line in the war against Pakistan and had the narrowest of escapes when the shelter he was in was blown up just a couple of minutes after he had stepped outside for a cigarette. (So I hardly blame him for continuing this habit!)

He left the army after the war and joined Bata's as a trainee and worked in Calcutta and Faridabad. Ajay did not see much future then and set off to Canada to make his fortune. He stopped at Copenhagen, met his life partner, Else, and settled down in Lund, Sweden. He started work in the Hotel industry and worked for SAS Hotels and then in Airline catering till he finished his career with a series of jobs in SAS Radisson, ending at the Beijing hotel till his retirement late last year. He now consults but is enjoying himself in retirement dabbling in the Swedish stock exchange, more for fun than profit.

He has bought an apartment in Pondicherry and is off in a few days to winter there, away fron the dark and cold winters in Scandinavia. Unfortunately, before he could enjoy his time there, he got news last Friday that his 91 year old mother had passed away.

Ajay talks to Else in Lund.

In his "busy" travel schedule, he has done 15 long haul flights this year, he took a few days off to drop in on Annikki and me. I was wild with him when he told me that when we were meeting after 25 years, he was off in just 3 days. But things were happening in Lund, so I had to let him go.

Ajay sees a windy blustery autumn sunset in Oulu.

Annikki at the Nallikari beach.

Ajay at a windy Nallikari.

During the time in Oulu we had a rip roaring time that only dear friends can enjoy together. We shared news about our past lives and careers, laughed incessantly at all our past pranks, I showed him my small town and with Annikki enjoyed the bitterly cold wind and amazing autumn sunset of the Oulu Nallikari beach.

Like me, he is an early riser, being up ay 5 am, so we enjoyed long days together. It was with great sadness that I bid farewell to him on Friday morning and it was as if a void had descended on Kampitie after his departure.

It is already time for Ajay to leave.

The real spirit of Stephania prevailed in our residence for the short time he was here, urging me to give serious thought to organising a reunion of 1960-1963 Stephanians in Delhi in 2009, when Annikki and I are scheduled to make our next visit to India.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 37: Ragging gets into the limelight

There has been much written in the last few days in Delhi newspapers about an incident at College, first reported as a Ragging, then as a case of inebriated students doing something crazy and then as a minor prank in which the pranksters had been suspended by the College authorities.

From the reports that I read, it appears that four senior students sprayed some cologne on a fresher and then threw a match on him, causing minor burns.

Firstly, this could never have been ragging. Ragging that takes place in College does not extend beyond the first two to three weeks of a new academic years. In September, one is looking at the end of a whole term and no fresher would be ragged that late in a term.

This was very obviously misbehaviour of four students and the decision of the Principal to suspend the students was probably correct.

All of us old timers of the 50s and 60s have all been ragged. I do not think any of us were any the worse for the ragging we went through in the first two weeks of College, after which we made good friends with our seniors. Most of us who were sports oriented were soon sharing the playing fields with our seniors and enjoying a great relationship.

Ragging was hard, but it was also great fun as the seniors tried to outdo themselves in finding new and interesting, yet amusing ways to rag the freshers. No harm ever fell on anyone being ragged.

Ragging "officially" ended after Freshers Night in the Junior Common Room (JCR), which was quite a hilarious affair as freshers were dressed up in fancy dress and the competition to find the "Miss Fresher" was the highlight of the evening. That was the time we had no girls in residence (or College) and the Miss Fresher was the sweetest looking young male student. (Real names not revealed her, but Daisy was Miss Fresher in 1960 and Susy held the title in 1961. I do not remember the name of the Miss Fresher title holder for 1962! Anyone remember that?)

I was ragged by several seniors who later became my good friends.

When it came to my turn to rag, unfortunately, or fortunately, I was standing for the post of President of the JCR, so I did no ragging.

However, one day, I happened to be sitting in a friend's room where some jovial ragging was in progress, when Dean Rajpal walked in. He reported all present to Principal Sircar to take action against us, with possible suspension.

By that time I had been elected as President of the JCR. I met with Principal Sircar, not so much to plead my case, but to tell him what the other students were up to was just a bit of harmless fun.

Principal Sircar knew what the meaning of ragging was and dismissed the whole incident without any further ado.

The following year, I did no ragging except one case where one youngster I had never met was getting off ragging by claiming his close connection to me. I put him straight and that was the end of ragging per se.

Between 1960 and 1963 I know of no case where there was anything but light-hearted fun.

I wish those who are the powers that be will intervene to separate ragging from causing willful hurt, and that the process of breaking the ice between seniors and freshers can be done in an organised manner which is fun for all.

Ragging in end September - impossible in St. Stephen's College!

Monday, October 08, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 36: Philip Mathew hits 60

Philip Mathew (known to me as Thambi) was a Stephanian a few years after me.

Younger brother to 64er Mammen Mathew (Rajen), Thambi is also the father of a couple of Stephanian boys of the 90s. His sons are married to daughters of a Stephanian of my era, 63er Abe Tharakan, who is the sea food mogul of India.

Thambi manages the Cochin office of the Malayala Manorama. I also think he is managing the English publication of Manorama Group, The WEEK.

Among his interviews I think has been one of Nelson Mandela.

Please join me in wishing him a great 60th.

Friday, October 05, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 35: Finland best for living?

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, the Cathedral School Seventh Heaven Blog and the St. Stephen's College Kooler Talk Blog.

In a Readers Digest report just released titled Study says Finland best for living and which was covered by Reuters, caused Annikki and me to think about our combined life in India, Finland, Sweden, Germany and England over the last 60+ years.

This evening, we went to the Nallikari beach for Annikki to collect stones. (I just walk around doing some photography with my lousy camera) and help her carry the collection to the car!

The yellow, gold and red autumn leaves were strewn all around, truly beautiful.

The autumn sunset was glorious. It felt as if we were lifting off into space!

Looking at these photographs of today and the peacefulness that surrounded us on this beautiful autumn evening, maybe you and we can agree with what has been claimed in the report!

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Nordic countries are the world's greenest and, despite the cold winters, Finland is the best country to live in, according to a Reader's Digest study released on Friday.

Finland was followed by Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Austria.

"Finland wins high marks for air and water quality, a low incidence of infant disease and how well it protects citizens from water pollution and natural disasters," the study said.

My having lived here for the last 23+ years (of course, Annikki was born here and lived the first 18 years of her life here) makes it difficult for us to either agree or disagree with even this specific conclusion.

Annikki said that when we came to Finland there were several reports saying how unhealthy the tap water was in Finland as it was over-chlorinated. In her opinion, things have not improved since then.

She queries the validity of this report as the source of the data is not known to us. If it came from Government sources, then both of us agree that it is a load of bull!

Finns are great at creating a golden image like a beautiful polished apple, but remove the skin and we will find many worms gnawing away inside.

Many environmental activists also may not agree with this study done by U.S. environmental economist Matthew Kahn, who looked at issues such as quality of drinking water and greenhouse gas emissions as well as factors such as education (totally stereotyped) and income (low after high taxes without corresponding benefits).

When we look at education in Finland, there is nothing even coming close to the level of "education" provided by my alma maters, Bishop Cotton School (Bangalore), which had 7 playing fields for its student in its town centre campus, Cathedral and John Connon School (Mumbai) and St. Stephen's College (Delhi).

Incomes are certainly not high. Retained income is low. Savings are virtually non-existent.

But people feel they are rich because of the easy accessibility to long term low interest loans that enable them to enjoy their "own" homes and new cars and other material benefits!

But that is certainly not a reflection of the income standard in Finland.

Certainly, I do not drink anything but tap water. Annikki and many others tend to buy bottled water. Many go to bore well taps located around the city to collect their drinking water as they do not think the tap water is healthy.

My philosophy has always been that tap water contains all the germs and bacteria that our bodies require to build resistance to the local environment. Avoiding that diminishes our natural resistance.

It used to be said that India had the greatest advantage with regard to germ warfare as all the Indian Government had to do was export water from Calcutta!

My health over the last 23 years compared to most others I know in Finland proves my point of view. I have had no major or even minor illness during that time and never lost a day of work during my working life.

Mathew Kahn obviously did not meet the many thousands of Finns who suffer terrible allergies to dust, pollen, cat fur, dogs and many edible items as nuts, milk, etc. etc. Our grandson, Samuel, is a typical example - allergic to tens of things!

This is a direct consequence of a bad environment and living practices, so this would contradict his conclusions.

Finland is a great place to live if you follow the rules we have laid out in the book "Handbook For Survival in Finland" written by Annikki and me which was published in 1994.

But for others - life can be very very difficult on all fronts.

Our new Findians Google Group, which should go online in a few weeks, will tell you many of the pros and cons of working and living in Finland and the changes that have occurred during the last two decades.

So stay tuned!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 34: Two faces of sport in India

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, the Mumbai Cathedralites Seventh Heaven Blog and the Delhi Stephanians Kooler Talk Blog.

Cathedral School Hockey side in 1959:
I am the goalkeeper!

I have always been a hockey player and enthusiast.

(My interest in hockey, especially to be a hockey goalkeeper started in 1952-53 when I was a 10 year old living in Bangalore. I used to live opposite the St, Joseph College Hostel and sports grounds.I had many friends studying in the college. One was a guy called Abe Tharakan. He was the hockey goalkeeper for the college. I used to watch the team train and watched all their games. Abe inspired me to take up the game and the position of goalkeeper after I moved to Bombay in 1954. Today, Abe and I are good friends and he runs a popular blog Song of the Waves - I repaid him by bringing him into the world of blogging at which he has become a real expert and writes beautifully!)

I played for the First XI of the school for two years. I played for St. Stephen's College, Delhi, till injury cut short my further prospects to play for the College, the University and higher. When I played for the College, I played alongside some of the future greats of Indian Hockey, with Arun Shourie as my Captain.

In London, I played for my college and then played in the trials for London University. Injury again kept me from progressing my hockey career.

Shrewsbury Town Hockey Team:
I am fourth from left.

Then when I started my professional career in Plastics at Shawbury Village near Shrewsbury Town, I played for the Town team regularly, first in my preferred spot in the goal and then as the centre half in the line up.

I loved to play hockey. Though I wanted to see good hockey, I never got to watch it on TV as it has never been a popular spectator sport to merit much TV time.

I love football equally, and though I played it at school, I never progressed much, as my love for hockey was over-powering. However, as it was on TV in England, I watched a lot of it and learnt much about strategy and the game from the hours spent in front of the box. The real highlight was watching such greats as the Portuguese wizard Eusebio and the Brazilian Pele along with the English household names of Bobby More and Charlton, with England winning the World Cup in 1966.

I used much of what I learnt of the sport from watching the best players on TV to help me manage youngsters getting into the sport. I became a master of strategy in a game that I hardly played, even though, if I had played, I would have progressed as far as I did in the sport of my choice.

I played many other sports as table tennis, badminton (right up to the age of 55). I was active in athletics. I enjoyed TV coverage, however limited of each of these sports. My last sporting exploits was when I skied for the first time in my life at the age of 57 and finished the 20 km course tearing every ligament in my body. And then at the same age I raised a crew of long boat rowers to row the 30+ kilometers from Muhos to Oulu.

I enjoyed my gym training doing as much as 2 hours of intensive gym work to ensure all my muscles were kept fit and also helping me to solve serious problems with my back and also avoiding operations on my knees.

Now at 65, I keep fit by walking whenever I can, sometimes as much as 20 km keeping my pulse rate at as high as possible for my age - 140 to 150 pulse beats per minute!

My interest in cricket was generated by the excellent radio commentary that I used to listen to when I was just 7 to 8 years old. England playing against Australia and the Commentary broadcast by Radio Australia and BBC were the starting point, later followed by following the fortunes of the Indian Cricket team with stars such as Mushtaq Ali, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, Ghulam Ahmed, Polly Umrigar, S.P. Gupte, Bapu Nadkarni. And we had some good Indian Commentators too, but some exasperating ones, as well.

I did not liked watching cricket on TV as the sponsors hogged so much of time that I hated sitting through the irritating ads. However, when the International Cavaliers played the Sunday afternoon 40 overs, with great names as Sobers, Lloyd and others showing their unbelievable poweress with bat and ball, as well their superb fielding, and with NO ads intervening, I really took to watching ad free cricket on TV.

What I could, however, not understand was the super star status given to the Indian Cricket players. Yes, they may have been good players, and Kapil Dev's team winning the World Cup certainly gave the players the boost.

But considering that the Indian Hockey side dominated the Olympic and World Hockey agenda for generations, I could never understand why they were never given the super star status of the cricketing counterparts. It was no wonder that Indian Hockey sunk into the toilet.

This year was no exception. The Indian Cricket team won the Twenty20 Cricket Tournament and the whole of India and the politicians have been all rolling over to be seen with the cricketers.

In the same period the Indian Hockey side won the Asian Hockey Tournament against major rivals, and it was difficult to even find this mentioned in the headline news.

The news that the State Bank of India was doing something to correct this by giving each hockey player in the winning side $ 12,500 for the world beating performance was news, but in comparison to what has been showered on the cricketers, the air coverage time, the print space given to each sport, it really makes my heart sink.

India can quickly produce the best hockey players of the calibre of Dyanchand if it wants. It can beat other world sides if the Indian side was given only walking sticks to play with. But when the sport and its players are treated so shoddily, can we ever expect the Indian Team to ever become the real world class they are capable of being!

On a final note. the commercialisation of sport where one has to pay money to hear a cricket commentary between two country sides, unlike the time when I was a small boy, will only destroy the sport in the long run.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 33: Open letter to the Indian President

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, the Delhi Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog and the Mumbai Cathedralite Seventh Heaven Blog.

This just reached me. It is an is an open letter to the President of India submitted through the Governor of Karnataka. It is from Dr. Sajan George, who is the President of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

There are three major reasons that I am publishing this letter on my blogs.

First and foremost is that my grandfather held the post of First Member of the Privy Council of the Mysore Maharajah, a post given to a Christian by a Hindu who valued the individual and his capabilities rather than which ethnic minority the person hailed from.

My grandfather was a person from what is now known as Kerala and was not a Mysorean. But all through the State of Mysore, this Keralite and Christian was known as Mysore Matthan. Even 30 years after his death respect, when I was living in Maddur in Mandya District, was shown to me just because I was his grandson!

Many Matthan's have served the State, Mysore and Karnataka, selflessly and have yet practiced their faith without fear. After retirement they have considered Karnataka as their home. They are sons of the soil of Karnataka.

The second reason I am publishing this letter is that around the middle it draws attention to the controversial action by the Officiating Principal of my alma mater, St, Stephen's College, Delhi, about the admission policy that was introduced this year.

The third reason is that Prof. Ajeet Mathur, a fellow Cathedralite and Stephanian, was in Oulu a couple of weeks ago and gave an interesting talk. He holds the position of Director of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research of the Planning Commission of India. His Research Group is working on the 9% growth that is presently being seen in India and the rapid expansion of educational facilities to meet this need. 30 new Universities, 7 new Indian Institute of Technologies and many hundreds of thousands of educational institutions of every level requires a huge input of highly skilled and talented people of every level.

What message will such actions, as are described in the letter below, become knowledge of people who intend to come to work in India?

Here I am entertaining requests from many tens of Finns wanting to go and work in India and from Finnish companies wanting to find opportunities to establish their operations all over the Indian sub-continent.

What answer will I give them when they ask me about conditions prevailing in India for them to work safely in their jobs or to run their companies?

I shudder to think of the consequences to our National Policy if those who play for short term political gain are allowed to carry on regardless.

To Her Excellency The President of India,
Rashtrapathi Bhavan,
New Delhi

Through the Governor of Karnataka,
Raj Bhavan,

Your Excellency:

We offer our respectful greetings and humble salutations, on behalf of the Christians of India, especially those who have suffered greatly on account of their religious faith. In this regard, we submit the following for your kind and benevolent attention:

We are gravely concerned about the escalating violence being perpetrated against Christians in the state of Karnataka for the past 20 months, and we have evidence to clearly link the same to the change in the government at the state level. In other words, after the BJP came into the coalition, there has been a climate of impunity for any acts of violence that are committed in the name of Hindutva. To place the facts and relevant documentation on record, we herewith submit a detailed report on attacks against Christians in Karnataka between Jan 28th and July 29th 2007 wherein it is clear from the facts that unprovoked attacks by communal elements have occurred inside homes and the places of worship of Christians, as people are praying and worshipping within the privacy of their homes and churches. Later, the police are pressurized to file cases against the victims. The hardest blow to the victims however is the inaction and neglect of our just grievances by the law-and -order machinery and the State. In fact, the police officials in several cases have said that they have received orders from the Dy. Chief Minister and the local (usually BJP MLA)on how to act. Therefore, the widespread attitude (though not universal) is that of treating Christians as second class citizens. We have failed in numerous peaceful efforts to get justice, namely redressal of the violation of our Constitutional and Fundamental freedom of Religion and Conscience. We now approach your kind self in the hope that you who are well known for your secular outlook, will certainly take steps to ensure that justice and the right to constitutional remedies, hitherto denied to the majority of the Christian victims of persecution, will be made available to them in a speedy and time-bound manner.
The Christian Rights Rally in Bangalore held on 22nd June 07' was the largest gathering so far of victims of religious persecution by the communal forces in India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Gujarat to Orissa. Christians in Karnataka are observing Awareness Day on 22nd September 2007 to raise the awareness of the public against Christians in general and in Karnataka in particular and are converging on Bangalore to make their voice heard against the injustice meted out to them and share their experiences and agony and express solidarity with other victims of the extreme distress faced by the Christian community in India. They are joined by a number of persons from all walks of life, various Christian churches and groups including those from other faiths who came together to express solidarity and share their grief and sorrow.

Your Excellency, the Christian community - which continues to be a tiny 2.04% of this nation's population according to the 2001 Census data - has been at the forefront of service to the massive numbers of poor and needy in our country. Our patriotism and commitment to the nation has been tangibly expressed in the form of committed service to the deprived and disadvantaged sections of society in the fields of education, healthcare, and training in vocational services far in excess to our share in the population. A large section of the Christian community, including the cream of our young men and women have dedicated their lives to socially productive activities full-time. Even though they can easily choose to migrate to any country and enjoy a very good quality of life due to their qualifications, they choose to work in Indian running schools, hospitals, orphanages, leprosy rehabilitation centres, nursing schools, counselling centres, colleges which are known for their excellence, etc. Christians are among the largest groups intervening with people living with HIV/AIDS. They work among the poorest of the poor in remotest regions of the country, facing life-threats from the so-called "patriotic" Indians for their work, starting schools, spreading literacy and offering primary health care where state interventions are totally neglected or absent. Their inspiration is the life of Jesus Christ, known for spending his brief and youthful life on this earth in healing the sick, and reaching out to the disabled, the untouchables and the downtrodden those rejected by mainstream society, in preaching the "good news to the poor". His personal example continues to inspire people all over the world and down the ages to express their faith through service to fellow-human beings through a life dedicated to God's will.

Despite this track record of committed service to the Indian people, Christians are constantly referred to by their detractors as foreigners and as people having allegiance to forces outside the country. How long do we need to keep on proving our credentials as full citizens, peace-loving, law-abiding and committed to the advancement of the nation? When India was a nascent state, Christians showed their confidence in the Constitution and their trust in the mainstream by declining reservation in the seats in Parliament. This shows how well the Christian community consider themselves integrated into society. It is sad that the degeneration of the political climate has caused Christians in India to be isolated from the
mainstream by small, noisy, violent groups of communally divisive elements who attempt to damage the pluralism that has been the most abiding characteristic of Indian society for centuries, by bringing pressure on the police and the judicial system. These communal forces raise their voices and weapons against this tiny, dedicated, service-oriented and peace-loving community. They engineer increasingly violent and murderous attacks against not only the Christians themselves but also those whose hope for a better future is kindled by the compassionate service and love shown by these dedicated citizens of India: there are allegations that Christians "convert" those who they serve.

There are attempts to demonise the Christian community through allegations of force, fraud and inducement to convert - through offering services such as education or jobs. Laws aimed at "preventing conversion through force, fraud and inducement" have been passed in several states. But despite several decades of these laws existence, not a single case has ever been successfully prosecuted under these laws. What then is the reason for their existence except to serve as a threat to those who serve the poor? Some of the Christian service institutions in the country have been functioning for over a hundred years, but has the population in the surrounding areas converted enmasse? To the contrary, every year, 8 million students come out of the portals of Christian institutions. Can anyone prove that even 0.001 % of this group has "converted" as a result of indoctrination? Then what is the motivation for these false claims?

We assert that the real reason is that these vested interests and their children, community and class actually welcome and enjoy the services provided by the well-established and older Christian educational and health institutions located in cities and towns. But they do not want availability of these facilities to the poor and disadvantaged in rural and tribal areas. As long as some welfare and charity work is done there is no problem, but when hitherto voiceless and powerless sections of Indian society begin to get education and a socially empowered self-image there is a huge reaction. Witness the outcry against the management of St. Stephen's College, Delhi, for announcing reservations in seats to some of the disadvantaged sections of society, something well within their constitutional rights. The progress of the subaltern groups is not tolerated by those who have enjoyed the fruits of the economic, social and political marginalization of the subaltern groups in India. There is fear that if these groups, hitherto marginalised, become educated and aware, the access of the elites to power, their social and economic status will be eroded. Therefore, they mislead young and gullible sections from the subaltern groups to attack the defenceless Christians, while keeping themselves free of the taint of violence.

In the wake of the recent exposure of these manipulations a violence in the electronic media, who gave publicity to violence against Christian workers, these groups are attempting a damage control exercise. But the nation has now woken up to the grim reality of the extreme, brutal and widespread violence against the Christian community all over the country which has so far been successfully kept from the public by a mostly (though not entirely) complaisant media. Several Christian groups have attempted to highlight these attacks with very little response. However, we must mention that in some cases the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Minorities have responded positively and taken steps to ensure that the matters were enquired into. Justice delivery, however has been slow if not totally absent in most cases.

Also complicit in the "invisibilisation" of these outrages are some lower-level functionaries in the police and judiciary who have often abused their positions to harass and deny Christians their constitutional rights, and support the anti-social and unconstitutional excesses of the Sangh Parivar activists. Even cases of murder of Christian pastors and workers have not been investigated. Due to their own ideological learning towards the communalists most cases the police refuses to file an FIR or take up the matter with any enthusiasm. It goes without saying that these officials would not get away with these actions if it were not for the patronage of politicians allied with the BJP and Sangh organizations.

In view of the above facts, we therefore humbly request your Excellency

  1. to call for an independent investigation into the atrocities against the Christian minorities in India, and especially in Karnataka in the recent past, by a specially empowered group in a speedy and time-bound manner. GCIC pledges its support to such an enquiry.

  2. To enquire into the reason for the blatant discrimination by the State law-and-order machinery and the judiciary in the matter of incidents against Christians, and their support to the unconstitutional activities and antisocial behavior of persons against the Christians.

  3. In cases where undue delay in investigations are established, to fix responsibility at the appropriate level and take punitive administrative and criminal action against those responsible.

  4. Baseless reports against the Christians and Christian institutions in the vernacular media have fuelled hate crimes against the Christians in several states, notably Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.

  5. Specifically, we want to bring to your notice that there has been a rape of an 8-year old girl, a daughter of an impoverished Dalit worker in Bidar for her religious identity. F.I.R 100/07 in Nenyara Police station Bidar District, Karnataka state, has been registered and we have brought the matter to the notice of the National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Women.

  6. Finally, Your Excellency, we humbly call upon your kind self to exercise your Constitutional Authority and repeal the 1950 Presidential Ordinance which has denied the Constitutional Rights of Christians of Dalit Descent.

    Through this one action, you will create history by righting the historical wrongs against a deprived and oppressed section of Indian Society and earn the immense gratitude of millions.

We remain,

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Sajan George, President, Global Council Of Indian Christians

Let us be clear, it is not the common folk of Karnataka who are following this route, but, as usual, those who are lobbying for power.

I am grateful to John Dayal for drawing my attention to this letter and the issues that it highlights.

Friday, September 14, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 32: Ignore or reply?

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, the Mumbai Cathedral School Seventh Heaven Blog and the Delhi Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog.

Although the bulk of this posting relates to my alma mater, St. Stephen's College, Delhi, the moral and rationale that I talk about here applies to all my alma maters and also to my many readers on my primary blog.

It has been quite a while since the exchange of views on the Kooler Talk Blog about the appointment of Rev. Valson Thambu as Acting Principal of St. Stephen's College and then his radical new Dalit Christian oriented admission policy to the College.

I was greatly honoured when John Dayal, Member of the National Integration Council, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council and President of the All India
Catholic Union, asked me to contribute to a book which would consider the aspect of admission of Dalit Christians to minority educational institutions.

Then came those couple of Anonymous postings in the Comments section of the Kooler Talk Blog which accused me of being a fundamentalist Christian.

That made me sit back for more than a moment and search through my 11 years of writing on the internet to see whether I had ever given cause to be considered as a fundamentalist Christian.

There was a time when I took part in a fundamentalist Hindu web discussion site where I came out strongly against Hindu Fundamentalism and Muslim extremism in the wake of the Gujarat massacre. It left a very bad taste in me to get into a discussion with a set of rabid and illiterate Hindu fundamentalists located all over the world who were foaming at the mouth when challenged about their fundamentalism.

Then there was a time when, thanks to Stephanian Prof. Sreenath Sreenivasan, Professor of Journalism at Columbia university, New York,I was looking in on the South Asian Journalists (SAJA) Discussion Forum where, again, a few well-educated Hindu Fundamentalist "journalists" were putting forward all sorts of arguments to prove "their" theories of the Indus Valley Civilisation to demonise other religious groups in India.

There was no limit to the twisting of the truth, very much as George Bush continues to use his "Christian Fundamentalist" values to kill innocent Afghanis and Iraqis to achieve his ends.

As a result I had decided not to be drawn again into such arguments as they only leave me with wanting to use a new mouthwash!

When I decided to wish Rev. Thambu well on his appointment as the Officiating Principal of St. Stephen's College, I had no idea that I was being drawn into a major controversy which is raging there.

I am 7000 km away from India. I have not visited India since the year 2000. I am not an expert on anything Indian. I have only my nostalgia of a time long gone by and that does not make me competent to even write a line in support or defense of policies of education, religious fundamentalism or any other matter related to what is taking place in India.

After much deliberation with my friends and my main confidante, I felt that I would only be adding fuel to the fire if I wrote about the controversies. After 8 weeks of much thought and prayer, my wife and I decided that we should not be embroiled in a battle of which we knew nothing about.

We have a reputation, which has been stated by many of our regular readers, that we have never done anything or written anything which violated the trust of all the different religious and ethnic groups that read our many blog pages.

When I went through the Indian Press Reports that I get daily, yesterday there was this one in the Times of India "Exclusive quota for backward Christians and Muslims in Tamil Nadu". This is for the second time that DMK Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has sought to provide exclusive reservation for specific castes in the backward classes catagory. In 1989, he had carved out 20 per cent of the 50 per cent reservation for Backward Classes for the Most Backward classes.

This has been Karunanidhi's vote gathering politics.

Rev. Valson Thambu's strategy was to divert the attention from his controversial appointment to a more amenable to improver his public ratings. In that he succeeded admirably by focusing on the concept of social justice.

To continue to stay away from the personal glare, yet another step was undertaken to undo anything controversial that previous Collge Principal had done. Rev. Thambu took steps to end the open ended permission that Principal Anil Wilson had given to the Centre for Mathematical Sciences (CMS), run by the Mathematical Sciences Foundation (MSF), by asking them to move out of the Stephania campus, causing a section of senior teachers at the college to protest.

What is happening in Stephania today is not based on the ideals that I imbibed in the educational institutions that I attended in India.

Principal Anil Wilson was obviously wrong to have made such an agreement with the MSF. The Bishop of North India was wrong to appoint his son onto the Supreme Council of the College. Principal Wilson was wrong to have continued to hold his position as Principal when he went forward as Vice Chancellor of another University. The Supreme Council was wrong to appoint Rev. Thambu as Officiating Principal when they had not resolved the issue with Principal Wilson. Principal Wilson was wrong to publicise his dissent. Rev. Thambu was wrong to start his tenure with moves meant to divert attention away from his appointment. Principal Thambu was wrong to cause the still waters of campus life to be stirred so violently.

And, all this is being done in the name of "education" and "Christ".

To me none of this stands up as promoting "Christian values".

I know there are many senior and outstandingly intellectual and honest alumni, before and of my era, in and around Delhi like B. G. Verghese, Rahul Bajaj, Ashok Jaitly, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Mani Shankar Ayar, Shanker Menon, John Dayal, etc., who have the depth of vision to tackle these issues rather than someone as uneducated as me who is so far away from home base to contribute anything worthwhile to resolving them.

All I can do is to tell my audience of all alma maters that what is happening in St. Stephen's College will happen in all minority institutions when internal and personal politics supersedes the values which we should adhere to.

I do not appreciate anonymous input. One should have the courage of convictions to put a name and identity to what one believes. Have the courage to call a spade a spade. As otherwise the spade is being called a bucket to hold the nightsoil!

Do I approve of the actions of the Bishop of North India, his son, former Principal Anil Wilson, or present Acting Principal Rav. Valson Thambu in what is happening in the college?

The answer, from this distance is - NO.

That is because it is not in keeping with the values which were imbibed by me from all my Indian alma maters - Good Shepherd Convent, Mysore, Bishop Cotton School, Bangalore, Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai and St. Stephen's College, Delhi.

These values have nothing to do with any religion. It has to do with Fair Play.

I request the alumni in all these institutions who are nearer to the home bases to get actively involved in the institutions that they love to ensure that what is happening in St. Stephen's College is not repeated elsewhere.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 31: 100% attendance at Finnish Chapter Reunion

Posted on Delhi Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog, Mumbai Cathedralite Seventh Heaven Blog and my Jacob's Blog.

On Thursday afternoon I had a call from fellow Cathedralite and Stephanian, Professor Ajeet Mathur that he was on his way to Oulu to address a conference here. I decided to call a reunion meeting of both our alma maters, Delhi Stephanians and Mumbai Cathedralites.

Ajeet and spouse, Sari.

Ajeet's better half arrived on Friday afternoon, so Friday evening was reunion time with spouses at my residence. I am glad to report that yet again we had 100% attendance with both spouses present!

Ajeet is now the Project Director of the Finland - India Economic Relations Project being executed at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. He is also the Director of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research, which is part of the Planning Commission of India (working on the 11th 5 Year Plan), which is headed by Stephanian 63er (like me) Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Quite surprised to see that Ajeet is now an Indian bureaucrat!

Ajeet gave a very interesting talk at the conference in Oulu "Promoting mutual cooperation, economic and social development". Ajeet's topic was "On why unemployed are unemployable and what Finland can do about it".

A few years ago I would have been very excited about such a topic, but retirement has caught up with me and it is a topic for others, especially the younger expats in Oulu and Finland, many of whom have stayed jobless (for no fault of theirs) for many a year. Did Ajeet's talk offer any solutions - yes, migrate to India which requires an enormous influx of trained cadre in every field!

One particular slide was of great interest to the entire audience. It has stuck in my mind. It was a picture of a monkey cleaning utensils at a roadside truck dabha somewhere in India. Ajeet pointed out that the wages given to the monkey for his work was 2 bananas a day.

Not even the lowest of lowest in India can afford to compete with the work of this monkey.

Ajeet added that one of the largest exports from India to the US was Monkeys where they are being researched to see what human tasks can be handed over to monkeys such as repetitive keyboard entry, etc.

Great reunion - going way past midnight!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

KTWV o8 Issue 30: Coincidence at Oulu Airport!

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, the Oulu Chaff Blog, the Mumbai Cathedral School Seventh Heaven Blog and the Delhi Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog.

Yesterday was Annikki's birthday. I had offered to take her to any restaurant of her choice in Oulu. We have an offering of several cuisines here: Algerian, Chinese, English, Finnish, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Moroccan, Thai, Turkish, Russian, US, Vietnamese, ...

But Annikki had other plans.

We started on a shopping expedition where she first went to he favourite Flea market and did some expensive shopping - maybe a couple of Euro!

Then we went to some small shops where she bought stuff for the house. Her next stops were two shops that were also celebrating their birthdays. We got free coffee/tea and cake for just visiting them.

Just then I had a call from Prof. Ajeet Mathur, a Cathedralite and Stephanian, like me, and also resident in south Finland. Ajeet said that he was on his way to Oulu and his plane should land around 6 pm. I told him I would pick him up from the airport.

Annikki told me rush back from the airport as her plan was to buy a pizza and go and sit on the beach and enjoy the sea breeze and the glorious sunset. She wanted a large open air restaurant and not be cooped up in a tiny one with no view in town!

I reached the airport at exactly 6 pm. There were a load of people coming off a plane. I noticed what looked like a foreigner waiting with a small placard identifying a conference, which I knew would be the one Ajeet would be headed for. I also noted a cameraman waiting to get a film of the arrival of Ajeet. Obviously, Ajeet was to be a distinguished speaker at the conference.

I positioned myself next to these two gentleman, who obviously had come for the same purpose - to receive Ajeet. I heard them conversing.

One said to the other that he was from Australia.

Always ready to break the ice, I asked him whether he knew our popular Australian CHAFF participant, Benjamin Hayes. The answer was in the negative, but with the formalities done away with, we struck up a conversation. He asked me where I came from. When I said Bangalore, India. Out of the blue, he said his parents were from Bangalore, India and they had left India at the time of Independence in 1947.

Then came a second shock as he said that his dad was from Bishop Cotton School, one of my alma maters.

I asked Alen his surname. Then came the even bigger surprise. His surname is Pembshaw.

Alen's dad used to come to Bangalore in the 70's very regularly. He would head straight to my dad's office as my dad was, at the time, the Chairperson of the Bishop Cotton Boys School Old Boys Association. My dad had passed out of school in 1926. Alen's dad was much junior to him.

I had met Alen's dad several times, as my office used to be in the same buolding!

As we were looking at the coincidence, the cameraman, whom I do not recall ever seeing in my life, turned to me and said that he knew my daughter, Joanna and also my wife. Apparently they go to the same church and his wife, a doctor, is a good friend of my daughter.

That was a string of coincidences which seemed outrageous to me!

Later, Annikki briefed me that Seppo Ahava is the husband of Maria, who is a doctor now and whom she has seen as a small girl in the church.

Ajeet arrived. As I am camera shy, I made myself scarce.

Usually Ajeet stays with me, but as the City of Oulu had organised this programme, he had been booked into a hotel. I took Ajeet to his hotel and organised that he spend the evening usefully.

I rushed home, picked up Annikki, picked up a pizza from a friends's pizzeria and headed to the beach. The sun was just setting and darkness was falling fast, but the glorious colours could still be seen.

It was extremely windy, so we sat in a shaded place and enjoyted our pizza.

There was no one around when we reached, as it was still drizzling, but before we finished our pizza, some kids and then some elderly people could be seen walking on the windy shores.

Before darkness finally set, we set off back for home, not accomplishing one part of Annikki's mission, to look for more stones to take home!

Coincidences and a windy pizza dinner on the beach were the mark of Annikki's birthday for this year. (Of course, there was cake when we got back home!)

Monday, September 03, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 29: Philosophy behind my multiple entry blogging

Posted on Jacob's Blog, the Oulu Best Buy Blog, the Oulu CHAFF Blog, the Cathedralite Seventh Heaven Blog, the Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog, the Jacob's Politics Blog, the Move the UN Blog, and the Talk Show Ratings Blog.

Many diverse groups of people with multiple interests are reading my blogs.

Some of you are reading more than one of my blogs.

It is very annoying to see the same posting on more than one blog.

I apologise.

I have, therefore, to introduce a strategy till such time as I can get all or most of my 120 000+ readers to install a policy of being updated whenever there is a new blog entry on the blogs of their specific interest.

If they do this registration, then I need only post any entry to a single blog. The blog info service should inform you if that particular blog has been updated.

If you subscribe to getting this info for three blogs, then I need not post an entry to all three blogs!

Till the recording service is fully operational, at the top of each entry I will include a list of the other blogs that the entry will be found.

For instance, this entry will be found on ALL my blogs.

If any of you have a better solution, I am all ears.

Remember, I am a computer idiot and know nothing about the art of designing things for the computer. :-) That's because I use a Mac!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 28: Thanks Mr. Anonymous. I am back with more gusto...

Posted on the Cathedralite Seventh Heaven Blog, the Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog and my Jacob's Blog.

I am listening on the internet to the audio commentary from BBC of the fourth one day international being played at Leeds between England and India, where India is trying to cut the lead in the one day series.

Also, yesterday here in Oulu we lost our television reception at home. Finland went over to Digital Television. I have not installed a Digi Box. We have a satellite antenna with access to two satellites. However, as soon as the green leaves appear on the trees in late April, they mask out the reception. Autumn is a bit late, but in another few weeks all the leaves on the trees would have fallen. We can get our satellite reception back again. I can then think whether to invest in a Digi Box by next April.

I am so happy at the emails that I received welcoming me back to the world of blogging. Here is a small cross section of the mail I received:

From Mumbai, India:
Dear Jacob,

26th June to 31st August was a very long sabbatical Never mind, it's good to have you up and about. You were missed!

Looking forward to a normal, hyperactive Jacob's Blog!

The only "fanatical" or "fundamentalist" attribute, you can be accused of, to my mind, is your fierce loyalty to the educational institutions that you studied in and your fellow students, young and old.

Of course, I will not list your other attributes lest you should get a swollen head!

Carry on carrying on!


From Mysore, India
Dear Jacob,

With joy I observed that you were back to providing entries in your Seventh Heaven blog, after a long hiatus.

I was then deeply shocked to read of the calumnious references made to Annikki and you, to which you refer.

Be assured that at no time have I perceived the least religious bias in any of your writings or responses;  I doubt these could possibly occur, given the wonderful truly secular attitudes bred into us by the educational institutions in India which we were fortunate to attend.  I pray you will retain strength to defeat your detractors.

An earlier entry mentions that Viney Sethi was at Loughborough in the 1960s.  I read Chemical Engineering there from 1954 to 58, so the association pleased me.  If it so pleases Viney, I would be happy to hear from him.


From Toronto, Canada
Hi Jacob,

Just a short note to let you know that I am really pleased that you are back blogging!

It's a real pleasure to read your 'ramblings'. Pity about your camera breaking down whilst Viney was with you, but .......

Take care, and all the best to you, Annikki and the family.

From Milan, Italy:
Dear Jacob,

Welcome back to your internet heaven!

It felt rather eerie without your entries these past two months!



From Perth, Australia
Dear Sushil,

We have known you now for close to 40 years. Never have we once known you to be either a religious fanatic or an anarchist or hippie.

I wonder how anyone who knows Annikki and you could ever make any of these accusations.

Vera and I missed your blog entries, but we prayed for you and now we are happily settling back to our routine of checking your blogs.

Please do update the Maliyakal and Kandathil web pages also as many of us out here like to see what is happening with our many relatives around the world.

From Rio de Janerio, Brazil
Dear Mr. Matthan,

I was so glad to see your blog active again.

I have subscribed to a service which tells me when you update your pages. I was wondering whether the service had gone bust. It forced me to visit the pages, to see only the old posts, to my disappointment.

Having been reading your work online for close to 10 years, I cannot see how anyone could ever accuse you of being a religious fundamentalist.

And seeing the 40 year relationship you have with your wonderful wife depicted in your tribute to her, it is impossible to understand anyone accusing you or Annikki being anarchists or hippies.

Please do not take such words seriously, as all those who know you, either personally, or like me through your writings, know that these are just idle thoughts of thoughtless persons.

Dr. Samuel Pires

Thank you all for your concern and well wishes.

Annikki and I are strong enough to defend ourselves when people start any baseless onslaught on us. And dear Ubi, I already have an enormous swollen head that it could be used as a basketball. No need to cause it to swell any more!:-)

Yesterday I attended a Thai Festival in Oulu (had a taste of some really spicy papaya salad). I met a whole new lot of new Indians, as well as Sri Lankans, now here in Oulu. Engineers, software specialists, almost all of them.

And by today I find I have half a dozen committed readers of these blogs! Here was an email from a young Maharashtrian from Mumbai, India:
Dear Jacob Sir,

As you had suggested during our conversation at the Oulu Thai festival today, I read your blog.

It is really good and honestly it makes me proud to see an fellow Indian already done and doing so well far away from our motherland.

I also read your web page dedicated to your wife Annikki. It was really sweet.

I especially liked the pictures of the Indian evening. It would have been great fun doing those bollywood numbers. :-)

I would certainly like to be part of this unique community Findians.

Thanks n Regards,
Sagar Shinde,

Welcome Sagar, not only to the City of Oulu but also to the Findian Community which spans every continent. The very fact that you are an Indian in Finland makes you part of that Findian Community of which Annikki and are the proud parents!

Yes, it has been good to get back to blogging. I think the advice from the Anonymous Commenter for me to get a life was certainly good as it allowed me to focus on what is going on around me and to come back to blogging with some gusto.

I will have to get a new camera as the old one held together by grey silicone sticky tape is just to difficult to use. Joanna has sent me hers from England, so at least you will soon be able to see some pictures.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 27: Religious Fundamentalist of Anarchist Hippie?

Posted on the Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog, the Cathedralite Seventh Heaven Blog and my main Jacob's Blog.

One of the reasons that I took time off from blogging was that an Anonymous Commenter on the Kooler Talk Blog said that I had no life of my own and that was why I was running so many blogs!

So I took time off, causing deep concern amongst many of you about my health and well-being!

Those of you have been reading the Comments on the Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog would have seen some Anonymous Comments alleging that I am a Christian Religious Fundamentalist.

On the other hand, on a popular Christian TV Channel, another strange allegation about Annikki and me surfaced. Millions of viewers heard that we had been "anarchist hippies"!

Well, well, well - what a contradictory couple of allegations and turn of events.

In response to the Anonymous Commenter, I protested that I do not belong to ANY religious faction and never have. I have not subscribed, contributed or financially supported any religious movement.

The only monthly contribution that Annikki and I make regularly is € 20 to Amnesty International.

JudgementCover.jpg Book Cover image by jmatthan

Cover of book by Annikki
published in 1994.

Annikki does belong to a Christian movement and her conversion to that faith to the extent of being baptised at the age of 40 can be found in the pages of her best-selling book "for the hour of his judgement is come:...."

In response to the "anarchist hippie" comment, we sent the tv station this comment. This allegation has been described to me by some people as saying Annikki and I are "hip" people in today's context - more a form of tribute!

Sadly, Annikki and I are not "hip" enough to understand this modern day lingo!

Given below is my email to the tv station:

Credibility of the Hope Channel!

Annikki and I listened to the interview of .................

We were quite horrified to hear the two of us described as "anarchist hippies".

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Annikki has been a dedicated Adventist from her childhood days, following in her father's footsteps. But she was only baptised as late as 1984 (when she was 40 years old) when she went through marvellous experience which is described in her book "for the hour of his judgement is come;..." (You can read this book on the internet at

Annikki is a creative and highly talented artist and author, a Montessori Educationalist, a trained hospital helper (having worked even at Adventist Hultafors Institution in Sweden in the early 1960s and also in the Marie Curie Hospice in London) and has worked in Sweden, England, Germany and Finland.

There is hardly another private expert on Ellen G. White and her writings than Annikki, having read and understood all her books in two languages!

She has never been part of any anarchist or hippie movement.

Jacob sang in the St. Thomas Cathedral Church Choir in Bombay all through his childhood in Bombay. He was outstanding student, both in studies and sports, in his school days being House Captain! He was part of the International Youth Christian Movement during his days in Delhi University, even holding the elected position of President of College Residents!

Jacob completed his second higher degree in England after his first degree from Delhi University. The day he completed his second degree he was employed by a Government Research Centre in England - in Shawbury.

It is only after Jacob completed his second degree and got a job that he and Annikki entered into the serious commitment of a Christian marriage, over 40 years ago!

We have always been law abiding responsible citizens and have given our life to give our children the very best in terms of education. Maybe you should look at these two web pages

A Tribute to Annikki:
Biodata of Jacob Matthan:

Our daughters were never sent to any boarding school in England or anywhere else. Like Jacob, who left for higher education at the age of 17, our elder daughter also proceeded to her further education away from home at the same age!

Our elder daughter (and our elder son) was able to settle in England only because we were responsible parents and preserved her birthright even when we were living in India!

Hardly what an anarchist hippie couple would do!

In later life we have devoted our life to helping various ethnic minorities and refugees. Even today, in our retirement, we look after an 87 year old dementia, tunnel vision impaired, physically weak lady, Annikki’s mother!

Hardly anarchists or hippies, then or now!

In the interests of accuracy, it would be only fair if the Hope Channel would correct this serious misconception, which borders on libel, which came through in your programme.

Annikki & Jacob Matthan
Oulu, Finland

The question arises as to my Christian roots.

Yes, I was born a Christian into a mixed very traditional Orthodox Christian/modern Protestant roots family and was brought up and educated by wonderful Christian Educational Institutions in India. Good Shepherd Convent in Mysore, Bishop Cotton School in Bangalore, Cathedral and John Connon School in Bombay and St. Stephen's College in Delhi.

I greatly valued the principles that were taught to me in these educational institutions which gave me strength to say that I was probably "educated" and not just a person who knew how to crunch numbers.

Yes, I was active in the Church Choir while at school.
Yes, like School Prefects of all faiths, I did read the Bible at the School Assembly.
Yes, I did read the Bible at the small College Chapel.
Yes; i was involved with the International Christian Youth Movement while in College. (We distributed food to poor villagers around  Delhi.)
Yes, I was part of the movement to start the non-denominational Christian prayer group in Oulu called as the International Church of Oulu.
Yes, I was even married in a Christian Church in the lovely town of Shrewsbury in England.

My break with the established church took place soon after our eldest daughter was born, when the vicar of the local church turned up at our home a few days after she was born to tell us that we should "christen" her quickly as otherwise, if she died, she would not be buried in a Christian graveyard.

What he said was hardly a Christian value that I had held so dear. It was, to me, emotional blackmail.

Annikki believed in a Church that did not support "child baptism". In her words one had to personally mature before one committed oneself to a religious institution, and as mentioned earlier, she found that strength only when she was almost 40 years old.

That experience ended my relationship with the established church, but not with religion or religious institutions of all shades.

My roots of education which I received from the schools and colleges that I attended were totally secular. There had never been any form of discrimination against any individual in any of these institutions. And my own classes both in school and college had people of many faiths in it - all brands of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, as well as people of all different colours from a variety of nations.

I will tackle the reason for the charge against me for appearing to be a Christian Fundamentalist in a separate blog entry as I am in the process of creating  a background document about education in India. It should be tackled in that context and not outside of it.

To date, I have not had any return comment from the Anonymous Commenter on my blog or from the tv Channel.

But I think Annikki and I got what we had to say off our chests!

Do tell us whether you think we come to any of you as being "religious fundamentalists" or "anarchist hippies"! Maybe, appearing at both ends of the spectrum sort of says that what we practice is just about right?