NORTHERN LIGHTS (2013) Aurora Boreolis or the Northern Lights, a phenomenon peculiar to the arctic region – ‘the land of the midnight sun!’ when I learnt about it in school in geography, I was so fascinated that it culminated into an inter-school prize winning project in the IXth std! My tryst with the northern lights had just begun.
Year 2005, a call in the morning from a dear Rotarian, Rtn Dilip Kumbhojkar.“Yetes ka? Scandinavia la? Girikand che Joshi, Suchitra ani mi “. Till then visiting the north tip of Europe was never part of the agenda… I had been to Switzerland and the next planned destination was Paris . Finland ? Achanak? The nomadic streak in me took over and I said yes!! Thanks to Ketki Kumbhojkar, our RYE student to start the first reaction in the stack of Finland ‘Dominos’. I met Vesa Toivanen, Ketki’s host father, for the first time in the year 2005. He gave me a book on the “northern lights “as a parting gift as we were saying tearful goodbyes to each other. In 2005, I felt this was my first and last visit to Finland and I will never see the northern lights and Vesa again!
Lest did I know at that time that I will be meeting Vesa for innumerable times since then, as he loved India! He comes so often that we almost named him Vesa Kumbhojkar! My cat, Cookie, became especially fond of him when he stayed with us during Rtn Dilip Kumbhojkar’s son Vishwesh’s wedding as he crooned to her in Finnish!
Over several emails, lunches of Palak Paneer and dinners of Tandoori Chicken with Vesa and other Rotarian friends like Vidula and Prakash and chats is terrible English and an amusing accent, the friendship continued and strengthened. I was unable to accept his invitation to attend his daughter Rikka’s wedding in Finland in year 2012, but promised to visit the country soon .
Then one day my inbox said “Dear Vaishali , We are visiting Yulas a ski-station in Northern Finland in March . The temperature will be -19Deg celcius and the possibility of sighting the northern lights is very high. Hoping you could join us and witness the magic you are so longing to see. I will come to pick you up in Helsinki”. It was February and the scheduled dates were early March!! I had to hurry. “Aai nakki ja…”……”Nisha please can you do my tickets and Visa? “ . Arians are known to be impulsive (Just in case you didn’t know J)
My only worry was … What to wear when it was going to be so cold there? Fortunately my mom’s friend Sudhatai Kulkarni and Sumantai Kirloskar had just returned from their “Northern lights “ trip and gladly lent me their snow shoes , warmers and jacket. I was all set! Vesa was there waiting for me at the Vantaa airport and we travelled to the beautiful and quaint town of Savonlinna while listening to the Beatles.
White snow and crisp cold breeze! Stocked with Bread , Cheese , Apples , Wine, and Salmon (and most importantly A MAP ) we started for Yulas early morning the next day . We had to travel for 1000 kms to reach the loghuts in Yulas . Finland is a perfect combination of Nature’s bounty and ultra –modernization. What more can one ask for! The day ended with the Finnish Sauna. 2 days at Yulas at sub-zero temperatures but no northern lights. Covered from head to toe in several layers of clothing, I could barely walk and barely even open my mouth to say even a word!! Any feeble attempt to speak, resulted in frozen facial muscles! All the Finns had a hearty laugh at my expense and I vouched to take revenge by taking them to Rajasthan .
My last day in Savonlinna. I think Vesa knew that though I had thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a real vacation (as even my closest companion -my blackberry – was in shut off mode) I was a bit disappointed. My eyes kept searching the sky. Next morning I had to leave for the airport. Black coffee and chocolates at midnight was a very suitable finale to my dream vacation. With the chocolate melting in my mouth, a thought struck me… Maybe Finland wasn’t done with me yet… maybe a few more visits are in order to this beautiful country. Because this trip wasn’t just about the northern lights as I thought it would be! It was a dream vacation even without that!
So maybe my next visit will be the one where I get to witness the northern lights… or maybe not… whatever it maybe, my tryst with Finland is not over yet… so with fingers crossed waiting for the time when I plan one again.