Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yliluomas in C-500

Timo and Irja are Paavo Yliluoma’s  parents. I am his flat mate. They were in Delhi for five days to celebrate Irja’s 60th birthday. These were the coldest days, as per a newspaper’s report, in 40 years. They felt Delhi is colder than Finland. It’s so cold even inside the houses here. I can understand. Their home town, Raudaskyla, was freezing, temperature had plummeted to -20 degree Celsius when they left for Delhi. But inside their house it’s always cosy +20.

We are good friends now. 
Timo and Irja grew up rural areas of one of the coldest inhibited parts of the world. Irja, as a child, had to wade through a thick carpet of ice in freezing conditions to reach to the nearest school which was five kilometres away. Her earliest recollection is water being boiled in a huge vessel by a rivulet to do the laundry. We discussed their difficult formative years while sipping sparkling wine sitting in a roof-top restaurant of a five star hotel in Delhi, a blower kept next to the table on the floor kept our feet warm. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then.
Happy birthday Irja
They don’t know the English language very well. But they are very cosmopolitan in their thoughts and ideas. Simple but sure footed about life. Paavo was the cord between me and them that allowed free flow of ideas. It also ensured that we talk sense and miss out on futile gossip, but not at the cost of fun and some pun. We looked eye to eye and gesticulated when Paavo was not there. We were communicating very well.
Knowledge of English, or the lack of it, and its repercussions were discussed. It was agreed that to know a language spoken by most in the world is an unmitigated advantage. In a country like India, they felt the same is true for Finland, degree of proficiency in English language is a barometer of success.

I insisted that they should be proud of the fact that they don’t know English well enough. English is not just a language, it is a powerful binder that is compressing the globe towards a common mass: a kind of monoculture. The globalised world speaks English. This has hastened the process of loss of diversity of local languages and dialects. The Finnish language, they say, is endangered. Some dialects are spoken by only a dozen odd people are on verge of extinction. I am prisoner of the same dilemma that I stand to criticize today. 

We had many meetings, fun meetings over three dinners, a breakfast and a brunch. Yliluomas make a closely knit family in a country where people find solitude therapeutic and are tight-lipped about emotional yearnings. I complimented them for warmth in their relationship by calling them an Indian family. 

Didi with Yliluomas
One person that impressed them the most was Didi. Technically, she is a hired help who takes care of the house. For all practical purposes, she, the Didi, is  home minister of the household C-500, FF, CR P. She is held this position for 7 long years with distinction. Though, lately, she occasionally refrains from paying her daily visit, that too, without notice. It is a bad news for me. The morning massala chai she makes for us is an essential input that sets my day rolling. I firmly believe she skips only, and only, for unavoidable reasons.

So much was Irja impressed with Didi that she dubbed her husband Timo as ‘Didi of my life.’ That got us laughing. ‘A Didi who would never bunk,’ I add and we were obliged to laugh louder. Then, I pointed out that Timo was the only one not laughing which got us laughing in higher decibels. Timo also joined us. The waiters standing next to the counter on the far end of the restaurant grinned. Laugher is so contagious, yet, they call it the best medicine. Excessive laughing caused tears in Irja’s eyes. She had to remove her glasses to wipe it as she continued to chuckle. I will feel good about this evening for a long time.

This topic came up for discussion again the next time we met. Paavo clarified that Timo is not very pleased with this joke.  He is an emotional, sensitive and an observant man. All jokes have a figure of fun; in this case it was Didi. Timo didn’t find the joke funny for this reason. I thought the comparison was funny. I decided to narrate this joke to Didi to find her reaction. She burst out laughing, like a crackle, just for a couple of seconds. The smile stayed on her face for a long time. She was very pleased.
Miraculously enough, their zero-bacteria digestive system didn’t had to deal with any major disruption. Timo was feverish when he boarded the plane to fly back. 

I felt at home in their company and look forward to meeting them again.

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