Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 15

Yesterday, July 30, we have had Kiran and Ram Berry of Delhi, sister and brother-in-law of Rita and Arun Chopra over an informal dinner at home. Rita and Arun are close friends of Anju and Naresh. Kiran and Ram are visiting Stockholm with the mother of Arun, an elderly but gracious lady. Arun is an established businessman in Stockholm for the last about 35 years. Ram Berry is a retired professional who was working with the USAID in India in senior positions. I found Kiran and Ram very friendly and social. It was a pleasure to have them with us. First Secretary of the Indian Embassy Bimla Chander, one of our family friends was another guest at the dinner along with some more friends of Naresh. Late in the evening we came to know that July 31 was the birthday of Rita We took the opportunity to wish her all the best in the years to come. Rita is the master of kitchen apart from standing with Arun in his business. These formal and informal lunches and dinners are keeping us engaged. 

Naresh cutting hedges
Arvind mowing lawns

Sweden is one of the fully developed countries with the best of social security system in place. I have noticed some unique features in the work culture of Sweden. Sweden has long winters with lot of snow. The summer months are pleasant and are meant for Semester (vacations) to re-charge the batteries. The lush green hedges and grassy lawns of houses are well maintained. To engage outside help is scarce and costly for odd jobs like removal of snow and cutting grass and shaping hedges etc. One has to do these things oneself and people do it with good care and effort to live well. There is no stigma attached to this activity. Even well do families tend to undertake and do such jobs on  their own. Children are taught and given practical initiation and experience to learn these odd jobs. It is good not only g for the up keep their homes but also for the mind body of the common citizens. We in India need to take a few lessons from countries like Sweden in this regard.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 14

Garden Dinner with Seema & Stefan
Yesterday, July 29, Seema and Stefan Jonsson of Uppsala, good friends of Anju and Naresh, invited us to dinner to their home in Uppsala. It was an informal birthday party of Seema. The party turned out to be a good candle light dinner amidst the cherry trees in the rear lawns of their house. Seema is the daughter of my senior colleague Ambassador S.K. Arora. Both Seema and Stefan, a baby faced hospitable couple, are academics. Seema teaches at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Stefan is a Professor of Economics at Uppsala University. To my enquiry with Stefan as to how and where he met Seema ?Stefan told me that they studied together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in late 1980s where their fathers were posted. Later Stefan worked in Orissa on a social forestry project funded by SIDA, a development aid agency of Sweden and more recently as the Science Attaché at the Swedish Embassy in New Delhi. Stefan knows India very well.  Their house appeared more Indian than Swedish with Pipli umbrella from Orissa in the garden and original poster of old Indian movie ´Do Ankhen Baran Hath´and many more Indian decorations. The evening was concluded with a session of Teenpati. We remembered the Diwali evening with Teenpati with many Swedish friends which we had with Seema and Stefan during one of our earlier visits some years before. It was a pleasure to meet them again.

SG of UN Dag Hammarskjöid
Uppsala is, 70 kms. from Stockholm, the fourth largest city of Sweden after Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. It is a renowned centre of higher education particularly medical research and biochemistry with Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. I was told that many Indian students and researchers come to Uppsala under various exchange programs. The Fyris river jig -jags the city with lush green trees on the banks. Swedish Diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld who was the Secretary General of the UN in 1950s belonged to Uppsala. He died in a plane crash in early 1960s.

In the evening, July 30, we would have an informal dinner at home with some visitors from Delhi and local friends. It is gratifying to note that the friends circle of Anju and Naresh is quite considerate and invite close visiting relatives of each other for lunch or dinner as a matter of respect and regard. We have been the beneficiary of this tradition ever since we came to Stockholm on July 4.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 13

Naresh & Anju

Arvind & Pallavi
We have been in Stockholm for the last three weeks. From my Stockholm Diary, it may be felt that how happy we are with Naresh, Anju and our grand-children Pallavi and Arvind and also the friends circle of Naresh. We have happily noticed a couple of new and pleasant trends in the life style of both Naresh and Anju on one hand and good sense of maturity and affection for us in our grand-children. Today, Monday July 28, Naresh and Anju are observing their weekly fast. It is something new in our family and is a welcome thing. The good aspect of this is that they are doing this as a routine without any dogmatic rituals. I am supportive of this if not for any religious reasons but certainly for health benefits. Naresh, with some efforts, have shed considerable weight over the months. His life style, particularly pertaining to food and diet, is fully regulated and maintained. Anju is also quite conscious of her health and rightly so. I am preparing myself to bring in some regulation and discipline to my life style to instill health benefits, once I go back to India by the middle of August. Since we are in the midst of heavy and generous spell of lunches and dinners with friends in Stockholm and around, it is difficult to maintain the schedule with regimentation. I hopefully intend to do something in this regard on our return to Jalandhar.

Dinner Sukhi & Nippy
Yesterday evening, July 27, was full of enjoyment with Sukhpreet (Sukhi) and Jaspal Sabharwal (Nippy), close friends of Naresh and Anju. Both Sukhi and Nippy are  not only marvelous hosts but good at cooking excellent food. Sensing that we were excessively treated over good Indian food and grill sessions over the recent weeks, they offered an array of good South Asian food both for the snacks and the main course. The food was not only good for the palate but also the presentation was pleasant for the eyes.   Delicious dessert of Faluda Kulfis, a speciality of Sukhi, took our thoughts back to Delhi. The Teenpati session further relaxed the evening. We enjoyed ourselves fully along with other guests.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 12

My morning walk view
Over the weekend good summer days remained. People were out on the water fronts, grill parties in the lawns and balconies of their residences, open car rides with loud music, beer sessions in open air restaurants to enjoy themselves. Unlike we in India, Stockholmerna know how to enjoy their semesters (vacations). They recharge their batteries during the summer time and work with renewed energy susequently. I think it is one of the reasons of their continued success.

On Friday, July 25, we passed through the famous Sveavägen in down town Stockholm in the evening. There were hundreds of vintage beauties (cars) of different models, colors, shapes along with the latest costly cars parked on the road sides. It was interesting to see these beauties at one go. I was told that it was a well kept ritual to bring these vintage cars to town for exhibition and fun in summer months.

Teenpati session with Surekha and Rajesh Sood
From Sveavägen we headed for a dinner appointment. Surekha and Rajesh Sood, good friends of Anju and Naresh, hosted for us, along with some more common friends, a good dinner at their beautiful apartment in Solna, Stockholm. The intermission, after the round of starters and snacks, resulted in an impromptu session of Teenpati (cards). It was a good change particularly for my wife Vidya who generally tends to look for such opportunities to have some fun and relax herself. As usual we enjoyed Surekha and Rajesh´s hospitality. It was a good dinner. They are a humble but down to earth wise couple. 

Grill at Poonam and Inderpal villa
As I said earlier that our friends and well wishers are keeping us busy over lunches and dinners. Poonam and Inderpal Singh again invited us to their beautiful villa on July 26 for a grill party. We had been to their home some days before for a good breakfast with hot Cholle-Bhature. Both of them are warm and friendly. It is always a pleasure to be with them. It was a marvelous evening with plates full with instantly grilled fresh vegetables, sweet corn, kababs, chicken drum sticks and good drinks to gulp these down. I am happy to note that the friends circle of Anju and Naresh is really good and caring. The weekend is not yet over and we are to catch up with yet another good dinner to night. Our hosts have already sounded us that they would love to play Teenpati with us to liven the party. We look forward to the evening.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26 - Vijay Diwas

India´s decisive victory in the Kargil War of 1999 with Pakistan is observed as Vijay Diwas on July 26. The day is observed as a solemn occasion to pay tributes and salute the martyrs of the war. We are in Stockholm on vacation but our hearts go back to India to be with our countrymen in remembering the brave jawans and young officers of our armed forces who sacrificed their lives in the defense of our motherland.

The Kargil war of 1999 was the mis-adventure of Pakistan imposed on India. While was India was in the process of consolidating the gains of PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee´s Bus Yatra to Lahore, the Pakistani leadership under PM Nawaz  Sharif and spear headed by all powerful army commanded by General Parvez Musharraf had other plans to trouble India. India was taken by surprise. Frankly, It was a big failure of our intelligence agencies and also of the military brass. Indian leadership under PM Vajpayee immediately realized the mistake and took action. It was a fiercely conducted war on the inhospitable heights of Kargil. Our valiant armed forces rose to the occasion and defeated the enemy and drove them back. The stories of velour and bravery by the young officers and brave jawans of the Indian armed forces are legendary. 

India is a responsible country. Pakistan´s ill founded ambitions needed to be nailed. Our forces did it on ground in Kargil. India´s political and diplomatic machinery convinced the international community of the Pakistani designs which were aimed to threaten not only the security of India but also the international peace. I was the Director of Central Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in 1999. In our diplomatic offensive, we took appropriate action and kept the diplomatic missions in Delhi fully informed and briefed of the developments. 

Fifteen years have passed since the Kargil war. India learnt a few lessons from the war. Our intelligence agencies and also armed forces are better equipped to deal with such exigencies in the future. The Subrahmanyam Committee  set up in the after-math of the Kargil war, made useful suggestions which helped not only stream lining the policy making process but also operational aspects of such incidents. Proxy war by our enemies remain and continues. India needs to be awake and ready to meet the challenges.

कुछ बात है के हस्ती मिटती नहीं हमारी,
सदिओं रहा दुश्मन दौरे जहाँ हमारा !

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 11

Today, July 23, It is unusually warm, 32 degree Celsius, in Stockholm. I am told that the concerned authorities have issued an advisory that old people and children should avoid out door activities in the sun. For us it is pleasant as compared to India. I take walks in the nearby woods, pick  and eat cherries from the fruit laden four five cherry tree in front of our residence and laze around on the rear deck with a drink. Naresh and Anju and also our grand children Pallavi and Arvind take lot of care and ensure our comfort. We feel good. Naresh took us to a large shop of golf goods to make purchases for his newly initiated golf lessons. Swedes love to play golf in summer and excellent facilities exist for the game. I was surprised that how these big and costly stores survive as the winter and snowy season is long and golf cannot be played. I was told that these stores remained viable. People go to other countries like Spain for the game golf. We tried our hand for the first time with the golf clubs at the store.

Ajay Pal, a friend of Naresh, invited us to a grill evening in the fully manicured rear lawns of his beautiful villa. The fruit laden apple and plum trees provided the required shade in the sunny warm evening. It was wonderful. We enjoyed the   party with grilled chicken drum sticks, mutton kababs, korvs (hot dogs), Paneer and assorted vegetables and fine wines and good whiskies to gulp along with some other common friends. Ajay, son of a retired Superintendent of Police, is a successful business person from Hoshiarpur. I found both Ajay and his gracious wife Anmol very hospitable and humble. We wish them all the best in the years to come.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014

Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 will be declared open today (July 23) at a glittering ceremony at the famous Celtic Park in Glasgow (Scotland). We are currently having our vacations in Stockholm with our son Naresh and his family and would follow the Games with interest. It is more so as I lived in Scotland as Consul General of India in Edinburgh from 2007-2008. Since Glasgow has a large concentration of Indian community which is contributing positively to the economic and social life, I used to visit quite often in the course of my diplomatic duties  and also for social interaction. Though Scotland is a part of the UK yet it has special status and powers under the constitutional arrangements. Unlike other federal systems, Scotland has its Minister of External Affairs and has stand alone membership of the Commonwealth and the EU while remaining a federate of the UK. Scotland under the leadership of First Minster Alex Salmond bagged the 2014 Commonwealth Games which further cemented its separate identity. The ongoing debate on the independence of Scotland would continue till the referendum on the issue in September, 2014. Glasgow already has world class sports facilities and civil infrastructure to host the prestigious event of Commonwealth Games.

I left Edinburgh in early 2009 on transfer to Minsk. Before my departure, I made a farewell call on Rt. Honourable Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland. I must register here that Alex Salmond is a good friend of India and as such gave me all due consideration and respect as the Consul General of India. I clearly remember that during my meeting with him he broached up the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and thanked me for India´s support to Scotland in the vote for Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in Sri Lanka in 2007. I watched with interest the closing ceremony of 2010 Games in Delhi where  the Flag and the Baton was handed over to First Minister Alex Salmond for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 10

It remained a busy weekend. The Path of Sukhmani Sahib followed by Langar (community lunch) with Bablu and Kiran  Kumar on July 19 and dinner hosted by Marita and Param Sabharwal made the day. Param is an established business person, a close friend of Naresh. Both Param and his gracious wife Marita has a cosmopolitan outlook. Param married Marita, a Swedish lady and their daughter Sofia followed suit and married Hasan, a Pakistani boy. It is a good example of harmonious living as per the Indian philosophy ´Vasudevkam Katumbkam´(the whole world is one family). The poetry recital by Inderpal Singh and Hasan, particularly that of Bulle Shah, livened the evening. The ladies made everybody laugh with their jokes which they exchange on WhatsApp etc.

Anju & Naresh along with Pallavi & Arvind planned a brief but an enjoyable trip of sight seeing at Vaxholm, an old port city outside Stockholm, on July 20. Vaxholm is a beautiful small port with Vaxholm castle situated in the water. People were enjoying in the water with small personal and hired boats besides ferry-boats plying between Stockholm and Vaxholm. We had a short walk on the banks of the Vaxholm water front. Almost everyone was relishing themselves with a variety of ice creams. We could not resist ourselves and joined them with delicious cones of ice creams in a warm and sunny afternoon. It was satisfying both for the soul and body.
We wrapped up the evening with a splendid dinner at the  newly built and tastefully furnished residence of our old friends Kamlesh and Varinder Khullar. We developed with each other close friendship during our stay in Täby, a posh area in the out skirts of Stockhom, as neighbors. Kamlesh´s hospitality is legendary in Stockholm. We enjoyed the evening throughly while reviving the old memories. Kamlesh was quite active in the community matters and still maintains her tempo. Our generous hosts had invited our old common friends Anita and Shashi Sharma also. It was nice to meet and talk to them. Their daughter Parul has made a name in designated circles, not only of Sweden but also of many other countries including India, dealing with human right and socio-economic issues of development. We wish her all the best in the years to come. The second generation of Indians has started their life in Sweden. Two young sons of Kamlesh and Varinder have done well and are happily married to beautiful Swedish ladies.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 9

Our trip to Stockholm, as usual, is full of social interaction over lunches and dinners. The current good summer days have made our visit all the more enjoyable. Apart from eating and socializing, walks in the lap of nature and visits to water fronts in and around Stockholm keep us busy. We are extremely happy. Stockholm generally is a bubbling city on friday evenings accept the month of July. In July-August, people, almost 5 million and half of total population, tend to go out on Semester (vacations) which an important activity of Swedish life.

We relished a good family dinner with First Secretary of the Indian Embassy Bimla Chander on July 16. We had known each other since long. Her father Pritam Chand, who was my colleague in the MEA, was a good friend. We availed of the occasion to revive the memories of our association. Before the dinner, we enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Häggvik lake in Danderyd.

On July 18, Damini and Naresh Lakhwani, family friends of Naresh and Anju, treated us to a sumptuous dinner at an Indian restaurant Rajdoot. Rajdoot is owned and run by a fellow Jalandhari Rajinder. I found Damini and Naresh Lakhwani a perfect couple as ´made for each other´. They were fully reverential towards us which we appreciate with gratefulness. Naresh Lakhwani is an established business person in Stockholm with a fully supportive and gracious lady Damini. We wish them all the best in the years to come.  During our stay in Stockholm in the first half of 1990s, there were only a few Indian restaurants. But it seems Indian food is increasingly getting accepted. I am told that now there are more than 100 Indian restaurants in Stockholm alone. These are own mostly by Bangladeshis like the UK.

Today, July 19, is a good day of sun shine and occasional drizzling. Naresh,s friends and yet another hospitable family around invited us for ´Sukhmani Sahib´ path at their spacious house. It was very good for my mind and soul, away from home in India. It is a beauty of our cultural roots that we carry our faith and spirituality with us even to foreign lands. Inderpal Singh, a young man from Ludhiana, not only recited the Sukhmani Sahib path but also sang Gurbani on harmonium - ´Mil mere pritma jiiyo´ & Áukhi ghadi na dekhan deyin´. It was a pleasant surprise. Bibi Manjit Kaur enthralled the Sangat (audience) with melodious and all meaningful Sabad-Kirtan (singing of Gurbani). It is believed that Sukhmani Sahib´s path has the latent and potent spirit of bringing in Sukh (happiness and well -being) all around. 

Nanak ne jis chaman mein vehdat ka geet gaya,
Mera watan wahi hai, mera watan wahi hai.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 8

I wrote on India - Stockholm economic and commercial co-operation and the added opportunities provided by the new liberalized policies of the new Government in India. Let me add to the same theme a small incident as oral history. 

I was the First Secretary of the Indian Embassy when PM Narsimha Rao took over in 1991 with Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister (later PM). The new Government ushered India into liberalized and restructured economic policies to integrate India to the world economy. It was a big event not only for India internally but also for its international partners through out the world. Since my charge in the Embassy was to work on the economic and commercial desk, it was a challenge for me to sell India´s new economic policies to the Swedish partners and invite them to join hands with India. Swedish Trade Council arranged for me a luncheon meeting with the India Interest Group in the India - Sweden Joint Business Council. It was a good meeting in which about twenty business representatives participated. Given my constraints, particularly in view of the evolving situation back home, I spoke as a layman and made a brief statement on the new policies and the political will and agenda of the new Government. I also underlined that India has reached this phase through the process of slow evolution and not as a drastic and disturbing revolution. There were some questions by the Swedish participants about the difficulties faced by them in doing business with India. It was a good interaction. There was a question which had some bearing on the political system and stability and also the policies. The question was a on the minority character of the Government that what would happen to the new liberalized policies if the Government was changed and some other political party came to power. It was a difficult question for me. I responded India was a democratic country working under a constitutional arrangement. Governments might come and go and added that, to my mind, the new agenda of liberalized and restructured policies and reforms, would remain as by now the policies had become a national need for development and progress of the country. I further said that any in-coming Government would not be interested in changing the course, to my considered opinion. There may be some diversions and regulation on the speed but the destination will remain. Most of the participants said that they would watch and see with fingers crossed. My heart and mind were reflecting the situation of anxiety but hope prevailing back home in India.

In the summer of 1992, the meeting of the India - Sweden Joint Commission onEconomic Cooperation was held in Stockholm. The Indian delegation was led by the then Minister of Industry P.J. Kurian (now Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha). Simultaneously, meeting of the India - Sweden Joint Business Council was also held. The climax of the story comes now. In the opening plenary session of the JBC, in the presence of Minister P.J. Kurian and his Swedish counterpart, the Swedish Co-Chairman of the JBC welcoming and congratulating the Indian side said that they were fully convinced and impressed by the reform process of India. He said, pointing towards me sitting in the first row of the audience, that here was the man, First Secretary Ramesh Chander of the Indian Embassy who came and assured us last year of the firm resolve of India to liberalize and reform. He added that we had doubts but India had proved otherwise and said that Ramesh Chander was correct and they were happy.

I was elated that I could contribute my small bit to the process of development and also to the India-Sweden relations. India is again, in spite of good progress and development registered so far, standing on the cross road like it was in 1991. The new Government has promised ´Ache Din´ (better days). The Indian masses and the world at large are watching us.

It is just a co-incident that today (July 16) Bimla Chander, First Secretary of the Indian Embassy who is dealing with economic and commercial matters to further strengthen economic and commercial cooperation between India and Sweden has invited us to her residence for an informal dinner.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 7

We are in Stockholm on a family visit. We visited Stockholm last in November, 2010 just before my retirement. Though I have been posted in Stockholm during my service from 1991-1994 and have been coming to Sweden quite regularly as our son Naresh has made Sweden his home yet I did not think of writing about my impressions about Sweden. Now I am a free man. I thought of sharing of my off the cuff impressions as an ordinary visitor and have been writing for the last week or so. 

I was going through the Indian Embassy Website. The economic and commercial relations between India and Sweden appears to be on the up-swing. But I think there is a greater potential which needs to exploited particularly with regard to Swedish investments in India. The two way trade will remain lop-sided and in favour of Sweden, as always, because high value exports from Sweden. It is currently touching about 3 billion US dollars. It seems both the sides are aware of the ground realities and are keen to further strengthen economic and commercial relations. The new Indian Government under PM Narender Modi intends to gear up the Indian Embassies, our Embassy in Stockholm under the able leadership of Ambassador Banashri Bose Harrison and her colleagues Jagdish Meena and Bimla Chander and also the supporting staff, is no exception. During my cursory inter-action with some of the established business persons of Indian origin and young IT professionals from India, I sensed that the morale of the community is up beat. The Swedish side is, it appears, would take advantage of the liberalized policies of the new Government, particularly in defense and insurance sectors, and invest more in India to mutual advantage. It is gratifying to note that that Swedish agencies like Swedish Trading Council and Invest in Sweden have their offices in India and are engaged in further strengthening the co-operation. It is time for the Indian agencies like the CII and FICCI to come out of the ´photo opportunity´mode and join hands with Indian businesses and the Swedish agencies to exploit, identify and avail of the emerging opportunities to mutual benefit.

POST SCRIPT:  There is a list of Indian Ambassadors to Sweden in the Embassy website. I noticed two omissions inter alia - Ambassador B.M. Oza and Ambassador Pushkar Johri. May be it is inadvertent.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 6

Like other developed countries, people tend to enjoy the week ends in Sweden too, particularly in the summer months. It is quite common to  have lawn/terrace parties till late in the evenings. We enjoyed such a party yesterday, July 12 with Sunil Bruta and his gracious wife Anju. Sunil is a well established business person in Stockholm and is a good friend of my son Naresh. Both Sunil and Anju are very hospitable and humble. They had invited some more friends whose company made all the difference. Kuldip sang a couple of good ghazals like ´mein to mar kar bhi meri jan tujhe chahunga´. Anju, my daughter-in-law thrilled us with melodious punjabi folk songs ´gal muki na sajjan nal meri, rabba be teri ratt muk gai´& ´koka ghadvade be mahia koka´. Anju Bruta, the kind hostess, recited good poetry like her father Dogra Sahib. I also got inspiration from the poetic atmosphere and recited some Urdu and Punjabi poetry of Allhama Iqbal and Charan Singh Safri.  It was a wonderful evening. As said earlier, the quality of life of the Indian community in Sweden is better than many other countries and on that account it is respected in the local Swedish circles.

Like other European societies, people tend to get up late on Sundays. We tended to follow the system. One of our colleagues Vijay Chauhan, who is currently working with the Indian Embassy, and his very hospitable and homely   wife Vandana invited us for a good lunch. We worked together in the Indian Embassy in Prague some years before. There we  were used play Teenpati (cards) on family get-togethers .  Keeping that in mind, he also arranged for a long Teenpati session which we enjoyed. Keeping in line with the social system in India, these kind of activities have been abandoned by us after my retirement. Vijay and his wife always show lot of respect and regard to us which we gratefully appreciate. There is good tradition with our Embassies to bid farewell to the departing colleagues on transfers and welcome to the new arrivals. Vijay utilized the occasion to bid farewell to Uma Kant who has been transferred back to Delhi and his  successor Preet. I wish them all the best in the years to come.

By now my blogs in my stockholm diary must have given the pleasant message that life in Sweden is good and enjoyable. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 5

 For the last three decades or so there are around 10 thousand Indians (PIOs/NRIs) living in Sweden. The community comprised of Ugandan Indians ousted by Idi Amin in 1971, qualified academics, small traders, skilled and semi skilled workers. Later in the 1990s a large influx of IT professionals took place apart from professionals of business houses having businesses in Sweden. Some of them are really doing well with Vicky Chakravorty on the top.   Another very successful businessman, I know, is Sami Sood. There are many more who have done well. The profile of the community is quite good particularly in terms of  general living standards as compared to other developed countries.

Yesterday, July 11, Inderpal Singh and his gracious wife Poonam, a close friend of my son Naresh, invited us for an informal family breakfast at his newly built beautiful and spacious villa at Knivsta on the way to another big city Uppsala. It was a an enjoyable drive and morning with Inder. After instantly made hot Puree and Chhole served in their spacious and well equipped kitchen we sat and played in their beautifully laid garden. My grand children Pallavi and Arvind were
particularly happy to play the game of Boule, said to be a French game to be played in home lawn. Inder is a young qualified Engineer who has done well in business . I was told that he was declared as one of the pioneer businessmen of the year in Uppsala commune. I felt good.

It is already half past six in the evening, in a short while we will go to a friendly dinner with Anju and Sunil Bruta. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 4

July 9, it was a beautiful day again. The mercury hovered around 30 degree Celsius. As I wrote earlier that Stockholm is called a city on water. There are small islands in and around. All most all resident localities have their own water-fronts. These are well kept and clean. In the months of summer, people enjoy these for swimming, boating, sun-bathing, camping, family picnics (B´que etc.) and in winter, which is sever in Sweden, some of these water- fronts freeze and children play on the frozen lakes. There is Norrviken Sjön (lake) near our residence in Uppland Väsvy. My daughter-in-law Anju accompanied me Norrviken lake to so me around to have our occasional walks. It was very good, a hill with long greens on the way and lake fully surrounded on both sides by majestic trees. It is a pity that we in India are not able to keep and maintain our rivers and lakes. We enjoyed the day at home with our grand children. The evening was all the more lovely. We sat out side on the rear deck of the house with before dinner drinks and relaxed ourselves.

It is again a nice sunny day on July 10. People tell us that we have brought good summer from India. Our neighbor, Avon, a mature lady lamented that this good weather will remain only for another day or so and it would rain on the week end. Anyway, we will remain busy in lunches and dinners on the week end and look forward to the hospitality of our friends. Naresh  cut and made the hedges in front of the house. Unlike India, the hedges of different sizes and shapes make the boundaries of the house which present a beautiful and green look to the compounds. I plucked some cherries from the trees in front of our residence and enjoyed myself.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 3

It is a warm sunny day, July 8, in Stockholm. People are enjoying themselves in the parks, water-fronts, home lawns and balconies. We also went for a brief visit to the down town to renew our memories of beautiful city Stockholm, a city on water. Naresh, my son and our grand children Pallavi and Arvind accompanied us to show us the places of interest.

We found a good blend of the old and the new. The basic character of the city which we lived from 1991 to 1994 has been consciously maintained. There are a few more high rise buildings in and around the city. The traffic has increased considerably but it is, as usual, very much regulated and disciplined. We passed through the famous Wenner Gren Centre on one end of Svea Vägen, Stads Biblioteket (State Library), famous Kyrka (Church) and cemetery where the grave of Prime Minister Olof Palme is located, Indian Embassy (near the church) on Adolf Fredriks Kyrkogata and the stately State Kultur Huset ( State Cultural House) on the other end of Svea Vägen. The city, as it was before, is incredibly clean and green. One not so pleasant sight which I noticed was that there were beggars unlike before. I think that it has come because of the EU´s freedom of movement and work. 

We headed for a short walk on the Strand Vägen water-front, a famous spot for tourists and fun-loving crowd. It was enjoyable. People were boating in private and hired boats.   It is known that in Sweden to own a private boat and  a summer house (Sommar Hus) is considered a status symbol. Naresh treated us to a glass of chilled draught beer on a floating restaurant, Strand Bryggan (Beach Bridge). We felt relaxed and happy.

On our way back, we visited Naresh´s small shop, BAMBOO Store by Organiconly, in the prestigious Sture Gallerian at Birger Jarlsgatan. They sell clothes made of bamboo fibre and other items made with organic processes only. It is a good environment friendly business concept. We were happy to see Naresh and Anju´s venture. Naresh is a self made man. We wish him further success in the years to come. Anju, on our suggestion, drove us in front of India House (Residence of the Indian Ambassador) on the  posh Villagatan. In the early years of India´s independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stayed in this House during his visit to Sweden. I have had the honor to dine with the Swedish King Karl Gustav XVI over a dinner hosted by Ambassador P.S. Sahai in 1993 before His Majesty´s visit to India. I was the First Secretary in the Embassy of India and still cherish that memory.

More later as it comes.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Stockholm Diary - 2

On July 5, one of our young friends Nikesh, an IT expert, invited us for a family dinner. We knew Nikesh from our Prague stint from February 2001- July, 2007. Nikesh started his career in Prague and graduated to a good position in Stockholm. We also met yet another young man Vijay and his vivacious wife Vandana who was also working with me in the Indian Embassy in Prague at the dinner at Nikesh´s beautiful flat adjacent to clusters of beautiful trees and greens in Upplands Väsby. Vijay and his wife were full of reverence and nostgalia of our Prague days particularly the frequent card sessions. Nikesh and his homely wife treated us to an excellent Rajasthani food including delicious and potent Dal Bhatti. Keeping in with our Prague tradition, we also played Teenpati (cards) to drive away the bad spirits. It was an enjoyable evening. Today, July 7, my daughter-in-law Anju picked up some fresh Methi leaves (fenugreek) and spring onions from the personal patch of farming of Nikesh. It is a good tradition in Sweden to hire a patch of land near ones home and grow vegetables and fruits as ones own kitchen garden. People enjoy this activity.

Sunday, July 6, we mostly remained at home and interacted with the family over some family videos and lazed around. Naresh took me to the local Centrum (Shopping Mall) for sundry purchases. We have had coffee at this very well planned and stocked Centrum. It was a good experience as usual. I must add that Commune Centrums are very well maintained and kept. It is always enjoyable to be there for shopping or small break for relaxation. We wanted to bring some mangoes for the family from India but could not do so because of the EU ban on Indian mangoes. We found pakistani mangoes at the Centrum and purchased. Why India could not conform to the food standards of the EU if other countries can do it ? 

The weather is exceptionally good with temperature at 26 degree Celsius. Swedes are excited. Many of them, as per the system, are on Semester (vacation) to enjoy the summer in this otherwise cold and long winter. In these months in Sweden, one needs to go by the clock rather than the sun as it the day-light remains for most of the time. 

Meanwhile, I spoke to my old friends in stockholm, Bimla Chander of the Indian Embassy and Jadid Mansooreh, a business person of Iranian origin. It was good to renew our friendship with them.

My Stockholm Diary

We are in Stockholm (Sweden) on a family visit to be with our son Naresh and his family. I started along with my wife Vidya from Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi on July 4 by FINNAIR flight in the morning and reached Arlanda (Stockholm)  via Helsinki Airport by the afternoon. It was our first trip outside India on a general/ordinary passport after my retirement after 35 years of diplomatic service. We had been traveling on diplomatic passports so far with all the privileges and immunities of a diplomat. Frankly, I was, at the back of my mind, alive to this change in status and somewhat worried of the general treatment and handling on the airports. But to my pleasant surprise, there was no difficulty. I found Indira Gandhi Airport better managed and maintained. The staff at the check - in counter, immigration and security were courteous and helpful as it shall be. Our son Naresh, who was visibly moved to meet us after about two years,  received us at the airport and brought us home. Our grand children, Pallavi and Arvind received us at home with lot of love and excitement. Our daughter-in-law Anju, a generous and considerate lady, was at work and joined us in the evening. I thought it would be a quite evening and we would be able to recover from the jet-lag but there was an instant party. Naresh ´s friends Inder and Nippi dropped in to welcome us. Nippi brought with him some good mutton and mince meat and cooked for us. It turned out be a sumptuous family dinner. Naresh has told us that most of our week ends, till August 16, are already booked for lunches and dinners with Naresh´s friends and our own old friends in Stockholm from days of my posting in the Indian Embassy from August 1991 to July, 1994.  We look forward to meet them and enjoy our visit to Sweden, a beautiful country.