Monday, June 29, 2009

Västerås tales - Its cricket time

If you have ever dreamt of playing cricket in Scandinavia, I can assure you today that this is one dream which can certainly come true. I had never imagined that people would know what is cricket in Sweden, leave alone playing, and thats the precise reason why I had left most of my gear in Bangalore. But, I was proved wrong. I had just sent out some feelers through my friends around here that I play cricket and that it would be nice if there are people around who are interested in playing the game. Within a few days, I was told by a colleague that people play cricket at a village named Kolsva, around 50kms from Västerås. I started hunting for the details and after a few hours, I could find the link to this club called the Guttsta Wicked Cricket Club ( After going through the webpage of this club, I could get more information of the status of cricket in Sweden. To my surprise, Sweden has a governing body for cricket called the Swedish Cricket Federation ( and they are trying to promote cricket in Sweden. I could find that the federation organizes the Swedish National League and also is planning to participate in some "international" tournaments. It was for the first time that I could see some of the European countries in the cricket list like Bulgaria, Greece, Estonia, Czech Republic, Turkey, Denmark, Finland and Norway. This year, 13 clubs are playing the Swedish League and I could see that most of the club players are actually from ICC (International Cricket Council) full member countries and mainly from India, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and England. Still, I could find that quite a few clubs have "desi" Swedish players too and that is a very good sign. Well, many details are available on the Swedish Cricket Federation webpage.

Let me now come back to my story. I could find from the Guttsta Club webpage that there were quite a few Indians in the team. I called one of the folks and I was happy to know that one of the members actually works in the same organization as mine. I got in touch with him and I came to know that there was a practice match on 28th June... I was thrilled to the core. The game was to be held in the home ground of the club at Kolsva village. I don't drive and I found that it was going to be a pain to reach the ground. The person whom I had contacted agreed to take me along with him in the car. It was tough last week waiting for the Sunday to arrive and the weather forecast was terrific. Sunday morning, my friend picked me up from near my house, then we went to the railway station to pick up another of our players who was coming in from Stockholm by train to play this match (Stockholm is around an hour by train). My friend's son also plays and he is an emerging cricketer and he was also going to play. We reached the ground well in time for the match which was planned to start at 11:00AM. I got introduced to the other team members and also the main force behind the club, Hasse.. He is an elderly gentleman and his enthusiasm for the game was something I am very proud of. Our opponents were a club from Uppsala and the players were mainly students studying at Uppsala University. It was a 30 over match.

The first thing which strikes you when you reach the ground is the ground itself. Can you imagine a lush green turf ground in Sweden with lush green surroundings. This is sort of a privilege for me since we rarely used to get a chance to play on a turf ground in Bangalore. This ground was solely maintained by Hasse and I am truly amazed by his love for the game. This ground can be probably termed as the best ground up towards the poles. Its just green and green all around. The club boasts of a good stock of cricket gear too and I immediately decided to become a member. It was scorching hot on Sunday when we were playing the game. The game turned out to be a very good one for our team and although we lost by a good margin, we played as a team together. It was so nice to see that the love of the game has got together several people from different nationalities and they are now trying to popularize the game in Sweden. The club is going to organize a tournament too in July when one of the participating teams would be a club from England.

This was a nice experience for me and I am for sure will continue to play. Playing time here is only during the 5 months of summer and one can really enjoy the game during this period. Hail Swedish cricket !

Till the next match, its Adjö from Santanu.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Västerås tales - City festival week


It was not "Thank God, its Friday" for me yesterday as I had been pretty much having a very good time the whole of last week, both with work and fun. I can't forget that a few days back I was in a nice get-together and barbecue with friends. The last weekend of June 09 is here and I am almost completing a month now in this beautiful place with beautiful people. Yesterday, over lunch, one of my friends told me that Västerås is having a city festival (, something which is held every summer and that there's a frenzy of activities at the city center and that its total fun. Wow, that was it. What more can you expect over the weekend.

These days, the weather god has been very kind on Västerås - its bright and sunny and the atmosphere is just great or rather I should say "sexy". The temperatures are between 20-25 C and lots of people are out on every possible street. There's the old couple hand in hand going for their walks, the mom, pushing the pram with the little one giggling all along with her hubby on the side and the younger lots on their cycles rushing around to enjoy as much as they can. The big motor bikes with the big people on it are out on the main road, the restaurants are choc-a-bloc full, beer bars are running full houses - well well, its just people, people all around enjoying to their level best. This weekend being the last weekend before the summer vacations start for all of them, the excitement is almost on a high. I went to the city center both yesterday and today.

Friday evening, the situation was like Brigade road or M. G. Road in Bangalore - only people. I was ecstatic. I wanted to have a hair cut, but then the saloons were already closed. Most of the shops here close at 18:00 hrs while few of them stay open till 19:00 hrs. Anyway, there's nobody to look at me, so I was not bothered about my hair style. I was more enthusiastic to go around and see whats happening. If you have seen Durga Puja in Kolkata, the situation was just like that. Most of the side streets were all closed and there were enclosures built on the major streets as if some kind of big puja is happening. The only difference was that in all those enclosures, there's a stage and on the stage, musicians were performing. I found stages in almost all the important side-streets and the music in all the stages were not the same. At two places, there were rock shows going on with several bands (i think local bands) performing one after the other. At one of the places, they were charging an entry fee of 20 SEK and I think the performers there were some of the best people around. At another place, it was more of the classical type and I listened to a guy singing which I presume to be the Italian opera type of song. This was like the performance in the movie "The Untouchables" which Robert De Niro was watching when Sean Connery gets killed. I was impressed. There were flywheels and all those sort of games which we see in a typical Indian "mela" (festival). The fun quotient was probably the same for children and adults alike. At every place, it was full. At those streets where "pandals" (enclosures) were not there, the sides were all lined up with small shops selling things ranging from football jerseys to leather accessories to summer clothes to .... what not. And when I said its like Brigade road its slightly different in the sense that the shops were right on the street, so you peek into each one of those and then see whats in for sale. I just stood at one end of the road and lo, slowly, I was at the other end. People were not in a hurry unlike in Bangalore, they were here to enjoy and every one of them was taking their own sweet time to go ahead. I liked the steady movement to the other side and I did the same thing for the return trip as well. With so many people around, can food stalls be left behind. There were many many food stalls too selling many different varieties of food items. Since I don't eat meat, I just lost out on having a feast. It was a totally different experience all-together at a place where usually I never expected such a thing to happen. I am told that the countdown for the gloomy days ahead is probably going to start from this point on. Well, I am looking forward for that experience too.

Europe is known for football and for the first time, I could experience the love for the game on Friday. I was busy watching one of the music performances when from nowhere, there was a big roar from all around and people started to look out as to what exactly happened. Then, I saw people crowding round at the back of the stage and I was curious to know what was there. I too went there and surprisingly, I found that people were watching a football game on TV over mugs and mugs of beer and interestingly, Sweden was playing England in an under-21 UEFA cup match. The most dramatic part was that Sweden had just hit a goal to level the scores 3-3 and the roar was for that. Can you imagine the situation? In no time, I found that the crowd around the stage had disappeared and there was a small melee around the TV. Unfortunately though, Sweden lost the game 5-4 on tie-breaker and I just can't imagine as to how much the beer pubs would have made yesterday night.

Saturday, I went to the city center slightly late, around 8:00 PM or so. The situation was similar as it was yesterday. I had a chance to see a performance by red indians on one of the street corners. At one of the places where a rock show was on yesterday, today evening a dance show was happening, the name of the event being "Power Moves". I was lucky to see a pretty old guy dance to the tune of Billie Jean. That was just a great performance. After that, it was a big group which performed a medley of dance sequences from solo performances to group ones. The crowd was encouraging the performers with continuous clapping and hooting. It was sheer fun to be out their in that environment. I didn't have much to do, so I just roamed around till 9:30PM, did some household shopping at ICA and came back home. The last two evenings has given me more reasons to believe that I am at the right place at the right time. The only thing I missed was the Samba which I didn't know when it happened, but I came to know that it happened.

Hej då

Friday, June 19, 2009

Västerås tales - Midsummer celebrations


Today, the 19th of June is Midsummer day in Sweden and its a holiday here. Today or tomorrow is probably going to be the longest day possible in the entire year. Midsummer is a big and important celebration for Swedes and this is a day which every Swede - old, young, children and even the recently borns probably awaits for during summer time. On this day, Swedish families have a big social gathering filled with music, food and fun and mostly these celebrations are held in the country side. I do not want to go into the details of Midsummer celebrations and how it started as the information is available on the internet. Interested people can find it on Wikipedia or at "".

It seems I am lucky to be in Västerås at the right time of the year, thats what all my friends are saying and I had the big opportunity today to witness Midsummer celebrations here with some of my friends. The venue was the Vallby Open Air Museum or the Vallby Friluftsmuseum (, around 3 kms from the place where I am staying. As usual, weather is a part of life in Sweden and I am also getting used to this very quickly. I have started checking the weather forecast on the web nowadays. The weather for the daytime today was predicted to be partly cloudy with showers in the afternoon. We were informed that the celebrations were to start around 1:00PM and so we started on our bikes (cycles) aroud 12:15PM. We reached the place by 12:30PM passing through very beautiful cycle tracks on the way. The weather was really good at that time and we met many of our other friends too who had come there with their families. We parked our bikes and went through the programme for the day and came to know that the actual programme of dancing was to start at 3:30PM, that's the item for which we came here. We were disappointed, but the delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise especially for me.

A music programme was also listed on the schedule at 1:00PM where artistes from Peru were going to present their music followed by performances from local Swedish artistes. The Vallby Museum showcases exhibits which depicts the lifestyle of people in Västmanland region of Sweden during the 18th century. The museum encompasses a huge area something sort of village and there are many old style houses, a village school, farms where chicken, goats, pigs and horses are reared and gardens where vegetables are grown. The houses were of different types and each of the rooms had the types of furniture which were used during that time. I could see a very nice collapsible bed which could be made into an adult's bed or a children's one by just adjusting the length. The kitchen had very interesting stuff, like the cooking range which was of hot plates something similar to the electric hot plates, but at the bottom of the plates, fire was lighted through wood to heat the plates. One of the things which I could differentiate was that the houses had very low ceilings and entrances. The animal farming areas were well depicted and it was maintained the way it would look like. The area where pigs were kept was as dirty as it can be and I could see a huge pig or a hog kept there. This was the largest pig I have ever seen. The goat and cow farms were neat and the horse farm was in a sort of a meadow with a huge area. The one good thing which I liked very much in the museum was that the lifestyle of the people were also depicted through real people in the houses. In one of the houses, there were two beautiful Swedish ladies in traditional dresses sitting and knitting whereas in the village school, there was a lady teacher. In another of the houses, a couple in traditional dresses were seen sitting and having food. All these things I could see just due to the fact that the main programme was postponed. It took us around an hour to go through all these exhibits and I found it to be very interesting and nice. I came to know why it was called an Open Air Museum because all the exhibits were outside and independent in nature rather than being housed under the same roof as in a traditional museum. During this time, the music programme had also started and I could see that the number of people in the museum was slowly increasing. The music performance of the Peruvian artistes were nice. It seemed that all the artistes belonged to one family. An elderly gentleman was on the guitar and an younger guy was on the flute. There were two ladies who were playing flute as well as singing. Interestingly there were two kids too, one of them very very young who were using the shaker and also singing !! It was very nice.

By the time we finished seeing most of the museum, it was around 2:15PM and we had more than an hour to spend before the actual ceremony started on the ground. The clouds in the sky had also started to open up slowly and a light drizzle started. People started hunting for shelters all around. As I mentioned earlier, this is a festival for every Swedish and I could see several children around, many of them less than 1 year and on the pram with the moms pushing the cart around. We decided to have some coffee and went inside the only restaurant in the museum. It was choc-a-bloc full, but we were lucky to get a place for ourselves. The rains slowly became heavy and we decided to stay put in the restaurant itself till 3:30PM, the time for the ceremony and the dance to start. We started for the open ground at 3:15PM and inspite of the rains, we could see all the people moving towards the ground. I am seeing this sort of enthusiasm for the first time and it had nothing to do with the age of the people around. The path had become slippery and the crowd slowly moved towards the main venue. In the meanwhile, the ceremony started with artistes dressed in traditional folk attire and carrying the Swedish flag marching towards the ground. When we reached the ground, it was crowded heavily and I could see people getting around a maypole. A maypole had been erected at the centre of the ground and the pole was decorated with flowers at every stage up to the top as per the tradition. The artistes who were supposed to sing were under a shelter. The programme started with a dance by couples dressed in traditional folk attire. Most of the couples were elderly people and this level of excitement and enthusiasm has to be seen to be believed. After sometime, there was an announcement asking people to form rings around the maypole for the dance. Immediately, there was a small rush and I could see three rings getting formed. The announcer kept on requesting people to expand the ring to accomodate more people. The sight of several children having flower rings on their heads and just waiting for the dance to start was just beautiful. Within a short time, the name of the rhyme or the song was prompted and people got ready. The singing was magnificient and the dance was equally good. It was a beautiful sight to see so many people dancing together holding their hands to each other and going round and round. The songs kept on changing and the dancing style also kept on changing here and there a little bit. Suddenly, the rains started with full intensity, but the intensity and energy of the people were equally strong. In fact, people were liking dancing in the rain and I was told that rains are always expected during Midsummer celebration and thats a good sign for them. I was also finding it very interesting and wanted to dance, but then stopped myself :). It seems this festivity happens all over Sweden and people enjoy a lot. More importantly since it is held over a weekend, people have the best time to celebrate before going for their vacations.

I stayed at the venue for another 15 minutes or so and left the place to go back home. It was drizzling and we cycled back in the rain. That was again fun. I think I have to buy full rain wear for the next trip. That was the end of an entertaining and fun-filled day today and I am expecting to have many more of such days in the future.

Adjö for this weekend :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Västerås tales - my new home


This is my 2nd weekend in Västerås and I have already started liking this place and more importantly the weather. There is a general crib from people here that the weather is something which frustrates them. Well, I find this interesting. Since the time I landed on the 1st of June, I have experienced bright sunny mornings, gloomy cloudy afternoons and evenings of continuous drizzle. Although it is summer time out here, it is difficult to move outside without a thin pullover or a jacket. Yes, the expectation is that the weather is going to be better in the days to come around July when most of the folks around have already booked their vacations. One of my colleagues believe that if the last week of June sees bright sunny days, then the weather in July would be just great. Apart from the weather, this is the time for long days out here in this part of the world. I have never seen darkness till now because when I go to bed around 11:30PM, the sky is still lighted and when I wake up at 5:30AM, the sky is very bright. It seems the darkness hours are somewhere between 12:00AM to 2:00AM and I am yet to experience this. The longest day, the Midsummer's Day is shortly coming on June 21 and I am told that its going to be a festive atmosphere out here. I am also waiting for this day and see for myself whether the skyline is full of light for the entire 24 hours.

Dear friends, Välkommen till Sverige and Välkommen till Västerås - Welcome to Sweden and Welcome to Västerås. We are in Scandinavian territory, up and somewhere closer to the poles. This is the first time I am in this part of the world and believe it, it is going to be interesting out here. Although winter is expected to be very severe, I think thats the best part of the year when one can have most of the fun and I am eagerly waiting for it. I would love to go for skiing, skating, dog sledging and winter trekking up the snowy mountains. Västerås is located in central Sweden and is around 100 kms west of Stockholm. It lies on the shores of the beautiful Lake Mälaren and is one of the bigger cities of Sweden with a population over 1,00,000. It takes around an hour and 15 minutes by bus to reach Västerås from Arlanda international airport in Stockholm. I find this to be a very beautiful city with several vintage buildings all around and an even more beautiful city centre. The first thing I liked about this place is when I saw people on the streets at the city centre. The best mode of transport for people is walking or cycling. There are separate bicycle tracks all along the main roads and walkers and cyclists are always first preference on the roads. The city centre has very nice and beautiful shops where you can do window shopping as long as you like, but it might burn your pockets if you enter inside.

Surprisingly, I could also see quite a lot of restaurants around, mainly Chinese, Thai and of that sort and these restaurants are full during lunch hours. The city centre wears a deserted look around 8:00PM as all the shops close latest by 7:00PM. I could find an Indian restaurant too, but then people say that the owner is not an Indian and he is trying to use the name of India to attract people. I visited the restaurant last week and I found it to be a shabby place and the man at the counter was happily telling me that there are only two dishes which can be served - chicken and vegetables. For vegetarians or partly vegetarians like me, there are not too many choices for eating - most of the eastern restaurants do have few vegetarian items. Yes, one can eat at the few SUBWAYS and at McDONALDS, but how long can you eat at these places. I have had food outside on several days in the last few days and it was good. The best thing to do is probably to prepare food yourself and thats exactly what I am doing nowadays. It is not very difficult to get the items you need like rice, aata, vegetables etc. The only problem is that there are many different varieties of these ingredients that one needs to learn "svenska" (swedish) to know exactly what you need. Last week, when trying to search for milk, I got something which turned out to be a different sort of milk prepared artificially, but I found it good for tea.

The experience till now has been real fun. I got a nice apartment at a nice place very close to my place of work and I keep walking all around as I have tons of time now. The people here are very nice and helpful. I have not gone for any outings for the time being. I want to spend some time understanding the place and the surrounding before going out for trips. Most of all, I am yet to get a bicycle which I am hopeful of getting one next week. The first planned trip as of now is going to be to Bjorno island by cycle sometimes in July.

Till then, Adjö (Goodbye) from Santanu.

Here are some photographs of Västerås which I took when I visited this place in Feb 09 which was winter time. I am yet to start my photography stints yet and it will take some time as I forgot one of my lenses out there in Bangalore. And my friends over there in Bangalore, if these photographs don't entice you to visit me in Västerås sometimes soon, there are more photographs which will be shortly coming your way which I am sure will change your mind.

Vasteras City Centre

Västerås Railway Station