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  * MY SWEDEN (adulthood)  



Why I came to Sweden

My Initial impressions of Sweden

► Changes in perspectives

► Meeting Christianity

► Science as an international lifeline




The Flag of Sweden (left),

and The Coat of Arms (below)






Why I came to Sweden:

As I have discussed on another page, I was offered an opportunity to come to Sweden to begin university studies and emigrate from Kenya, since I had not been given a Kenyan citizenship, and so studies at Kenya's Nairobi University were economically not affordable. My physics teacher Lars Erik Björkman at the KSTC (Kenya Science Teachers College, built by the Swedish government within a foreign aid program) had built up a group of Swedes in Sweden who would contribute some amount each so that I could study for the basic degree of three years. This funding would be regarded as a study loan in the manner that the Swedish students obtain study loans from the state.

Before I began KSTC, I had tried to move to London in the UK to study for becoming a Chartered Accountant like my elder brother was doing, and like many of the Indian youths from East Africa did in those times. That line of education was sought because during those studies, one would work fulltime (somewhat like an apprentice), getting paid, renting a room from some family to stay in, thereby not having to borrow study loans. However, as explained elsewhere, I was not allowed that, and as also explained there, to begin a teacher training education at the KSTC turned out to be the most suitable choice.

I had never been out of East Africa then, and all the countries of Europe appeared in my mind attactive to move to for further studies if one got a scholarship. Scholarships were now and then announced for studies in some West European as well as the communist East European countries. I remember already during the first half year at the KSTC discussing my ambitions with Lars Björkman on applying for these scholarships while I was studying at KSTC, and move off if I got one. And I remember that Lars said to me that maybe one should not just take scholarship to any country, but perhaps wait for some opportunity to Sweden. He said that the planning regarding the KSTC was that within a few years, the Swedish teachers at the KSTC would be replaced by Kenyan counterparts gradually as they became available, and maybe I should aspire for such a counterpart education in Sweden.

Towards completion of the three year KSTC education, however, it became all the more clear that due to me not having a Kenyan citizenship, this opportunity was not open to me. By a stroke of luck, Lars finally organized for me to come to Sweden as a private enterprise as mentioned above. After having been over 39 years in Sweden, I now and then tend to forget that this event really was remarkable for my life, although its remarkability has faded somewhat due to taking more and more of the things in life for granted as I grow older, but it really was remarkable at that time. And if I had not obtained this opportunity, then I do not know what fate I would have met.... or what alternative opportunities, if any, would have turned up.

The decision to move to Sweden was not difficult at all. A lot of the Indians were moving out from East Africa from the mid-1960s. In retrospect, I see that the rate of emigration of the Indians from East Africa accelerated in the 1970s. Of us eight brothers, two sisters and the two parents, I was the third one to emigrate from Kenya in 1969 (after two elder brothers who had moved to London in 1965 and 1967, respectively). My brother Vasant left Kenya for Canada in 1970, my brother Mahesh with his wife and child moved to London in 1970, and the rest of the siblings and the parents moved out upto the mid-1970s. So today, I have four brothers and a sister living in the UK, and I have three brothers and a sister living in Canada.


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My initial impressions of Sweden:

In Kenya

Before I started at the KSTC, I did not know much about what Sweden was like. For me it was yet another country of Europe. I remember when studying geography at school, our teacher was explaining about the different european countries in broad terms first, before going into the a few details for some of the countries. He showed a map for this purpose, and the upper zone of Europe including Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were painted with a touch of ice. He talked about the eskimoes in Greenland (which I thought were found in the whole of the ice-glazed area), and in a book we had there were some cosy hand drawn family pictures of an eskimo family living in a village of igloos. My teacher talked about how eskimoes lived, and then asked us if we wanted to take a trip to the eskimo country.... "Well, close your eyes, and lean down with your face towards the desk, and imagine as I talk", he said. Then he said things like, do you see that eskimo father coming in his sledge, and look at the eskimo kids and the mother going into the ice-house igloo, etc. It was a fascinating trip! The geography teacher talked more about Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Greece. Talking about Sweden, he talked a bit about the Vikings, who travelled by ship and fought with others. I had in my early teenage also seen a movie called "The last of the Vikings" from 1960.

At the KSTC, all the teachers were Swedes, who did not look anything like the Vikings of the movie, but who were well-clothed, polite, curious and gentle, and spoke either good English or Swenglish. They told me that the children in Sweden went to school about half a year, and had holidays for the other half, due to the climatic changes with very cold winters giving rise to heaps of snow and ice all around. Of course, I wrongly thought that the children went to school in the summers and stayed around their homes in the winters because it could be dangerous to be out in the winters and the roads would be blocked with ice and snow! In my imagination I compared their winters to the mosoon rain periods of Kenya, where roads could be blocked at places and it could be dangerous for children to be out on their own. But during the KSTC years 1966-1968, I gradually developed a more realistic and a more true picture of Sweden as an industrialized country like Germany and the UK.

Talking about this, I remember towards the end of 1968, when I was talking to the then headmaster of KSTC dr Olle Österling, that he said: "Sweden is a very well-organized country, rich and with good social welfare, and has had peace for many years, but you cannot get away from the fact that Sweden is a refrigerator." During the same period, though, the above mentioned Lars Erik Björkman had written to me from Sweden something like: "What I missed when I was in Kenya were the snowy slopes of Sweden for downhill skiing, where you ski down gently, with the sun shining and a cool breeze, and the wonderful view you get of the surroundings as you look down". Well, I have experienced both these feelings after coming to Sweden.

When I had received a green light from Lars Erik in Örebro, I bought the ticket and prepared for my travel to Sweden via London. My father was very unhappy that I was leaving a job as a high school teacher towards some unknown territory in Europe. It is always difficult for the parents when the children (although grown up) leave to travel far away, with an uncertain future and uncertainty about which course the relationship between them will take in the future.

Travel into Sweden

I was twenty when I flew out of Nairobi in Kenya towards Sweden in August 1969. As of today, I have travelled extensively, but then it was the first time I was coming out of East Africa, and it was the first time I was traveling by air. Said goodbye to my friends and relatives at the airport in the evening for the night flight with a propeller driven aircraft. Towards the early morning the plane landed in Benghazi, Libya for fuel. It was a strange feeling to drink coffee at the airport, and that I had set my foot on soil outside East Africa.

In my perspective at that time, the whole world lay open to me, with many new opportunities and adventures. I looked very optimistically towards the future, with a lot of dreams that seemed possible. The young people of today get used to travelling at an early age

Gradually, we landed in London's Gatwick airport. My brother Vishnu, who had been living in London since 4 years back studying to become a Chartered Accountant, came to receive me.



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