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Posts Tagged ‘Norway’

What happens when one comes across a bevy of super-brainy persons who ended up contributing something significant to the society at large?

For one, the sheer creativity and perseverance of such persons leaves one shaking one’s head in awe, admiration, and bafflement. One wonders as to from which plane of consciousness these persons were operating while making discoveries which have improved our lives. It also makes one realize how little one has achieved in one’s own life. A deep feeling of humility envelopes one. And yes, it motivates us lesser mortals to do something better in our own lives!

On a recent visit to Stockholm, your truly could visit the Nobel Prize Museum in the city. In the process, all the feelings mentioned above were experienced.

When Negativity Leads to Positivity

Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was a chemist, engineer, and inventor. He amassed a fortune during his lifetime, with most of his wealth coming from his 355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous.

In 1888, Nobel was astonished to read his own obituary, titled “The merchant of death is dead”, in a French newspaper. In fact, it was Alfred’s brother Ludvig who had died in an uncontrolled experiment relating to explosives. The article disconcerted Nobel and made him apprehensive about how he would be remembered.

Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime. Inspired by the death of his brother, he composed the last one over a year before he died, signing it at the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895, bequeathing all his ‘remaining reliable assets’ to create the prestigious prize named after him. In his will, he wrote that he wanted to reward those who had ‘conferred the greatest benefit to humankind’.

On December 10, 1896, Alfred Nobel died in his villa in San Remo, Italy, from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 63 years old then.

Owing to scepticism surrounding the will, it was not approved by the Norwegian Parliament until 26 April 1897.

Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901.

Nobel Prizes were originally awarded in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. In 1968, Sweden’s central bank funded the establishment of the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, to also be administered by the Nobel Foundation.

In 1905, the union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Till this day, except for the Peace Prize, the Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm, Sweden, at the annual Prize Award Ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.

The Prize

The prize ceremonies take place annually. Each recipient (known as a “laureate”) receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a monetary award. In 2021, the Nobel Prize monetary award was 10,000,000 SEK.

The recipients’ lectures are normally held in the days prior to the award ceremony. The Peace Prize and its recipients’ lectures are presented at the annual Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, usually on December 10.

The award ceremonies and the associated banquets are major international events. One can secure an invitation to these only if one happens to know some of the laureates! I understand that these are now broadcast live.  

The Prizes awarded in Sweden’s ceremonies are held at the Stockholm Concert Hall, with the Nobel banquet following immediately at Stockholm City Hall.

The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony has been held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute (1905–1946), at the auditorium of the University of Oslo (1947–1989), and at Oslo City Hall (1990–present).

The highlight of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm occurs when each Nobel laureate steps forward to receive the prize from the hands of the King of Sweden. In Oslo, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee presents the Nobel Peace Prize in the presence of the King of Norway and the Norwegian royal family.

After the award ceremony in Sweden, a banquet is held in the Blue Hall at the Stockholm City Hall, which is attended by the Swedish Royal Family and around 1,300 guests. The Nobel Peace Prize banquet is held in Norway at the Oslo Grand Hotel after the award ceremony. Apart from the laureate, guests include the president of the Norwegian Parliament, on occasion the Swedish prime minister, and, since 2006, the King and Queen of Norway. In total, about 250 guests attend.

The Curious Case of India’s Apostle of Non-violence

Although Mahatma Gandhi, an icon of non-violence in the 20th century, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times, in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and a few days before he was assassinated on January 30, 1948, he was never awarded the prize, possibly due to the cordial relations between Norway and the United Kingdom.  

In 1948, the year of Gandhi’s death, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to make no award that year on the grounds that “there was no suitable living candidate”.

In 1989, this omission was publicly regretted, when the 14th Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize, the chairman of the committee said that it was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi”.

Geir Lundestad, 2006 Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee, said:

The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace Prize. Whether Nobel committee can do without Gandhi is the question.

Display at the Museum

Besides the history of the Nobel Prize, the museum displays many gifts from many of the laureates. These include a letter from Albert Einstein confessing the inability of mathematical formulae to capture the nuances of human behaviour. There is a unique display of the kind of dresses used by celebrities while attending some of the banquets and many other details.

A guided tour lasting about 30 minutes shares interesting anecdotes from the lives of some of the laureates.

At the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai, is so far the youngest to have received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

The Cultural Outreach

Being a symbol of scientific or literary achievement which is recognisable worldwide, the Nobel Prize is often depicted in fiction. In my younger days, I recall having read The Prize, a novel by Irwing Wallace. There have been films like The Prize (1963), Nobel Son (2007), and The Wife (2017) about fictional Nobel laureates, as well as fictionalised accounts of stories surrounding real prizes such as Nobel Chor (The Nobel Thief), a 2012 film based on the theft of Rabindranath Tagore’s prize. In a series named Genius (2017) on Netflix, a meeting between Albert Einstein and Marie Curie at one of the Nobel Prize ceremonies was depicted.

Improving the World

The Nobel Prize shows that ideas can change the world. The courage, creativity and perseverance of the Nobel Laureates inspire us and give us hope for the future.

Such initiatives help create exciting encounters between people – people who dare to challenge the status quo, who want to ask new questions, think new thoughts and contribute to a better world.

(Sources: The Nobel Museum guided tour and website, Wikipedia)

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ashokbhatia

There come some truly humbling moments in one’s life when, while imagining that one’s Guardian Angels are surely in a benevolent mood, one suddenly wakes up to a reality which appears to be quite to be contrary. Scales fall from one’s eyes. One realizes with sudden horror that one had perhaps been promoted to the post of an honorary Vice President of the Global Association of Morons, exuding negative vibes to all the hapless souls around. Or, as P G Wodehouse would have put it, one looks ‘like the hero of a Russian novel debating the advisability of murdering a few near relations before hanging himself in the barn.’ 

Yours truly was recently in a suburb of a city known as Trondheim in Norway. Nudged by my hosts, I had decided to take a walk on a relatively lonely road overlooking the fjord. Seagulls were having a gala time…

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ashokbhatia

Those who happen to know me personally are often deceived by my polite manners. They often wonder as to why I never opted for a diplomatic career.

Allow me to set the record straight. P G Wodehouse played some role in indicating that my Guardian Angels had planned my life much unlike that of Eustace Mulliner, who was a part of the British Embassy in Switzerland.

Jeeves’ psychology-of-an-individual factor has also led me to believe that the diplomatic corps on this planet are better off without me.

My limited intuitive faculties also tell me that life as a career diplomat could not be as glamorous and hunky dory as it might appear to be from the outside of an embassy building.

The Eustace Mulliner saga

Wodehouse fans might recall that the splendid idea of Eustace Mulliner joining the British Embassy in Switzerland was dangled before him by his godfather, Lord…

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There come some truly humbling moments in one’s life when, while imagining that one’s Guardian Angels are surely in a benevolent mood, one suddenly wakes up to a reality which appears to be quite to be contrary. Scales fall from one’s eyes. One realizes with sudden horror that one had perhaps been promoted to the post of an honorary Vice President of the Global Association of Morons, exuding negative vibes to all the hapless souls around. Or, as P G Wodehouse would have put it, one looks ‘like the hero of a Russian novel debating the advisability of murdering a few near relations before hanging himself in the barn.’ 

Yours truly was recently in a suburb of a city known as Trondheim in Norway. Nudged by my hosts, I had decided to take a walk on a relatively lonely road overlooking the fjord. Seagulls were having a gala time, hunting for their supper. A gentle wind was blowing, creating small ripples in the water. Several boats belonging to a bunch of houses nearby were gently rolling in the mild waves, awaiting their turn to be able to provide satisfaction to their masters. Motor boats were occasionally zipping across, leaving trails of white foam in the otherwise bluish-green waters. The sun was on its home run, rushing to get a well-earned night’s repose.

To be able to access the beach, I had been advised to cross a railway track which lay between the beach and the road. Somehow, given the low level of my intelligence, I had not been able to locate the point from where one could cross the tracks. Having taken a walk along the road, I had been unsuccessful in locating either an underpass or an over bridge across the tracks. Nor did I imagine one coming across an unmanned railway crossing in an advanced country like Norway. Having temporarily given up hopes of being able to make it to the beach, I decided to sit on one of the several benches which dotted the road. The bliss of a contemplative communion with Nature is unique. I was relishing the same.

Two young girls, perhaps around 8 years of age, passed me by, accompanied by a devoted member of the canine species. The latter gave me an inquisitive glance. Having quickly ascertained that I had nothing of interest to offer, it continued to march onwards to greener pastures. After some time, the trio returned, with the canine in tow. The girls were enjoying their ice cream bars and merrily chatting between themselves in Norwegian.

Having crossed me, the girls went ahead a little. Then, suddenly, one of them returned to where I was. Her outstretched hand carried a few coins of Norwegian Kroner, the local currency. She addressed me in clear English.

“Please, sir, these are for you.”

I looked at her dumbstruck. I could not fathom her thought processes.

“No, thanks”, I bleated.

“We want you to be happy. Please accept this.”

My first reaction was shock and surprise. Then came to me an appreciation for the kind of etiquette and manners this young girl friend of mine had. While I was contemplating giving her a long lecture on what money could or could not buy one in life, she was giving me a sympathetic look, a faint smile on her face. She was obviously enjoying one of her daily acts of kindness, a la Edwin the Scout. I dismissed the thought of a lecture, deciding not to spoil her day.

“No, thanks. I do not need this.”

Disappointed, she turned and started to walk away. An idea struck me then.

“If you want to see me happy, perhaps you could do me a favour?”

She turned and walked back up to me, happy to be of some assistance. Fearless, composed and courageous, she looked enquiringly into my eyes.

“For some time now, I have been trying to find a way to the beach. Do you think you could help me, please?”

She was obviously delighted at this suggestion. Excitedly, she gesticulated and tried to indicate to me the spot down the road from where the tracks could be crossed.

“If you have some time, could you please show me where exactly the spot is?”

“Sure….come along.”

She took me to a dead end in the road. Next to this was a wooden gate, held in position by a loose metal chain. She took it off, showing me from where exactly to cross the tracks. I thanked both of them profusely. Goodbyes were exchanged. The pet wagged its tail tentatively. The trio resumed their walk towards their respective abodes.

I confess to being a bit woolly headed, much like Lord Emsworth happens to be. But I have neither a big castle nor a large estate to take care of. Nor do I have the need to hire Scottish gardeners or to worry about such important things in life as the calorie count of the Empress of Blandings or oversized pumpkins winning prizes. Having been born a single child to my parents, I am spared the trauma of being bossed over by someone like Constance. On Parva School Treat days, I don’t have to go pottering about, judging cottage gardens in villages and running into girl friends in the Gladys mould, made of far sterner stuff than that of mine.

But the episode brought home few things very clearly.

One, on that fateful evening, I must have been radiating negativity in very large doses, turning all radioactive materials which appear in our Periodic Table green with envy. Sure enough, a Byronic gloom had enveloped me.

Two, kids in advanced countries are perhaps brought up believing that money can buy anything, especially if the intended recipient appears to hail from a dark continent faraway.

Three, their benign motives deserve to be commended. So do their courage and fearlessness in approaching desolate-sounding strangers, with an idea to bring some sunshine into their lives. Perhaps when they grow up, they might be taken through some migrant camps, or even deputed for some time to one of the emerging economies, so they could understand the kind of deprivations a major part of the humanity puts up with.

The fact remains that there is no shortage of the milk of human kindness coursing through their veins – a sentiment that Bertie Wooster would surely approve of. One merely hopes that the heat of advancement in age does not make the milk evaporate, come what may!

(Comment:

In the famous story ‘Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend’, it is the latter which seeks protection from the former’s irate head gardener. Having done the needful, Lord Emsworth feels like a man amongst men. However, in the encounter that yours truly had, the party of the other part turns out to be the benefactor.

In case you wish to look up a visual version of the original story, please check out the following link:

Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend: A Visual Version

(Illustration courtesy: Suvarna Sanyal)

 

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The 29th of July, 1030 AD is an important day in the history of Norway. For, on that day, the well-organised farmer’s community in the Stiklestad, located in an area known as Verdal, saw itself threatened by an invading army, as the exiled King Olav Harldsson came from the East to claim back his kingdom. The area became the battlefield which marked the transition of the country from paganism to Christianity.

The Stiklestad National Cultural Centre at the location is a national hub institution with special responsibility for disseminating knowledge about Olav the Holy, the Battle of Stiklestad and the history associated with the events on the side.

The folk museum at Stiklestad consists of over 30 buildings, most of which are from the 17th and 19th centuries. The museum also has close to 30,000 objects and photos, some of which are in the buildings, but most are stored in a magazine.

Around the 29th of July each year, quite a few cultural activities get planned, including stage adaptations of the battle, often with audience being invited to participate.

The Tronder’s Right of Resistance

The oldest law in Trondelag that one becomes familiar with, Frostatingsloven, contains three chapters. These can be summed up as follows:

  • No man shall commit an act of violence…
  • But if the King should do this, you shall go after him and kill him…
  • But if he escapes, then he shall never return to the land.

An exhibition at the Centre presents a glimpse of everyday life in the heathen Viking age, when different regions practised diverse customs and traditions for religious succour. It also presents scenes from the battle and the changes the Christian medieval age brought with it – a uniform religion across the entire country.

Central to battle scene at the exhibition is the slaying of Olav. The blood from his three legendary wounds is later said to have created miracles. A year after the battle, Olav was made a saint of the Catholic Church. Thus, the battle became a turning point of the Norwegian history.

 

An interesting exhibit I discovered was a diagram which depicts the origin of several languages globally.

The effort to showcase the country’s rich history is indeed praiseworthy. Active dissemination of the same is even more laudable.

 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/a-walk-around-the-city-of-trondheim-in-norway-part-1-of-2)

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ashokbhatia

A friend suggested visiting the National Gallery in Oslo. Having had the opportunity of admiring the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso and others in the last few years, I was naturally curious as to what Norwegian artists had come up with in the past. The visit turned out to be a truly instructive one. I realized the depth and range of work done by painters as well as sculptors and marvelled at the passion and artistic fervour of the artists concerned.IMG_1716

Founded in 1837, the National Gallery houses Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. In its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum presents older art, with principal emphasis on art from Norway.IMG_1652

Highlights from the collection are shown in the permanent exhibition “The Dance of Life – The Collection from Antiquity to 1945”.IMG_1664

The exhibition presents a chronological overview of more than 300 Norwegian…

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ashokbhatia

Here is a country where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where knowledge to children and youth is virtually free

And those distressed by the world are welcomed with open arms;

Where the definition of nationalism implies inclusivity

Fine arts of all countries and cultures are welcome

If narrow domestic walls exist, these are only to protect national interests

Where respect for the law of the land reigns supreme;

Where gender equity and diversity is not a mere slogan

The care offered to the elderly is exemplary

Some wish the taxes to be lower but realize the money is well spent

In many ways does it serve and comfort the citizens; 

Where human endeavour aims to attain perfection

Words come out from an inner conviction

Gentle, helpful, physically active and resilient

Following a work culture which deserves to be aped;

Where one can encounter the true…

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The Art Gallery at Trondheim has a large collection of Norwegian art from around 1850 up to the present. It also has an impressive collection of Danish art and a significant representation of other renowned international artists.

Savour some of these at leisure:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see artworks of a different culture is quite instructive. The kind of natural forces the people deal with. The kind of life they led. Such mundane happenings as calling a physician, visiting the town square, listening to a street musician or even depicting the means of livelihood of people – all these get captured in exquisite detail. Portraits of some persons – famous or otherwise – invariably form an integral part of the art collection. Even abstract art conveys the inner state of the artist at the time the work was getting done, possibly with a benevolent muse by his side!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/a-walk-around-the-city-of-trondheim-in-norway-part-1-of-2)

 

 

 

 

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Just like human beings who boast of a life cycle, many of our cities also undergo cyclical changes. These gain importance over a period of time and then end up losing it at times, based on their economic and political fortunes at a given point in time.

But a ready supply of natural resources and the indomitable spirit of those who inhabit our cities ensure that these continue to thrive and do well. Over time, their character might change from that of a major trading centre to a well-known hub of education and scientific research.

Some may suffer repeatedly at the hands of Logi, the Nordic Fire God, and experience devastating fires, only to rise again from the ashes, much like a Phoenix would. Others may witness riots because of a proposal to change the name of the city, leaving The Bard squirming in his grave. Through all these challenges, the city continues to thrive. The resilience of the human spirit reigns supreme.

Recently, yours truly had the opportunity of a leisurely stroll or two through the streets of Trondheim in Norway. One can trace its origins back to the Viking Age circa 997 AD. It served as the capital of Norway until 1217. In the olden days, it appears to have handled the kind of challenges described above with much aplomb.

Here are some visuals which might appeal to some of you.

The Nidelva River

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Art and Buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nidaros Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last one, located within the premises of the Cathedral, is a monument commemorating those who lost their lives during the World War II.

Night view from the Egon revolving restaurant

 

As with most historic cities of the day, Trondheim also appears to be striking a fine balance between preserving its heritage and absorbing contemporary building designs. One merely hopes that forces of crass commercialism are kept on a tight leash by those who matter.

Stay tuned for a saunter down the Trondheim Museum of Arts!

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Here is a country where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where knowledge to children and youth is virtually free

And those distressed by the world are welcomed with open arms;

 

Where the definition of nationalism implies inclusivity

Fine arts of all countries and cultures are welcome

If narrow domestic walls exist, these are only to protect national interests

Where respect for the law of the land reigns supreme;

 

Where gender equity and diversity is not a mere slogan

The care offered to the elderly is exemplary

Some wish the taxes to be lower but realize the money is well spent

In many ways does it serve and comfort the citizens; 

 

Where human endeavour aims to attain perfection

Words come out from an inner conviction

Gentle, helpful, physically active and resilient

Following a work culture which deserves to be aped;

 

Where one can encounter the true gifts of nature

Clean air, pristine water, lakes and streams

One amongst which is the clear stream of reason 

Leading to ever-widening thought and action;

 

Into this heaven of freedom, I wish this country to remain.

 

(Inspired by the famous poem ‘Where the mind is without fear…’ by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore)

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