My First Midnight-Sun Venture

 “It must be a fairy tale” I thought, when our Geography teacher in school said “North Pole and South Pole have 6 months day light and are dark for 6 months.  I wanted to experience it before I believed it.

I planned my first overseas vacation with my wife in 1983, when I was in Dubai. First thing which came to mind was to visit the Arctic region in North Pole where the sun shines at midnight.

There was no internet and WWWs at that time.  None of the travel agents, either in Dubai or India, had any clue as to where and how to reach the place.  I decided to plan my trip by myself. I was reasonably sure that the midnight sun could be experienced from one of the locations in the northern part of the Arctic region.

By the time I reached Oslo on 23 July 1983, I was pretty sure that my best shot was from a place called North Cape in Norway.   It was the northern most tip of Norway,  a distance of about 2,000 kms to the North of Oslo.  Out of this, a distance of 1,200 kms up to Narvik was accessible by train.   The rest had to be covered by road.

We hired a car to start our journey from Narvik to North Cape.  I guessed, at the average European highway speed, it would take about 7-8 hours to cover the distance of 800 km.  I was shocked and was not prepared to believe when the rental car agent said it would take us 2-3 days to reach. I was determined to visit North Cape to fulfill my childhood ambition.

The road was very narrow, just about 7-8 feet wide for two way traffic.  If there was even a small car approaching from the opposite side, one of the cars had to back up to a point where overtaking was possible. The winter snow fall made the road rough and worn out.  The drive had to be as slow as 10-20 kms per hour most of the time compared to the average 160 in Europe

There were innumerable large lakes on the way.  Since there were no bridges,  at times, we had to drive around the lake for a long distance of about 20-25 km – a distance which would otherwise have been just half a km if there was an accessible road/bridge.

The drive though had a unique scenic beauty about it.  It ran along the coast of the Norwegian Sea. On one side, just at the edge of the road, the land had suddenly sliced down, at timed as deep as 200ft.  At the bottom of the sliced land, there was frozen seashore and then a vast view of the sea and horizon with a rare view of ice slates at the sea shore.  On the very edge of the top of the sliced land, was the narrow road we were driving on.  On the other side of the road there were a series of high mountains or valleys with unique views at every turn.  A drive of a lifetime, indeed.

To save time, we had pre-packed lunch and dinner in the car itself, instead of taking stops.   A cup of coffee with khakras, chips and similar snacks kept us going.   We had tea/coffee at the gas stations whenever we stopped for gas.

 We finally reached North Cape on the afternoon of 25 July 1983.  That was my life’s longest continuous drive, a non-stop drive of 46 hours without rest or sleep.

We spent watching the sun through the night. The temperature was around freezing point

North Cape was a totally isolated place.  We could see the sun moving from one place to another in a circle, all the time right on our head. It was a slightly hazy day, but we were lucky to have occasional clear sky. It was bright white till the evening.  In the evening it started turning a little yellow.  At midnight, it was bright orange with multi-coloured clouds – a mesmerizing view.

Midnight Sun at North Cape 11 pm to 1 am

Midnight Sun at North Cape 11pm to 1am2015-03-20 11.54.00

At the observation point, there was a post office and 3 telephone booths. We purchased a few post cards from the post office and posted them to the dear ones.  They had a machine which stamped our passport “North Cape – July 26, 1983 00:55”.

We were quite excited and thought of calling dear ones from there. The tariff was very high and there were no cell phones at that time.  We decided to restrict calls to our parents and children to inform them that we have ultimately reached the place where we planned to be.

 We inserted Kroner in the first booth, but the credit failed to appear on the screen.  We realised it was not working.  We tried at the second booth.  This machine also swallowed a Kroner without giving any service.  Unfortunate.

We still tried phone at the third and last of the booths.   As we inserted a Kroner, there was no response.  Disappointed, I banged the box.    Surprise! I saw quite a few Kroners coming out of the machine!  I collected all of them, and dialed our landline in Dubai.  As it was ringing, I inserted a coin, the coin came out but I could here the voice on the other side.  Eureka!

We took complete undue advantage of the free calls.  Hoping for further gain, I banged the first two machines, they were dead.  They did not throw out any coins like the third darling.

Overall, we were richer by a few Kroners by the time we forced ourselves to leave the place! It is true the sun shines at midnight!


Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra



Are We Over Protecting Our Children

In our social system we tend to over-protect our children.   Protection and care to a certain extent up to a certain age is welcome.  But protecting beyond a limit and age, could harm their confidence.   A specific incident during my visit to the Scandinavian region was when I realised this.

I was driving with my wife in Norway.  That was the longest, continuous drive of my life.  A drive of 46 hours without sleep and just two small breaks for refreshments.

We were driving on a single, narrow, risky road in the Northern most part of Europe.  We noticed a youngster standing by the side of the road asking for a lift, pointing towards the direction we were proceeding.  We were happy to pick him up.  He was a 15 year old German, traveling alone from (then) West Germany.  He would travel by public transport if available.  We were in leanly populated areas where public transport was almost non-existent.  Wherever public transport was not available, he would rely on help from the passing by vehicles for drops.

Our destination was Nord Cape.  Soon he was friendly and part of the relevant conversations on the way went like this:

 Me: Where are you headed to?

He: To Nord Cape to watch mid-night Sun.

Me: Oh! We too.  We can drop you right there.

He: Thank you.  But I will get down at the next town. I will work for a couple of days in a restaurant or a shop there, earn some money which would take me to reach my next stop.

Me: But then why don’t you come with us as we can take you to your ultimate destination.

He: No.  I want to see and experience the places, earn myself and then spend.

Me:  Oh! How much money did your parents give you when you were leaving home.

He: What? …..pause….. just equivalent of an American dollar.

Me: What? Just a dollar, for you to go right upto Nord Cape and watch the mid-night Sun.

He:  Yeah.  Why should my parents give me money?  I am capable of managing and earning for myself to spend on my holiday.

It was an eye opener for me.  No doubt we are emotionally attached to our kids to ensure that they are comfortable, safe and secure.  But then, by providing all the emotionally dictated needs  are we depriving them of the experience they would gain otherwise?

This incident encouraged me to permit my son a month long vacation overseas by himself when he was about 15.  I am sure that must have helped him build his confidence, consciously or otherwise, in his hectic travels later in his life for education and for business.

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra


Can We All Be Aarya?


As I was lying down in Natarajasan as a part of my morning Yogasana around 6.15 in the morning, Pushpa got our 10-month old granddaughter Aarya to greet me.  A lovely, fresh Aarya-style broad smile.  The little one came to say hello before she was to leave for a picnic with other family members.

I let my yoga routine be.  As I was getting up, Aarya jumped on me.  She pointed her finger towards my bedroom window and said “yei, yei”, translating to “entertain me near the window”.

My bedroom is on the first floor of our home and looks down on our lush green, house garden.  Shorter plants under tall ashoka trees.  Mornings usually have a continuous flow of flying and chirping birds just 5-10ft away. Occasional, multi-coloured butterflies can be seen enjoying their flights around the greenery.

Aarya had to be taken back quickly as others were almost ready to leave for the picnic.  But to her call of  “yei, yei” and pointed finger at the window, I had to carry her to the window just for a minute or two.  She was happy and I was more than happy; just not for those few moments, but for the next few hours.

It is about 6 hours since she left, and I still have a smile on, as if I am continuing to respond to her lively smile.  She has been on my mind all this time and whatever I did since this morning went well, full of positive results.  I wish everyone is lucky to receive that smile in the morning so that their entire day is peaceful and positive.

As she grows, as she starts to speak, learn, debate and take responsibilities, I wish she continues to speak with me in “yei, yei” language.  I wish she does not get or accept the coating of the layers of ego, pride, complications that we add to our natural and pure soul.

I realise now why a child is considered as a form of God. A child arrives into this world with the purest of pure thoughts, with no bias towards wealth, caste or creed, like God. Only thing they know is “Love Every One”.  I wish Aarya, the noble, remains the same by soul, though would grow in body and mind.

I wish we all could be the same – smile to say “I Love Every One”!

Written: Badri Baldawa on 24.11.2014

Edited : Meeta Kabra

In 1940s, Why Many Were Born Before 10 June !

“What is your son’s birth date?” the clerk at the primary school asked my uncle who took me there for admissions in 1950. My uncle was caught unaware.  He never expected to face this question for getting me admitted to school!

I was born at home with the help of Akkamma, an experienced daima (mid-wife) who was devoted to our family for pre and post natal needs. There was no system of celebrating ‘Happy Birthdays’ during those days!  So, parents never bothered to remember the actual birth date of their child!

If I had to check with my Mother for anyone’s birthday in the family, she would quote an incident which happened a few days prior or after the specific birth.  I really appreciate their memories. The deliveries very rarely  in hospitals.  They were mostly at home with the help of daima.   Hence there were no official records. Only a lucky few could afford to wear a wristwatch at that time.  Therefore even the accuracy of the exact time was questionable.

Then how come we all have birth dates? Oh, and even the exact time of birth! In this entire loop, at least in my case, there was one individual who played an important role in determining my actual birth date.

In business communities, the 6 feet long red colour cloth bound bahi-khaatas (books of accounts) were maintained by the family muneems (accountants).  Whenever there was a new arrival in the family, he made a note at the top of that day’s journal “wife of Mr. so-and-so delivered a baby boy/girl at such-and-such time.”

The time noted was as given by the family members.  That became the basis for preparing janam and lagna kundalis (birth and marriage horoscopes) by the Pandits (priests). These were usually prepared years later, as and when the necessity arose.  Else there was no need to remember the birth date.

Therefore, when most unexpectedly the guardian of a child is asked for a birth date, one does not expect to get an answer on the spot.  Even if the guardian knew, there are some other internal and external limitations which needed to be considered.

There were no pre-KG or KG classes then.  For admission to the 1st standard in a primary school, the student had to complete 5 years of age as on 10th June of the year of admission.  If someone was born on 11th June or later, he would lose one year in school as that year was not counted for admission age of 5 years.

And there were other factors too!  An auspicious day was selected for getting admission to school. There was a belief that once you go for a good cause, it was inauspicious to return without having completed the job.  Hence, once you were at the school for admission, there was reluctance to go back home to find the actual birth date.

Even if he wanted to, he would have to trace the books of accounts of five years back, look through each and every day’s notes around the approximate date of birth. A tedious task indeed.

Further, parents considered it an honour to have their child admitted to a school.  It didn’t matter if the age was a couple of months short; the repercussions in the future were not considered seriously in those days.

The school authorities were interested in as many admissions as possible, so that they coult earn enough.   A date which proves completion of 5 years would do.  The parents were conveniently advised to give a date between 1st and 9th of June (of 5 years back) so that the child could be considered as having completed 5 years of age!

Not surprisingly, a good part of the population at that time was born just before 10th June!

Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

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What Next – A Dilemma

On certain occasions in life you are at a dilemma – do I satisfy my desires or take overall responsibilities.  At such points, it is essential to curb our feelings for the larger good. To do what I really want to do would surely give me pleasure. But the pleasure I would get in fulfilling the desires of the entire family would be incomparable.  If I have an opportunity to get ‘incomparable pleasure’, why should I get satisfied with just ‘pleasure’?

In 1965, I appeared for B.Com exams and was contemplating what was best for me to do thereafter.  I had to decide whether to join business or go for a job or pursue further studies. The ground reality was that we were ten brothers and four sisters.  Except one sister who was married, the others were younger to me.  They needed to be educated, married and ultimately settle in their career. There was always a financial crunch at home – even for essential day to day needs.  We desperately needed regular income in the family.

I always wanted to run my own business and I had the confidence that I had acumen for it. It could then be debated – why did I not join dad’s mining business?  The mining business was not giving returns.  To make it profitable, processes needed to be mechanised for which an investment of Rs.15-20 crores was needed.  We did not have adequate sources nor securities to get the large funds to run the mining business.

The maximum financial help I was offered was enough to set up a grocery shop – a very common business occupation at that time. Though business could give better earnings, there was no guarantee of any fixed minimum returns.  A single wrong decision in business could ruin the dreams of the entire family.  It was too big a risk for me to take.  I had to play a safer game.  Therefore to ensure that all the family members are taken care of, I decided against setting up a business.

The other option was to study further which would result in a further financial burden. The family would continue to struggle for at least 3-4 additional years.

Employment gives regular assured income.  It was better to go for assured income by doing a job.  At any later time, as and when I saw the family settling down, I could take the risk of fulfilling my dream of experimenting with my own business. Under the circumstances, I was convinced that doing a job would be the thing to do.  It was a compromise and of course, not a very happy situation to be in. I was still in dilemma

Just then, the results of my final B.Com were declared.  I had secured the top rank in the University.  After getting the results, I went home, took my mother’s blessings and headed to the office room.  I missed my dad.  He was away on one of his trips to the mines. By this time, a few of our family, friends and neighbours who had heard of my results had already collected in the office with a garland to honour me. One common question was,  “Badri, what do you want to do next?”  True, I now had to take a final decision.

I was blessed with a surprise.  My dad had unexpectedly returned from his trip and entered the office, full of well-wishers.  He was not aware of my results.  He heard it from the people already collected there.  I could read his face.  He was a proud father. As if the garland was waiting for my dad.  He picked it up and garlanded me.  What an honour!

The same question was asked again, “what next?” I was still confused.  Before I could answer, dad answered.  “With such bright results, what other option would he prefer other than to take the family responsibility after me.”  I was happy that dad had come to my rescue and took a decision for me.

Dad looked at me and continued “Beta, you study as much as you want.  No limits.  Leave it to me, I will handle the affairs at home. You don’t have to worry about the expenses.   I have energy and strength to take care of all of that. If you study now, you can take care of the family tomorrow!”  I was lucky to have such a dad!

A very sensitive occasion for me.  My dilemma was no more.  I got what I ultimately wanted.  Study further.  I thought for a while, I could continue study now and still earn later with higher status and earnings.  But if I went for a steady income now, it would be very difficult to go for studies later on.

It therefore was decided that I would go for further studies as long as dad had energy.This was the opportunity to show my worth in studies and then take up the challenge of supporting the entire family.  It also reminded me: in business I might earn, but it would be temporary because there can always be losses. But if I acquire knowledge, it would be my permanent asset and I would never lose it. That asset would help me later, whether I go for employment or business.

Vidya Dhanam Sarwa Dhana Pradhanam.

Author: Badri Baldawa

Editor: Meeta Kabra

My First Lessons in Finance


“Badri, can you go to Hiralal Bhai and tell him that I need Rs.50 loan to get some grocery. There are no grains at home for Maa to cook”, my father, known as Kakaji to most youngsters in the family, told me. The year, 1957.

Hiralal Babaji was my dad’s cousin. His grocery shop was about half a kilometer away from home. This 70 year old, respected gentleman was kind-hearted and very helpful person. I loved him.

I was immensely happy, as a 12 year old boy, I was recognized and given a responsibility. I ran to Babaji with the message.

Pat was the reply from Babaji, “Pirthya* na jaar bol, peli ka liyeda rupya peli laar deveju.  Rupya muft ma padya ha kai? …… Rupya Jhhaad par koni laga”.  (Tell your father to return the money that he owes me already!  Is money lying around?  ….. Money does not grow on trees).

I was shocked and left speechless.  I never expected that reply.  I went there thinking it was my right to get that Rs.50. I left, my head hanging in shame – a shame not just for me, but for my dad. I communicated the message to kakaji without lifting my head since I didn’t have the courage to watch Kakaji’s face.  This incident was my first major disappointment. A sense of rejection made me analyze the event seriously and formed my first lessons in Finance Management.

  • Develop a status where one can extend financial support to others and know when to say ‘yes’
  • Believe in financial discipline: Know your own limitations
  • Know when to say “no” even to your beloved ones, for their good.
  • Money is not freely available, one has to earn it.
  • Do not take the availability of finance for granted.
  • Wealth and status can be earned by maintaining low profile.
  • One can share love without limits, but not money.

This small incident had a major impact on my philosophy on financial matters. I valued every paisa – what it rightly deserved.

I had just accepted a self-imposed challenge. Life now, had a purpose –

I will plan and create a situation where we achieve a status not only to take care of ourselves, but to help the needy.

I am indebted to my Babaji Hiralalji for inspiring me by teaching the first lessons in my life

* * *

 * My dad Prithviraj Baldawa was called “Pirthya” by rest of the eldermembers of the family.


Edited by: Meeta Kabra