By Neeraj Chopra
Kuortane is such a scenic and peaceful place to train at. It was a little odd for me in the beginning as there are hardly any people here. I have heard that there are not even 10 people per square kilometre in this municipality of Finland. For an Indian this place almost seems deserted. The Olympic centre where we train is also a little cut off from the rest of the region but it’s a blessing in disguise.
We get to train peacefully and there is no disturbances. My focus is on training. The centre is located on the banks of the breathtaking Kuortane lake. I didn’t get much time to venture out and explore the area but a quiet walk along the lake shore is something I love doing. Even though this place is out of the world I still feel my hometown is a touch more serene than Kuortane.
Haryana has its own charms. I have visited home just once in the last year or so but now I have gotten used to staying away from home. I stay in touch through WhatsApp but I try to keep interactions minimal. All my time and energy is consumed by the sport. Even during my free time, I watch YouTube videos on javelin throwing. I also carry a bluetooth speaker at all times and whenever I find time, I like to blast some Punjabi music in my room. Initially, it was difficult for me to get adjusted to the food but now it’s fine. Though I don’t even know what the dishes they serve here are called.
I find it the same throughout Europe —some chicken, salad, yogurt and lot of bread. To be honest, you get a lot of “ghaas phoos” (leafy salads) in Europe. I grew up as a strict vegetarian and one eats no non-vegetarian food at home. But when I started travelling abroad for competitions and training, I realised that the options are limited. So I started eating chicken.
I know basic cooking and can make sabji and nice paranthas. But it’s nowhere close to what you get in Haryana. The rotis baked on earthen stoves using upplas (cow-dung cakes) have distinct taste that cannot be replicated. In Haryana they will feed you even if you’re full.
Saying no is not an option. Paranthas back home are served with dollops of home-made butter, after being fried in ghee. And there’s nothing like a big glass of lassi to wash it down. In Europe there is no dearth of variety but “ghar ki roti mein jo baat hai, woh aur kahan, ji?”