Day 142: 2017 Highlights – Amour Suisse

It’s 2018. 2017 has gone by, and the cyberspace is overflowing with messages of positivism in the upcoming year, reviews of the year that went by and promises for the new year. Here’s my year in review but focused on the major highs and the lows.

Amour Suisse

The 20-days long, cross-continent trip, 10,000 kms from home, has to definitely feature in the highs for the year that went by. I missed all of H’s trip to India, and I left the country with a clarified mind, freshly loaded with theories of detachment from the therapist. And boy, did the trip clear my head out further!

  • Indian services suck. I’ve ranted about it a lot and I accept it. The side-effect of poor services is the delay one typically experiences because of these services. Combine that to traffic, and no Indian is ever on time. Well technically, when the Swiss were in India, every single Indian student was on time, waiting along with them through the delays.

So, having the issue of time delays rubbed in our faces every minute of every day was very irritating. On the second day, half the Indians were 30 minutes early to class and were sitting out on the ground because the Swiss professor wasn’t around to let us in. A week down, there were mostly only Indians in class and the Swiss slowly ambled in, 30 minutes past the hour. I hope they’ve gotten the message loud and clear that the Indian Stretchable Time is just another cliche that we’d like to erase in this generation.

  • The country is beautiful beyond comparison. As I stood by Lac Leman, staring up at the snow capped Swiss Alps behind, rising above Evians-des-bains in France, I felt humbled. Any sense of supremacy or ego would automatically disappear in a country like this. It is also a huge contrast from what I was used to see as grandeur in the United States of America. If you saw the Pacific Ocean in Cali, that’s all you got – miles and miles of water. If you went to stare at the Grand Canyon in awe, you got rocks and layers and layers of rock. It seems to be just here where you see the gigantic artic mountains, the lush green expanse of fields and the power of the lakes and the rivers, all mashed up in the same scene.

Chateau de Chillon

  • It seemed like there was more to plan for our trips around town, than for the actual project work itself. My work partner was missing for a major part of week 1 and that meant very little work could be done. And most of the work was done within the first 2 days of week 2. If you ask me to objectively evaluate the project, I would say that it was a huge drain on resources, especially if the University management was looking to get something productive from the trip.

Goofing around with Einstein on the bench, Bern

  • We spent an evening at Sarah’s country home, smack in the middle of the mountains, in the town of Bex. Between the town lights on the Alps, and the stars up in the sky, the whole night was surreal. I couldn’t pick between staring at the jeweled mountain sides, the speeding cars on the highway, the pitch black on the moutains, and the stars in the sky. My mind calmed to a state of numbness, where the breeze didn’t matter any more, the cold didn’t bite any more and the company was miles away.
  • Old Town Bern, with its cobbled stone pathways, stained glass painted church windows and red tile roofed buildings is exactly the quaint European city that my mind had conjured up. Walking down the city roads, music from a street side band drifting in the air and the sweet smell of roasted nuts, I was overjoyed at the places this life has taken me. The walk up the spire of the tallest church in the town was amazing and the view of the entire city from up there was memorable indeed.

  • Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Tête de choco, Choco chaud, Chocolate croissant, Choco noir, Choco au lait. Chocolate shaped in every form from football to Easter bunnies and the Eiffel tower. And amazing ones them all.

It’s raining chocolates, at the Cailler Chocolate Factory

  • The people, Indians and Swiss, were definitely a highlight of the trip. From PGS and his antiques, to flimsy-gal Ignatius, to dopey gal, and goey fan-girl, all those in the Indian team eventually came together as a fun group. Daily debrief sessions in V’s room, with prompt data collection, and rants about PGS over booze were all gentle reminders of the fun hostel times in RECT. Cliques formed and dissolved, issued crept up and subsided, but two weeks down, we all walked back with newfound respect for each other and great memories behind us.

The goofballs every night

For all their cultural unawareness and a sense of superiority, the Swiss team members were a bunch of genuinely ignorant folk. From being surprised at my listening to Classic Rock or speaking fluent English, to being a teeny bit impressed at my learning French, to being completely awestruck at the energy in the Indians to dance all night, they were definitely experiencing these for the first time and I respect them for that. Overall, they were quite the crazy lot.

Most of the gang, at Les Diablerets

A few unforgettables:

Pasta night at Bjerns

Made it to Bern

Nachde ne saare, nooooo :))

The view to die for. Peak walk at Les Diablerets

On Lac Leman, off to set foot in France

Even random Swiss mutts need a bum rub ❤

Loving photography.. All over again…

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Day 81: Swiss-Indo Bhai-bhai

The day was amm…aazing! That’s it!

Business Meet

The first event of the day was at Taj Mansingh, and is that a luxury hotel or what!? We had a desk set up right at the entrance to the business hall, where the President of the Swiss Federation was going to address a number of business partners, to further the Indo-Swiss friendship. It was truly an exhilarating experience, rolling around with the organizers from the Swiss embassy in India, and talking to some of the visiting delegates. It was more fun to listen to the proceedings of the event itself:

  • Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, was astute in her observations about the mutual dependence between the two countries.
  • Ms. Doris Leuthard, the President of the Swiss Confederation, was prim in her pink kurta, and summarized wonderfully the last 70 years.

So, TallSwiss played a great photographer, and I managed to listen to a majority of the session and summarize it on the radio, and Mr. YZ, well, he managed to stress out for all three of us. Since this was the first radio session for both TallSwiss and I, there were some hiccups starting off, but I think we got into the flow. I realized the key to being a successful radio host was spontaneity and content. You need to have sufficient material content in order to be spontaneous enough on the radio. If not, you are just blabbering on air and playing sloppy music.

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The Radio Namanste desk with YZ, and me looking super serious. 🙂

 

Delhi Darshan

We managed to report on most of the first event and TallSwiss and I took off to show him some New Delhi. A quick change and we were on an auto to the heart of Old Delhi; Chandni Chowk. I’d heard wonderful things about the parathewali gali and I was going to try some. We had a little stop-over at India gate, to show the TallSwiss off to the local public. He has been awfully calm in the middle of all the mayhem around; it is either a sign of utter disdain or a sign of his maturity. Only time will tell. Well, we sweated it out a little at India Gate, and took another auto to Chandni Chowk.

I am totally intrigued by the accent of Hindi that you find in Delhi. It’s rude almost to the point of being familial. Wonderful! I don’t know if the auto man is yelling at me, or asking me something like an extremely intrusive, paternal uncle would. What also moved me immensely was the scene around Old Delhi, Jama Masijd, in preparation for Bakr-Id. Hundreds of goats waited, chewing carelessly, unaware of the near-distant future that awaited them. Pity! I am convinced that my dietary choices are only temporary and my going vegan is just around the corner.

We got off a little ways to Parathewali gali, and walked the rest of the way, so that we could soak in a lot of the local sights and sounds. It was a new experience for me too, dari bazaar, and I definitely want to go back there, a camera in tow. Parathewali gali was a revelation, an entire little street dedicated to cholesterol mania. We had just enough time to eat an aloo paratha and a thick lassi.

aaf15c32-9d03-4962-bf09-38e0e00e6fb2 Hot and steaming aloo paratha, with a side of aloo and more aloo

Town Hall

The second big event was more high-security than the first, and we had to go through three rounds of security checks, metal and man, before we got into the main hall. The event was late by about an hour. But it was great honor to listen in on a town hall that was open to students of environmental sciences and climate studies of New Delhi. And through the radio broadcast, I’m hoping we opened this up to students from other parts of the world too.

Unlike the morning event, which was attended by business professionals, and she needed them to invest in climate and relationships, this event was for students in attendance and she spoke about the future. There was a lot about how India had to learn from Switzerland’s sustainable energy models and that India was going through the same transformation that Switzerland went through in the 1900s and that there was hope. Promising talk from a leader!

Since we were set up in the same hall as the main event, we couldn’t report live throughout, but we were able to get a majority recorded. And I was able to listen in to some very interesting talk. Most of the questions from the students were around what Switzerland could do for India, and how the students could help. This showed me two big things: One, the next generation wanted to do something, and Two, they wanted to know who could help and how. Powerful!

The weird buffet

This is when things got weird. Satan’s waterfall struck, and I had to get excused from the gentlemen to get stocked. I reached the Swiss embassy alone for the final event, the buffet dinner hosted for the President, and the Swiss joined in few minutes later. We were given a room right inside the embassy, by the main living area, where the President was expected to greet her guests before proceeding out to the garden for the events of the evening. This speaks wonders about the publicity that Radio Namaste had at the embassy and the expectations that the show held. For all that, I thought the two Swiss let us down. We were done setting up, and before we even went live, YZ was running crazy to get himself a drink. “I need my l’alcohol”, he went around screaming, and you should have seen the smirk on his face when we were handed three bottles of water. That completely shattered the high horse that I had put them on so far.

At least on three or four different occasions, they were both missing, off to find themselves a fix, while I handed the radio pad, mixing my own little AC/DC and ABBA. But, if we were there to report on the proceedings of the evening, then why were we playing just the tunes? I would have been really disappointed had I been on the other side, with a lax radio team.

Anyway, the evening show went on for about an hour, and I was able to listen in to the proceedings, as 5 Friendship Ambassadors were honored by the President at the embassy. It was inspiring to hear about the Premchands, who have been in business from Switzerland from the 1950s, and on the other hand, Mr Matias Echanove and Mr Rahul Srivastava, Co-Founders of the urbz platform in Mumbai and Geneva, two young entrepreneurs bringing the two countries together.

The event ended in dinner and we brought the show to a troubled end, before setting out for dinner. The dessert was amazing and I started with it to get the evening going. The Swiss were, of course, drinking more than eating, and it got me thinking about how quick I was to judge alcoholics. I’ve had trouble in the past accepting people and their excessive drinking; ex-boyfriends, the father, and past clients; and was I simply being too harsh on them for their choices?

YZ was excessively sweet after his third drink, and thanked me profusely for the ease with which I handled the day. He mentioned how nobody would have done the job better, and even when TallSwiss was hesitant, I brought in the facts and made the show worth it all. Just drunk talk or was he being genuinely grateful? That’s my problem with the drunk, I think; their words can never be taken for what they are worth.

“One should never be too quick to judge, S. If you looked at Scotch and I, you’d think we are born trouble-makers. But you get to know us a little more, and you’ll know that all we want is to relax and smell the rain. Give people a chance, S.” Goose

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