Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Summer of 2006

Hmmm… I hear that you are learning something new everyday. This foreign soil seems familiar to you now. All the initial anxieties have vanished and what remains is desire to prove and perform and go home “wiser”. You have been fortunate that the true intention of summer training is being fully appreciated in your case. In fact you should say that you are learning much more than what is intended. Intention of course is the industry exposure. You are working with a bank and a Swiss one at that. So……

But as I said you are learning much more. You are learning the real meaning of independence. Independence does not mean that you can do whatever you wish to at whatever time you want. It only means that you are at liberty to take best possible course of action keeping in mind the good for everyone. You are realizing that slowly aren’t you?

Almost everyday every week you are meeting new people. You have made plenty of friends and some of them hopefully for life. You have been fortunate than you are very comfortably paid for a trainee. Your salary is much more than most of them. But it has affected you in either ways…..hasn’t it? One way you are comforted that your life has become much more comfortable. And on other side it is the pressure to perform. To prove your worth. To prove that you are indeed from the best business school from India in your area. I am happy that you are taking it in right spirit and it hasn’t got into your head.

I am also happy that you are realizing the “value” of money but at the same time you are not being miser and are spending money amply for experiences. It is a very appropriate trade off.

I am happy that you are noticing the differences and I am happy that you are able to understand why we, as Indians, are different. The difference in some cases is because there is no other option, in some of the cases because we have faltered and in some of the cases, it is because of choice. You have seen plenty of things here which are better than those in your own country. Some you think are better than in India but many you think are far superior to existing Indian standards. The first thoughts which crossed your mind were not of disgust for India and dream of settling here but were of anger and making them come true back home. I am happy that you are thinking that “My home will be like this one day……” rather than “India ka kuch nahi ho sakta” And I am very happy for that.

I am happy that you are not shy of meeting yourself. Have a nice hard look at your deficiencies. There are so many. I think this summer has given you the “exposure” in its essence. An exposure to yourself and to life. You have started to learn and appreciate life. And it is summer of 2006.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I am missing you.......

I am very relaxed now and Ali Haider’s Purani Jeans is going on……

………..Mohalle ki wo chat aur mere yaar…..suddenly all those memories are awake and in a moment I have started missing home…….I have started missing my friends….Ragsi, Shaks, Dicky, Callboy (Koulboy…..pls don’t think anything else), Onshul, Ghattu, Chino, Mayz…….(Raghu, Vinod, Daksh, Sunil, Anshul, Ashish, Siddharth and Mayank in that order)…..and I am missing u Aadat…..and Saji, bada bhai Matthai, and roomie Jas and Shipra, Sheetal, Sandhya, ali, Mansi and of course Antu………table bajake wo gane gaana yaaron ke saath…….and all my classmates in XL……and need I say XL ??

pahuchna college hamesha late……wo kahna sir ka get out from the class…….i am so fortunate (?)……I never had to hear tht……..

Wo papa ka datna aur kahne mammi ka chodiye ji aap…………..I am missing my family…..i am missin u mom and I am missin u Dad…..and I am missin tht “datna” too which in reality I don’t remember when I got last time…… u 2…….and 2 ashs, kaks, kaka, aaji, 2 maus, kaka and everyone back home…….

Ladkpan ka…..wo pahla pyar……wo likhna haatho pe A+R……..wo likhna letter unhe baar baar………..wo lena dosto se paise udhar……..dont even know how we always settle wo hisab………..

Tanna nana dat tat dat tat nat……….music is on………and song is getting over….

Aisa yaadon ka mausam chala…….kahan mere dost aur wo guitar……...for me one more year with all these animals (read my frds) and XL is still remainin…..and I thank u god for tht…… u animals and love u XL……..

All u ppl have a special space in my heart ………and believe me sometimes its wise to say it out loud (at the risk of sounding “senti” and being tagged as “uncool” and)……as a friend told me today….in words of Mark Twain……”20 years from now and you will be more disappointed for things you did not do rather than for those things you did……..”… just makin sure that I can eliminate some of those “did not do” things, which I can………………

I am missing u home, you mean a lot to me.

Jungfrau !!

The literal meaning of the greman word is virgin. This name has been given to the highest peak in the mountain ranges of the great Alps.

Jungfrau is supposed to be one of the most expensive trips and people ere even after being something like 6 months haven’t gone. But given the time constraint for us, we were determined to make most out of it!!

So on next Sunday morning it was that we finally decided to invade Jungfrau. Got up at 5.30 am as we were advised to catch first train if we had to avoid most of the crowd……so we were ready at 6.30am on platform to catch the mountain cog-wheel train. It is another magnificent piece of engineering. It has got gears at the symmetry line across the length of the train at bottom and they give the train extra grip and required push while climbing up the steep slopes of Alps!!

While going, one needs to change trains at 2 points but as everywhere is this wonderland, its not a problem at all, as when you get down from the first train, connecting train is ready just at the next platform!! They halt at 2 points on the journey, where there are caves made out of the mountains and at the end of these caves, there are glass windows for tourists to see breath taking white snow covered peaks. This train is always full of enthusiastic people who go up to ski!! And ours was no exception. There were many of them with all the preparation and glowing ski equipments!! I was so tempted to have my first try but then first try right on the steep slopes of Alps and that too from the highest peak would have been too much (and later I came to know that it is not allowed also if u do not know how and if you don’t have the equipments)

We reached right at the top somewhere about 9.30am……there are about 4 places where tourists go. And here we decided to follow the special instructions for tourists. Starting with a completely snow covered peak (see the snaps for reference)……and I had not set more than 2 steps before both my feet were deep down in chilly snow till ankles!! Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! Had I not had these good boots on, it wouldn’t have taken more than 10 seconds for my feet to freeze!! (and this is not even a bit of exaggeration……we took up snow in hands just for the purpose of snaps and by the time other person had finished clicking, we were rubbing our hands vehemently to get the blood flowing again!!)….boy….wasn’t it some funnnnnnnn……..people who have visited there in winter or just on the verge of winter finishing, will agree to my statements.

After clicking like a mad person there, our next visit was to “Ice Palace”. Here there are various sculptures carved out of ice……some like bears and various other animals and come characters like Mickey and mini mouse. The specialty of this cave cum palace is that its walls as well as its floor and ceiling are of ice!!....nice little walk I must say……but…….may god save u if you are not wearing boots with good grip…..wouldn’t take much long for you to slip over it.

Next in line was of course what we had come here for!! Jungfrau (N)och!! The highest peak in Alps where tourists can go without any equipment!! (Actual Jungfrau is a different peak very close to this one and you can see it……people that are trained in mountaineering can climb it with the help of all necessary mountaineering equipments.)

You do feel like you are in heaven…….anywhere you see and its only the untouched white ice is to be seen and the sun shining above gives it a wonderful aura…….it does reflect the virgin beauty in spite of having so many visitors every day!! Its difficult for me to describe in words…..see pictures and you will understand why…..

I can still feel the pain of leaving that place…….really feels like heavenly beauty…….

Rest of that day was just another day in life of us mortals……meal at Bollywood restaurant (I am not joking, there is a restaurant named bollywood restaurant at the highest peak in Europe!!) and quiet travel back home.


This is supposed to be the biggest waterfall in terms of volume of water!!.......There was a direct train to a village called Schaffhaussen. Initially Vishal and me got a ticket to Winterthur and that too full. But then we realized the mistake and the person on the counter was kind enough to make it the required one and he also adjusted the money. So we set out with right tickets and the journey was as good as it had been on previous 2 days. In the train and then in the bus we met a guy. He was studying at Zurich University and was going there to meet his friend who was working in the restaurant. We also met an interesting person who was very helping in guiding us. He also had a very sweet baby and the baby was so cheerful!! It was really really cute!! God bless it!!

The place is really beautiful and the actual fall is real great. There is a ferry ride which takes you to the island which you can climb and the view if fall from there is real close and grandiose. I clicked n number of pictures from there. After staying there till the next ferry came to pick us up, we went on a big walk. There are multiple pathways around where you can walk and see the water from various angles. One path goes directly parallel to the railway line and it also happens to be the bridge over the river. Here we and Shweta lost track of each other. (Eventually we met and came back together)….here also I have clicked loads of pictures and all of them are worth it!!

The journey back was quite uneventful and this concluded our first weekend.

Interlaken - Part I

Day 2 of the weekend and there was not much confusion regarding where we should be heading. We started for Interlaken at about 2pm. The journey this time was a break journey in which we had to change the trains at Bern. The train timings in Switzerland are synchronized to perfection. For us it was from Zurich to Bern, change the train and then from Bern to Interlaken. We reached Bern and within 5 minutes the next train to Interlaken was supposed to start. This time it was delayed by 15 minutes and gave us a little breather. For any new person it is a little tough to get used to this extraordinary sophisticated system. You waste 5 minutes and then you will have to wait for at least half an hour for the next train. One more thing which makes this whole system so amazing is that the time across the country is more or less perfectly synchronized. Also, there is not a delay of a minute (unless of course it is announced) in timings. So if a train is supposed to leave at 2pm then sharp at a minute to 2 the doors will be closed and at 2 the train will depart. No wonder why these people are so famous about there watches. Anybody valuing the time so much deserves the respect in the same proportion.

After changing the trains at Bern, we reached Interlaken at 4pm. It was cloudy and raining most of the time and this time we had no umbrellas with us. Nevertheless we proceeded for River lodge, the place Shweta had booked earlier online for four of us. Unfortunately it was full and we had to come back to station. There was this amazing map of all the lodges and hotels in the area (a very detailed one). It displays the current position of the visitor. Also, to its side, pictures of all the lodges and hotels and hostels are mentioned with a code number. When you press that code number in the machine provided, it beeps a light and the map gives you the exact location of the place you are looking for. To make it better, there is a telephone right besides it. You dial the same code number again in the phone and it connects you directly to the hotel you have dialed for. You can enquire here about the availability of the rooms. And all this free of cost again!! (You can’t help to wonder, if this whole system can ever be implemented in India. And ever and even it is, how long will it function? Some sad facts……..but one day all this will be possible) We called up all the feasible places and got the same answer from everywhere. “We are fully booked!!”. It was only one place which told us that it can accommodate us but we would have had to share a room with 31 other people…….
Next we reached travel guide office and were told that the weather next day wasn’t exactly ideal for visiting Jungfrau as showers and cloudy atmosphere was predicted. Obvious choice was to take a round about Interlaken and catch the last train back.

Interlaken is just like a country side. Though thousands and thousands of visitors visit every year, it is really appreciable the way the government has maintained the beauty of the place. Again you start making comparison with India and some common examples that come to your mind are Shimla and Manali etc. I bet equally beautiful places, but with the volume of people visiting every year, the beauty is diminishing. But here its hardly the case.

A nice couple of hours of walking around the place, some good shops and some real scenic beauty and we were close to call it a day. On our way we had noticed a nice restaurant called Shalimar which announced to serve Alu Mutter and other Indian cuisine. It might sound funny, but just in a week we were bored to death by eating bread everyday. But it turned out to be a little expensive. (3 CHF for a naan and with a thali only one naan or a portion of rice) So we went to another one called Bamboo something. Had some nice Thai food. Also It happened so that Vishal wanted to purchase something from a gift shop for his girlfriend. So the arrangement was that he would meet us in Shalimar in 10 minutes. But we decided to shift the place. Hence Shweta ordered in that restaurant and I waited for him outside Shalimar. 25 minutes passed by and there was no sign of him at 8.15pm. So I joined her for dinner in the hope that we would catch a glimpse of him from that restaurant and we would go back together. But Murphy’s law again and I think it was destined that we would go back separately.

We finished our dinner in a hurry and rushed to station to catch 8.47 train back. There we came to know that it was a bus and not a train and next train was only at 9.25. So we waited. There was this taxi driver and a girl(French I think) who helped us with the time table. Then for train we crossed the rail line and got this warning from an official as to how it is dangerous and how we should not be doing it in Switzerland. He was really caring and nice.

The journey back home was quite uneventful except for the fact that only two of us were together. Back home Vishal had already reached and truly relived that he too had reached safely, we hit the bed!!

First weekend - Lusern

We never realized how quickly our first week in Switzerland passed by……or may be I should be saying the working week!!

Time of Oesterfest and everyone in this part of world is with some or the other plans. So we had to have one. Even people in my office were concerned whether I am doing something over the weekend or I am spending my time only in Zurich.

So after a lot of contemplation and a lot of deliberation, first day (that was Friday) we decided to have a one day trip for first day as we got up a little late that day. Lusern came as one of the obvious choices as nothing much else could be found.

We left home somewhere about 12 and reached the Zurich main station. After some information from travel office at Zurich and gathering some pamphlets, we got ourselves a half tax ticket. With this pass you can buy all the tickets in half the price in Switzerland. This is nice system as trains, buses and boat travel is all integrated and is very nice.

After having this pass done, we proceeded to get ourselves a ticket for Lusern. We got a ticket and also met a person from Pune, India. Raghunandan Mone. And to our luck, he also knew German and French fluently. The train was at 13.04 and reached Lusern at about 1400 hours. Outside station was a inquiry counter for tourists and there we got to know that a boat ride was starting in 2 minutes. RUNNNN!!

We just made it on board. Half pass in action again!! We settled on front deck. Sunny and windy and scenery and nice company. Just the perfect start needed for first day and first tour.

The boat ride is amazing. The lake is surrounded by mountains either covered with ice or wit lush green grass. The scenic beauty is simply outstanding. This also happened to be my first test of Swiss countryside. It is an amazing experience to be on a boat in middle of a lake and being surrounded by mountains and ice and colours and Mother Nature!!
The ride was of 2 hours during which we experienced truly wonderful sights.

The ride finished at about 1615 and we had lot of time to explore the city of Lusern on foot. We had this map of Lusern in which all the tourists’ places are marked wonderfully. The details of the locations are mentioned to perfection and finding then with the help of a map is only child’s play. First it was a church, followed by a castle. Church was very beautiful from inside. Extremely quiet, very old and very well maintained. And then another star attraction - The walk on and around the fortification wall of the city. It is a beautiful experience for anyone who is not shy of walking. A total walk of about 6 to7 kilometers takes you around this wall. From the top of wall you get a wonderful overview of city of Lusern and the lake. Here unfortunately the battery of my camera got over but most of the pictures are available as we had 3 cameras between us. We walked and walked and walked and enjoyed every bit of it. (Here I forgot my umbrella in one of the tower on the wall and realized it when we had almost climbed down. So ran all the way up and got it back).

It was almost 7.15 and we decided to return. A train journey back to Zurich and time to bid farewells. We exchanged the contact numbers with Raghu and returned to the apartment.

A fantastic trip first up and time for three satisfied souls hit the beds!!

Switzerland Diaries – Chocolates, Time, Nature, Knives, Beauty and Me!!

Day one!!

The first day on the foreign soil was a memorable experience. This beautiful city of Zurich greeted us with rains and temperatures of about 3-4 degrees Celsius!!

We were greeted bu Jorge (AIESTE, Financial Advisor) and Niharika Pande on the airport at the meeting point and it took us about 15 minutes by taxi to find out apartment. One our way I also saw one of those big buildings meant only for parking….first in my life (and it was one of the vary few things I was to see for the very first time I my life as I later came to know).

Apartment is really beautiful. It is a penthouse on the 7th floor with 2 bedrooms, hall, dining room, kitchen, terrace and a lift directly taking us to floor no.7!! All well furnished and with fantastic amenities. We were to pay 1200 CHF as against initially informed CHF 600. But people here assure us that with the salary we are getting, we would still manage comfortably.

Sunday was mostly spent in getting to know the essential places like tram stops and markets from where we can purchase our daily food. Tram stop is like 3 to 4 minutes walking from my apartment. There is also a shop called “On the run” at petrol pump which happens to be one of the many in the chain. Luckily we get everything here. (well almost….)On the same road we visited “Bahnhofstrasse” (main train station) market. (Later we also came to know that it is the biggest shopping place in Switzerland!!)

We purchased some food items and accessories for a couple of days. Dropped them at house and went back to have the first look at UBS building and our workplace!

Rest of the day was quite uneventful except for the fact that we prepared our own food and then cleaned the dishes as well. And too damn successfully to say the least. (Cant help boasting here guys….it was really wonderful)

Menu: Rice, a mix curry vegetable of potato, tomato, onion and some limited spices (tomato batata rassa for those who know Marathi)

First day…….and what a memorable one!!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Life as it comes.......

Last weekend, I got to spend some quality time with my newly made truly international friend circle. We were invited by a girl called Julia in Lausanne. It happens to be in the French speaking part of Switzerland and is very near to Geneva and France.

She is an AIESEC trainee and lives in a place called Renens VD (this is pronounced as Renau……just the way you would pronounce Renault (car makers)). This is unbelievable. And it came as no surprise to me when someone told that the person who actually designed spellings and one who architectured the language, were two different people....(just kidding !!)

This AIESEC seems to be a great concept. It mainly facilitates the student exchange in various countries. Most of them get a chance of doing 2 internships in different countries. I think it is a great platform for anyone who wants to have a share of different cultural experiences. Also, I must confess here that I did not know of this organization when I was doing my graduation in India. Though they say that it is pretty big in home and there is a lot of competition for getting an internship abroad.

You might not get all the strategic work during your internship that you always aspire for. (Especially for us poor souls who are in this league of doing engineering and then MBA from some good school and setting more and more expectations from work). But concept here is not of getting a good job in foreign. Concept is to learn different cultures, meet different people, make new friends, learn new customs and become really culturally and socially rich. But then what work you get and do?? It could be something extremely interesting (you just might pull a cracker of a project) or if you are one amongst the unlucky very few (as law of averages will always be applicable) clerical, secretarial….aber das ist mir egal (I hardly care….).As long as it has dignity!!

Ok….I am not getting paid by AIESEC for writing this one and anyways that was not the focus…….

Focus was to see how youth can enjoy after getting into these kinds of global partnerships. So as I started, we were invited by a girl called Julia in Lausanne and we gratefully accepted it. We did not have a clue about the wonderful weekend that awaited us. There were something like close to 15 people and many of them were meeting for the first time thanks to Julia and Emira. Our hosts.

It is difficult for me to describe what followed in those 2 days because we did so many things. I had a taste of some variety of food and drinks; we danced like animals, roamed like ardent travelers, got friends as if we knew each other for years and total chaos!! 2 days, 10 people, new places and unbelievable fun!! (In these 2 days we also visited France without having a passport and visa with us……that was some daring, in spite being told by the Swiss authorities not to step on French soil!!)

A week later as we approach the next weekend, we have plans of meeting in Zurich……continue the good things as they say and we being such good students, are taking them for their word.

It is good to see so many students getting such a wonderful exposure and making most out of it. One of my expectations from life was to get an opportunity to see great many places. Pack a bag, leave your home, travel, work and earn as you travel and travel more. Let me be very candid here…..I have not yet had a courage to do that…….but good to see that so many people are doing it……well not exactly as I wrote, but through these internships, working for a year or so and then moving on…….without caring for type of work, without caring for money, as long as it is enough to take u on…….

Working towards gathering that courage and waiting for my turn to come…..

Vote of thanks:

Thank you guys for all the wonderful time and Julia and Emira for being such wonderful hosts. Had it not been for you people (Andre, Patrick, Mike, Nataliyas, Niharika, Julia, Emira, Unna, Sandra….and I am sorry if I have missed anyone here….), I probably would have missed such a fantastic and daring aspect of life.

P.S. I also have penned down my experiences from beginning on this foreign soil and will publish them soon. (For those who care to read :))