In a little park, near the United Nations’ offices in Geneva, Switzerland, is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi reading a book and with a look of utmost concentration on his face.
The statue was unlike any Mahatma Gandhi statue I had seen or come across before — I had always seen his statues in a standing or walking position. This one of him reading seemed more like one I could relate to.
And to think, in retrospect, that I almost missed seeing this. Let me elaborate.
A great white expanse of pristine, white snow greets me as I step off the train. Snow in May? My used-to-Mumbai’s-muggy-weather-in-May mind wonders if I am dreaming or hallucinating or both. I bend down and touch the snow and rub a little onto my face. It is snow and I am not dreaming or hallucinating.
And I am not in Mumbai, I am in Switzerland. 🙂
From as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to experience the Alps via a rail journey. My wish came true on 13th May 2009, when I made a day trip from Geneva to Kleine Scheidegg in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. I love train travel, and this was one of the most scenic journeys I have ever undertaken. The clean and fresh mountain air was invigorating as was the super efficient and punctual train journey. It was a trip that took me 5 hours one way with train changes at Bern, Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen / Grindelwald, and a trip that I am going to take you on here.
So hop on abroad the train with me at Interlaken Ost and leave behind the muggy, sticky hot Indian summer behind to journey to the cool climes of Switzerland. 🙂
One of my favourite instruments is the church organ, and I never miss an opportunity to listen to a performance. It is not just the organ’s music, but also the mechanics of the instrument that intrigues and fascinates me. The grandness of the organ never fails to thrill and always sends a delicious shiver down my spine. No visit to a church or a cathedral is complete without me checking out the “resident” organ.
When I checked out the organ at the Cathédrale St. Pierre at Geneve or St. Pierre’s Cathedral at Geneva, Switzerland, a shiver did go down my spine, but for entirely different reasons !
No visit to Geneva is complete without a visit to the United Nations. I mean not everyone can go in, but one can stand outside the building and have a photograph taken. That’s what most people think they are going to do, until they reach there. Then they find themselves distracted by a big broken chair. Don’t believe me? See the picture below.
The Broken Chair is a wooden sculpture by the Swiss artist Daniel Berset, and constructed by the carpenter Louis Genève. Made out of 5.5 tons of wood, the 12 m high chair with a broken leg symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs. It acts as a reminder to those visiting the place about the horrors of land mines. Many protests and demonstrations are held at this site.
The above photograph taken by me looks relatively benign like a piece of sculpture, while the one of the Broken Chair, taken by my niece’s friend on a cold December evening looks positively menacing and threatening, much like the danger posed by landmines and cluster bombs themselves.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, “landmines claim victims in every corner of the globe each day”. The Campaign is working towards a world-wide ban on landmines and as of date, 39 countries including India have not signed the Treaty.
The UNICEF has declared April 4 as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. And you will do your bit by reading this blog and passing on information about the dangers from landmines and cluster bombs, won’t you?
Heidi was the first book ever purchased for me. I was about 6 or 7 years old at that time, the same age that Heidi is when her story begins. Heidi was also the 16th and the 73rd book bought for me. Yes, you read it right. Till date, I have owned 3 Heidi books and each one has a story attached to it.
Heidi-1 was with me for just a day. Raju, my maternal uncle, had just received his first pay cheque and in a fit of generosity decided to buy something for his 8 nephews and nieces. So what does he do? He goes and buys some books, one of which is Heidi. Only, Heidi is not one book here — it is a serialised version spread over 6 palm-sized books with tiny illustrations and microscopic lettering. He then distributes these 6 “Heidis” to 3 of his nieces and nephews in a random manner. I am one of the recipients and get books 2 and 5 of Heidi.
We 3 recipients of the Heidi books were so thrilled with the gift that neither its random distribution nor the impossibly small lettering bothered us. We could squint and read, couldn’t we? It was a Saturday that day, so we didn’t have to worry about school either. After lunch that day, we got down to reading the books in serial order, with each one reading his or her books aloud for the others. I still remember the instant connection I felt with Heidi — her spirit, loyalty, adventures and love for her family and friends proved irresistible. At the risk of sounding corny, I knew that I had made a friend.
I am not sure whose mother discovered the books that evening. The small lettering was deemed unsuitable for us children and were confiscated, never to be seen again. My poor uncle got an earful from all our mothers for buying something so child-unfriendly. And that was the rather dramatic end of Heidi-1.