Standing on the Shoulders of a Dragon

My trip to Switzerland, was all about catching up my friend Allen before he heads back to Shanghai.

Just a normal view in Switzerland

The theme of the last couple of blogs have been friendship and this is the finale of the three (that’s the plan). How to say goodbye to someone you care about, whether to let go and how to stay in touch. Well that’s the plan. I’ll do this while going through my tour of the Swiss-German side of the country.

Having someone to say goodbye to

Before saying goodbye, is it worth it?

Now, I booked this flight out of the UK as soon as I had enough cash to come and see Allen. You see, Allen is my older brother and dear friend. I know this through the times we spent growing up in New Hall, where Allen introduced me to my first real sip of alcohol. Red Star Vodka in a mug. Warm. I had two sips, with my two friends in the year above. Allen and Samko. It was not the first time I had alcohol, that was when I was around 5 and given the wrong drink. This was the first when I decided to have a drink. It was not the last of our drinks together, or just ourselves, but we had a good time. That’s the first mark of a good friend, someone you enjoy being with; hence when Allen told me that he may have to leave, well then I had to go and see him.

AT always the poser

AT (my nickname for Allen), got a massive hug as soon as I saw him, because that’s what I said that I would do, but the reason why I he was getting that hug was more than not seeing him in a while. Allen is one of those people I regard as my emergency contacts. I’ll call him at 4am and ask for help and I’m pretty sure if he picks up, he will help. Not try to, but actually help. This is something that truly matters. I’m sure that anyone on my contact list would try to help, but AT is one (of a few) I’m sure will do everything possible to help me and then follow up to make sure that I’m okay. Does AT feel the same way? I’m pretty sure that we can rely on each other. That’s why he and my very good friends get a massive hug. It’s that bond that you have, knowing that even if things get messy, there’s someone who is willing to help you out. Got someone similar? You got to hold on to them.

AT with the Frisby guns! (Frisby being Mr Crosby’s nickname from Mr Briggs)

How to run off a cliff

Conquering fears

Having some chai to calm the nerves pre-flight

I don’t why, but I have this fear of heights. Yet, I tend to climb any thing high and then stare down questioning what I just did. My aim is to get comfortable with throwing myself off a plane and go skydiving! Easy to say, but I’ve been slowly working on it. Walking around the top of CN tower in Toronto five years ago, to climbing some tall towers across Switzerland and going up some tall towers in Dubai. So, logically running off a cliff is next.

AT taking off. Running less than 30m

Paragliding was amazing. Let me tell you that. The sheer bliss from lack of noise when you’re up and above it all, is something else. It’s instantly addicting. It’s a reminder on how precious our planet is. Plus I got to see Yash Chopra’s Lake from the sky. Ultimately, that’s why I wanted to paraglide in Interlaken. I wanted to see some DDLJ ( Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) and other Yash Chopra locations: sue me!

Above Interlakken
Snow topped mountains in the background

Preserving Future Generations 

The view after the cable car and a brief walk

We continued our running around by heading to Oeschinen Lake and going for a swim. Now, the only way to describe how cold this lake was, is simply to say that my balls shot inside my body as soon as my toes touched the water. It was soo so cold. Instant regret to swim, but I don’t think I would have done it any other way. After the swim we went further ahead with a hike and got some spectacular views of the lake and mountains.

Betrayal! The water was so cold!
Just before I threw him into the water
Back to the serious business of hiking in swimming trunks, while the Swiss Hikers were all in full gear with walking sticks

Further into the mountains

We then moved onto Lauterbrunnen to go stand behind the waterfall, but this meant going back on ourselves for part of the way. The reason, why not and we had a Swiss Passes, so why not use them to the full. We got to the falls, before sunset but it meant we missed our train and had to wait for the last train out of the area and get home after midnight. Spent some time chatting about the day over a beer, how we all suddenly became experts in paragliding and going through pictures. When we returned to Olten we grabbed a pizza, which honestly for such a dump, was great food. Far better than any takeaway places in the UK.

Lauterbrunnen

Do dragons have shoulders?

A farewell requires a bit of strength

Some moments of unplanned synchronisation are beautiful. AT and I planned to leave for Luzern at 9am, but as soon as our alarms went off, we both just thought nah and went back to bed. No words spoken, just a quick glance and we knew that we could sleep a bit more. However this decision meant that we had a day of rushing around ahead!

Dropped my bag at the hostel early and got some cheap tickets up and down Pilatus. Now, we were not in the best mood to climb a 2,128m mountain, so we took a boat ride around the lake. Grabbed a desperately needed tan, got into a queue, to get a slot for another queue. That queue was for the steepest cog wheel train. A casual 48°. Went up into the azure sky. Only to get a bit peckish. It was such a hard day so far. Went to the hotel grabbed a window seat and chatted with the clouds coming at us.

We moved onto climbing a higher point and grab some photos. Mate, I cannot express how bad some people are at taking photos. Ended up taking some selfies for a decent shot!

Selfie skills on point
Not a bad sight, plus the background is decent

We took the cable down one station, mainly we short of time and also our shoes weren’t built for climbing up or down mountains. We went down one level and then started walking down.

On the way down Pilatus
AT going off road and for what reason, is still unknown

You see that’s all you really need with a good friend. A bit of time to hang and chill. No need to say anything fancy, but just to be able to be yourself. Thus this day of just being with AT was probably the best way to spend our last few hours together. Not doing anything dramatic or rushed, that was the day before, but just having time to chill and chat about life. What we chatted throughout the day? That’s just between us, but I can assure you that it was nothing important.

We ended doing what all good friends do. Grabbing a drink of choice and sitting on the side of the road; just talking about the musings of life.

In the end, the trip with AT ended in the same way that it started: with a hug.

There’s not much else you can do in these moments. We didn’t try and make it perfect, or do a hell of lot planning. We had an idea what we wanted to do together and just did stuff with that in mind. It’s like everything in life. Be honest, have a goal and just do. Don’t hope. Don’t fret if you make a mistake. Just enjoy the moments. Remember any lows, make the highs higher. I’m might be upset to say goodbye to AT, but at least I have someone to be upset about. It’s all about dealing with the expectations.

And before this gets too soppy, I’ve already messaged AT several and he’s helped out when he didn’t even need to get involved. Why? It’s what friends do.

Are you really friends if you don’t break the law together have a picnic together? (though we didn’t have three flavours of crisps)

A final day in Switzerland

Zurich, roaming around and running to work at 4:30am

So, I left Luzern in the morning and headed to Zurich. Went to the Rhine Falls, which were okayish. I mean, they’re no Vic Falls, but still quite interesting. If you don’t have a Swiss Pass it’s not really worth it, but I am comparing it to the best waterfall in the world.

You can get pretty close
Look a rainbow!

I came back, got onto a boat for a tour of the Lake and get an all important sun tan! Now I got bored on a 90 minute boat ride and decided to play my brown card. Essentially I saw an Indian couple with a spare seat. So I sat down, in broken Hindi started a discussion (we switched to a mix of mainly English, Gujarati and Hindi) and then had a lovely chat about life, religion and I helped them plan for the rest of time in Switzerland. You know, just a casual conversation. That’s what we all have to remember. Life is too short to worry about what others think. We can all learn from each other, best way is to be open.

Just cruising a long

I then found a vegetarian restaurant where I had wonderful avocado toast, because if I was going to be ripped off; it should be in style! After explaining to the barman my plans for the rest of the day, what I had done and if he had any advice; he said what I had already done today, was enough for a weekend. Clearly, I am a man on a mission when left to my own devices.

Could have put this up social media
University of Zurich

I decided to headed to the University take a look at some Greek artefacts and then ran across town, went past the closed museum (because it’s Monday!) and headed up to a viewing point. As one does with a fear of heights. After learning the Zurich transit system, I went to what the Swiss considered a hill and climbed the radio tower and had view of the city over 820m!

Only holding on for dear life!

Headed back to the hostel, checked in, went for a walk with one of my roomates and then realised that I had to leave the hostel at 4:49am (gave myself 19mins to get ready). What a quick day. I made it to work and had a pretty productive day.

The water is stunning, though not sure why this photo as a weird edge on the left.

Final thoughts

Explaining the title 

Seeing AT reminded me that we are all standing on someone’s shoulder. We all have friend or that help us reach slightly further than we could do on our own. The dragon, is two parts, first it’s relating to Pilatus having medieval legend relating to dragons having a magical healing properties at the top of the mountains. Secondly, I’m blessed to have friends that not only help me reach a higher place (shoulder), but some take me higher than I could have ever imagined (dragon vs giant). AT is one of my dragons. 

Thought: Why do European dragons need wings and Chinese dragons don’t?

The One Who Wrote Destiny, by Nikesh Shukla

A book review, which lead to thoughts about representation in the media.

Having representation in the media. When most people think of such a topic, they think of having a TV personality, I would even say that online stars (be it, YouTube, Instagram, Podcasts) is an important part of being viewed as accepted. What never occurred to me, was the fact that I have not read a book until last night about having a Gujarati person as the lead character, even more specifically to be from an East African background. I have never been a great activist of having representation in the media, not that I am against it; it has never seemed to be part of the world I really care about. For me, I have always been able to see people like myself in the cinema, with Bollywood films, or television in South Africa with the classic show of Eastern Mosaic and Carte Blanche with Devi Sankaree-Govender doing some of the main reporting; heck even BBC World has loads of Asians, with Michelle Hussain & Yalda Hakim being some prime examples. I’ve always felt that I could find representation in the media. Then again, I have never found a Gujarati person in the media to latch onto as a role model; or anyone that comes to my mind right now.  

So how did this book impact me? I was entertained, made to laugh and in tears by the end. Laughter from the pure moments of joy and happiness and tears to the heartful realisation that I can see myself in the characters; that I recognise my own grandmothers. How my grandfather talks about his past. To me, this was scary; that generational divide that exists between those of us who have left India.

What is the point of having people to look up to, if none of them are like you; with their different life paths and opportunities. What control does anyone have, on where life is going to take us? What does this have to with the book I’m reviewing? Apparently at least.

For starters I’m now listening to “John Jaani Janarden”, from the classic film Naseeb, on repeat. Let’s just that I haven’t listened to classic Bollywood music in ages, at least on my own accord. Only because this book reminded that this song exists. Sometimes, it’s nice to go back to your roots (and yes that’s a reference to the song that my father loves to listen to).

The book itself is about an Indian origin family, from East Africa in the United Kingdom. Our main story is about Neha, who has contracted the same cancer that killed her mother, Nisha. We start in Keighley which is over 300km away from London; where Mukesh is sent by his friend Sailesh to spend some time before they both end up in London. This is where Mukesh meets and falls in love with Nisha; and we learn that is repeated by Mukesh to his children throughout their lives.

The story jumps in time, back and forth; starting with Mukesh and moving to Neha, then to Rakesh (Neha’s brother) and finally to Nisha’s mother (aka Ba). While the story fills the picture of this family’s situation [I’m trying to keep this a spoiler free review, everything said so far is from the blurb]. We learn about the circumstances that have shaped the way they are meant to be perceived by those around them, in the family and of course internally; where they are struggling with what they have become and what they will make of themselves.

It is a story about the weakness and fragility of being human. Nikesh’s male characters are shown to be weak and frail; which is the opposite to the trope of the Indian masala movie staple. The women are strong and brave, but still flawed in their own way. It’s refreshing to see this in characters that are meant to sound and look like myself; I do hope that more books, heck media, that show this sort of side to characters from India (or Indian origin). The book also mixes in mysticisms of Hinduism in here, which I loved. Normally, I see characters that are all super into Hinduism or totally no part of the character. Rarely in English, do you see the religion portrayed in a positive context or one that represents what is more prevalent in India; or at least in my experience in India. That prevalent nature that religion evolves and that while there are negatives, we can choose to bring the positive aspects forward. Essentially, it’s not a simply good or bad thing.

Through the lenses of the first person and even exploring a character purely through the second person; we not only see ourselves, but how a judgement of others effects the way they act. The novel is absorbing not just because the story itself is part of this strange family trying to figure out whether one can know the future. Are things pre-determine? It brings in the nuance, that is maybe different for a person of colour or an immigrant coming into the UK. Maybe our choices are just a façade. That is the crux of this book. It’s not a depressing book, even it made me cry and yearn to return to Africa. It’s real and reminded me of what being human is about. Being in love, opening yourself and allowing to hope for the best. That’s all we got, in this life at least.

Who are we to question the one who wrote destiny? Well it’s quite easy; first decide if you are in charge of your own destiny. Then worry about the writing.