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?

India Part 1

Back to Mumbai

So, on my flight, the thought that I was about to travel to India without my family for the first time was just exciting. I honestly didn’t have a day by day plan. All I knew, that I wanted to see my Masi’s in Mumbai, that I was staying with my Kusum Masi while in Mumbai and that I would sort everything out in the first couple of days. After going through arrivals, I met Kusum and Bella Masi, which was amazing! I was expecting to grab my own cab at the airport, but via the miracle of onboard WIFI, I got a message that Bella Masi was coming to pick me up. It was great to see both of my Masis straight away!

…via the miracle of onboard WIFI

The next day was simple, the first thing I did was run to Pali Hill and drop off the clothes to the tailor/designer that I had brought over for my Mother and Sister (which also took up more than 50% of bag). I also tried to get a sim card was turned away for not having my passport on me (I had a copy). So, I had to come up with an alternative way of getting one.

[Jai] Shree Krishna Silk Mills

The next day was going to the market with Masi and sorting out a sim and picking up some groceries. Now this Adhaar card, which the Supreme Court [of India] has pointed out not being necessary to prove address, is required in India. The amount of time saved with having this card, from the limited experience I had, is that Adhaar is a necessary part of living in India. For now. Returning to my life, got a sim card and I have to say we are all getting ripped off in the rest of the world! I paid $3 for 1.5Gb of data per day. That’s right per day! What we pay elsewhere is just a scam. Once the network is set-up then it’s all about bandwidth. We really need a Jio like company in Europe for example. I don’t buy the argument about costs to current firms. Telefonica, Orange and Vodaphone are multi-billion-dollar firms. We are just getting rinsed. I think that is my rant over for now.

So later that day I was back at Masi’s (I should say that if I say Masi without saying who it is, it’s Kusum Masi) and looking up flights and trains to Gujrat and back. I was shocked how hard it was to get a ticket from Ahmedabad back to Mumbai on the train. So, I ended up booking a flight to Porbandar and flight from Ahmedabad back to Bombay. How I was to get from one side of the state. That’s 340km (ish), let alone the actual road distance, quality or you know, actual transport. Either way, I called my Piyush Kaka and just told him that I was coming the next week and to tell my family in Ahmedabad, who I never met or spoken to, to expect me afterwards! I mean, what’s the point of having family, if you can’t randomly meet them and live in their homes for a couple of days?

Next day I just spent with Masi, sorting out the rest of my time in Mumbai, as I was originally planning to meet up with another Masi, but she was fasting and told me to come another day. Not too bad, got to spend more time in Santa Cruz.

…what’s the point of having family if you can’t randomly meet them and live in their homes for a couple of days?

Now the following day I will have to mark as one the most important days of my trip! Masi had organised a chaperone to get me to South Bombay, which was one of my Mamas who I had never met before. So off we went. I was going to spend some time with Babul Mama and family, which included my cousin Sonia and G, plus their two children Raaisha and Vivan . Now I met Vivan a few years ago when I last went to the States, but Raaisha was not there. I had spoken to on Facetime before and she basically just laughed at my name. Well, let me just say that girl is a cheeky monkey! An example was her taking a piece of cardboard paper and tearing it, only after saying it was Vivan’s old ticket to a theme park! I miss her and her brother quite a bit! The other thing I miss is the street food around them! The Sev Puri is to die for! And the Wada Pav! I’m drooling! Now, normally I avoided street food in India, but as I had a long trip Sonia said this; “Hanik, if you get ill, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? You will spend three days in bed. That’s the same as relaxing on holiday! Live a little!” So, I did and thank goodness that I listened, as this just opened a whole new world to me!

The following day, I was back in South Bombay. This time visiting couple of my Mamis, with Masi (yeah, it’s slightly confusing). I wanted to catch up with my Gita Mami and Kishore Mama and see when they were coming to visit me, either in London or South Africa. Being elderly, they responded with the only acceptable answer; whenever I was going to get married, wherever it may be, they will be coming. I mean, what do you respond with? No, I have no intention of getting married so come along? Why not the engagement? Whatever I answered, the question would then turn to my love life. And just like in real life, this blog is not the space to talk about (well at least for now). I was told that my Nana, used to go to Haj Ali for juice in the evenings, which meant that I had to dragged Masi to Haj Ali. I got some scrumptious pomegranate juice and Masi decided to go for an orange & clementine juice mix. It was more expensive than our Uber home, but it was worth it!

Candid shot of Masi drinking her juice

The next day Masi took me to the Elco Market. Now I went to the Elco Market in 2004 when I was 10 years old. I have not forgotten the taste of the first pani-puri I had there, I can happily report back that taste is just as magical! That first pani-puri was time machine. I was transported 14 years into the past! If you are going to Mumbai for a day, this where I would send you! Alright, time to move on. Next on the agenda was watching a Hindi film, unfortunately we (Masi and I) went to see Zero. Out of ten? Giving zero stars would be too kind. Don’t see it, even for the effects. It only makes SRK even more punchable. A feat that I did not even think would be possible but trust me it is!

The next day I was planning on catching up with Sanchi. Now I do not know what this girl was thinking, but she thought we should meet at 4pm for coffee and then head for dinner after around 8pm. So, I ha booked to go to Yautcha. Yautcha for those out of the loop is a fine dining restaurant which is known for its dumplings. Sanchi and I meet at a café just off Linking Road and grabbed some coffee (well I grabbed a breakfast smoothie) and had a catch up on what was going on in the last few months in our lives. During the conversation I heard the words that should never be uttered by an Indian. She had never been to a wedding! Nor does she have an outfit for the wedding she’s going to in the next couple of weeks! Thank goodness we were on Linking Road. I grabbed her and dragged her to a fabric shop! Sanchi, since you are reading this, don’t talk about the price when you are looking! There’s no need, but trust me, it was a good fun trip! As we headed to Yautcha for dinner, we past Anita Dongri; so, guess where we headed… Now I must say that men’s section was disappointing. Nothing in fashion! I try my luck and call our mutual friend Roshika and she picked up! It was a nice little reunion, but I had to say Roshika was a bit savage when saying certain clothes were ugly, on loud speaker for the whole shop to hear! She wasn’t wrong, but still. Moving on to Yautcha. What a meal! Just plate after plate of great food but being in Mumbai fabulous vegetarian options! I don’t want to complain about the vegan/vegetarian tax again, but it’s so refreshing not having to pay a premium for good vegetarian food at a high-end restaurant. The dumplings were on point and I’m glad that we didn’t focus on the “mains”. Dessert was great, and we even got a cocktail. The meal was expensive for India, but in comparison to the London version, it was a pittance.

What happens next? I head off to Gujrat, which I’ll recall next blog. Hope the pictures are interesting enough, do send some feedback!

My trip to India

The preamble

Yeah, my MUN days lead to the sub-heading….onto the show

Well, I guess I should wish everyone a happy new year first. Or should I wait for Chinese New Year? By the way Erik (yes, just to Erik), when’s Taiwanese New Year? Jokes aside, I literally stayed up for around ten minutes for the initial fireworks and then called it a night.

So, after my flyby trip to London, I returned to Dubai for a week of work and then off to India. I’ll start off by explaining my reasoning for going back to India, then I’ll move onto my daily life in Mumbai for the next week, then my week in Gujrat and then my final week in Mumbai. I’m going to write it as three separate blog posts (one for each week). Let’s get started!

Having tea that is hallucinogenic, let’s just say me and Alex got wavy
Saw Yasmin giving a speech to the current MUN-ers at Essex (forgot who is on the right 🤷‍♂️)

Back to choosing India

I chose to go to India, rather than join the rest of the family for a few reasons. Firstly, I missed India, which is odd considering that I don’t have that much affinity to the sub-continent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth. I am practicing Hindu, a full vegetarian (if the Gujrati did not make it obvious) who eats Indian food almost every day. I’m addicted to chai. I’ll happily go to a Hindi film or run to see the latest Rajnikanth film. I have one grandmother from the country, let alone my infinite number of Masis and Kakas in the country. But, I only consider myself Indian in certain aspects. I’m pretty sure that this has to do with me being a third-culture kid, as I chose what part of cultures I like. I prefer to say that I’m African over Indian, because my childhood was on the continent and my parents and the rest of my grandparents are from East Africa. Sometimes I like to say I’m British, because I’m obsessed with tea (see what I did there). Also, because London is my home as well, as well as being the greatest city on Earth (no bias whatsoever). This doesn’t really answer why I was missing India, not really sure what I’ve pointed out other than me being me, but I was missing India… I don’t know what else to say about that.

I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth


Secondly, I wanted to go to the Jalaram Mandhir in Virpur. So, this has been on my bucket list for years. Essentially Jalaram Bapa is my favourite saint and his mandhir in Virpur doesn’t take any donation, yet continues to feed people every day! Last year, we (as the nuclear family) made it to the outside walls, but there were so many people we had to choose between praying or catching our flight. Well, we picked the flight…I guess I had unfinished business!

Thirdly, I wanted to see my family. I’m not going to lie, my niece Raaisha was the number #1 person I wanted to meet. I had already flown to couple of countries to see her and she was never there! I also wanted to spend some time with my family in Porbander, meet some of my Kakas and Faibas for the first time in Ahmedabad. Plus there were plenty of Masis in Mumbai to catch up with; while not being married off! 😅

Fourthly, I wanted to see the Unity Statue. Mainly because most of my friends hate Modi, so I thought the best way to mock them would be to go see the statue and dab with it in the background! Spoiler alert! There weren’t any tickets available! Seriously, who is trying to see this bloody statue. Guess I’ll have to head back to see it.

Fifthly, I wanted to eat some proper Indian food

Finally; I wanted to buy some Indo-western clothes. I just had no intentions of paying Western prices.

A dumb mug shot

Here’s a dumb photo I took the day I got a haircut before I left. Why? Why the hell not, I’m sure there’s meme out there