A bite of a bitter chocolate.
Book by: Varenya Raj Graphic Design National Institute of Design Edited by: Aishwarya Ganeshan 2
About the book The following short chapters are on few experiences during my exchange semester in the Hochschule Luzern Design and Kunst, Switzerland.
Out of the plane It was night at the time of boarding and when I landed, it was night too. I kept thinking about the view of Mt. Alps below me. My imagination was taking me to a new place and not what I could see from my window as it was completely dark. It was 6 am when I disembarked and I wanted a look of the sky. Thats my usual way of sensing a new place. I couldnâ€™t get a glimpse of the sky until I got out of the train station in Lucerne, where I was to spend my semester as an exchange student. The realization that I was in Switzerland had not actually sunk in. 5
Probably the first thing which came to my mind after looking up at the sky was the complete absence of any kind of smell. I tried taking deeper breaths but it didnâ€™t help. On the train from Zurich to Luzern, I could see the first light of the day. What was in front of my eyes was no less than a painting on a roll. The most striking feature of the view was the colourâ€”an abundance of grey, pierced by a some vibrant coloured houses. After reaching Luzern, I was waiting for Chhail, a senior textile student who was already in Luzern for her project. We started walking to our house which was at the heart of the city. My biggest concern was to study 6
was to study in such a touristic town where everything looked so pretty, clean and organised.
Federer as a substitute This probably seemed to be an unreal dream when I was in India but I realised that sometimes, dreams do come true. Rafael Nadal was taking part in 2013â€™s edition of Swiss Indoors. Well! he is the reason why I started playing tennis so there was no reason why I would have missed his match. I convinced Simon, my batch mate in my exchange college and Isha, another exchange batch mate from NID to come along for the match. I persuaded my parents to let me go for the match by claiming it to be a lifetime opportunity but an unfortunate news was 8
about to fall my way. Simon booked our tickets and things were going quite well until it was just two days before the match. Simon messaged me, conveying the sad news of Nadal pulling out from the tournament at the last moment due to an injury. I just kept shut for a while, trying to absorb the reality which seemed very hard to take in. I suggested Simon to sell the tickets at a cheaper rate if he could find any person who would be interested but I was doubtful. The following day, Simon messaged me again, but this time with a much better news of Federer replacing Nadalâ€™s absence on the day we had bought the tickets for. I had no 9
reasons to complain. To watch arguably the best tennis player of all times is something to boast about. Also prior to the tournament, Simon had told me about a probable ad shoot with Federer for Lindt. I was planning to go and watch him at the shoot-location, which wouldnâ€™t have been a problem as Simon himself was the AD for the shoot - but the director refused to allow me to come. On the day of the match, I had butterflies in my stomach. Basel is the city where the tournament was taking place. Isha and I decided to walk to the stadium from the train station so that we could see the city as much as possible. The God of weather 10
was not in a favourable mood. It was raining like cats and dogs when we got out of the station. We anyhow figured out the way to the stadium from the phone GPS and not from the elaborate map installed everywhere in the station. I used to be quite sure about the directions and right almost all the times so Isha showed confidence in me when I told her the way. We started walking casually towards the stadium with slight doubts of reaching the right place. On the way, I encountered a small park of trees laden with yellow dead leaves, a long lane with houses on one side and field on the other. But nothing could beat the feeling I got 11
when I sighted the stadium. I could not believe that I was so close to seeing him. The last hurdle was still waiting for us. We couldnâ€™t find our way to cross the busy street. The stadium looked further away than it appeared on the other side of the street. I thought the experience of watching Federer was worth all the trouble I was facing. I met Simon in front of the gate where he was waiting with his cousin, who had also come to watch Federer play. Tickets in hand, and filled with nervous anticipation, I was ready to go in. It would seem like an usual day for Indians, but to see such a huge crowd in Switzerland was strange. As I 12
entered the lobby, I could see the name of champions over the years and this yearâ€™s trophy in a concealed glass, rotating. There were stalls of very expensive merchandise, food, drinks and a game. The game was pretty simple to play but quite hard to win. You were to pick a hole on the floor depending on the size and then a ball was given, which you obviously had to throw into the hole. Simon, his cousin and Isha tried but nobody won. I picked the most narrow hole whose prize was the biggest. I was given the ball and to no surprise I got the ball in the hole. In return, I got a coupon of car rent worth 75 CHF which I could use 13
anywhere in Europe. I wondered that it would have been so much better if they actually gave me cash for it as it would have covered for my ticket which was 82 CHF. We moved on. I got the first glimpse of the court through a gate while walking past it. I couldn’t believe that I was actually there. An event that I have watched on TV for years was where I was. I couldn’t wait to get through my allocated gate and grab the seat. It looked so beautiful—much more than what we get to see on the TV set. What lighting, what court, what stadium. For the first few moments, I did everything keeping my gaze fixed 14
on the court. Federer’s match followed the first match. This was the moment I was waiting for since the time I got to know about Nadal’s withdrawal. Federer piercing through the curtains and the spotlight falling on him. Unfortunately we were on the last row of the stadium. I could literally see Federer from my seat even with my specs on but I was certain that it was him. His gait reminded me of a deer. The match started and I got to witness Federer’s majestic forehand. His style of play made it certain that it was him because thats how I have watched him play on TV. He didn’t look like a 31 year old but he wasn’t any close to 15
what he used to be five years ago.
Smile from the cop During a shooting with Severin, my batch mate at HSLU, I went into the woods. I was taken aback by the greenery and the freshness in the air. I knew that I had to come back again to shoot the place. During the photo shoot, I came across nice looking houses made in a typical architectural style. This is when I made my mind to shoot the houses. The next time, I came along with a Nikon D3x, 24mm tilt-shift lens to shoot the houses. With few initial concerns, I started shooting recklessly thereafter. I didnâ€™t spare any house which I thought could add to 17
my collection. A simple smile to people was doing the job and everything was going smooth until something unexpected happened. Like every house which I was taking the picture of, I followed the same procedure for this house. I just looked around in the courtyard to see people and this house had no one too but minutes later, a man appeared. He approached me with cautious steps and asked me why I was taking pictures. A woman appeared on the door while the man questioned me. He said that he had noticed me taking photographs of the houses and he was skeptical about it. I assured him that I would not take 18
photographs of his houses and carried on with my work. Minutes later while walking down the lane, I saw a police car stop about 20 yards away. I was just trying to avoid direct eye contact with them until three of them came to me and asked what I was upto. I tried to keep calm and a straight face while answering their questions. They scrutinised my passport copies and noted down my address. During the whole process, I noticed one of them giving me a smile but I thought smiling back wouldnâ€™t the best possible thing to do. Their queries costed me time and more importantly the light which almost died. 19
Satisfaction to tongue One of the greatest challenges was to keep myself not hungry. For some reason, I used to find myself hungry all the time. Cooking for me was equivalent to learning greek. To know nothing about cooking made me feel helpless. To be honest, it could be difficult if you do not get what you are used to. I made unsuccessful attempts to cook somosa and dosa but I didnâ€™t give up. I remember Karan, an employee at DSYN where I had interned, telling me that exchange programmes help one grow all round. He had gone to Oxford for his exchange. 20
Sharpening my culinary skills would only help me survive through the semester and surprise my mother when I go home. I started moderately with bread and potatoes fry and soon started making paneer curry. In a month’s time, I had gained enough confidence to call my batch mates over for lunch. I had mellowed their excitement by proving that I wasn’t a good cook at a different occasion in case I cooked a bad meal. I made a three-course lunch for my batch mates and surprised everyone by making a rather tasty meal. Everyone told me how full they were and how they were struggling to finish the dessert which was “kheer”. 21
I propagated how diversified the food and our culture was and many a times I showed people â€œIncredible Indiaâ€? videos when I found them interested in knowing more.