The hills of Switzerland are alive…with Desi tourists.

The New York Times published an article on Indian tourism to Switzerland, today. The most jarring thing about it was seeing DDLJ’s title translated in English; I’ll spare you that. ;) Sangam.jpg

For years, Bollywood’s producers and directors have favored the pristine backdrop of Switzerland for their films. The greatest of the Bollywood filmmakers, Yash Chopra, is a self-professed romantic who has made a point of including in virtually all his films scenes shot on location in this country’s high Alpine meadows, around its serene lakes, and in its charming towns and cities to convey an ideal of sunshine, happiness and tranquillity.

In the process, they have created an enormous curiosity about things Swiss in generations of middle-class Indians, who are now earning enough to travel here in search of their dreams.

“The moment you cross the border it is something else,” Mr. Purohit said, “where the scenario changes.”

“No noise, no pollution, no crowds,” said Kamalakar Tarkasband, 72, a retired army officer. [nyt]

No, just pretty scenery as a picturesque backdrop for photo ops wherein they imitate their favorite celluloid moments.

Raj Kapoor may have been the first Indian director to use foreign sites for shooting on location — in Venice, Paris and Switzerland — when he filmed his 1964 hit, “Sangam.” But the entire bus knew the story of how Mr. Chopra spent his honeymoon in the Swiss resort of Gstaad. [nyt]

SANGAM! That’s one of the dozen or so fillums I’ve actually seen; it was one of my father’s favorites. I loved it.

Here’s something interesting and overwhelmingly sweet, much like a gulab jamun, the round, syrup-laden dessert which often graces Indian buffets (see? I can write like a gora):

“He promised his wife on his honeymoon that every movie he made would have to have one romantic song or scene in Switzerland,” said Rajendra Choudhary, 24, who also studied management in Pune and joined the Enchanted Journey. Mr. Chopra, now 77, kept his promise. Most of the Swiss sequences are dream scenes in which lovers dance or romp on Alpine meadows strewn with flowers or roll in the snow in unlikely flimsy Indian garb on wintry slopes. [nyt]

Obligatory negativity:

But not everyone shares the dream. In June, the Zurich newspaper Tages-Anzeiger featured an article with the headline “Into the Luxury Hotel with a Gas Cooker,” noting that “in some hotels an entire caste of guests is no longer desired: the Indians.”

The article catalogued the complaints of hotel managers: guests who cook curry dishes on camping stoves in their rooms; guests who use bath oils that blacken tubs; guests who book for a husband and wife, only to show up with the entire family. [nyt]

The first complaint makes me wonder if a lack of vegetarian options is the issue. I just asked my most well-traveled friend what he ate in Switzerland and he said his most memorable meal was a repast purchased from a farmhouse; he waxed blissfully about cured meats, cheese and a good baguette. My mom can eat one out of those three. She hates cheese. She wouldn’t be knocking out some Ulli Theeyal in her room, but she’d probably be hungry. I’ve never been, so I don’t know. Maybe Switzerland is littered with veggie noms.

105 thoughts on “The hills of Switzerland are alive…with Desi tourists.

  1. pg

    I think you miss the point, all countries may chose to do what they want, Switzerland don’t want immigration which is fine. But this text was about desi tourists, and it is relevant to point out that there are plenty of friendlier countries to visit. There are mountains in Colorado and northern India as well.

  2. Cooking in hotel rooms is a fire hazard.

    We Indians also have a tendency to carry and cook on gas and kerosene cookers on moving TRAINS – another MAJOR fire hazard!

  3. “they are old hands at banking, probably a result of being the birthplace of Calivinism [sic]“

    The History Channel disagrees. Their version goes like this: The Knight Templars did fight wars to get a path to Jerusalem, but they also diversified into banking. After some 200 years, the Knight Templars became unpopular. So they took their money and ran to sleepy mountainous regions in Europe. And they started the original Swiss banks.”

    Yes, I know about the Knight Templars and some association they had with Swtitzerland, but I did not trace Swiss banking back that far though. Thanks for info. I still think Calvinism had something to do with it all. They also made life-like automatons (I saw some in a museum that still worked after 200 years.) There are interesting things to see in the country besides the mountains.

    come to think of it though, even the chocolate was better in Belgium.

  4. And what is so great about not wanting to learn the local language if you live in Europe?

    Dear Pravin, there is a back story implied in my text. You on the other hand are just shooting off.

    And why don’t you travel by Air France huh? huh? The food is better than US Air and if you are stranded in CDG without a visa or food so what. Air travel sucks or didn’t you know that.

  5. If there is a backstory implied, sorry, I missed it and still don’t get it. No big deal, either way.

    As far as Air france, it is quite simple. I refuse to travel in an airline where the flight attendants are contemptuous of me. I have heard a few stories about them, and that’s good enough for me.