Friday, March 18, 2005

Swiss interlude

Just an update. Am leaving for Switzerland on the 29th, will be away for a couple of weeks (back on April 12, I think). I’ve known about the trip for some time but have just got confirmation of the dates. It’s a junket, I’m going to cover two international watch fairs - one in Basel (March 31-Apr 5) and the other in Geneva (Apr 5-10) - for a special issue of our niche magazine How to Spend It. I should add here I know nothing at all about the watch industry or about timepieces (which fact I’ve been happily disclosing to horrified PR people who have been calling to fix appointments for me with their international clients).

The people who’ve seen my lukewarm reaction to the news so far have accused me of being either 1) a natural-born grouch/cynic, or 2) someone who’s so emotionally constipated that he’s incapable of admitting to happiness. I like to think there’s a bit of truth in both charges generally speaking, but in this particular case allow me to list my reservations:

- I’m NOT going to be gamboling about the beautiful Swiss countryside (if in fact there is such a thing. I believe it’s a myth). “Ooh, that country has beautiful mountains and plains and very large and cuddly cows,” I’ve already been told by the envious. But me, I’m going to spend all day, every single day, in crowded trade fairs looking at luxury watches, trudging wearily from stall to stall, with an average of 10 appointments a day.

- “You’ll have watches coming out of your ears by the second day itself,” the senior editor who has gone for this assignment the past three years told me cheerfully. That’s a not-nice thought, considering it was uncomfortable enough just tying them to my wrist for the few months back in 1988 that I experimented (have never worn one otherwise).

- I’m already getting dozens of mails from watch companies to fix half-hour time slots for appointments. Also got one from an independent engraver, who movingly wrote, “I won’t be exposing at either of the events but could you visit my website...” (I suspect a language translator might have been involved, hence “displaying” being converted into “exposing”)

- On a more serious note, a couple of personal situations make a two-week trip out of Delhi a bit problematic at this time. I was initially told it would be a 5-6 day trip and that was cool but two weeks is in the slight-discomfort zone.

Don’t know how Net-connected I’m going to be out there (between me and the marketing chap who’s going along, there should be at least one laptop but one never knows). But will try to keep posting - will need to take lots of notes every day anyhow, so might as well do it on the comp if possible.

“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

(from Harry Lime’s speech in The Third Man)


  1. My Hero.
    Finally, I know someone who dislikes wearing a watch as much as I do!
    funny, that bit about exposing. you are lucky that he (it is a he, right?) hasn't asked you for advice on how to "turn on" a clock.
    (By rubbing against it, presumably)

  2. Enjoy your trip.. with alll the timepeices and mountains and the cuddly cows! thats an expression I will not forget in a hurry.

  3. I had to transit through Switzerland on my way to France last summer, and wasn't really looking forward to it. I had been biased by reading that "cuckoo clock" quotation when I was young, and was thankful that I was only passing through.

    However, I went to Geneva, which is probably the most interesting part of Switzerland, and wished I had spent more than just a night there. Avoid the hoardes heading up to Interlaaken, that's where the Indian honeymooners end up. Try and go to Geneva and Lausanne (I hope your fair is at either of the two cities), and you'd be close to the Alps, close to France (go get a Schengen visa for that country), and in a very vibrant and cosmopolitan city.

  4. Thanks Thalassa, but I don't think I'll have the luxury of planning to that extent. Will have to go along with the programme and just be glad for the odd hour or two of solitude. France is out of the question anyway. The fairs are in Basel and Geneva but we'll be staying in Zurich and Lausanne respectively, for purposes of economy.

  5. "Exposing" is probably a confusion from the French word "exposé."

    Enjoy your trip! If you have a free day, go to Bern to see the famous Paul Klee museum there.

    If not, I hope the watches are interesting.

  6. That sounds like a splendid arrangement! You'll cover Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich, what more could you ask for. And I'm sure you'll get time to explore at night.

    The night I spent in Geneva was Portugal's semi-final Euro Cup match, and I found out there was a very large and very loud Portugese diaspora in the city. Lots of Italians too, and of course an assortment of asylum seekers from different countries.

    There are streets leading to the lake with very nice bars, and the old city is pretty. Public transportation's good as well. Enjoy!

  7. If you're staying in a Swissotel-chain hotel, then net connection is gratis or at very low cost ! Enjoy the weather and keep looking around for some Bollywood babes and dudes - there are sure to be some prancing around ;-)