Sunny’s sad sojourn in Switzerland

Geet and I met Sunny for the first time during our four day tour to Switzerland. He was a puny nine year old, wearing thick glasses with a constant expression of sad aloofness. Initially we took his stoicism as lethargy but that did not make any sense. We were visiting the country of the Alps, where Yash Chopra made Bollywood actresses dance in chiffon sarees in negative temperatures. Everyone in the tour bus was excited except for Sunny who had nothing but contempt in his eyes. Maybe he was too young for this tour.

His father Dr. Bhattacharya sat with him on the last seat of the bus, right behind me and Geet. His mother Mrs. Bhattacharya was busy clicking pictures of every cow, tractor and tree on the road as if the world was going to end soon and she was bestowed with the task of passing the relevant proof of the existence of  Homo Sapiens to the next dominant specie. She took rest from the clicking frenzy only to stuff her family with snacks that she had brought in kilos. The tour operator shared the history of Switzerland with us in the background.

A few hours into the bus and we understood the reason why Sunny was so stolid. The initial two days were Alps-less and we toured Zurich, Geneva, Schaffhausen, Lausanne, Lucerne, Interlaken and Bern. As our tour operator poured all his general knowledge on us, we realized that his words were molted lava dripping in Sunny’s ears.

“Sunny!!! Bhaat is the name of that large fountain in Geneva?” Dr. Bhattacharya asked his son.

“Jet something,” he replied.

“Think properly Shona!” Mrs. Bhattacharya said stuffing her son with cashew filled cookies.

“Jet d’Eau,” he said after a while. His parents clapped. Geet and I looked at each other.

“What does Bern means in Swiss?”

“Bear.”

“How many Cantons are there in Switzerland?”

“Twenty-sigh-six.”

“To commemorate whose memory was the carving of the dying lion created in Lucerne?”

“Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. I wish I was with them.”

“Bhaat? Anyways, Chapel Bridge is situated across which river?”

“Reuss.”

And this went on and on. We were horrified at what the poor child was going through during this ultra educational tour. I was sure that when all this would be over, Sunny will be permanently scarred and a slight inclination by his future wife to visit this romantic destination will be answered by shrieks of madness.

I remember talking to Dr. Bhattacharya during the journey where he expressed his shock that he had to wear seat belt in the bus. I argued that it was commendable that Swiss laws valued human life. I do not remember much of what else we talked about, only that Sunny slept peacefully during that one hour. Geet hailed me as a hero.

After our two days journey through the cities, it was time to visit the Alps. As our bus lifted higher and higher above the sea level, the frenzy of walking on snow that had footprints of Bollywood stars imprinted on it reached an unnerving crescendo. The bus snaked through a thousand tunnels and we saw villages on the edge of lakes surrounded by picturesque blanket of greens. People were straining their necks to get a first peek of the peaks and if the suspense would have carried on for another half an hour, we would have ended up with a new mutated specie that would have been a cross between a human and a giraffe.

Mrs. Bhattacharya was holding her camera so close to her bosom that anyone would have thought that she had a third eye there. In addition, she was jumping in the aisle with enough glee to give me a heart attack. I held Geet’s hands and chanted Hanuman Chalisa. Then everything happened very quickly.

“Boooooooootiphool! There there! Alps!!” Mrs. Bhattacharya screamed seconds before the bus entered a tunnel.

“Bhere?” Dr. Bhattacharya screamed back staring disappointingly at the insides of the tunnel. Sunny shut his eyes tightly pretending that he was asleep.

Soon the tunnel ended and the scream repeated itself. I saw a pair of buttocks jumping up and down in my line of sight and quickly realized that my armrest was not in place. I pushed it down in the nick of time and seconds later Mrs. Bhattacharya tumbled on it instead of my lap.

“Sorry,” she chirruped.

“If I would have been one second late, we would have spent the rest of our life searching for sperm donors,” I whispered in Geet’s ear. She looked with disdain at Mrs. Bhattacharya.

“What is she? A horse with crackers tied to its tail?” she squeaked.

“Control your emotions. The Alps are here,” I said, rotating her head to the window.

We stayed at the village of Engelburg, surrounded by snow covered Alps and minutes away from Mount Titlis and an hour’s drive from Jungfrau. We saw sulking Sunny during dinner. One look at his face and you could tell that the educational tour was spreading like slow poison inside him. Thank God the food was Indian.

The next day we had to take a train to the highest railway station in Europe at 11,000 ft. The prospect was endearing and would have left anyone wide-eyed. As the train spiraled up the tunnel, I spotted Sunny through the gap between the seats, sleeping peacefully. His father was frantically trying to wake him up while his mother was talking pictures of the darkness outside. I poked Geet and made her conscious of the sight. And then both of us started laughing. We laughed till tears ran down our eyes, till our faces turned red with the effort to suppress our laughter. Everyone was staring at us. The tour operator gave us uneasy looks. Our unchecked spurts of laughter took a good fifteen minutes to subside.

Later, I felt nothing but pity for the child. In a bid to train their child to become a Superman, Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya had ruined his holiday. Wasn’t the kid supposed to enjoy this precious time with his parents? We bid Bhattacharya family goodbye at London airport and that was the last time I saw Sunny. I hope his relationship with his parents does not hit rock bottom, although the chances of this happening are slim.

It has been three years since I visited Switzerland but there are a few moments that are etched forever in my memory –

– Sunny’s lost gaze

– Geet and I laughing hysterically in a tilted train inside a mountain

– Geet and I sitting in the balcony of our room in Engelburg with a blanket draped on both of us, looking at the fog drifting over the mountains.

– Sabotage of Mrs. Bhattacharya’s attempt to cut my family tree.

 

[All the pictures are taken by me]

77 comments on “Sunny’s sad sojourn in Switzerland

    • Thanks AD. 🙂 I am glad that I made you laugh.
      And yes, it was not a nice experience seeing Sunny boy getting tortured by his parents.

  1. Super super Amit, excellently narrated 😀 This adventure of yours reminded me of a bollywood movie with Govinda and Rani Mukherjee in it which I had >tried< to watch on television.

  2. Hahahahah! Bongs I tell you! Most of them are intellectual & some of them are pseudo intellectuals! Poor Sunny! It happens, nothing very uncommon for us, bong kids. But my parents never brought up GK or maths during vacations and trips, even if they did, (my dad tried to play some mental math games by giving me a toffee and saying how many will you have if X uncle gives you two more, Y uncle takes away one but Y aunty takes pity and gives you three more), I returned the toffee to him & said I want none! We (me & my hubby of 2 months) have decided to go for our dream trips before we start a family! What thoughtful parents we r gonna be! 😉

    • Know what, I have seen non-Bongs do this as well. I think this is a phenomenon that goes beyond cultural barriers. It is all about money and status. Parents nowadays have turned into such creeps that I pity the current generation.
      Haha! I too keep joking with Geet that we will put our kid in a boarding school and go on holidays. 😊

  3. hillarious account of a sad state of affairs- why can’t we let the child be ? I guess as parents we turn in to an over expecting species wanting our kids to be the best of all and in that process forget that they are after all kids and they would sprout n grow if only we let them be themselves. I am sure sunny boy will find his pace n rhythm but like u said he ain’t taking his future wife any time soon to the alps 😛

    P.S :- Mrs. B’s sabotage plans had me in splits and I am glad that ur presence of mind did the needful 🙂

    • I still can’t believe they did what they did. They completely ruined the holiday for the poor child. It was not as if he had to win something. Anyway, the good thing is that now I know what not to do in the future. 🙂
      Oh! yes. I did well there. I can give a superhero a run for his money as far as reflexes go.

  4. Three kind of Indians can be encountered in most parts of the world. Holiday making Bengalis, Kerala kappi / udipi restaurants and sardar taxi drivers:) The narration brought back memories of a similar trip to Swiss Alps, twin lake ciyties of Lucerne and Interlaken and so many more …

    • Haha! That is a lot of generalization. 🙂
      I have met some really decent families during my holidays but yeah experiences like the ones I have mentioned in the post are also not uncommon.
      Switzerland was beautiful. They haven’t tampered much with nature.

  5. I am glad you had a good time despite the Bhattacharyas!
    I hope that by now somebody has alerted Child Services about the plight of poor Sunny. If not, I expect to see his photo flashed across all the newspapers one morning as that year’s IAS topper (whose specialized subject was ‘The History and Geography of Switzerland’) 😀

    • I am sure he is either going to run away or become a doctor just like his father. 🙂

      Yes, we had a great time. The natural beauty of the country is so well preserved that it is awe-inspiring.

  6. Killjoys can be found everywhere, anywhere. I am sure Sunny boy will grow up to be a sorted kid who does what he likes with his life – I have seen that happening with kids with irritating-to-the-core parents. If nothing else, he will know what not to do with his own children. Let’s hope so. 🙂

    And great narrative; beautiful pictures too.

  7. Ha ha ha ha…. awesomely funny! I could visualize every line – yes I have great imagination that way :-).

    I really feel sad for kids of such parents. They think their kids are prized trophies to be displayed. Some parents never learn and if others were to advice them to let the kids be kids, they will be looked down upon with utter horror.

    Thank God you and Geet came out “undamaged” on your trip :-).

    • Haha! We share the visualization worm then. 😀
      Yes, they were shining the trophy throughout the tour.
      We came out unscathed and thank God for that. I would have thrown Mrs. B out of the bus if any mishap would have happened. 🙂

  8. Sheesh, I have seen such specimens too. Poor Sunny. Why did the Bhattacharyas have to take him along to Switzerland at all–they could have left him in the care of a Mashi-Ma and simply given him a list of facts to memorize on their return. Sunny would have surely had a better time in the absence of his parents . It would have saved the Bhattacharyas a lot of money too.

    • I think they were doing him a favour by mixing education and enjoyment. It is another story that their idea of enjoyment was messed up.

  9. My heart goes out to poor Sunny. 😦 The poor kids has to tolerate such monstrous parents, it’s not even funny.

    Your post is though. Funny, that is. Wasn’t referring to that. 😛 😀

    Ahhh! Those pics from Swiss land! Reminded me of my own trip to Switzerland (Geneva, Lausanne and Interlaken) along with friends. Those days a UK visa was enough to travel to Switzerland too so I hopped over while I went for my higher studies. We could not go all the way to the top of Jungfrau coz it was snowing a blizzard there, so we were allowed only till the half-way point. And during the course of the visit, I ended up missing my train from Klein Schendigg (whatever the spelling is) back to Grindelwald and had to scramble to catch the next train back. (In my defense, it was snowing a mini-blizzard at minus 5 degrees so I didn’t hear my friends who had climbed the train screaming at me to get on as well. I was busy giving back my rented snow shoes and trying to walk back in the knee deep snow, when to my horror I saw the train pulling out of the place! It was one of those slow motion moments where I saw my friends with their faces pressed to the train window in silent screams and I am standing on the outside watching them go by helplessly.)

    Today however it makes an awesome story to tell during gatherings 😀

    • Hahaha!!!! And you didn’t find Rahul on the station? 🙂
      Jungfrau was not clear the day we went but they did not stop the train midway. We went out on the plateau but the winds there were freezing. I had to snatch out my camera from a guy’s hands because he couldn’t open his fingers.

      • Hahaha! You mean Raj, not Rahul? 😛 😛

        This is real life, not movies. If I had run to catch that train, all that’d have happened was that I’d have tripped and broken my nose/teeth!! 😛

    • Oh we missed our train too! But from Titlis. And Ash, we went in the pre Schengan visa time too. Who knows, we might have been there at the same time too:)

  10. Poor Sonny boy! I hope he has got to go on some lovely (for him) holidays in these 3 years.

    Love the pics. Makes me forget the 40+ heat at Hyd atleast for a few minutes 😛

    • Oh yes! I hope too that he had some nice holidays after this disaster.
      The place was so beautiful that the pictures are bound to be good. 🙂

  11. I really started hating studies when my parents were behind me for excellent grades. Even now they maintain that I am educated and employed today because of the pressure they had put on me to get high grades to which I say “yes, I am here because of the pressure you have put or else I would have enjoyed studying and become a scientist/astronomer/IAS topper. You made me hate studies”.
    But Thank God my parents never went to this extreme 🙂 Poor Sunny!
    Good that you both enjoyed the trip and returned without much harm (thanks to your reflexes), loved the photos 🙂

    • I had this self created pressure as a kid. I was the topper and had to maintain it. Of course now I realize the foolishness of it all. It takes a terrible toll on the child.
      Yes, I am proud of my reflexes after that incident. 🙂 That woman would have ruined my married life.

  12. Thank god you mentioned about some moments shared with Geet otherwise I thought u wud only remember sunny and his mom…

    lol at mrs bhattacharya and near death of your future generations 😉

    I have to say your writing is multifaceted, u touch the funny bone as well as the emotions chord with equal galore.

    • Haha! The Bhattacharyas were a distraction but not that intense. 🙂 They were like that annoying music that plays in the malls while you shop.
      Thank you for liking the post. 🙂

  13. How funny you write!

    Your post reminded me of Brigadier Pratibha. That is a name AB and I gave her. She was this elderly woman who was in our bus when we took a France tour for 3 days. Brigadier sahiba was travelling with her two grandsons, both quite young. But they neither smiled, skipped, ran or made any noise. Brigadier had only a few things to tell them – khao, thik se baitho, utho and chalo. They were so disciplined, that I was scared they might salute once in a while.

    Needless to say, AB and I made plenty of jokes after being astonished initially. As she passed by us, we would stand in ‘saavdhan’ or ‘vishram’. When one of her grandsons dropped his apple(we were all eating ice cream by the way), I said he’ll have do 20 rounds in the ground. AB said he will be made to run inside the bus. A point came when we giggled like nuts on a river cruise and had people staring at us.

    The grandmother-grandchildren group did not look like they were on a vacation. They looked like they were in a training camp. So we deduced finally that she was an Indian spy.

    • You must write a post about the experience. It will be more interesting than what I have written.
      I am laughing like crazy reading your comment. 😀

  14. You are a riot! I was alternating between crying salt tears for poor Sunny and laughing uncontrollably. Are bloggers allowed to do this? For real?
    Very lax of them if so. I am pained.

  15. Sunnys can be seen everywhere. What are those extra tutors, summer camps, coaching institutes etc doing? The only thing missing is the serenity of Switzerland! Very well written. Glad your manhood survived the mishap. 😉

    • You are right Uma. There are so many of them all around us being herded like goats.
      Thank you for liking the post. I always count my blessings when I think of that incident.

  16. Your post brought back so many memories of family holidays! But thankfully we did not have the bhattacharyas as parents. The only thing I remember about our trips to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya is that it was so peaceful there, parents would be on a routine-less daily plan, and we could do whatever we wanted, go for walks in the forest, sit beside rushing rivers, window-shop at local stalls. But I suppose I got into the bhattacharyas-mode when I traveled with my children!

    • Yes, my own childhood trips with my parents were fun. There was never an urge to shove knowledge down my throat. I think this is a very recent phenomenon. We have started breeding horses.

  17. Is this a real story?? poor sunny….
    btw, where are the pics of this great family? you must have taken at least one picture of them as the sweet memory of this trip…. 😉

    • Neela,
      Of course this is a true story. Who do you think I am? Ekta Kapoor? ::P
      I have one or two pics with the family in the background. And I Can’t dare to share it here. Do you want me to get crushed under Mrs. B or what?

  18. Irony na? Mrs B could squeal and jump about in excitement while Master B was forced to memorize the toilet habits of ancient swizzies.
    Bhiyootipul pix… Geet herself seems to be a master of quips like you- “horse with crackers on tail” 😀

    • The family seems to completely forget that there is a time to study and there is a time for enjoyment.
      Geet… well she is learning. 😛

  19. Hilarious but a real sad state. I really dislike those exhibitionist parents who out their children on display in front of guests, relatives, strangers – anyone as if their child is nothing but a chaabi ka joker who will jump and clap and entertain people. I feel sad for those kids and dread to think what their emotional state might be.

    • I think children enjoy it for a while till they are getting all the attention but that comes at a price. The constant nagging to be good at whatever they do is bound to irritate them after a while.

  20. Oh Poor boy…many times I think, I wish I educate my kid like others…ahhh…I won’t even have the thought now…I am a happy mom and he is a happy kid..I know friends who are like that and kids who are gems and at who I am awed..
    And a very funny post as always…loved it..

  21. That was so funny! But not for Sunny, for sure. Such a pity that the parents can do this to a child. If this is how they were on holiday, I wonder how they must be during regular days!

  22. My dad acts like this family. It’s two parts hilarious, and one part highly irritating. Luckily, us kids grew up and have started giving him a taste of his own medicine and it is glorious. 😀

  23. Oh that poor little boy! My gratitude to my parents has quadrupled right now. They let us enjoy life and left us to our own devices. This was much to the disdain of our West Bengal relatives, who gathered we were uncultured boors living in Central India, the land of savages, as we did not take classes to learn Robindro Sangeet/ Dance/ Painting/ etc. It is true that many “proper” Bongs are crazy about “GK”.
    I abhor the parents of the participants in contemporary children’s competition/ talent shows. But as a child I remember Doordarshan would show extremely competitive quiz shows with kids participating, and the parents had that same deranged look in their eyes.

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