Monday, July 23, 2007

Labour Pains in Firangland !!

Don’t get scandalized by the title....

One thing where India any day scores over these western countries is availability of cheap labour. Whether you have to call a lineman to fix your telephone line or an electrician to hang lamps in your apartment or labour to transport your furniture – nobody atleast sends you a bill with 70 CHF hourly rate with 7.6 percent VAT!

I was told by my relocations consultant that an electrician will come to your new apartment to activate the telephone line at so and so time. The smart Indian mind came into action immediately and I thought he’ll charge some 15-20 CHF anyways so why not give him 10 CHF extra and ask him to hang lamps also in my apartment instead of doing it myself.... When I tried giving him money after the work, he smiled and said some arbit things in Swiss German + High German + English + blah blah blah ….good enough to make me understand that he’ll send the bill by post and I should pay through post office (as is done for most of payments here in Switzerland). The bill gave me a bigger shock than I would have got had I hung lamps myself!! What the ****….90 CHF!!!…..why would I pay him 3000 Rs for hanging lamps and activating the telephone line!! (Though the golden rule of happy survival in firangland says that one should convert only savings into INR but I am still finding it difficult not to convert my expenses in INR) There was no option but to pay! But I decided to be cautious from next time onwards.

Few days later, I contacted a small logistics group to transport my newly bought furniture to my new apartment. For two persons and a mini truck, they told me a vulgarly high hourly rate with additional 0.5 hrs charge for coming and going back along with additional VAT. I wanted to scream “Hello!! The amount u r asking for totally is more than my monthly expenses here!” But furniture had anyways to be picked up! I decided to call only one person and help myself in loading and unloading. After picking up the sofa with him, the first thing I did was to call up the company to send another person!...just a few hundred more CHF….big deal…what for I am earning if I can’t spend it on myself!! (Believe me! The argument was of little help in overcoming the guilt generated by post decision Cognitive Dissonance)

“Assembling furniture should not be a problem if u help me with it”..I confidently told Venkat (another Novartisian). I was excited……it was a challenge to assemble it without the instruction booklet and after four years I was going to use my design engineering knowledge!! After three hours of hard work…the design engineer inside me figured out that the basic structure was alright but I had assembled cupboard on ground exactly 180 degrees opposite of what it should have been. Another 3 hours in disassembling and reassembling only to find out that it was impossible to lift it up in that position!! It should have been assembled vertically! Another call for skilled labour….another hourly rate….another VAT….A few hundred more CHF gone!! Why the hell they don’t teach assembling furniture and hanging lamps as a VI term elective in XL! I would have saved enough money to sponsor two wet nights!!

My mother has been asking me to keep a servant for doing dishes, washing clothes and cleaning home. I haven’t told her yet about the labour pains that I am undergoing here! I might have a servant…but no house to live in, no food to be cooked, no dishes and clothes to be washed after paying him/her for that!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The First Swiss Experience!

Atlast I also decided to start blogging. Donno if this is the best way to vent out what u feel and want to share with others but certainly the cheapest one and one of better ways to kill time in 'firang land' on weekends with unfriendly weather.

It has been two months in Switzerland now. Didn't even realize how fast time flew. Everything here is so different - clean streets and roads, robust public transport system, trains and trams running with an accuracy of seconds, full automation, no stray animals on roads, noone in present generation atleast has heard of a power cut. Its a wonderland for someone coming from India. A privilege in India like access to clean water and healthcare is taken for granted here. The issues are quite different in India and Swissland - its about life vs quality of life.

On personal front, past two months have given me mixed experience. I have been an object of awe, respect, love, hatred, jealousy, suspicion, belief what what not...all within last two months. There have not been many times when the feeling of being an Indian has been so strong. Hindi has become music to ears. Never before I felt the need of friends and family so strongly...even in tough times. Its weird...people say Switzerland is the safest country in world with literally jobless police but still I feel vulnerable! I definitely have access to better resources, am earning decent amount of money, am building stronger career foundation but has my quality of life improved? People have varying opinions :).

What a nightmare it is for an English speaking vegetarian Indian to land in a German speaking, beef pork rabbit lamb horse buffalo and what not eating country which considers fish as vegetarian! No wonder the first words I learnt in German were 'Vegetarisch' and 'Ohne (without) Flesh'. German learning is in progress and hopefully with improvement in German will improve my social life here.

Besides a good career option, a major motivation for me to accept this job was to give better quality of life to my parents whom I have seen perpetually struggling. A typical lower middle class family from a small town of Northern India. No power, no AC, no car, no fancy house.....but still a satisfaction that they never said no to anything that their children wanted (and not desired!) They happily sacrificed two thirds of their life first for their parents and then for their children. I'll feel blessed if I can make a difference to atleast remaining one third!