‘My Story’ shares the experiences of an Indian living in Switzerland. Meet Divya Hegde who moved to Zurich with her husband in 2013. Divya is an architect with her own firm the KrimsonTree, in Bangalore. She manages it all from Zurich. Her story…
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I’m a hardcore Bangalore’ite. My heart and soul belongs there. It’s a city superbly famous for its glorious weather, numerous breakfast outlets, coffee, one-way, and the green cover that was once the crowning glory. I’ve been in Zurich since 2013. But until 2016, I used to spend half my time each year in India.
WHAT DO YOU DO
‘Change is the only constant’- and this is completely relevant to me. Each morning I wake up wanting to do something, which doesn’t really have to be a continuation of what I did the previous day. Fortunately, for me, architecture has been the underlying passion over which all these many other colours float. More like the underlying current below the waters.
On a personal front, I’m first a mother and a daughter together, then a wife, and a friend to many. I love the way life gives us opportunities to be able to offer ourselves in different roles at different times to different people.
Professionally, I am an architect. I run my small firm- KrimsonTree in India, where we do turnkey projects, right from design to execution. Being here, I haven’t dipped my fingers into this as yet, but would be happy to assist.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO SWITZERLAND?
I belong to India with my heart and soul, but I currently live in Zurich. When motherhood knocked my door, it coincided with the time my husband needed to come to Europe. So I accompanied him initially to Konstanz, in Germany. Later we thought Zurich would be a better place to move to for convenience. I packed along with my necessities, and a gamut of emotions while leaving India. I guess I will carry a bigger bag of them when heading back.
MANY TRAILING SPOUSES QUIT THEIR JOBS TO FOLLOW THEIR PARTNERS. IT’S NOT AN EASY DECISION. AN ARCHITECT AND AN ENTREPRENEUR WITH HER OWN FIRM IN BANGALORE, WHAT WAS ON YOUR MIND WHEN YOU MADE THE BIG DECISION?
KrimsonTree was my dream. The name got coined much later, of course. Architecture was the thing I wanted to do.
My dream was to be an independent practising architect. But for gaining experience, I worked with some outstanding architects in India, who I look up to. They have all in time become friends, or family if I may say. So joining my husband then was more of an emotional choice, as I carried ‘Our Dream’ within me. It did involve a lot of travelling for work where I shuttled between Zurich and Bangalore every 3 months with my baby. I would carry him to all our project sites, vendor locations, factories: everywhere. It was a decision I had to take to keep the show going. However, the biggest contributor then and even now is my boy, Anmol, true to his name.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO MANAGE AN INTER-COUNTRY BUSINESS AS A WORK FROM HOME ENTREPRENEUR?
Architecture is a practice where the client’s comfort rests in the physical presence of the architect on the project site. Of course, technology has brought people closer, but a few things don’t really change despite technology and innovation. The biggest challenge for me that my India trips force me to be out, meeting people and clients most of the time. When the project is in full swing, it becomes very challenging here, with the ‘DIY’ rules applying entirely. KrimsonTree has been and is very devoted to doing small scale, personalised projects like homes, boutiques, small offices, where doing up small things is a matter of joy, too. So while in Zurich the role shifts to designing, virtual client interface, estimations, and project preparations, in short – everything, except being at the location. It also requires to be in touch with the contractors and managers to convey what and how things need to be executed. Honestly, the quantum has come down with my absence there. However, with the hope that I will return to my nest, the dreams and efforts continue.
YOUR ADVICE TO WORK-FROM-HOME-MOMS IN SWITZERLAND?
No advice here, I’m still growing. But yes, RESPECT to all who are so beautifully managing a home and work together.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT DESIGNING A HOME IN INDIA, YOU SPEND YOUR TIME BAKING BIRTHDAY CAKES. GIVE US A FLAVOUR OF YOUR BAKING ADVENTURE.
This is the most amusing bit so far. I never in my wildest dreams thought I could bake a cake.
I think my cakes are fairly good, if not great, considering the sweet history they have had. But fairytale dreams of keeping cookies and cakes ready for my child continued growing. The reality was way different. To this day, I pray to God to be kind and bribe him with a small offering before pushing a cake into the oven. Beautifying and adorning comes more easily to me, so the final product has always looked fairly worthy of consumption. I did a cake for a friend for her child’s birthday – I must thank Moushmi for trusting me on this front. Now I happily bake once in a while for friends, as a hobby.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST PASSION – DANCE!
Dance is my second skin. It’s a joy, it’s sheer magic. Getting trained professionally just did not happen. It was a hard decision for me to make then. But I had to choose between sports and dance, and, at that point in time, I was representing my school at the state level competitions, in both badminton and table tennis. The rigorous training would start at 5:30 a.m.and would take my entire mornings away. Academics couldn’t be overlooked either. I had to make a choice then, so I chose sports over dance, as I was sailing through it well. My dad – a badminton and table tennis player himself, encouraged me further into it.
But, somehow, dance shows (freestyle) kept happening alongside throughout. Zurich, too, has given me the opportunity to get on stage once in a while. I am currently part of a dance troupe. Being on stage really gives me a kick, and as I write this… I get goosebumps.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE AS A PARENT ABOUT SCHOOLING IN SWITZERLAND?
‘How does one handle a situation, how does one conduct himself/herself in a particular social setting, how does one motivate the other to progress together ’ – this, for me, is more important than ‘how early in life does a child start to read and write and gather paperback data’. This training and guidance are very well adapted in the schools here, right from Kindergarten.
I love the simple methods they stick to. Children are taught to be together, integrate despite the socio-economic rank, and be independent and motivating. There could be wrong occurrences, but it could be very local. This is something I hope my country improves upon, where education and the methods are diverse and our economic status determines the kind of education our children get. I like the degree of support, permeability and access they give to various programs one wants to continue with, obviously not to mention the options they offer.
DO YOU LIKE IT HERE? WHAT DO YOU LOVE AND WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
Totally. The city’s beauty is striking. The respect citizens carry for what they are blessed with in terms of resources, nature, opportunities, the weather is worth learning. The city’s traditional styles of architecture that are seen as structures and facades of buildings and how they harmoniously interlace with the newer styles of structures around, the charming traditional facades wisely envelope the contemporary interiors considering all the heating and ventilation: all wrapped with the stunning and gifted landscape would make anyone want to soak themselves up here. In fact, I think I need to change myself to fit in here. This place has advanced so much that there is too much to discover and absorb