Manisha Dadlani-Kriplaney has had a rather well-journeyed life – born in Toronto, growing up in Ghana, back to Canada for her undergraduate degree and to England for a Masters followed by a three-year work stint in India; Manisha moved to Switzerland as a newly-wed with her husband in the winter of 2002. From being an advertising and media professional, she made a complete switch to being an English teacher at Klubschule Migros. Here’s her story.
A family of travellers and opportunity makers
“My grandparents were part of the many millions who trekked from the newly formed Pakistan in 1947 to Mumbai (then Bombay) with hardly anything except their skills and wit, to start a new life in young India.”
Manisha’s Sindhi grandparents had a barely sustainable income supplying garments for the vibrant film industry in Bombay – Bollywood. Being traders and merchants, they decided to look further afield for opportunities and moved to the newly independent nation of Ghana in West Africa. Manisha’s parents shifted to Toronto in the late 1970s, where she was born. “I don’t remember much of my early years in Toronto. Many of my memories are triggered by sepia-coloured photos in front of the Niagara Falls or in front of my homemade, doll-shaped birthday cakes,” she reminiscences.
Growing up in Ghana, Canada and Mumbai
Manisha’s parents moved back to Ghana when she was four. “My first clear memory of Ghana is actually the military coup d’état by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council headed by Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, which overthrew the then government of General Fred Akuffo. I remember the khaki-clad, uniformed soldiers coming to our house… the women of the house being secluded in a room upstairs… I remember my grandmother’s fervent praying for the safety of our family.”
Life wasn’t easy those days. There were constant electricity cuts and food shortages; but for Manisha, life never lacked in adventure. “My formative years were spent in Ghana. And they were the most incredible years of my life! We watched the country stabilize in the 80’s and transform in the 90’s to a democracy and a vibrant, modern nation. They were the days of completing my homework under the light of a kerosene lantern. I studied at The Ghana International School until I was eighteen. My school was like the United Nations with children from every country imaginable,” she recalls.
Manisha returned to Canada for her undergraduate degree and furthered her education, equipping herself with a Master’s degree in International Business and Economic Development in Reading, England. She spent the next few years in Mumbai working in advertising and media; staying with her paternal grandmother, for what she thought would be a few months. “Mumbai was to be an interim stepping stone before I returned to live in the West. I thought I had found my roots in this vibrant land and it would be home for evermore. I was mistaken!” she says.
Love, marriage and Zurich
Manisha met Vikram after living and working in Mumbai for two years. “A courtship of several months and a gazillion cups of ‘chai’ led to a proposal of marriage, which I gladly accepted. We married a few months later and I took my flight to Zurich to start a new life here.”
From Advertising to teaching English
Compared to Mumbai, Zurich was rather quiet. “Within a week I registered for my first German course and looked to make a few friends there. The months flew by and soon we realised that we were going to be parents! The next few years in Switzerland were immersed in motherhood as I had my first son, Nandin, and then a few years hence my second, Armaan.”
In the years between the children’s births, Manisha applied for several jobs in the field of marketing but realised that language was a huge barrier. “In retrospect, I realise that things happen for a reason. I can’t really remember what actually propelled me to embark on the intense training of the CELTA teaching course when Armaan was not even a year old. I just know that I’m glad I did.”
Manisha calls herself lucky to have landed a job soon after completing her training. She has been with Klubschule Migros ever since she started teaching. “A decade ago, English started being recognised as a significant global language to contend with; especially in this part of Europe. More and more companies were investing in their employees’ growth and career development through enhancing their language skills. Company language classes started becoming popular and I was able to fill the growing demand as a trained and certified teacher.”
Teaching adults (beginners to advanced learners) allows Manisha the flexibility of schedule. “My classes are varied. I could be requested to teach individuals who have specific requirements – like creating a presentation for an English-speaking audience or sprucing up their business English skills to enrol in an MBA course in English. Or, I could get company group classes that are tailor-made to build English skills predominantly for work.
An avid reader, who reads and reads more
“I can happily immerse myself in the world of reading for hours. I will read most genres with the exception of horror. I don’t know what it would take to make me read a Stephen King book!” Manisha’s passion for reading started at the age of seven, when she discovered Enid Blyton in her best friend’s library. “She had a floor to ceiling shelf of books and I would borrow them and dive into Blyton’s world of Magic Far Away Trees or the Adventures of the Secret Seven and Famous Five,” she remembers nostalgically.
Life in general in Switzerland
“I like to describe Switzerland as wholegrain bread – wholesome and full of goodness. It’s not surprising that Switzerland ranks high among countries to live in. With a strong educational system, well-paid jobs and an unmatched sense of security, I know it’s the right place to have my children grow up and flourish in.”
Nonetheless, she admits that when she first journeyed here a decade-and-a-half ago, Zurich was not the easiest place to feel at home. Recollecting from her experiences, she says that to make Switzerland home and grow your roots here, you should:
• Find a friend that you can rely on. Someone who can count on you and you can count on in return.
• Build a network that sparks your soul and ignites your purpose. This could be by joining a few clubs like a book club or a sports group. You will be surprised at how many resources are out there. Online groups are great as well and provide tons of companionship; especially for those living out of the city. If there isn’t a club or group that meets your needs or isn’t accessible, create one!
• Go local. Integrate by getting to know your neighbours and accessing your local community centres (Gemeinschaftszentren). Enjoy the free libraries here. Many, such as the Pestalozzi-Bibliothek, have books, games and films that we can borrow for a modest, subsidised fee.
• Find a GP (Hausartz) and paediatrician (Kinderartz) that you are comfortable with. There is nothing more reassuring than knowing your loved ones are medically cared for by doctors that you are familiar and content with.
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