I giggled when one of the Namaste Switzerland founding members, Aradhna Sethi probed if I’d like to share my experiences of searching for a life partner in Switzerland. I was shy, but also interested to reflect upon it. So, in this article, I go down my memory lane and share my exploration and encounters with love in Switzerland.
Some three years ago, I came to Switzerland as a master’s student at The Graduate Institute, Geneva (IHEID). I remember I was jumping with joy for having made into one of the world’s prestigious institutes. It was, however, amusing that the image of Switzerland was a bigger fascination for my friends and family in India than that of the institution per se. They curiously joked, “Who goes to Switzerland to study?” After all, thanks to Bollywood, Switzerland remains an epitome of romance and love to many, including them – and me.
That freakish phone call
For me, love and Switzerland did not really resonate. As soon as I joined IHEID, studies completely engulfed me in their fold. I was swamped with assignments, research projects, and the marathon to classes never ended. In no time, I grabbed the consultancy position at one of the United Nations organizations. Now, managing temporality of short-term contracts, intense travels, and work pressure did not give me space to think about anything else. Love had of course taken a backseat for me until the day I received a call from home.
My parents shared they would like to find someone for me to marry. I escaped the conversation thinking they were not serious. But eventually, I realized that they were actually very serious. Oh my God! I freaked out as I did not want to leave Switzerland for at least a few years.
The search for love
I asked myself if I really wanted to love in life or not. I agreed, deep down, I wanted it. After all, didn’t I end up singing DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge) songs to myself or recalled King Khan driving in his red car amid picturesque Interlaken and majestic mountains of Zermatt? Yes, embarrassing but true. So, began my arduous search for love.
From dating apps and networking sites to matrimony websites, I left nothing. My profile was on all platforms I possibly knew. However, the chance to come across a like-minded individual remained limited. Soon, I reached out to Indian families in Switzerland for possible references, but they could not recall anyone on top of their minds. Then, I reached out to my women seniors and friends for guidance, but they seemed to be in the same boat as me. So, the search for love became more complex than I had expected. I felt I was being constantly tossed between the bowl of hope and despair… more despair than hope…
Covid-19 & Reality Check
Eventually, I decided to take some time off and go to India to fix my love mystery. I vividly remember how I rushed into packing my stuff for the last flight to India in March 2020, just before the lockdown. But, like many other fellow-Indians, I could not go back. I felt desperate to leave – but was trapped at the same time. Today, I am glad that I did not flee. I feel restrictions of Covid-19 came as a much-needed reality check for me.
- Caring Surroundings – Honestly, I was amazed to see that my colleagues, friends, and roommates went the extra mile to keep a close check on my physical health and emotional well-being during the lockdown. Their willingness to help, listen, cheer, and keep in touch stirred me to the core. I ended up asking myself if I have been ignoring the signs of love that exist around me.
- Heart-warming Connections – During the pandemic, restrictions on movement surprised me with the discovery of heart-warming connections around me. For example, bumping into the same people often sprinkled smiles and laughter in ordinary days, and added a subtle layer of familiarity with the neighbourhood. It was also striking how regular visits to the shops forged homely connections with the staff at multiple stores. I feel happy to especially mention the florist who does not understand my language, but now knows about my favorite flowers, the Sri Lankan guys who often pick fresh okra and coconut water for me, and the lady at the pharmacy who comes forward to help knowing I will have endless questions for her.
Amid regular connections, there have been numerous accounts which became memorable for me. I still recall the innocent amazement of the French-speaking kids who surrounded me when I practised Bollywood dance in their school in the evenings and the deep sense of connection with a woman who accidentally spoke with me at the supermarket and ended up sharing her vulnerability and tears.
- The Welcoming Indian Community in Switzerland – The lockdown turned out to be a catalyst to closely know Indian families in Switzerland. When I could not go back home in India during the winter break, some of the Indian families offered that I stay with them. Their love and warmth remain an unforgettable experience. Also, it feels liberating to get in touch with the inspiring women community in Geneva and other parts of Switzerland through WhatsApp Groups and words of mouth. I am so thankful for their care and guidance. I wonder how I could miss them all this time!
- Bonding with the self – Being by myself during the pandemic, compelled me to spend time on self-care. I find that my relationship with my own self has become unbelievably stronger. Sometimes, I have been my own parent who is protective and showering affection, and sometimes I have been the light-hearted child who is blowing soap bubbles and drawing colourful ice-creams in her personal diary. Probably, for the first time, could I spend as much time hearing my inner voice, practice mindfulness, and develop new hobbies like bird watching and nature journaling. The exploration of the self has instilled in my acceptance and appreciation for myself. It sounds cheesy, but I do feel proud to have fallen in love with myself.
The New Valentine’s Day
This Valentine’s Day is special. It comes with an acknowledgement of the Universe bestowing love on me in myriad ways. It is embedded in the discovery of stronger bonds with self, people, and nature around. It is wrapped with the gratitude for the wonders and gifts of life in all its forms and colours.
Wait…Don’t get me wrong. I am still fond of those larger-than-life romantic Bollywood movies of the 1990s and I still dream of Mr Love entering my wonderland of life. Who knows, maybe you will get to read a spicy ‘love story in Switzerland’ and not ‘story of love in Switzerland’ next Valentine’s Day!
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About the Author
Niti Deoliya is an International Consultant at a UN agency named International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva. She is an ambitious, cheerful and people-loving person. She enjoys dancing, meditation, and being close to nature. Niti aspires to be a known development practitioner in the world and also dreams to be an acclaimed author, and a changemaker in the political landscape of India someday.
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