RIP Yash Chopra… the legendary Bollywood film director/producer who taught us to romance in our dreams and roll in the Swiss Pastures as if we were all born in the mountainous lap of the Alps.
I have grown up believing in romance. Believing that all romances culminated themselves on snow-clad Swiss Alps or running down the hill slope in a tiny Swiss Village. Courtesy, Bollywood films. I am an absolute Bollywood freak. Tragedy breaks my heart and Romance mends it. Real money takes you to Switzerland in reality. And an empty wallet takes you to Switzerland as well, but in your dreams. Either which way, you are bound to head to the Alps. Again, all courtesy Bollywood.
Needless to mention that the Switzerland was our first holiday to a foreign (pronounced phoreign) land after we could gather some savings. And all because of Yash Chopra who not only sold us Swiss dreams but earned himself enough reputation in the Swiss land to have a lake named after him!
Below is a song from one of his films… have I been too naive for believing in love?
Our Story – When Mars, Venus and their 2 satellites went on a vacation
– A room with a view…
– A peek at the flea market…
– A comfy sedan while on road…
– Sports cars are too cramped and Motor-bikes merely mess the hair…
– Art Museums please…
– A room with a view is such a waste of money – how does it matter whether a room has a view or a wallpaper if we are going to ‘dump’ ourselves at night?
– Flea Market? Why? Are we going to buy anything that is second-hand? If at all we ended up buying something, we can’t be cleaning everything with a sanitiser!
– Sedan? Why? Why hire a car which we are already driving back home? Why not a ‘buddy’ Jeep Wrangler?
– Art Museums? Why not war museums, comic museums, beer museums?
A kaleidoscopic clash between Mars and Venus…The ‘Big Bang Theory’ re-visits every now and then when Mars, Venus and their 2 little satellites go on a vacation! Mars and Venus need to thank their stars that the satellites haven’t yet formed their own opinions about vacations.
Invariably, during a holiday planning, compatibility and incompatibility issues crop up between Mars and Venus. Always, everytime and without any fail! The tug of war starts from the time Venus and Mars decide that it is probably time for a vacation.
Question: When should we leave?
Mars: Obviously on the last day of school so that we can hop on the flight the very evening, travel through the night and can start partying from the very next day.
Venus: That is impossible since I need to go shopping for the vacation.
Mars: What shopping? We have clothes hanging out of every chair, every shelf, every cupboard, every bed, under the bed and every conceivable piece of space!
If the destination is blue seas and the blue skies, then:
Venus: But I need a new swimsuit and a wrap around
Venus: Well, I’m not fitting into my old ones!
If the destination is cool mountains, then:
Venus: But I need some warm clothes and maybe a pair of boots.
Venus: Well, I’m not fitting into my old ones. Plus, my old boots don’t fit me either! (Isn’t History known to repeat itself?)
In both cases:
Mars: But you just a bought a ______ few months back. I mean I am wearing the same swimming trunk from my Srilanka days, a decade back!
Clothes can become tight, but shoes? Am I still growing in all possible ways? Many people say that the wisdom tooth can come out even when one is 40, so maybe some amount of growth from my ‘growth quota’ must have remained unused!
Question: Where are we going?
Mars: Car loans, house loans, insurance payments, school fees – remember? So think less, my darling!
Venus: But I didn’t insist on a holiday, did I? I mean, I never insist on holidays, do I? But I am not going to stay in holiday apartments. Remember the last time when we had to make our own breakfasts and that too on holidays?
A few minutes pass.
Mars: Hey, can you check whether there are chalets on the beach?
Venus: But we thought this was going to be a budget holiday!
Mars: Hey please, only for this time. The next time we have to be really, really, very, very cautious! But for this time try to find a hotel which is just known for it’s food!
After much debate, arguments, sweet-talkings, discussions, brainstormings, tele-conversations with closest friends, shopping and purchase of Lonely Planet, Mars, Venus and their two little satellites board the plane…
And the story begins. Short stories, based at different locales.
On our way driving from Zell am See, Austria to Strobl, also in Austria. My estimated drive time is 2 hrs. And how long did we take finally? It took us 12 hours! The reason being Mars’ reluctance to depend on Venus’ navigation ability!
The challenges that lie with us when we travel – apart from the fact being that the both of us hail from different planets, are our 2 satellites! Strapped behind in the car seats for more than 2 hours at a stretch boils down to screaming and yelling and downright hysteria! Hence, all my itineraries are planned remembering this challenge. We are driving from a beautiful town on the lake, Zell in Austria to another Austrian town called Strobl in the lake districts. My estimate take on the drive-time is a maximum of 2 hours.
Starting Point: Zell am See, Austria…End Point – Strobl in Salzkammergut district, Austria…
Carrying a huge map of Europe which, when unfolded could serve us as picnic mat whenever we want to stop, can be really super cool. The younger satellite doesn’t know her alphabets but every now and then would yell M-M-M… it turned out to be the letter M from poles barging out of Mc Donald’s outlets every 2kms (or even lesser) on the highway! Hardly flattering for Mummy Dear who has been thinking all this while that M was for Mummy learnt from the Alphabet book. But, no. Such simple pleasures are really hard to find!
The very same day the Rain-gods also decided to be on the little ones’ side. We now had an additional instrument added to the background score as well – the thunderstorms! Our ears had to get accustomed to the alternate sounds of satellites’ screaming to let them out, the yellings for ‘M’ and the thunderstorm breaking upon our car-roofs. The incessant rain-boulders (how can I even term them as rain-drops?) giving the already existing cacophony a great company.
Where are we heading? Mars had obviously decided to depend upon the car Navigator instead of my meticulous route plans and my trusted hard-bound, paper-bound, plastic-bound, software bound – different kinds of maps! Oh, the Navigator – I call her Navigator Mashi or the Aunt Navigator! We hadn’t managed to make our Aunt Navigator to speak in English. So here she was, our Aunt Navigator, speaking in German, which we were learning at a speed of 1 hour class/week! So ‘Ausfahrt zwanjig’ (Exit 20) would but, obviously sound different to our German-Untrained ears leading to a typical conversation like this:
Mars: I think it was Zehn (10)!
Venus: Are you sure?, Sorry, sorry I wasn’t even concentrating!
Mars: What do you do sitting beside me? Your job is to listen to Navigator Mashi (Mashi is Aunt in Bengali)!
Venus: What do you mean by ‘it’s my job’? Am I not doing anything? I am constantly providing the satellites with biscuits and wipes. I even change the nappies in the running car while they are strapped into their car seats and then again hurdle back to my seat in the front!
Mars: Well, I shouldn’t be the only one to drive the whole day long! You should have sat for your German Driving License. If for nothing, but for the sheer driving pleasure on European highways. Specially the Autobahns.
Venus: I have been giving examinations since my birth. Do I have to keep on giving driving tests all over the world every time we shift? I have had enough of tests and tensions to get my UAE license, I can’t go through this at every stage of my life! (we had been living in the UAE before that where it took me ages to get my Driving License. Those were the days when getting an UAE Driver’s License was as difficult as grabbing the moon!)
Mars: But, you said that it is going to take us 2 hours only.
Venus: Yes, that is what the internet said.
Mars: Don’t trust the internet!
Venus: You are so confused. If I ask you anything, then you ask me to look in the internet!
Mars: We are driving for 4 hours now!
Venus: What? 4 hours? The satellites have gone completely berserk.
Mars: Relax, By an hour, their batteries would be completely down and they will fall asleep!
Venus: And that would be exactly when we would have reached the place where we have to get off and pull them out of their sleep and their car seats!
Mars: Are you actually tracking our drive in the map?
Venus: I was initially. But after Navigator Mashi confused us, I have stopped.
Mars: Please, check in your map.
Venus: Do you admit that you should have depended on me?
Mars: Yup! Pleeeeee-ase check!
Venus: OMG! What have you done? Navigator Mashi is showing Strobl (that too Hotel Strobl) in Italy!
Venus: We have to go to Strobl in Austria!
Mars: We are already in Italy? How far away from Austria? Are we only in the border? What? What? What?
Venus: Ask your Aunt Navigator!
We were headed to Hotel Strobl. It was in a place called Sesto, near Milan! Almost 405 kms away from Strobl, Austria! The estimated damage was that we were almost 100 kms into Italy and would probably have to drive back another 300 kms to reach Strobl (in Austria, that is). Alas, the original distance from Zell to Stroble had been only 154kms!
That day we travelled for 12 hours! With no apparent view to enjoy. And the worst rains that we had seen in our stay in Europe! But, I must say that the 12 hours of chaos the previous day was absolutely erased the next day when the sun came out and the hills were alive with the Sound of Music!The Austrian Lake district, the Salzkammergut is absolutely enchanting. According to folklore, it took millions of years for Mother Nature to create the Alps. Then the glaciers cut through them and blessed the Alpine valleys with rivers and streams. The hotel brochures here proclaim that Salzkammergut was created at God’s leisure, obviously on a Sunday!
These are the lakes that have been picturised so brilliantly in the movie The Sound of Music and these are the same valleys that Maria, played so beautifully by Julie Andrews and the 7 children of Captan Von Trapp played by Christopher Plummer, ran around. I think I was hearing the tune of Do-Re-Me-Fa… almost everywhere.
It still seems to be linger in the crystal blue skies and the lush verdant valleys. Every year, a music competition, ‘The Sound of Music’ Competition is held in Salzburg. There are original ‘Sound of Music City Tours’ which takes tourists around all the places that have been showed in the movie – the Abbey where Maria lived, Captain Von Trapp’s chalet (it has quite obviously been converted into a hotel – Hotel Villa Trapp!), the glass room where the famous song ‘I am sixteen, going on seventeen…’ was picturised, the lake where the Von Trapp children’s boat had capsized…
Apart from the scenes and locations, the tour also gives information on the movie, cast, information about the Broadway Musical, The Sound of Music Souvenir Shop, The Sound of Music Stamp Collection!Captain Von Trapp was not a fictitious character. The movie was indeed based on him. Bless him for giving such a script idea to the Americans! Was he really so authoritative like the one shown in the actual movie? Studies say, probably not. He was far more quiet than his movie character. However, in real life he really did use a whistle to address his children! It seems that his great grand daughter defends this act on the ground that the estate of their family home was so vast that it was impossible to call out to the children but to whistle!
Did the real Captain Von Trapp ever imagine that Hollywood would make him into an iconic movie character?
And not to mention these Golden Tours. How did it all begin? Which is the most authentic tour? Among many such tours the Panorama Tours claim that theirs is the original Sound of Music Tour. According to them in 1965 ‘Our buses were used by the film crew and our limousines carried the stars. After the release of the film, many fans came to Salzburg asking the original sites – and our drivers could naturally guide them. That’s how the ‘Original Sound of Music Tour’ started’!
Bollywood and it’s connection to Switzerland
This brings me to our Indian film industry, specifically Bollywood. Or rather, Bollywood’s connection to Switzerland. For the uninitiated, Bollywood is our desi (Indianised) version of ‘Hollywood’. Bollywood is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai (formally known as Bombay in India). Infact, Bollywood happens to be the largest film producer in India and boasts of being one of the largest centers of film production in the world. And we are still stuck with issues like population while playing the Ranking game!
As admitted earlier, I am a total Bollywood freak. I am crazy about Bollywood films, Bollywood songs, all the over-the-top picturisation of romance and dream sequences. I love it when the hero who lives in the slums breaks into a dance sequence with the heroine, only in his dreams though, in exotic foreign locales! Some may get offended by this stereo-typical typecast of Bollywood films. I agree, that today’s Bollywood is not only about dream sequences but much more. There are so many different kinds of films being made as well. Most often, the critics term them as ‘unconventional’ as well!
So what is conventional? A conventional Bollywood film probably would be (or used to be in earlier) – The poor hero falls in love with a shamelessly rich girl. They don’t date. They dance. They dream. And they dance in their dreams. They change their designer clothes a dozen times. They prance in the Swiss Alps. They hurl snowballs at each other… It’s freezing cold but the heroine wears a halter neck blouse and wears a transparent (or should I describe it as translucent) saree, the 6-yard of clothing that would wrap the heroine and yet seem like she’s wearing a bodice! She spreads her arms out in the chill. Unperturbed by the fact that she is probably standing on the snow capped peak in the Swiss Alps, the Jungfraujoch, the highest peak in Europe!
Yash Chopra, Bollywood and Switzerland
These are the kind of Bollywood films that make me feel good. And I must thank Yash Chopra, the veteran Bollywood director for that. Yash Chopra is undoubtedly India’s most successful film-maker. And most importantly, India’s most successful ‘Bollywood’ film-maker. He has shot so many of his films in Switzerland, and has thereby, indirectly promoted Switzerland as a foreign holiday destination to millions of people in the sub-continent.
What has he got in return? A lake in Switzerland has been unofficially named The Chopra Lake because he has used this lake so many times in so many of his films! And to top it all, he has been honoured by the Swiss Government for rediscovering Switzerland, becoming the first recipient of the title of Ambassador of Interlaken. A special Yash Chopra Suite and Yash Chopra Train were also inaugurated in his honour in Interlaken only last year.
Our Swiss Experience of Bollywood Mania
It was way back in 2000, when we had gone to Switzerland on our first foreign holiday. Quite obviously, our destination was courtesy the visions of romanticism connected with Yash Chopra films! But I felt absolutely dumb when I came across people who were so loyal to Bollywood.
I met families who came all the way from Pakistan or India without any planned travel itinerary, asking us where they should go to find that station picturised in Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayenge – an Yash Chopra film Shahrukh Khan, the hero of the film meets Kajol, the heroine! It was unbelievable that they had travelled from so far, just to see a scene that they had seen in a film.
There was another instance when we met a pair of visibly harassed parents with two sons who had come all the way from from Jaipur, India. Their sons clearly did not want to see anything but the lake where another Bollywood hero, Govinda had been seen romancing the heroine, Karishma Kapoor in yet another Bollywood movie Hero No. 1!
I saw newly-wed couples from the subcontinent, walking hand in hand and actually singing and dancing just like they have seen in Bollywood films, around the lake in Interlaken!
I saw people taking numerous pictures at the railway station where Shahrukh Khan meets Kajol for the first time in the now historical (pun intended!) film Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayenge!
A decade back, these hapless tourists didn’t have a clue as to the exact Swiss locales where the scenes were shot. They would just roam around Switzerland randomly. Bollywood brought droves of tourists from the subcontinent to the highest point of Europe – the Jungfraujoch. The proof being that the only café on the top of Europe is actually called The Bollywood Café!
I always thought why couldn’t someone come up with a concept like The Bollywood Journey in the Swiss Alps as an inspired concept from The Original Sound of Music Tour?
A decade later, people have invested in my ideas!
YRF (Yash Chopra Films) Enchanted Journey
We have YRF (Yash Chopra Films) Enchanted Journey on offer from big tour companies like SOTC! Now, you can actually visit those very sites where Yash Chopra shot some of the memorable songs and scenes of his numerous super hit films, right from Chandni to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and many more, in a guided tour right through Switzerland! Tourists visiting Switzerland as part of this package get to visit the original locations of films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein, Veer-Zaara, Chandni, Darr and Bachna Ae Haseeno.
This unique YRF Enchanted Journey, is really the first of its kind anywhere in the world that focuses on a particular filmmaker’s fascination with locations in a country!
The Swiss Government must be forever indebted to Yash Chopra. Last year, a dinner was hosted by the Consulate General of Switzerland in Mumbai and Switzerland Tourism – The Switzerland-DILWALE DULHANIYA LE JAYENGE formal dinner, to felicitate Yash Chopra’s blockbuster film’s unit for the successful running of their film for over 500 weeks. Isn’t that absolutely crazy? That’s about nine and a half years!Coming back to Mars and Venus, they argue, they fight over almost everything with reference to their holidays. They are ‘holiday-incompatibles’. The only thing that makes them ‘holiday-compatibles’ is the fact that they love to travel!
Their viewpoints hardly ever match.
– Spectacular views and breathtaking scenery…
– Austrian cakes & strudels…
– Humming ‘Do-Re-Me-Fa…’ as she would like to wander through the lush green valleys, see the snow-capped mountains and walk along the green hillsides…
– Feel the shiver of excitement as historical wonders…
– Maybe, just maybe a beautiful Swedish massage in one of the spas overlooking the lakes!
– Real relaxation with 24 hours service of chilled beer – just keep the beer cartons outside on the terrace, do the earth a favour by not using the refrigerator…
– Austrian coffee and lots of sausages and steaks (raw, perhaps?)…
– Driving a convertible along the beautiful roads along the shores of ‘oh-so-many’ lakes with the chill in the air sweeping across the face…
– How the heck did these men climb up through the mountains without any road and build all these?
-A luxury yacht gliding along the lake… already at 40, maybe there’s no more chances to own a yacht…
For every incident that I have mentioned Mars’ arrogance in putting me down in our holidays, I feel absolutely obliged to narrate a few others when Mars’ contribution had been immense.
– During the entire trip to the Disney Castle in Neuschwanstein, the younger satellite had replaced Mars’ backpack and slept comfortably and snuggly in his arms while we went up the narrow stairs of the castle and through the various rooms that we visited – almost 2 hours of carrying the satellite in his arms while Venus clicked photos and listened intently to the guide!
– Baby-sitting the satellites while Venus insisted that she wanted to see what was real Amsterdam all about – the red-light district and the hullabaloo surrounding Amsterdam!
– Requesting the chef in Srilanka’s Taj Bentota Hotel to almost send the entire dinner buffet in a small sample trolley as room service, when Venus couldn’t go down to the dining room as she was putting the satellites to sleep when the satellites crashed much before the dinner time!
– Baby-sitting the satellites mostly through all the flights and bribing them with videos and movies and snacks and savories so that Venus can sleep through all her flights – so that she is all fresh and ready when she lands on the country they visit!
The incidents of this post refers to the period when the Satellites were a bit younger. Now they have evolved in real life as well as in my blog as The Z-SISTERS. I could go on and on extolling Mars’ virtues. Whatever said and done, the arguments will persist. We will probably be holiday-compatibles, I would say. Well, almost! But we are determined to keep on traveling. As the title of Yash Chopra’s unfinished and as declared by the director himself, probably his last film Jab Tak Hai Jaan/Till we breathe our last breath!
UnBlogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals taken from our personal albums. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.
Our Other European Travel Banters:
The Magic of Christmas! – Kolkata, Frankfurt, Dubai
Smuggled into Godfather’s Sicily – Italy
The unlikely twins – Oberammergau & Kolkata
Rainbows, Violins and the Disney Castle – Bavaria
Lorelei, my ship has passed you by – Germany