Bollywood Peaks

Switzerland is interesting.

It’s beautiful. It’s not broken or dishevelled. It’s not shiny and busy. Driving in, it reminds me of the calendars from my childhood home. Snow peaked mountains, clear lakes and velvet grass. Wooden homes, with flower pots on window sills, tucked in at odd spaces. As we pass hotels, the neutral Swiss flag waves enthusiastically. Right next to it, the Indian tri-colour is just as happy.

India’s obsession with this landscape is well documented. Switzerland has for years been the go-to location for romantic Bollywood escapades. Nothing quiet says romance as whisking a girl, dressed in a soft pastel sari, from the busy streets of Mumbai to an isolated mountain top near Lucerne, and proclaiming your love, preferably in song. Naturally, the whole country is sold on the ticket. Every year bus loads of tour groups make this cinematic pilgrimage, pointing their cameras at where Bollywood royalty once danced. I just didn’t realize how strong, or influential, the Indian contingent would be. I hear more Indian accents than German. And there’s a touch of spice in the air.

It’s one thing to put up flags and customize service for your biggest customer base, but to pick up popular Indian phrases and use them with absolute comfort, is an effort that gets noticed. I can’t help but smile when the cable car guy shouts, “Chalo, chalo, shanti se chalo!” or when he whoops out, “Ganpati Bappa, Maurya!” on our safe return. His audience is giddy with joy. This is a story that will be told over several rounds of Kingfisher. And be written about on blogs.

On the mountain top things are a blinding white with a smudging of dark woollens. Everything seems in order till I catch a flash of bright green. There’s something very familiar about that green. Box-office, block buster familiar. Non-Indian tourists give the bright cut-outs a confused look over. Indians break into a big grin. Standing in the snow are two Bollywood superstars, in a still from one of the most successful films of all time, a movie that passes through Switzerland, full of cow bells, mountains and of course song-and-dance. These are after all Bollywood mountain tops.