URAJ- “A LEARNING LADDER!”

8:15 am. Interlaken West station. My son and I were eagerly waiting on one side of the platform for the train to Bern. On the opposite side was a group of six. It included my husband, his mother and our close friends. They were heading for Mt Titlis. Today, for the first time during our travel, we had split into two groups. Before parting ways we all decided to meet at Lucerne for the boat ride at 3 pm. Little did we know what experience was in store for us that day!

9:30 am. The beautiful and ancient capital of Switzerland fascinated us with its mystical charm. Our short but memorable excursion was conducted very efficiently by my fourteen-year old son. He took over between the two of us and I am glad I allowed him to do so as he planned everything to meticulous perfection. My first step on the learning ladder — entrust responsibility of important tasks to your children, have complete faith in them and just be by their side. Sure enough, they will never let you down.. A traditional Swiss fondue in an outdoor restaurant was just the perfect way to conclude our tour. In retrospect I would like to say that when in Switzerland always opt for outdoor seating in restaurants and cafes. The scenic beauty of their locations and the purity of the air we inhale is a rarity back home.

3 pm Lucerne. The punctuality of the Swiss Rail is truly commendable. One can set the watch according to their arrival and departure timings! 3:10 pm- Lake Lucerne. All well and good. From here begins that unforgettable experience that encouraged me to write this blog — A LEARNING LADDER.

We spent exactly four hours in Lucerne. It was an endless wait. Our group of six did not return. Initially we were enjoying the scenic views of Lake Lucerne and Chapel Bridge but as the clock ticked by with no sign of our group I started becoming restless and a little anxious too. Each one of us had a mobile phone but none had a local calling card. We never thought we would need it. Here is where I took a second step on my learning ladder — while travelling abroad always take a local calling card. It is extremely important! The clocked ticked by and our anxiety increased as we tried to analyse all possible reasons for their delay.

6:30 pm. My instinct told me that we should return back to Interlaken, to our rented apartment and wait for them over there. Trying to stay levelheaded I assumed that surely some unexpected thing must have come up, otherwise, it would not be that my husband whose always punctual would be delayed so much. With feelings of mixed emotions we retraced our steps back to Lucerne station. As a last resort, we gave the details of our group to the railway authorities in case they inquired about us.

7:05 train. Lucerne to Interlaken. 1 hour 50 minute journey. My son and I were both lost in our own thoughts and an otherwise fun and pleasurable journey now cut through in complete in complete silence. Each one driven by their own musings. Alighting at Interlaken station, we hurriedly made our way to the familiar bus stop. The bus dropped us right near our apartment. To my utter disbelief, the entire building was pitch dark. The apartment belonged to a vet whose clinic was on the ground level. He himself stayed on the first floor and had rented the second and third floors to tourist groups (later i came to know that he was also in Bern). We didn’t even have the keys to our apartment on the third floor.

So here we were; tired and apprehensive, standing on the pavement opposite to our apartment, not knowing what to do or where to go, except WAIT. Our constant evaluation of the possible reasons for delay, flared our trepidation and also killed our hunger. The only security I felt I had were the Swiss Francs and Euros that I had with me since morning. My third step on the learning ladder — the currency of the country is a big strength in the face of adversity. Always keep a little extra currency while travelling.

We were running out of patience stranded here for quite some time. A group of six responsible adults cold not be lost for sure. Then what could have happened? Why had they not reached back home? Were they still at Lucerne trying to find us? But it wouldn’t take them so long… It was at this juncture that i decided to take a bold step. To approach the police. I am using the word “bold” because back home we always hesitate to take help from the police. It was already night, hardly anyone on the road, everything seemed quiet, dark and menacing. I attribute it more to my mental state. We needed help. I asked my son his opinion and he also thought that we should seek help from the police as that seemed the safest thing to do.

Now to find the cab to the police station. No cabs are freely available on the road. One needs to call for a cab or walk up to a cab-station. Two localites were walking down the road. I asked their phone to call the cab. Destination? Police station. They were genuinely concerned for us but it took me sometime before I could explain to them the situation. They did not understand English and we did not understand Swiss-German. A language barrier. My fourth step on the ladder came very soon. One must familiarize at least a few key phrases of the language of the country one visits. It can prove to be a big travel asset. A cab was called. The driver would charge us ten francs to the police station.

9:50 pm. Interlaken police station. Another unusual sight. The police station was locked. The officials were not inside but outside on a night patrol duty. Initially it did not register with us because we have never seen a police station which is locked…not even in movies… The cab driver was very helpful. Not only did he call the police but also waited with me. In no time two policemen arrived at the scene. Amidst tight security, they unlocked the police station and we were whisked in an elevator to some top level. Soon they wired Bern, Geneva, Lucerne and Mt Titlis to find the whereabouts of our lost group. They inquired for any casualties that were reported. The word casualty brought a sinking feeling to my heart. All this while I was trying to suppress any negative thoughts and trying to stay as calm as possible. I did not want to upset my son who also going through similar emotions. A zillion thoughts crossed my mind. There was no casualty reported. The police empathized with us but nothing could be done at that moment. They told us to go back to the apartment and wait. In case they did not return by morning, the police would launch a manhunt. We thanked the police and came down. the cab driver was still waiting for us. He was an angel in disguise. He did not charge the return fare from us but was only concerned for the safety of our family and friends. One more step on the learning ladder — there are many beautiful souls in the world. Only if we can perceive their kindness and in turn do good to others…we continue this chain reaction forever.

10:25 pm. Cab halts near our apartment. We can see bright lights on level 3. We thank our angel friend for all his help and support. Both of us rushed upstairs. Our family and friends were back home, safe and sound. What a relief!!!

Mt Titlis had a staggering figure of 6000 tourists that day. A record was set thus causing a delay. Our group of six would have been in time, had they not missed their train from Engelberg precisely by only one minute. Reason? The famous MUMBAI VADA PAV at Mt Titlis:)

I was given many alternatives as to what I should have done in the past seven and a half hours. Some suggested that I should have avoided the encounter with the police. Others felt that I should have waited for still more time. Still others thought that I should have not left Lucerne. Opinions are many and suggestions innumerable. It has happened with us so many times before that whenever we take a crucial decision, we are not sure whether it is right or wrong. There may always be a possibility of a better and more justifiable option. That mere thought waivers our faith in our decisions. I conclude here with one more step on my learning ladder — I feel a decision can never be right or wrong. It is a resolution taken by an individual at that point of time based on one’s own choices and circumstances. We must keep faith in our decisions, respect them, take responsibility of our actions and courageously move ahead in life!!!!