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No Bollywood in the Alps
Subhankar Sarkar swapped Calcutta for Landquart and “Phir Milenge” for “Uf Wiederluaga”. The development engineer has found a challenging new career with CEDES, but part of his life is yet to arrive in Graubünden.
Before arriving in Switzerland, Subhankar Sarkar, 29, knew as much about the country as most of the rest of the 1.3-billion-strong Indian population: that it was in the Alps and that the Alps were beautiful. Mountains have been a symbol of love in Bollywood for more than half a century: a place for dancing, kissing and tying the knot. But Bollywood has no place in this story. After all, what Subhankar knew about Switzerland on arrival pales in comparison to what he learned after crossing the border on 29 April 2019: that people would casually refer to him as “Subi”, what “Uf Wiederluaga” meant, and that you can live a decent life in a place with a population that is 1,670 times less than that of Calcutta.
A development engineer with drive.
He now lives in his own apartment in Landquart, not far from the station. However, it was not the romantic mountains on the horizon that drew Subhankar to the area, but a job: development engineer in the R&D division at CEDES. At the CEDES Science Park, a building complex with a prominent test tower a short distance outside the heart of the village, he spends his working time manufacturing equipment designed to test products automatically and save time and money in the process. “I invest a lot in my job.”
“What I like most about my job is how challenging it is.”
Whenever Subhankar takes the nearby cable car up into the mountains, he takes out his smartphone, opens the camera app, stretches his arm out, smiles and takes a snap. That’s because, unlike all the Bollywood stereotypes, his great love is not with him, but 496 kilometres away in Chemnitz, where the two continued their engineering studies after completing their bachelor degrees in Calcutta. Their love of looking behind the scenes, for all things technological, for understanding and problem-solving is what binds them. They married back home on 10 March 2020 with plans to fly to the Alps afterwards. But their honeymoon weeks ended up being weeks of quarantine. It was not until the end of April that Subhankar was able to return to Switzerland on a repatriation flight. “The only problem here is the loneliness,” he says. It’s especially hard for him on Sundays when even the shops are shut.
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A good working environment.
Two things help him to overcome the loneliness: the Internet and the people he works with. “I never expected the working environment to be so good,” he says. He often goes for lunch with his colleagues. “I like the Swiss way, friendly but direct.” His colleagues help out wherever they can, and they are very understanding of his struggles with the language. Completing a B2-level German course might be enough for normal chatting, but not for talking shop. But Subhankar doesn’t let that kind of thing hold him back. He simply looks up technical terms on Google. When asked about his job, he responds: “What I like most is how challenging it is.” For him, it is important to keep learning.
As soon as she finds a job, Subhankar’s wife will come and join him in Graubünden. Both of them are planning to stay in the area for at least 10 years, perhaps even to start a family. Until that happens, Subhankar will continue to take out his smartphone, put his arm out, smile and take a snap. After all, there are two platitudes that ring true outside of Bollywood too: the Alps are beautiful, and all things beautiful become even better when you have someone to share them with.