Flying in to Geneva for a hastily cobbled signing ceremony to coincide with the Geneva Motor Show on a Friday, I had the sinking feeling of yet another weekend wasted. A Friday signing is often a Sunday midnight ceremony when the front and the back-end of an issue appear the same to the bushed lawyers, but the corporate honchos are well rested for the signing. For once, the lawyerly instinct proved wrong and signing occurred as scheduled, leaving me loose in Geneva for the weekend.
Several beseeching BlackBerry messages later I located, imposed upon, and anointed as my hosts two exceptionally gifted Swiss lawyers I first encountered as students in Vienna about a decade ago. Debora and Alois got married in the meantime, and having worked in a leading London firm, opted for the quieter life in Geneva a year back. On the ride to their house in a small village overlooking a hill called Le Salève, they explained how outrageously overpriced city apartments are. Having lived in the lush greens of Maida Vale in London, those pigeonholes were simply not suitable. Their city centre commute takes roughly 15 minutes by car and a little more by bus. The buses in Geneva actually adhere to a timetable—a novelty for a Londoner.
Towards the evening, we drive to the top of the Le Salève for a panoramic view of the city, the lake and the Jet d’Eau to the north and the Alps to the south. No wonder Geneva is among the top three cities in the world to live in. Well-groomed beaches line the shores of Lake Geneva, and the city’s parks are exquisitely manicured. A utopian sense of everything working and running on time prevails overall. The children playing in the sandpits sparkling from daily cleaning were remarkably cheerful. Debora attributed this to their diet of fruit-to-dip in molten chocolate to pain au chocolat at school most days.
Virtually everything being closed on a Sunday, we spread ourselves with war-room provisions of wine and cheese in the lawn to catch up on nearly a decade. Aside from its high status on the livability index, Geneva should also rank high for picking up past threads. A freewheeling space with little but your private thoughts to dwell in since the external space was orderly. The Swiss are conspicuous for maintaining decorum in public spaces. None of the boisterous banter here that wafts in from neighbouring lawns in Chandigarh, Calgary or Cardiff alike! In Geneva, my thoughts carried exceptional clarity, due obviously, I thought, to the stress-free public life, an impossibility in Delhi! My colleagues, however, trace this to the weekend of merriment with old friends. Either which way, Geneva heightened my respect for orderly public living and adherence in form and spirit to the doctrine of “Love thy neighbour”. If only we could inculcate a bit of that in our backyards.
Saionton Basu is an advocate in the Supreme Court of India and a solicitor in the Supreme Court of England and Wales. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org