Niklaus Samuel Gugger, who was adopted by a Swiss couple, visited Thalassery – a place he calls his hometown.

Adopted from Kerala at the age of 4 visiting Swiss MP recalls his roots in the state
news Human Interest Thursday, August 01, 2019 - 13:42
Written by  Cris

In 1970, when Anasuya gave birth to a baby boy in India, she told the nurse and the lady doctor who attended her not to tell her son about her, and ask him never to come in search of her. Forty nine years later, Niklaus Samuel Gugger, now an MP in Switzerland visiting Thalassery in Kerala – a place he calls his hometown – is happy he honoured his unknown mother’s wish.

“The lady doctor has passed away and the other woman is 84 years old. I respect my mother’s wish. She trusted the missionary hospital (where I was born) to find the best place for me. And they did,” Nik says on a phone call from Kochi. He has just reached Kochi from Thalassery. Before that he was in Thiruvananthapuram, where he was hosted for lunch by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Nik had hosted the CM when he visited Switzerland earlier.

Nik is on a holiday with his family, and Kerala is very dear to him. After leaving India as a four-year-old to move to Switzerland, he has come back to the country at least 10 times, he reckons.

“It is because of my parents – the Swiss couple that adopted me, Fritz and Elizabeth. They said we should never lose our roots,” Nik says. Fritz also made sure Nik remembers all of his childhood. With a Super 8 camera, he made movies of little Nik running around in Thalassery and at the Hermann Gundert Foundation where he lived for four years.

“They are all in high quality and on a pen drive. I showed the movie – 22 minutes long – at the reception in Kannur and at the Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF, where Fritz worked),” the MP says. Those days he spoke mostly in English and German, he says, and to the kids in the street he spoke in Malayalam, but it was not clear. Today he makes sure his kids know the important words, ‘nandi’ and ‘Amma’ among them, Nik says in his Swiss accent.

Niklaus Samuel and family with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

As a young man growing up in Canton of Bern, he did odd jobs – working as truck driver and so on – to pay for his studies. Nik says it is quite normal there, adding, “Most students have part time jobs if you are not from a really rich background. Fifty per cent of the students have to work.”

He got into politics because he has always been a good communicator. “I was first a town counsellor, then an MLA. And for the past two years, I am an MP. There are only 200 people in the Parliament. India has 545 in the Lok Sabha.”

Nik got elected from the state of Zurich – Canton Zurich – and he has been there for 25 years now. He is also the first Indian to be elected as an MP in Switzerland. Being an MP is a part time job there, he says. “In India, it is a full time job and the salary is high. In Switzerland, it is only part time salary. We don’t have the same privilege,” he says, laughing.

He has been following Indian politics ever since he became the president of the Swiss Indian Parliamentary study group, he says, for interaction between the two countries. He reckons India could use more of the dual education system. A social entrepreneur, Nik is also a counsellor and life coach, and runs a counselling company with a partner.

Nick respected his biological mother’s wish, but he has let her memory remain in the family. He has named his daughter Anasuya. 

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