His biological mother Anasuiya could never have imagined that Niklaus-Samuel Gugger, whom she abandoned in a hospital 48 years ago just after his birth, would be the first Indian to be elected to the Swiss parliament. Born in CSI Lombard Memorial Hospital, run by Basel Mission, in Karnataka’s Udupi town, on May 1, 1970, Niklaus was adopted by a Swiss couple within a week of his abandonment.
Niklaus’s new parents — Fritz and Elizbeth — took him to Kerala when he was just 15 days old and they lived there for around four years before moving to their native place in Switzerland. There, Niklaus had to drive trucks and work as a gardener as his adoptive parents were not rich enough to finance his higher studies.
Talking to IANS at the first PIO-Parliamentarian Conference here last week, Niklaus said: “My mother, Anasuiya, handed me over to Dr. E.D. Pflugfelder — now deceased — just after my birth, requesting him to give me to a couple who could rear me in a better way and help me make a good career.”
Pflugfelder, in turn, contacted the Gugger couple and the rest, as they say, is history.
Niklaus, better known as Nik, was among 143 People of Indian Origin (PIO) parliamentarians from 24 countries who took part in the conference organised by the Ministry of External Affairs to engage the diaspora as part of its diplomatic outreach.
For Niklaus, coming to India was an emotional moment.
Narrating his journey from the Karnataka hospital to the Swiss parliament, Niklaus said he spent initial four years of his life in Thalassery in Kerala where his new mother Elizabeth worked as a teacher of German and English and father Fritz was a tool maker in Nattur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF).
Later, my new parents moved to Switzerland where I worked as a truck driver, gardener and mechanic to pay for my higher studies. I had to go through this because my parents were not so rich as to bear the burden of my studies. They gave me food and clothes.
“They trained me in other things,” Niklaus added.
Having finished my studies, I indulged in social work simultaneously with my other work to earn my livelihood.
In 2002, he was elected town councillor from Winterthur city northeast of Zurich near the German border.
“And subsequently, in November 2017, I was elected as a member of Switzerland parliament on the ticket of the Evangelical People’s Party — a minority party. I am the first Indian to be elected as an MP in Switzerland’s parliament.”
Niklaus added he would be the only Indian in the Swiss parliament for at least the next decade as there was no other active Indian-origin politician in the country.
One the youngest members of the Swiss parliament, Niklaus said he had also worked in an orphanage between 1992 and 1993 in the US city of Columbia.
He has also had a long association with Kerala’s NTTF institute, which lends a helping hand to students pursuing their technical education in India and Switzerland.
Niklaus feels that he has imbibed the culture of both India and Switzerland. He hopes to come down to India in the near future to discuss his ideas on start-ups in collaboration with the Swiss and the Indian governments.
Niklaus thanked his biological mother for his success and said he named his daughter Anasuia to keep alive her memory because he has not been able to track her down.
With inputs from IANS