Friday, May 22, 2015

Jiva Hill Resort 9-10 May 2015 Top Of The Air

Dear Virgina and Ian,

Top of the Air,
We arrived at Jiva Hill early afternoon deciding to rest up after our exhausting journey from Genthod to Jiva Hill that took us all of less than 20 minutes!  It was a beautiful warm and sunny May day.  It was also just a few days before our 32nd Wedding Anniversary. Anyway, as usual, we couldn't decide where to park so we messed around trying several spots before deciding to go to the one beyond the restaurant to the wonderful Reception Halls where you had your 21st birthday party just a few tiny years ago!  

We inspected our room, kettle, coffee maker, welcome cakes and fabulous bathroom with a view, great, I thought, its perfect, time for tea and cakes and time to unpack my one party dress for that - what did it say in the voucher - gastronomic 6 course tasting dinner for two. And then me, being me, jumped straight into bed to test it for a longer rerun later that night.  Tejinder unpacked too - his laptop, and terribly important looking papers bundled into batches, which quite frankly he glanced at for about 10 minutes or so, and then, just like me - he nodded off.

Luckily he had set the alarm and we sprang out of bed at 4pm.  We dashed down to the Wellness center Sangoma Spa just in time for our rendezvous!  We were having such a good time together that I really felt quite concerned when we got separated but I figured, hey, it was just for an hour or so and we'd meet up soon enough.  After the treatment, which was fabulous, we rested on the sundeck where we were served hot, refreshing mint tea a la go go in a a la chinoise teapot, overlooking the emerald green meadows of the foothills of the Jura and the radiant blue skies up, up and beyond.  Discussing later how the treatment went, we both started with one black soap gommage followed by another Argan Oil massage – we both agreed it was relaxing and enjoyable, perfect for a weekend retreat!  Then Tejinder headed straight to the hamman and sauna and I to the heated interior pool to get my laps in, meeting up, a while later, at the Jacuzzi.  

The sky that evening was gentle and easy on the senses.  Wind surfers were parachuting down into the field beyond and we watched the golfers strike their pose and then scramble around looking for their golf balls rolling trolleys.   Actually, I thought, maybe I should take up golf.  We felt so privileged sitting there on our balcony like Kings and Queens watching the world go by - and then we realised it was time for one of the most important moments of any holiday, Gin and Tonics apero!

At great speed, I slipped on my nude very high heels and threw on my party dress, the one I wore for the knighthood party, it has blue and purple Hawaiian flowers on it - and left the room. We walked quickly onto the veranda of the restaurant to catch the sun setting and the distant views of the snow-capped Alps encompassing the great lady of Europe, the Mt. Blanc.  The panorama was perfect that night.  We sipped our drinks and tasted a tasting plate of fois gras all of it sitting out on the terrace of the Shamwari Restaurant.  This was followed by an incredible dinner of 6 courses, but I counted at least 8 courses inside the Shamwari.  Tejinder and I took photos of each carefully designed dish, which was presented, to us like it was a work of art from the Grand Masters of Paris.  The food was delicious and so much fun as presentation is always key to any great dinner.  Jiva Hill, unique in the world, this was indeed a great way to spend our 32nd Wedding Anniversary. 

The next day we enjoyed breakfast out on the Shamwari terrace overlooking the Eurolac watching the water skiers enjoy and then we decided to walk around the Jiva Hill property along the helipad.  There was this incredible feeling of tranquility that day, of calm silence, as if we were sitting on top of the air.  As we looked down into the city of Geneva, knowing it is so close we really felt that this was a retreat away from the reality of daily life, somewhere you can just get lost without ever being found!

With love and thanks for a beautiful weekend


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Engagement of Jas to Devani in Florence 17 April 2015

We are extremely delighted that our son Jas proposed to Devani in Florence.  We do not have details for the wedding yet but I expect next year would be suitable for them as Devani is still studying at Cambridge and will compete her PhD thesis in History and Medieval English literature towards the end of this year.

They both met at Oxford while Jas was doing his PhD in Physics and Devani was starting her Masters degree
After Oxford University she moved to Cambridge University to pursue her Phd.  Both degrees on a Bill Gates scholarship.

Jas is currently working for  the United Nations International Trade in Geneva so is currently back here in Geneva.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

32 Years Wedding Anniversary

Dearest darling husband Tejinder,

As we grow old together and enjoy the success of our children
Our love will grow too
As we see them flourish and move on
We can sit back and relax and enjoy
The greatest times of our lives
As this is when we can really say
that this is a job well done.

Happy Wedding Anniversary

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Remembering Rita 1945 - 2015

Remembering Rita 1945 - 2015

Rita disliked fuss.   She was pretty straightforward about most things. She would fidget when things got overly complicated for no reason. In fact, this was a delightful quality she had.  She would often say to me, ‘Why make something so complicated when it’s not complicated at all!

Rita started work for UNHCR in 1973.  I met her in 1992 when she joined the computer section. She came to the section when desktop computers were becoming available to all staff for the very first time and laptops were becoming popular in the mobile workplace.  At that time, I was responsible for the purchasing, installation and shipment of all computer related equipment to the field by truck, ship or plane and Rita was responsible for managing the international loan pool for laptops operating out of Headquarters.  So we both worked very closely together discussing daily the new emergencies we had to handle and how best to deal with each situation which was always vastly different from the previous one. 

She was one of the first staff members in the computer section in the early 90’s to have made a successful career managing the hugely popular loan pool for laptops for more than 1000 staff members at Headquarters. Laptops used to be just too heavy, had a short battery life and often broke down, but this did not deter her in the least.  She would be at her desk during many lunch breaks fiddling about with her laptops until she got them going.  Rita was responsible for emergency preparedness – that is staff that would go to the field to take care of refugee situations at short notice.  She also had an extensive online computer system making absolutely sure that no-one would even dream of running off with her precious equipment!

Her contribution to UNHCR’s humanitarian effort was something that Rita took very seriously. She stood her ground for what she believed in and her idea of a lifestyle was to be true to that. Her strong work ethics played an important role in her life.  Rita was reliable, always available, never took sick leave, and never quit until she had solved every technical problem she faced and this meant she was full of surprises.  She was also an expert on the UN Staff Rules, Staff Rights, the complicated UN Pension fund, and knew all about how to manage your money in retirement!  I learnt a lot from her. So when she retired at the end of 2003, after 30 years of dedicated service to UNHCR, many colleagues, including myself, missed her.

We celebrated many events together in particular the annual Christmas lunch, which started in 1984.  Rita enjoyed this enormously.  She always looked forward to these warm get-togethers and over the years our dear colleagues became our dear friends.  It was at these special occasions she would tell us her quirky interesting stories about her life in New York in the 60’s with her sister Gwen. A true fan of the rock group - Queen - she was very much a babe of the 60’s and 70's – really into their music. 

However, Rita’s primary focus was always her loving son Christopher.  Coffee mornings at the office were always about Christopher - he achieving his maturity - and growing up into a handsome young man with such great promise.  How very proud she was of him.  I remember the time when he worked in a bank.  Disillusioned by the world of banking, he decided to leave to become a primary school teacher.  Rita took delight in his choices and successes and then the most exciting moment came when her son married Nadine becoming her loving daughter-in-law. 

During these last most difficult weeks Rita and I talked about the future, her fears, her concerns, her past and her present.  You see Rita was a lady who had truly enjoyed her life and was grateful for the good times.  In particular, she told me she would miss her dear sisters Gwen and Pat who she leaves behind.

I met Pat some years ago when she requested a visit to CMS at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, which Rita asked me to organise.  Last week, Pat came back to Geneva to spend quality time with Rita just a few days before she passed away.  I know how precious and important Pat’s love and support meant. 

Rita’s sister Gwen, who Rita also cherished and loved, was with Rita during her last 6 days.  Gwen, who had tragically lost her own young son 20 years ago to the sea, consoled Rita in her last hours.   Realising that her time was limited, Rita remained philosophical, brave and resilient to the end.  Her last wishes to me were that it was important to her that she was able to spend some time with the people she loved.  She knew she had to leave us and she accepted that.  She said that her family should stay strong, they should stay united and that they must do their best without her – the best they know how in her memory.

And finally, I would like to mention Rita’s best friend, Liz Tayfun who Rita met her first week in UNHCR in 1973 in the English typing pool.  It was there they discussed how they could find better jobs and thereon remained good friends for 40 years helping each other through the drama of life and Liz remained true to friendship soothing her to the end.

I’m trying not to cry for Rita.  But however hard I try to fight back the tears, I can only cry, and, as every tear trickles from my heart like dew on a morning meadow, I know she would be fidgeting in her seat and telling me ‘don’t make the situation more complicated then it actually is and don’t make such a fuss, all on account of me!’

Her family was everything
Her faith paramount
Her son and his wife her legacy
God Bless Rita
May she rest in peace

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announces with profound regret the death of

Ms. Rita Kitto Burki
Former Staff Member

on 17 April 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms Rita Kitto Burki joined UNHCR in July 1973 as a Shorthand Typist at Headquarters in Geneva. In 1975, she was assigned as Secretary in the PPR Unit and subsequently as Secretary in the Public Information Section. In 1992, Rita joined the IT & Telecom Service (ITSS) as Senior EDP Clerk. In 1998 she was appointed in ITTS as EDP Assistant, a position held until her separation from the organization at the end of 2003.

She leaves behind her son Christopher.

The funeral ceremony will take place on Thursday, 30 April 2015 at 10 a.m. in the Sainte-Croix Church in Carouge, Switzerland.

Colleagues wishing to express condolences may do so by addressing them to the staff council ( ) who will transmit them to the family.

* * *

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Lady, the Knight and the Elusive Higgs Boson! UNHCR Dialogue

The Lady, the Knight and the Elusive Higgs Boson!

Former UNHCR staff member and author Vatsala Virdee was accorded the honourable title of Lady Virdee on 17 October 2014 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II knighted her husband, Tejinder, at Windsor Castle for his services to science.
Vatsala’s career in the United Nations spanned 28 years.  She first worked for UNDRO (OCHA) in 1981, followed by a long and successful career in DIP, SMS, DIST and the Staff Council at the UNHCR.  However, it was only in 2005 that we discovered that we had a writer in our midst when she published her first novel, Rubies and Rickshaws, a romantic story set in the Himalayas. Inspired by her experiences while living in India in the early 70’s, Vatsala wrote it all down creating this fairytale romance. 
Born British to parents from India, Vatsala’s father took a big step when he decided to leave India. Her father had been displaced from his home in Karachi following the partition of India and, in 1947, decided to leave the Indian sub-continent altogether to start a new life in the UK.  He borrowed just enough money to buy a ticket on the first passenger steamer to leave Bombay for Southampton after independence, arriving alone and penniless in post WWII London.  He would become a successful businessman and repay the borrowed sum a few years later. He also built a school in his native village back in India, which Vatsala and her husband, Tejinder continue to support.
Having grown up in the UK, Vatsala decided to move to Geneva in her late teens where she met her husband, particle physicist Tejinder Virdee, in 1975.  I asked her to tell me the story behind her husband’s recent knighthood.
She explained that Tejinder, who is Professor of Physics at Imperial College in London, is based at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory located on the Franco-Swiss border.  In the early 1990s physicists at CERN began designing an accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which could recreate some of the conditions present in the universe immediately after the Big Bang. The LHC needed powerful detectors so Tejinder and a handful of colleagues designed and then with colleagues from all over the world built the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), which had the potential to record any new fundamental particles the LHC could produce.
On the 4th July 2012, CMS and a sister experiment discovered the elusive Higgs Boson.  CMS can be described as a gigantic state-of-art digital camera, able to take 40 million 3D pictures per second of some events similar to those that would have been occurring moments after the Big Bang. CMS is located 100 meters underground in a vast cathedral-like cavern, and weighs a hefty 14,000 tones. The LHC is like a super-highway 27-kilometer tunnel smashing sub-atomic particles at speeds very close to that of the speed of light.  All this is only accessible by way of a lift shaft designed to take physicists, engineers, and equipment up and down to the underground tunnel. The Higgs Boson is the last of the fundamental particles of the Standard Model of Physics, the most powerful scientific theory humankind has ever devised.
Tejinder, also of Indian origin was born at the foothills of Mt. Kenya, Nyeri, and studied in Kisumu, Kenya until the age of 15. In 1967 his family settled in the UK. Now, as one of the UK's most distinguished physicists, Tejinder is well known for developing new technologies within CMS that enabled it to prove the existence of a field, whose quantum is the Higgs boson, and hence the mechanism that explains how fundamental particles acquire mass, and ultimately why our universe has substance. To acknowledge his extraordinary contribution to science he was awarded a knighthood, which was bestowed by the Queen herself.
Angelina Jolie, the UNHCR Special Envoy, was also among the recipients in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list of 2014, becoming an honorary Dame.
I asked Vatsala how she sees her life now that she is titled Lady Virdee.  “Nothing has really changed. Life after UNHCR carries on as normal,” she says, “I’m delighted for my husband who risked so much professionally to stick with a project he firmly believes in.  To achieve success and then get the recognition for it is a bonus.  We met the Queen and that was a fantastic moment – one we’ll never forget!“
During her retirement, Vatsala has always stayed connected to UNHCR and helps the Staff Council whenever she can. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Vatsala for this interview and extend sincere congratulations to Professor Sir Tejinder and UNHCR’s own Lady Virdee!  By Peggy Brown

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tejinder Singh Virdee Knighted 17 October 2014

Experimental particle physicist Tejinder Virdee accorded prestigious Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II

On 17 October 2014, Tejinder Virdee FRS was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.  He is best known for his innovative design, physics research and overseeing the construction of the gigantic CMS Experiment at CERN located 100 meters underground in a vast cathedral-like cavern at the Large Hadron Collider. 

Sir Tejinder, also Professor of Physics at Imperial College in London, was named a Knight Bachelor for his Services to Science in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, released in June 2014.

Sir Tejinder, the citation reads, is one of the UK's most distinguished physicists and, as one of the creators of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Experiment, he has made outstanding contributions to science.

The CMS experiment, at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, has delivered seminal results in particle physics, including the groundbreaking discovery of the Higgs Boson, a particle that gives mass to other particles.

Beyond his innovative work in particle physics, he is also a great campaigner for science, and promoter of science and education in India and in Africa where he was born.

Sir Tejinder, 62, developed new technologies within the detector that allowed it to find the Higgs - the mechanism that explains how fundamental particles acquire mass, and ultimately explains why our universe has substance.

Asked how he felt upon receiving the news, he said, "This accolade was a complete surprise to me. It's really quite humbling and of course I'm delighted to receive it. The Higgs boson is a very special type of particle - a type we've never seen before. It has unusual properties that we need to study and understand in more detail”, he said. 

Sir Tejinder celebrated his knighthood in style.
“My wife Vatsala and I had three grand and memorable events.  Celebrations kicked off last summer with a garden party around our swimming pool in Geneva with my scientific colleagues, friends and family. Another event was held in Birmingham, which my mother organized at the Sikh Gurdwara. And finally on 6 Sepember, Ramaben Oza, Rashmi and Bharat and family organized a big Bollywood bash in Cheshire at Vatsala’s family home. 

On the day of the Knighthood we opted to have a small intimate family luncheon in Windsor following the official ceremony at Windsor Castle. This gave us a chance to really soak in the events of whole day, relax and talk about the Queen, prolonging the excitement of a truly fantastic day for all of us".