Geneva Diaries (#1-#10)- Full

Roger’s Early Letters, The Indus Valley Civilization and an American Story

Letter #1

12/8/08

Dear Roger,

Thank you so much,I am sure its because of my very special french teacher! I hope I am able to keep it up.

I also eagerly look forward to meeting V and learning sushi from him. Thanks for contacting him with my request.

last but not the least, thank you for sending me Wallerstein’s article, many thoughts and much to discuss, all of which came tumbling out with tears as I was chopping onions for dinner( a new successful salad recipe) now being tested on you:

The world in the cusp of great change (as I mentioned during our last chat) or as W puts it the world at the brink of a great crisis…that is all I find I share with him, until I read him again.

The way I see it is not what kind of system works whether it be capitalism (which he prophesies is doomed) or whether its of any relevance if the system which is going to replace this one is better or worse, But that we need to delve into some very core issues which form the foundations of any system we try and hoist upon our people. The two core issues that are imperative to explore are-

1) How do we incentivize our fellow human beings? How do we excite and incentivize so that man is able to achieve his finest and able to perform his best thereby contributing positively not only to himself but also to his family and society as a whole. 

2)How do we gauge, assess performance or achievement? How do we assess productivity –

The current parameters appear to be the issue as they press for More, More, More. A ruthless unbridled drive to generate more, promote more and sell more and as we discussed during our last meeting, even if it means burning crops and pouring gallons of milk down the drain.

 I have heard many arguments about the cost and futility of transporting these surplus goods to hungry mouths across the globe rather than writing out a paycheck. But the factors that are not taken into consideration are the ones that alarm me. The very fact that there is such a grotesque over production must mean that somewhere in the process energy, fertilizers, water for irrigation and waste products have been utilized and generated. Not only is the overproduction and its consequent destruction vulgar but the impact on the environment of such continuous and mindless acts just to bump up the bottom line and demonstrate that the entity is a profit making outfit is where we appear to have steered off course.

So first and foremost, and in my opinion, these parameters which we have taken for granted need to be reevaluated from the perspective of state of the globe(stripped, contaminated and polluted and continuing at an exponential rate) and man today with an exploding population and consumption patterns that challenge any norm of sustainable growth.

Roger, you mustn’t misunderstand me. I am all for progress and development. I am all for art and luxury (I specify art because in most of its forms it does not conform to any code of economics). And, I believe in resources being expended for creating something exquisite just for its existence even if i never get near it in my lifetime. Because, we all need a dream and and we all need to dream. Whether it is a cowrie shell or a gold nugget, we need something to stir our imaginations to push ourselves, to strive for, to uplift our souls and spirits just for a moment. So, everytime the kids and I see a Ferrari, we cheer, like we would cheer a rock star.What a magnificent machine!

Now, roger, I now leave it to you to weave these various elements and make a beautiful shawl which can be worn.

See you tomorrow.

Goodnight!

Purnima


Bonsoir Purnima,

Excusez-moi de vous écrire si tard, mais nous avons regardé toute la soirée

l’investiture d’Obama.  C’est un moment historique:  Vous l’avez regardé ?

CNN has had live coverage of all the events since about 4:30 this afternoon.

We even ate in front of the TV to be able to catch it all.

I’ve checked out a few museums in Geneva, and there isn’t a big choice in

terms of special exhibits.  There is an exhibit on Egypt at the Musée d’art

et d’histoire, which isn’t far from you place.  It’s called Akhenaton et

Nefertiti: Soleil et ombres des pharaons

The other place that looks very interesting is the Musée d’art moderne et

contemporain with some interesting permanent collections of modern art.

The Maison Tavel is also a possibility.

Let me know what suits your fancy and we can either meet there or at your

place and walk to the museum.  All three of the above places are within

walking distance.

J’espère que vous passez une bonne soirée.  A demain,

Roger


Thank you Roger for indulging me once again, you have given me an opportunity to put my scrambled ramble down!

I don’t remember how our conversation meandered, but I do remember mentioning to you once that I was keenly involved with a museum project on the Indus Valley Civilization which was being spearheaded by the Global Heritage Foundation in Palo Alto and your EYES SPARKLED blue as the Indus…so I take the liberty to impose.

My involvement with the Indus Project, a museum to be built, a story to be told about a thriving, technologically advanced and vibrant culture that goes back 5,000 years to the time of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, was initiated a couple of years ago in Palo Alto. My imagination was stirred by a friend named “Kalpana” which in Sanskrit means imagination, who took me upon her wing for an incredible ride to a time and place far away back to the cradle of civilization, spinning a story of a time and place, a utopia of technological progress and town planning, an egalitarian settled society with proud empowered women, in the same lands watered by the Indus that would look back with envy at the people who settled here 5,000 ago. Presenting me with the exciting idea of involvement in a project that promised to somehow bridge the place I came from to our current home.  I met numerous times with the lady responsible for coordinating the museum effort and we enjoyed bouncing this would oughts ideas off each other ( I was probably viewed as an insistent pest urging them on, assisting from the periphery). In my continuing support for the project, I introduced a business partner who publishes a quarterly magazine with a focus on philanthropy as a supporting sponsor who agreed to carry an article on the Indus Museum Project. 

Kalpana: https://www.shabdkosh.com/dictionary/sanskrit-english/kalpanaa/kalpanaa-meaning-in-english

Pronunciation: https://youtu.be/BDiGbmPsC00

Pasted below is part of the information on the Indus Valley Civilization that I sent to the magazine hoping to elicit interest and gain publicity for the project . I felt that the Indus story must be more than just a compilation of facts, which is essential, but that initially it is more pertinent to have a storyline that connects it to the community it looks to for support.

As this was an area and subject close to my heart, I felt passionately involved, as though this were my very own museum, my project, my story. I have subsequently and as recently as a few days ago, here in Geneva, added additional thoughts to the core idea broadening its scope as we journey onwards.

The following were broad points covering the highlights of the Indus Valley Civilization for the article to be substantiated by detailed facts. It also provided the broad storyline mentioned above that would connect with the community it was looking towards for support:

Unique city planning – the most advanced systems in the then known world

Script – not yet deciphered – mystery to be unraveled

Carnelian (?) beads- technology – firing and drilling technology at it’s best

Unicorn seal – Myth of the unicorn arose from the Indus – Little known fact

Position of women: Elevated position in society. Figurines of mother goddess, female hunter on seal, images of proud women with majestic headgear.(recently added)

As i encountered the Indus project in Palo Alto, I was exhilarated, thinking I have finally found my space.For journeying to America we had continued our journey eastwards, to India, the the New India of all our dreams! i could finally put my own journey with my children and my family and weave it into the fabric of America, the Story of America.

A story that goes back to the cradle of civilization, the story of the Indus: an exciting story, an untold story, an undeciphered story!

The story of an incredible people stretched over a vast area which developed a highly sophisticated and efficient system which offered their inhabitants safety, security, clean and effective public amenities like running water drainage, well planned streets and residences, public baths and granaries, standardization of weights and measures for facilitating trade and commerce. The average man’s life appears secure and prosperous with little radical distinctions between the people which would be the envy of people currently inhabiting those lands, today,5,000 years later.

This very story of the Indus must have travelled far and wide in the ancient world, exciting the minds and imaginations of peoples in the far recesses of the world, still living a semi nomadic life, which propelled the subsequent journeys onto these fertile plains. And with every journey, the waves of people from all the various tribes that made it to these plains absorbed and assimilated enriching the land with their culture and mythology and left behind the next layer of gold dust.

As we uncover the various layers that line the banks of the Indus we find, Indus seals, covered by aryan burial mounds, covered by Stupas and symbols of their buddhist past, which adds to its golden glow. As we unravel these layers of sediment that line the Indus valley we find many journeys,  some invasions. However brutal the initial impact of their arrival upon the plains  but we find primarily a people journeying to settle and embrace.

The eternal story being of the dream that propels the journey, the many layers, the varied hues, the invasions the assimilations, the contributions, all adding to the layers of gold dust and the story that is India…the journey continues. 

A LONG TALE!

I doubt if you have made it this far, I can’t imagine you would have the patience to read but I certainly enjoyed telling.

Hope you feel better, see you soon.


From: Roger Stevenson

Date: Sun, Feb 1, 2009 at 8:10 PM

Hi Purnima,

Thanks so much for your piece on the Indus Valley project.  Sorry to be so long in getting back to you about it, but I’m still not feeling great.

It was fascinating feeling your enthusiasm and lyricism as I read through your email.  As with everything you seem to do in life, with the possible exception of French homework, you dive headlong into your pursuit of a goal, a dream, a mystery, an ideal, a utopia.  That was the primary pleasure.  The second was discovering so many previously unknown aspects about the Indus civilization:  I had always thought the myth of the unicorn came from Eastern European origins, and a society where women are revered and looked up to and enjoy full equality ! ! !.

I am somewhat intrigued by your motif of the bridge and the movement to the space, place where those ideals can flourish, and in one sense find it both totally appropriate and utterly outrageous that California might represent a reincarnation of the Indus dream.  That’s something we will have to have a long talk about.  On so many levels, Southern California, in spite of its natural, physical beauty and its magnate-like ability to draw creative minds, is the very antithesis of intelligent, environmental city planning.  The economic inequalities that abound in Southern California are heightened by the tremendous resources that the so-called creative sector produces, and only serve to widen the gap between those who live on the hill in their ghastly oversized mansions and those who populate the service sector as their maids, gardeners, fruit pickers, construction workers, etc.  By the way, did you see the film Babel ?

Anyway, a lot to discuss, including, when chasing the utopian dream, how does one deal with those pesky little details like human nature (Marx’s one serious shortcoming, in my estimation), ethnic and racial equality, deviants who don’t want to go along with the established system, corruption and crime, external pressure and threat which more often than not leads to war, etc.

J’espère que vous avez passé un bon week-end.  Est-ce que vous êtes sortis ce week-end ? 

A mercredi, j’espère,

Roger


Dear Roger

As you know, I have been at a loose end, wondering what I should be doing next, how to reinvent myself at this phase and stage of life…especially here in Geneva!

Well, what do you think of the pursuit of a multi-disciplinary masters degree program. Apparently, the University of Geneva is considering offering such a degree.

I have always been interested in the multi-disciplinary study of law, as I believe that Law and Literature, Law and Theatre in combination with the sciences, technology and other subjects would make a fascinating advanced study. Not only would that be of value to senior attorneys who wish to get upto speed on a broad spectrum of todays relevant issues but for judges and other members of the judiciary, who as we have discussed are completely “out of it”.

Also, don’t you think, that literature and theatre would be a wonderful way to convey pivotal legal issues and core values that form the substratum of our laws to the general public for purposes of education and reaffirmation, a form of a modern day referendum. There is much of what a lot of people take for granted but are unable to explain or convey to the next generation, to the public, to the jury. And, do you not feel that we are at incredible crossroads with science, technology, law and literature and someone needs to put it all together for JOE???

I know I am trying to make a persuasive case to embark upon yet another course of study, but here I see incredible value. Would LOVE your feedback.


3/30/09

Dear Purnima,

Your imagination has certainly been active.  I actually quite like the idea of combining law and literature, with a touch of science and technology thrown in, for an interdisciplinary degree.  It’s something that not many folks will have thought of doing.  You are dead right that not just the general public, but those sitting in places of authority, be it the bench or in public office, are often so terribly out of touch with reality.

On the practical side, you would have to be very sure, and from the beginning, that the U of Geneva would have the faculty and the curricular structure to support such a degree program.  That can often be a sticking point.  Have you contacted anyone there yet?

Another question that comes to mind is how you would envision incorporating literature, especially the theatre into any kind of program of study and then eventually in efforts to enlighten the public and/or judges?  Would you use existing plays and adaptations or would you produce original material?  There is always a certain risk in writing plays that are didactic in nature.  Berthold Brecht comes to mind.  His plays have a very heavy-handed political message and point of view that, in my opinion, distracts from any artistic value they might have.

On this end I have been quite occupied with thoughts about time, its relentless passing, and how it structures our lives.  I think our musings about a virtual reality where time and space would be reordered and altered have caused me to dream.  Wouldn’t it indeed be wonderful to be able to escape the effects of time and exist anywhere and anytime we chose?

Speaking of time, tomorrow at this time we’ll be winging our way towards the “land of the rising sun.”  Isn’t it interesting how former empires are so taken with the sun, what with the British and their notion that the sun never sets on the British Empire? 

More later from Tokyo,


6/16/09

Dear Purnima,

You so aptly characterized that period in the US.  It was the time in my life where I was a graduate student, learning to see the world through different sets of eyes, loosing that sense of innocence I had about existence and understanding that all the Kool Aid, Hotdogs, Baseball, Fast Cars, Jeans, Ketchup, Marilyn Monroe, Bubble-gum,  were just the flashy, surface, easily recognizable and oft-imitated facade of America. I also discovered little by little that there was a dark underside to this nation I had been taught to believe had some kind of manifest destiny.  My trip down that road to a more acute awareness took many turns and detours.  I still remember how devastated I was when John F. Kennedy was shot.  It was such an unthinkable act and it left a rather large hole in my bubble of hope and optimism.  But then the assassinations continued : ironically, I was living in France in 1968 and was traveling when both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were felled by the assassin’s bullet.  I was in Spain when I heard on my transistor radio (my constant companion then as now) that Martin Luther King had been shot and in Greece when Kennedy, who had been my hope for some sanity in the presidential election campaign, was shot in California.  I have vivid memories of walking around Athens that day with my transistor to my ear listening for reports about his condition, and more than one Greek person realized why I was so glued to the radio and asked me about him.  I also remember going to the American Embassy that night to sign a book of remembrance and express my grief about yet another senseless, dream-shattering act.  And then there was Richard Nixon !

The next major crossroad was my eventual disillusion with a nation waging what I came to understand as an immoral and unjustified war in Southeast Asia.  I was a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle when the campus protests against the war spread throughout the country, and I heard many a fiery speech denouncing America’s involvement and I willingly joined in many campus marches and demonstrations.  The shootings by the National Guard at Kent State are firmly etched in my mind.

And once settled in a small university town in Southern Oregon, I saw more of Americana in action, from the Hippy movement to the Rajnishi’s to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco to the Berkeley Free Speech demonstrations – I used to listen to a talk station from San Francisco all the time, KGO, which I could pick up very easily at night in Southern Oregon, and I do indeed recall the discussions about Harvey Milk when he was killed.

No time to go into any more detail, but the lesson I learned from all of this was that for many people in America a gun and violent acts were almost always the preferred solution to anything they disagreed with.  That and the superficial, crass materialism, the self-centered disinterest in the rest of the world so prevalent in the States have played a primary role in my choice to live in France.  I’m sad that I wasn’t in California when you came looking for me, but you caught up with me in Geneva.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a myriad of wonderful, unforgettable, inimitable and treasured aspects of America that are all part and parcel of who I am and how I conceive my birthplace : tough individualism, generosity, my Danish grandmother, skiing in the Rocky Mountains, the great films Hollywood gave us, Redwood forests on the Pacific Coast, Sunrise over Crater Lake, Tom Robbins, John Irvine, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, a cold glass of milk with chocolat chip cookies, and, of course, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Keith Jarrett, Mose Alison, Nina Simone, Thelonius Monk, John Coletrane, Cal Tjader . . . . .

Sweet dreams,

Roger


6/24/09

Roger Stevenson

Hi Purnima,

Fascinating how we got from Harvey to the actual liquid.  For me, drinking a cold glass of milk was as common and everyday as tying your shoes in the morning.  The elementary school I went to even had a program where every morning each child got a small carton of either milk or chocolate milk   Later on, we had milk delivered in half-gallon glass bottles to our front door every other morning by the local Milk Man.  In the winter the milk often froze and the expansion pushed the cap off and there was a little column of frozen milk protuding from the top of the bottle when we got home in the evening.  I also remember my first summer spent in France (1967).  At that time, fresh milk wasn’t readily available in France, it wasn’t kept in refrigerated space in the stores, and it always had a slightly sour taste.  We did a quick trip to Switzerland that summer and the Swiss had wonderful, fresh milk and I had a tall glass of it in the Bern train station.  It was heaven.

But the sad part of all of this was that when I was young and growing up on fresh milk, I was totally in the dark as to the conditions that existed in the rest of the world.  I just took it for granted that children all over the world had access to milk and all the other things that I enjoyed without even thinking much about it.  I, and most other Americans, lived in total and insouciant ignorance of how fortunate we were.  Your description of milk and its scarcity in India and what you had to go through to get even small quantities was heart wrenching, and I understand better now why the beacon of economic prosperity that shown forth from our shores was such a strong attraction for so many, my own grandparents on both sides included.

But that prosperity that has attracted so many to America also has its down side.  It is based on an economic system that plunders the raw materials of the rest of the world in the maddening frenzy to expand, to produce, to grow, to acquire.  The result has been a totally unjust and unequal distribution of wealth and goods between the North and the South.  The poorer countries whose natural resources were gobbled up and exploited by huge corporate conglomerates, were left with very little, while those of us who were fortunate enough to live in the North enjoyed increasingly empty lives amassing our plastic possessions thrust upon us by slick marketing campaigns.  We all had our shinny new cars in our surburban three-car garage (the third space filled by our camping car), our garbage disposals, dish washers, electric tooth brushes, golf carts, Cuisinarts, Tupperware, sprinkling systems to water our manicured lawns, hot tubs and jacuzzis, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum.  And when the developing countries demand the same standard of living, we all shout, but that’s impossible, the world doesn’t have the resources nor the carrying capacity for all of you to enjoy the same kind of lives that we live.  Sorry, but you just didn’t have the ingenuity and the drive (or the ruthlessness) to accomplish what we have done, and besides, just think of all the pollution that would be produced if you all had two or three cars and super highways to drive them on.. .   To be continued.

Aren’t you leaving very soon for India with your mother ?  Have a wonderful, successful trip.  I’ll be looking forward to hearing all about it when you return.

A bientot,

Roger


Dear Roger,

Unimaginable, intense, oppressive…44 degrees celsius!!!

Surreal…

Somehow, whenever I am transported to this space I think of u.

I find myself locked up in a cool ac room with family (which is great as I have them captive) as no one dares to venture out in the searing sun. So we chat and eat and laugh and tease all within this space. And, i move from one enclosed space to another from my brother to my grand mother and back.

Geneva with its crystal lakes, cool blue skies and green meadows seems to be the delusion. A incredible illusion.

I find myself revisiting the last scene in Geneva, the famous one about time and trains. I am  waiting for train number 1 at Gare Cornavin with Dhruvum who with his hyperactive 10 year old mind keeps looking at the clock on the ceiling reading the time to me on a second to second basis as time seems to stretch infinitely when viewed from his perspective. We finally embark the train as it proceeds to leave the station and find ourselves staring at a train that appears to be pulling out in the opposite direction on the other side. It is then that Dhruvum asks The Questions: Is that train moving? Are we moving? How do we know? …It was just incredible  as I first let it sink in that I was on a train IN Switzerland being asked these very same questions that I had been posed to me so many times except when it was my turn to respond somehow I was transported to the scene of the original action! Surreal!  These are scenes that I have played in my mind over and over again and for so many years and I find them being played out in reality and now at 44 ABOVE. I have time to mull.

As I write, I see the skies darkening…perhaps we will all be rescued by the monsoons soon.

See u back in Switzerland.

Lots of love

Purnima


7/01/09

Dear Purnima,

44 is indeed oppressive and surreal.  It brings back a flood of memories of two sweltering and sensuous summers in the desert of Arizona (Phoenix).  45 was the highest it hit, but one spent the time moving from one air-conditioned space to another, from house to car to supermarket back to car to any available pool and any biking was done at 6:00 am before the energy-draining rays became unbearable.  The city itself literally had no soul to it, as the sidewalks were barren and deserted.  The only respite was to drive to Sedona where the higher altitude brought such blessed relief.  That’s a chapter in my life I’ll have to tell you about someday.

The Helvetia illusion/delusion has been somewhat tainted by much higher temps and thick smog the past three days.  It has been 30+ with little wind and the valley has filled with a haze that is reminiscent of Los Angeles smog.

Your train sequence and Dhruvum’s questions fascinate me.  It is one that I have often asked: how do we know which train is moving.  It’s like the proverbial philosophical question about the tree falling in the forest and whether there is any sound if there is nobody to hear it.  Woody Allen dealt with trains in a slightly different way in his Bergmanesque “Stardust Memories”, only there it was the recurring scene of Allen on a train as it passed another train going in the opposite direction, and in this case the other train was filled with merry-making and frivolous party goers, while Allen’s train was empty and lifeless and dull.  He has a new film out now, by the way, that has gotten excellent reviews in France – “Whatever Works”

Strange that your being in India draws your thoughts my way.  I had the very same experience in Japan.  We were obviously meant to travel.  Too bad it has always been in opposite directions.

Don’t stop !

When are you returning ?

Gros, gros bisous,

Roger

Letter #2

Musee d’Ethnographie -Geneve

7/20/09

Bonsoir Purnima,

Excusez-moi de vous écrire si tard, mais nous avons regardé toute la soirée

l’investiture d’Obama.  C’est un moment historique:  Vous l’avez regardé ?

CNN has had live coverage of all the events since about 4:30 this afternoon.

We even ate in front of the TV to be able to catch it all.

I’ve checked out a few museums in Geneva, and there isn’t a big choice in

terms of special exhibits.  There is an exhibit on Egypt at the Musée d’art

et d’histoire, which isn’t far from you place.  It’s called Akhenaton et

Nefertiti: Soleil et ombres des pharaons

The other place that looks very interesting is the Musée d’art moderne et

contemporain with some interesting permanent collections of modern art.

The Maison Tavel is also a possibility.

Let me know what suits your fancy and we can either meet there or at your

place and walk to the museum.  All three of the above places are within

walking distance.

J’espère que vous passez une bonne soirée.  A demain,

Roger


Dear Roger,

I am not sure if you received my last (delayed) email regarding meeting up tomorrow. I would absolutely love to, but have family friends over for lunch not sure how long that will be, but late afternoon should work fine. Do let me know.

Believe it or not, the summer is turning out to be more hectic than I imagined with the me Home Alone with the kids who don’t give me a moment during the daylight hours if they can help it. And, I in all my enthusiasm have been trying to fill their summer days with more walks in the park , many talks, and museum trips.

Just yesterday we visited the Perseus and Medusa exhibit at the Musee D’ethnographie. I was keen to show them this exhibit on African ritual masks as I thought it might stir the Picasso in my budding artists. The masks were hung around a dark room with strategically placed lights so that their shadows marked the wall behind them etching out fantastic designs and expressions. All very spooky, all very real. You could feel the drum beats of Africa. It was here that Dhruvum pointed out to me that the shadows were nothing like the original masks and sometimes eerily contrary(I am forever amazed at the world the kids see). The mask he pointed to appeared to have an oafish smile, however its shadow was the exact opposite…it had a sinister look, a fierce and fearsome frown.It appeared Alive and animated with one eye cut out larger than the other. The shadows appeared to be the real beings wearing these benign and sometimes comic masks as a front.I decided to continue in this very vein and keep up the interest of my tired and hot party, and managed to make it to the end of the exhibit. It was here that I suddenly saw an object almost physically jump off the shelf onto my lap. I called out theatrically for the kids to witness the spirits at play (knowing that it was probably the vibrations from their thundering feet) and Tara informed me that it was labelled  the Chiefs Staff. The closer I looked, It seemed to dance even more and I clearly saw it eyeball me. (It DID and so did the red gnome/fire hydrant on Florissant. btw I have identified the red gnome as an object from the Art and History Museum, 1st century BC, Alexandria, Guardian of the Valley. must show you). And then however much we jumped, to make it move, it stopped bouncing. I ran out as the joke was on me…so much for animation, I seemed to have spooked myself more than the kids. Have you visited Africa?

Since we happen to be in Geneva during this historic 500th year of Calvin, and Calvin is so tied to this city. I was keen to take the kids for the Calvin exhibits around town and thus introduce them and myself to Calvin. Well, Parc des Bastions which was supposed to host of of the more elaborate exhibits was shuttered, so I sat down on my computer trying once again to fully comprehend Calvin and translate it in my own words and into a language/idea that I understand and I can translate. If you remember, I was trying to do the same thing when we first met, and I looked to you to help me figure it out. But, at that point you were very SERIOUS about your French lessons, and were not entertaining many distractions. Well, how about now, would you have the time to guide?

I find myself fixated on the concept of predestination which I understand to be central to Calvin’s idea. The idea that somehow life is already mapped out, predetermined, and there is no heaven or hell. Also, nothing you do can change the path chosen for you and nobody can give you salvation. It is all designed by the eternal designer.(please correct me where you will). This follows so closely on our idea of Kismet or fate which I have heard over and over again through my life and against which I rebelled furiously. The very idea that we are merely going through the motions of what was planned for us with no hope of what I view as being personally able to make a difference! How hopeless, how futile it all sounds and how does one then within this idea do the right thing. Persuade our children to do the right thing. 

My paternal grand mother, who is now 94, the one that played a pivotal part in my upbringing, a part of my heart and soul, and for whom I keep running back to India has had this idea of Kismet, predestination at the core of her soul. Her life started in Madras, the eldest child of an old vibrant Tamil family, with her father as a great patron of the arts, supporting many an impoverished artist, a prominent lawyer and an integral part of the group that struggled for the freedom of India from the British Raj. A supporter of Sri Aurobindo, he finally gave up all his worldly possessions (including symbolically the clothes on his back) and retired to join Aurobindo’s Ashram in Pondicherry (an Indo-French enclave). He had 5 children and my grandmother saw all of them die in the prime of their youth with much to live for. Her greatest sorrow, the story she often repeated as I was growing up was of the loss of her brother Tyagarajan (Tiger) who joined the RAF and was shot over Normandy. With that we lost all ties to our roots, no home in the South. She saw so much glory, and she saw so much loss, the final blow being the loss of her youngest son, my father. However, she still continued to live proudly and elegantly, happy for what she had. Happy for all of us. The people she lost were good, kind and noble, who pushed themselves to take that extra step to do the correct thing in life, and they were gone. How would you explain the world to her. So, she always repeated Kismet, Kismet, Kismet. Somehow, it was designed to be, designed by the “Ultimate Reality, and no other explanation but that.

Today, since I play the role of mother and guide ( with my head buzzing with “tell them the moral of the story”, a vestige of my catholic school upbringing), I find myself telling them that this idea proposed by Calvin is also another point of view, another way of looking at the world. Something that that has an echo back home, (playing up a cultural connection is important for me). And in this view there is no heaven and hell and everything is predestined, predesigned. But in this predesigned world our existence is not merely passive, it is an alive and active one as we have a real and specific role to play. If we take life as a journey to be undertaken by each one of us, and if this is to be a hard and arduous journey(I often fall back on Buddha and his teachings),  with our fate already predetermined. Then, its our role and our duty to make this stop, this visit, this harbor as hospitable and comfortable as we can for our fellow human beings. Peoples lives may be mapped out and their salvation may not be in our hands, but we can certainly make a difference by giving comfort and solace to those that come to our shores that seek our shelter. You may not be able to change their path, but you can certainly provide a watering hole a resting spot. A sanctuary, a stop.

See below Cimeterie du Plainpalais – Calvin – Candolle et Moi:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/h4glicerdbjv8nx/AAADnltcJb3hkgFP6UKPWo3Ma?dl=0

What can I add, what do you think?

See you soon.


Dear Roger,

I have to tell you more about the Chief’s Staff (from the Medusa and Perseus exhibit). As I had mentioned earlier, It was jumping about when I first saw it and shouting at me to wake up and sniff the cocoa beans. It was doing a furious dance as it demanded to know why I was attired in these strange clothes, and where I left the chiefs gear. Where were my tribal markings and the retinue of slaves and wives to fan and feed me! And who were these pesky dwarves that I have allowed to take control of me. Why are they such close proximity and how was I permitting them to tug at my clothes. Enough, enough, enough he shouted as he spun around and demanded I return to the World and my responsibilities.

Tell me Roger, do I have issues???

See below Musee d’Ethnographie Geneve:

https://www.ville-ge.ch/meg/

See attached African Masks and Hunting Spirit Staff from The De Young Museum San Francisco:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/iczh88t4j1kuldu/AAClJDxusLa3WGkgyNnPeyf0a?dl=0

On Jul 24, 2009, at 10:47 PM, “Roger Stevenson”  wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Your visit of the Musée d’Ethnographie sounded fascinating and just a bit troubling.  It’s often amazing how one can identify in such a personal way with a particular piece of art –  your description of the Chief’s Staff is almost eerie.  I wouldn’t say you have issues, but are simply very much in tune with certain mysterious aspects of African art.  No, I have never visited Africa, with the exception of Egypt, which I love, by the way.  I’ve never had the chance to see other parts of that intriguing continent.

And where do I start on Calvin.  I have always abhorred any religious dogma that even smacks of predetermined outcomes.  The very fact that we are capable of making conscious decisions in our daily lives logically excludes, as far as I am concerned, any possibility that our fates are determined and laid out in advance by some higher, guiding power.  It’s really that age-old theological debate over free will and predestination.  Since I am very much an agnostic leaning heavily toward atheism, I can’t seriously entertain any religiously founded argument or explanation for my existence or for my « salvation »  Salvation from what ? ?

I think your  «The very idea that we are merely going through the motions of what was planned for us with no hope of what I view as being personally able to make a difference! How hopeless, how futile it all sounds and how does one then within this idea do the right thing. Persuade our children to do the right thing. »  sums up my own thinking very nicely.

In my life I have been strongly influenced by existential thinking from Kierkegaard to Camus and Sartre and de Beauvoir.  The key issue, as far as twentieth century, atheist existentialism is concerned, is lucidity : being constantly aware of one’s inherent condition, i.e. we live in a universe that is impossible to explain or understand.  There is no heaven or hell, indeed.  We are, or we become, what we make of ourselves through our decisions, through our actions.  There are, to be sure, various states of awareness, and many individuals do indeed make less than fully conscious decisions, and we are often influenced by unknown or little understood factors in our environment or from our past experiences.  The arguments of Freudian disciples concerning the role of the subconscious has been a fascinating dichotomy in existentialist thinking.

In short, my disdain for Calvin and his like has always been complete.  I have no interest even from a historical point of view to join the happy Genevois throngs in celebrating his 500th  year of influence.  And further more, he banned the production of plays in his little kingdom.  How could you ever respect or rever someone who hated the theatre ?

Weds. morning sounds great.  Would 9 :30 be too early for you ?  I would love to go to our favorite cafe at the Art and History museum.

Have a good weekend.

Je t’embrasse,

Roger


Letter #3

Servitus, Black Swan, Ashland, (in)Tolerance

9/10/09

Dear Roger,

Do you believe that Servetus, a refugee from Spain, hunted by the inquisition in France and executed in Geneva, can still today burn here in Geneva?

The shadow of the Black Swan that fluttered above my head whispered into my ear, “Purnima, what are you doing here in Geneva?”. I looked up to see the kindest face furrowed with concern, it was MICHEL SERVETUS. What was I doing in Geneva, living here in Champel, (not too far from Spain) and two weeks short of my 42nd year!

 He said that that he was on his way to Italy, and seduced by the lake and Calvin with whom he had many fiery exchanges, he came to rest here for a night. Servetus, this Spanish physician, philosopher, theologian, humanist was arrested, imprisoned, declared a heretic by the city council and burned at the stake in his 42nd year.

We walked together across Bourg-de-Four Square, him in chains and me in air, up rue de Saint-Antoine out towards Champel. My home, and the place he was tied with his book and burned. This burning of Servetus by the canton of Geneva symbolized the sacrifice of the freedom of conscience and due process of laws.

 It was here that he, Servetus’s spirit, turned towards me and said that the judgement against me has been long delivered, it just waits execution. I must not hold out, I must not test my strength but beg for the sword, just beg for the sword!

See Servetus in the wikipedia link Below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Servetus

Purnima on Servitus’s Trail – the Walk of Death Up Rue de Saint-Antoine to Champel.

Through the underbelly of Geneva…Remembering the errors men make and then ERR AGAIN:

Rue Michel Servet Geneva:

A Plaque erected condemning the error attached to the denial of the freedom of conscience:

Above translated: Respectful and grateful sons of Calvin our great reformer but condemning an error which was that of his century and firmly attached to freedom of conscience according to the true principles of the reformation and the gospel we erected this expiatory monument.

I may have left but my spirit still lingers with Servetus in Geneva. See Purnima with the Servetus Plaque:

So with this dramatic end, I must say goodnight and hope tomorrow is a sunny day.

goodnight

Purnima


Dear Purnima,

There is no intolerance the equal of religious fanaticism in the guise of tolerance, and no religion has an edge over any other in terms of devising monstrous ways of keeping the « faithful » in line.  Burning heretics, and witches or Jews during the Spanish inquisition, are all precursors of modern political renderings, assassinations and disappearances (the Bush and Co. meme about « If your not with us, you’re against us, and, therefore, a traitor keeps turning over and over in my mind).  It was fine for the Protestants of Geneva to set aside a day of fasting for the other beleaguered Protestants all over Europe, but they turned out to be just as ruthless and diabolical in « rooting out » anything that represented a threat to the status quo.  Even modern so-called secular society brims with examples : Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician and national hero in England because he broke the German communication codes during WW II, was figuratively « burned at the stake » of sexual conformity and suppressive Victorian moral codes because of his homosexuality.

http://in.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idINIndia-42388920090911

Have a wonderful trip to Basel.  Are you taking the train or driving ?

New York is now officially off, so any day that fits your schedule next week will work, but Tuesday would work well for me.

Bisous,

Roger


On Aug 14, 2009, at 4:47 PM, “Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Wow, Talk about a random event – I just found this email in my spam box.  It

is the first and only time that an email from you has been dumped there.

Totally fascinating that you should relate Black Swan to the theatre – at

the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, my very favorite theatre there was a small

(seats about 80), very intimate setting where they do more modern and

somewhat experimental plays.  It’s called The Black Swan !

But on the other side of the mirror, I can indeed envision randomness in the

theatre.  I think it would be outrageous to write and produce a play where

the action and the eventual outcome was based on the intrusion of totally

random events during the performance.  It would have to entail actors who

were really capable of improvisation, and the potential for really boring

and meaningless performances would have to be accepted, but there would also

be the possibility of that extraordinary theatrical moment when new vistas

and visions were cracked open by the arrival of the Black Swan.  To my

knowledge, nobody has ever attempted such a play.  The Surrealists and the

subsequent Absurdists in France created some really fascinating plays in

which random happenings and chance occurrences were an element in everyday

life, but the structure of their plays was not such that such events had any

bearing on the way the play was staged – each night’s performance was the

same as the previous night’s.

But the high priest of Surrealism in France, André Breton, made many forays

into the world of dreams and chance happenings in his quest for a reality

that was superior to what we commonly refer to as reality.  He and his

followers used such techniques as automatic writing and many of them used to

spend their afternoons wandering the streets of Paris in search of random

events that would then be incorporated into their art and poetry.  Breton

met one of the women in his life during one such jaunt.

And in the virtual realm, we would have to infuse the many exciting features

of the theatre with elements of chaos theory.  I’ll have to give that more

thought.

Hope you have a good weekend.  When do you fly off to the land of illusions?  You might find this book by Chris Hedges revealing:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106853619

Gros bisous,

Roger


Date: Sat, Sep 12, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Subject: Servitus

To: purnima

Hi again,

Now it is I who is on the verge of bombarding.

There is scant reference to Servitus on the web, but I did find this interesting bit that sheds further light on why he was arrested, brought to trial and burned, in a rather ghastly way.  But the author of this short piece seems to find some kind of redeeming light in Servitus’ martyrdom.  Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh !

http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi689.htm


Dear Purnima,

I feel like I’m still floating in a sea of neglected chores and catch up after being gone for four days, and that after wading through the throngs of tourists in Barcelona on Sunday afternoon.  We did catch a wonderful exhibit at the Barcelona Cultural Centre, “Le Siècle de Jazz” that traced the evolution of America’s one true and original art form and its influence on literature and art.  It was a veritable flood of images, sounds, album covers, sheet music, books, paintings, more sounds, all of which evoked a cascade of memories from different times in my life and the countless hours I have spent listening and admiring, first on those little 45 rpm records, then on 78 rpm vinyl disks, then on cassette tapes and finally on CD’s and MP3 recordings.

When do you want to do lunch ?  I had hoped to be able to come into Geneva this week, but it has been impossible.  Would Monday work for you ?  We are leaving again on Weds. for New York – yes, I know, I feel like a gadfly with all these trips, and it has only started.  At least flying on Swiss will be more comfortable than the Easyjet flight we took from Barcelona to Geneva on Monday.

I hope you’ve been well and enjoying your car and the nice weather.

See you soon,

Roger


8/28/09

Loki and Co

Dear Purnima,

I’m back.  It was a short but strenuous trip to the land of the Vikings and my Dutch steed was even a bit late ferrying me back to the shores of Helvetica.  I dutifully kept a watchful eye for any unicorns in the various forests I travelled through and over, but the local bards all informed me that except for their symbolic  representation as the principal motif on the Danish throne they were last seen as they began their migration to warmer climes in the mountains of Transylvania in eastern Romania and Moldavia.  The forlorn mermaid in question was left dangling on the horn of indecision unable to make that fateful and often fatal choice, and even the counsel of Thor and Freyja could not budge her one way or the other.  My suggestion to her was that she resume her lilting pose on her partially submerged stone at the entrance to Copenhagen’s harbor where she can at least observe, if not fully partake in, both worlds.  As I slowly retreated into the alluring depths of post-modern Copenhagen, I could see her staring wistfully out over the horizon.

I always have real pangs of nostalgia when I leave the fairytale-like country of Denmark, and that was especially the case last night as we took off into the sunset and headed south.

Hope you had a good week.  What are you up to at the beginning of next week?  I’ve lots to relate and so do you.  Hope we can get together then.  I’m leaving again on Thursday, but headed south this time.

Sweet dreams,

Roger


Dear Roger,

This is my first communication from my new ship, I’m very happy as its quick, sleek (platinum blonde) and light, quite a head turner!  

loved your email, It sounds like you are in for quite an adventure. Wherever you go, you must promise to carry me on the tip of your spectacles. I wish to hear all. I hope I will get a chance to meet the “merry” mermaid after your great rescue (does she desire to be rescued?) and if possible receive news of unicorn sightings, I believe they frequent those northern waters. And if you manage to bring them both back, I would love to be finally invited to the Ark (you must be close to the finish, you seem to be building forever) especially now, as I fully expect to find a collection of the worlds most exotic creatures preserved for posterity.

My trip was an adventure from he time I embarked the plane, and now that i am back home I have been mulling over it. You mentioned the mermaid and the undercity, well I also visited an undercity, the New York subway system (it was straight from the game I had mentioned earlier-knights of the old republic). It sent a thrill up my spine as I descended deep down into the subterranean network, with varied accents, frenzied glances and exotic looks, each man for himself, I saw Rakghouls and Gamorrean traders around every pillar. I then approached the ticket collector who was standing outside her protective cubicle, she visibly geared up, reinforced herself as I approached as though her 6 foot frame must be prepared for a full frontal attack(, again right out of the game). And after making a quick assessment with her razor sharp vision, not perceiving any immediate threat(from tiny p) she was very helpful. 


Dear Purnima,

Just returned from my little jaunt to Munich last night.  Delighted to find your email.  I’m glad that you’re finding Zinn so engrossing – he is such a refreshing whiff of honesty and reality in face of all the sugar-coated pablum that most Americans are spoon fed through their education, the main-stream media and other organs of propaganda used by the institutions that control the unreality of the American dream.  It sometimes feels a bit like The Truman Show.  You don’t have to go far to find the “official” version of US history.  It’s everywhere.

I had an absolutely delightful time in Munich.  My friend John met me at the airport Saturday and we spent the afternoon walking through the extensive and really wonderful English Gardens and strolling through the pedestrian streets of the downtown.  That evening we had a dinner in a quaint little restaurant near the zoo where there were about a dozen of their friends gathered to celebrate their wedding.  I sat across the table from a young Korean woman who had lived in the States since the age of 13, but who was now living in Munich.  We talked a lot about her integration into American society, and she shares many of your same experiences and concerns.  We ate and talked and drank (me, I had a really delicious white wine to go with my Dorade Royale meal) and forgot all about the time.  It was nearly 3:00 am by the time we got back to the hotel.  Surprisingly, I didn’t feel tired at all – it was a lot like my graduate school days when I used to pull all-nighters finishing a paper.

Hope the fireworks were great.  You must have had a super vantage point.  Too bad I missed both that and the lipstick.  I’m a great fan of deep, rich colors, especially on such tantalizing lips.

Tendres bisous,

Roger


8/13/09

Hi again,

Thought you would find this video of Obama interesting.

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/2009/08/obama-harvey-milk-stirred-the-aspirations-of-millions.php?ref=fpblg

Moi


8/8/09

A People’s History of the United States: An Alternate Perspective

Dear Roger,

Thank you for the book, your recommended reading has set my heart ablaze. Reading Zinn’s “Columbus, The Indians and Human Progress” Chapter 1, and “The Empire and the People” Chapter 12,  has me down into the dreary dark depths of human nature; are we as a species truly capable of such insensitivity and how do we justify it? 

Just so that I may rebalance my perspective, reverting to my nature to view both sides, I sincerely request being lent the “Establishment Version” to review.

And for now, I will just have to put this wretchedly riveting book down, put on some lipstick and leave to join friends on their rooftop garden to enjoy  a wonderful evening viewing the musical fireworks that will light up Geneva’s skies this 8th of August. A world far, far away from the grotesque face of Truth!

I wish I could share my passion for lipstick with you Roger…Oh the constraints of being born a boy!

Kisses (in sun-drenched orange),

Purnima


On Jul 20, 2009, at 11:04 PM, “Roger Stevenson” wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Saw a delicious but troubling film, “The Reader”, an adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s best selling novel.  It seems to pose the question, “how do you react when you discover that the woman you had a brief affair with as a young student and who left an indelible mark on your soul is really some kind of amoral monster because of her past as a concentration camp guard?”  During this idyllic affair, the young student’s initiation to carnal pleasure, she loved to have him read to her and insisted that he read something, always great literature, prior to their love making.  That act of reading to someone else is the thematic thread that is woven throughout the film/novel.  (some of my fondest and long-lasting memories of my mother are of her reading stories to me as a child). And now I ask myself how that act could be adapted to this virtual, ethereal medium.  Can one be a virtual reader in a medium that is largely, at least for the time being, text oriented?  The real clincher in the film/novel is that the woman is illiterate and suffers tragic consequences rather than admit her shortcoming.

I’m trying to free up some time this week, but it’s not easy.  Celine, Vincent and Alexandra staying with us until August 19th (They’re moving to Valencia in Spain) and it’s hard to get away.  Weds. and Thursday are Tour de France days.  Maybe Friday afternoon.   Would that work for you ?

Looking forward to seeing you very soon,

Bisous,

Roger


De : PURNIMA

Envoyé : mardi 21 juillet 2009 18:23

À : Roger Stevenson

Objet : Re: This week

Dear Roger

I saw The Reader in two parts with a gap of two months in between and I still absolutely loved it. I was keen to see the movie as it had my favorite Ralf Fiennes, the same intense and seductive character from The English Patient, but there was too little of him. I wanted to see him fall back in love with the same woman now in her sixties and have a passionate affair.  I guess Hollywood is not quite ready for that yet.

As for moving from this movie this experience from the physical, from text, to the virtual, it’s already done. It  transcended text and moved into the virtual by its conversion into a popular  multimedia format and our discussions of it, both the text and film, online!

And so the virtual world continues to be created the final form of this creature, an arena of collective experiences, whether this be  Paradise or the Death Star it is to be waited to be seen.  

Hope to see u soon.     

PURNIMA 


On Jul 24, 2009, at 10:08 PM, “Roger Stevenson” wrote:

Dear Purnima,

I should have realized that you had seen « The Reader ».  Ralph Fiennes is one of my very favorite actors.  I loved him also in « The English Patient » and he was superb in « The Constant Gardner » together with Gretha Weitz.  I always felt that he would have made a far better Denys Finch Hatton for Meryl Streep’s Karen Blixen in « Out of Africa »  He even looks a lot like Hatton, and I thought that Robert Redford was really flat in that role.

Do you think in « The Reader » that he ever really fell out of love with her ? 

I don’t, however, think that merely transforming the novel into a movie and discussing it over the internet really answers my question about how one can be a « reader » for someone else in this virtual medium.  There has to be an audible, comprehensible voice.  Skype, and, of course, cellphones are a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill.

Bisous,

Roger


De : PURNIMA

Envoyé : lundi 27 juillet 2009 11:36

À : Roger Stevenson

Objet : Re: The Reader

Dear Roger

As I wait at the Swiss immigration office in Geneva for the nth hour, I am afraid I am going to be inundating you with mail ( even though I have the Black Swan sitting quietly in my handbag begging to be read).

It’s incredible how you seem to reflect my thoughts and put my words in such coherent language (finally I seem to have punctuation), whether it’s Ralph Fiennes or religion. A mirror image? Have u ever conceived of a female you? U know it exists.  

Back to the Reader, despite the fact that they made the female character illiterate and the male played the classic educating role ( when will the Anglo male get over the pygmalionesque fetish), it was good to see the female also playing an educating role, however earthy. 

I suppose I can find parallels in our philosophy,  a representation of Prakriti and Purusha, the earthly or rooted to the ground as represented by the female and the essence or the Spirit as represented by the male.  However, I have always understood the two sides to be equal parts of the whole, elemental and essential representing the balance of life. But we know in this concept, somehow the male element representing the intellectual educated voice, the essence or the spirit is viewed as somehow superior to the carnal basic earthy female element. When will u guys let go…give it up!

I would love to play the game of the image In the mirror, but on the condition u r willing to switch sides. Game?   

PURNIMA 


Jul 28, 2009, 1:23 PM

Dear Purnima,

Interesting comment about my feminine mirror image.  We have talked about this before, but I have always felt much more comfortable and willing to bear my soul to women.  Through the years I have had some wonderfully close friendships with women and on many fronts share a kindred spirit.  AND, I am often ashamed of my own sex for the stupidity and lack of sensitivity men often demonstrate in order to prove their « virility » and superiority.

I hadn’t considered « The Reader » to be a reflection of the pigmalion motif, although one could probably view it as such.  But there was no attempt or desire on his part to remold her and to make her into a more refined and cultured individual.  At the time he was, of course, enthralled with the sensual nature of their relationship.  She was a refuge for him from the stuffy nature of his family and school setting.  And while his education, even for a young man, was far more advanced than hers, I don’t think he really wanted to change her or make her into something more socially acceptable that would fit into his societal standing.  In fact, he was, at the time, completely unaware that she was illiterate.  They shared a common joy in reading great literature together, and were I in his shoes, I would never have questioned her motivation in wanting to listen to me read to her.  They shared both the pleasures of the mind and of the flesh and, as you point out, she played just as much an educating role as he did.  I actually think her position was the stronger of the two because she was operating in total lucidity as to their respective conditions, and it was really she who called most of the shots, whereas he was not completely aware of just who she was or the kind of baggage she was carrying around.  It wasn’t until the trial that he became aware of her illiteracy and her moral bankruptcy.  From that point on, his motivation for reading to her had completely changed, and I’m not sure that I can really put my finger on what that involved – a sense of shame, guilt, gratitude, love (he never really stopped loving her), pity ? ? ?

And as for the male/intellectual/superior vs the female/earthy/carnal dichotomy, there is much to discuss.  How can we be sure that such labels have not been imposed by the male dominated hierarchy over the centuries ?  Are such distinctions not simply intended to assure the male domination in society and to preserve his « rightful claim » to access to females AND at the same time their fidelity to him.  The abhorrent practice of genital mutilation, in my mind, has been conceived for just that purpose, and the clincher is that it is all couched in religious references that somehow justify such practices.

I’m always game !

Should we meet at the café in the museum around 9 :30 tomorrow morning ? 

Also, if I could pick up the inflatable mattress afterward that would be great.  We are having another house guest next week and with Celine, Vincent and Alexandra here, we are short on available beds.

A demain !

Roger


Dear Roger,

It was a pleasure as always to see you, to meet you and to speak to you. At some subliminal level, I do find between us a re-enactment of the Reader. I find myself compelled to read, to re-read in order to engage you. And of course there is always the unspoken unexpressed underlying sexuality…

See you soon!


Letter #4

Randomness and The Black Swan Servitus

 8/12/09

Dear Purnima,

Wow, Talk about a random event – I just found this email in my spam box.  It

is the first and only time that an email from you has been dumped there.

Totally fascinating that you should relate Black Swan to the theatre – at

the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, my very favorite theatre there was a small

(seats about 80), very intimate setting where they do more modern and

somewhat experimental plays.  It’s called The Black Swan !

But on the other side of the mirror, I can indeed envision randomness in the

theatre.  I think it would be outrageous to write and produce a play where

the action and the eventual outcome was based on the intrusion of totally

random events during the performance.  It would have to entail actors who

were really capable of improvisation, and the potential for really boring

and meaningless performances would have to be accepted, but there would also

be the possibility of that extraordinary theatrical moment when new vistas

and visions were cracked open by the arrival of the Black Swan.  To my

knowledge, nobody has ever attempted such a play.  The Surrealists and the

subsequent Absurdists in France created some really fascinating plays in

which random happenings and chance occurrences were an element in everyday

life, but the structure of their plays was not such that such events had any

bearing on the way the play was staged – each night’s performance was the

same as the previous night’s.

But the high priest of Surrealism in France, André Breton, made many forays

into the world of dreams and chance happenings in his quest for a reality

that was superior to what we commonly refer to as reality.  He and his

followers used such techniques as automatic writing and many of them used to

spend their afternoons wandering the streets of Paris in search of random

events that would then be incorporated into their art and poetry.  Breton

met one of the women in his life during one such jaunt.

And in the virtual realm, we would have to infuse the many exciting features

of the theatre with elements of chaos theory.  I’ll have to give that more

thought.

Hope you have a good weekend.  When do you fly off to the land of illusions

?  You might find this book by Chris Hedges revealing:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106853619

Gros bisous,

Roger


Sep 11, 2009, 3:41 AM

Dear Roger,

The shadow of the Black Swan seems to be flapping above me, even though the book is long read. Somehow, I am stirred to write especially today, Jeune Genevois, September 10th, 2009, a day of fasting, a public holiday here in Geneva, where the citizens of Geneva held an annual fast in camaraderie with the protestants being persecuted all over France. And, weren’t the persecutors heartless, the inquisition drenched in the blood of whole villages…I read and read. After all, was Geneva not the hub of freedom and reformation, where intellectuals fled for protection of their faith and the freedom to express their ideas?

Heretic:

One who holds controversial opinions and dissents from the officially accepted dogma…

Anyone who does not conform to an established doctrine, attitude or principle.

A person with an opinion of his own who normally expresses it.

I then embarked upon a journey of meeting these Historical Heretics, the swans that had been tied and burned. I met Akenaten, the heretical pharaoh who challenged the prevailing order and established a new world oder with the worship of the sun at the singular deity; Joan of Arc, challenging convention, literally a woman in mans pants; Galileo, an astronomer, physicist, mathematician, who went against the geocentric Ptolemaic idea that had prevailed for over a millennia to propose a heliocentric world, emphasizing a separation of faith and science; Spinoza, one of the greatest philosophers and the greatest heretic of Judaism in his time, who emphasized on the guidance of reason; Giordano Bruno, a mathematician, philosopher and astronomer (who said that he went to Geneva so that he may live in liberty and security), proposed a heliocentric and infinite universe and the possibility of many parallel worlds(he has to be my favorite!), And then our very own Servetus, a physician, theologian, astronomer, humanist who questioned everything, challenged norms, who fleeing from his imprisonment in Vienna on his way to northern Italy, just stopped for the night in Geneva…

Denounced as heretics, assassinated, imprisoned, excommunicated, BURNED AT THE STAKE with their books tied to their ankles! 

I come back to the Black Swan and the varied realities. The Black Swan represents that inconceivable, unfathomable, and unanticipate-able occurrence, an unknowable formula, a model that throws all others off, which if you accept the reality of, it would bring your carefully constructed world down, crashing! There is the underlying fear that the very existence of the Black Swan somehow denies your existence.The fact that you see the sun rising in the shape of a smiley banana, the sky raining kangaroos and the Porsche you worship turning into a frog with puckered lips looking at you for a ride (there is always a frog in my story!), makes you wonder whether you and everything you believe to be real exist at all. Or possibly if this exists , perhaps you don’t! How could you occupy the same space with this irrationality. So, violently and vehemently, you deny its existence at the same time reaffirming yours. You then use all the tools, laws and logic of your universe to erase the swan. Even the temples of learning and the high priests of wisdom succumb and burn the swan, the heretic, with the fires of vengeance into the ashes of silence.

Imagine  1500 years of “knowing” that the earth lies at the centre of the universe and we are all that life is about and everything revolves around us supported by fact, fiction, mythology, faith…and then you have jolly Galileo turning it all upside down. I guess you would have done what has been done to the Black Swans throughout history, denied their existence, to the extent of denying them their existence. Would you?

The story does not end…

Purnima


Dear Roger,

Do you believe that Servetus, a refugee from Spain, hunted by the inquisition in France and executed in Geneva, can still today burn here in Geneva?

The shadow of the Black Swan that fluttered above my head whispered into my ear, “Purnima, what are you doing here in Geneva?”. I looked up to see the kindest face furrowed with concern. What was I doing in Geneva, living here in Champel, from California (not too far from Spain) and two weeks short of my 42nd year!

 He said that that he was on his way to Italy, and seduced by the lake and Calvin with whom he had many fiery exchanges, he came to rest here for a night. This Spanish physician, philosopher, theologian, humanist was arrested, imprisoned, declared a heretic by the city council and burned at the stake in his 42nd year.

We walked together across Bourg-de-Four Square, him in chains and me in air, up rue de saint-antoine out towards Champel. My home, and the place he was tied with his books and burned. It was here that he turned towards me and said that the judgement against me has been long delivered, it just waits execution. I must not hold out, I must not test my strength but beg for the sword, just beg for the sword!

So with this dramatic end, I must say goodnight and hope tomorrow is a sunny day.

goodnight

Purnima


Letter #5

Indiana Jones, Inspector Clouseau, Nadir Shah, Tavernier- The Eternal Quest for the Kohinoor

8/13/09

Dear Roger,

It’s bubbling up and bursting out to rival the jet d’eau, tell me how u like it?

I wish to persuade you that my life has not always been a dead end, and I am not a complete bore!

A sad, ironic, ridiculous tale of love and adventure: 

The last time I spoke to my beloved froggie (btw, kermit now resides in NYC), he said I reminded him of Inspector Clouseau running around Paris in my trench coat.This took a lot of swallowing, and I begged in my mind that he would say it really was sexxxy Olga that he was referring to, But NO. Imagine having a crush on a guy who (fondly?) compares you to a fumbling, bumbling, bushy eyebrowed detective who is always in hot pursuit of the Pink Panther. I found myself looking in the mirror numerous times and still not able to quite grasp his image (despite giving up waxing, there was no bushy mustache and eyebrows to match). 

But, as time passes I find in his description lies an uncanny prophecy, in some sense i find I have become inspector Clouseau. And The Pink Panther Strikes Again! I find myself continuously running being chased by a number of assassins from all over the world, who keep eyeballing me as they jog around the track in Park Betrand, waiting for their opportunity to strike. Of course, fortunately for me,I am Chief Inspector Clouseau, so they extinguish each other and I am left alone in my pursuit of the Pink Panther, the Kohinoor diamond. See Inspector Clouseau and The diamond below:

http://www.cartoonbucket.com/cartoons/inspector-clouseau-holding-diamond/

Well, since froggie so lovingly called me inspector Clouseau, and we both accepted this upside down world. I asked him in turn why the gods had sent Menaka in this form to distract me. See below the tale of Menaka the nymph of irresistible charm and exquisite beauty sent by the gods (of the Hindu Pantheon) to distract the great sage Vishwamitra from his meditations (I embody the great sage Vishwamitra as I descend from this great King turned sage from my grandmother’s side- Kowshiki). In our mythology, whenever an old brahmin/learned pundit  goes into deep meditation stirring up the cosmos acquiring immense power and energy and thus the weapons of the gods, the gods get alarmed by this disruption of the balance of the universe(the balance has to be inclined in their favor of course), and send forth such distractions in the form of demons and nymphs to get the sages to put an end to their meditations. And BOY was I distracted! See below the Tale of Menaka and Vishwamitra incorporated in the art, literature and spirit of the Indian Subcontinent:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menaka

And once Vishwamitra is awakened the story naturally proceeds to give birth to Shakuntala the melodious and magnificent love story written in Sanskrit by Indian epic poet Kalidasa in the 4th century AD. See below my canvas for the modern day Shakuntala as I borrow the paint brush from the hands of India’s celebrated artist Raja Ravi Verma who through his art vividly evokes and immortalizes the magical images of ancient India literature:

See below Raja Ravi Verma’s iconic works of art depicting Menaka and Vishwamitra and Shakuntala:

https://www.wikiart.org/en/raja-ravi-varma

See below my modern day rendition of the iconic image of Shakuntala holding out her hand with the ring of recognition, an image like the above by Raja Ravi Verma surrounded by magical backwaters and swaying palms of Kerala:

Since then I have fully embraced this role and added a couple of others to the mix (Indiana Jones, Tintin in Tibet, why is it that the boys always get the fun adventurous roles!), and continued my hunt for the Kohinoor. This magnificent stone has a complex and bloody history as it has changed hands, seen coups and invasions, imprisonments and assassinations by those that have beheld it (not only by those that have possessed it). My tryst with the Kohinoor occurred many a moon ago as The Jeweler to The Maharajas (and the narrator of my tale) ominously whispered into my ear on my wedding day that I should realize I was being bestowed The Kohinoor. See below NYT article on the book The Koh-i-Noor by William Dalrymple which depicts the tragic consequences of ones who entranced by its aura are driven in a frenzy to possess it:

It’s first mention was supposedly in the Baburnama, the memoirs of the great Mughal ruler Babur. However, it had yet to acquire its name Kohinoor (mountain of light) and so was mentioned as a large magnificent diamond in the Mughal treasury. There was another diamond called the Great Mogul, the largest known diamond, which was supposed to be 900 carats in the rough, the size of a hens egg in half, which was also a part of the Mughal treasury. The last detailed account of which was given by Jean Baptiste Tavernier in his six voyages, where he was invited to view the precious gems of the Mughal treasury during his visit to Aurangzeb’s court in 1665. We have since never heard of the Great Mogul diamond. 

There have been various speculations regarding this magnificent stone: the primary one being that it was taken by Nadir Shah during his invasion of India in 1738 along with the Kohinoor (which he named) and the famous peacock throne. The second speculation is that the Great Mogul was probably cut down to make the Kohinoor diamond and others, as we don’t have any concrete information about the Kohinoor’s origins and no information about the Great Moguls endings. Finally, some have speculated that it journeyed all the way to Russia, and sits in the Kremlin as the Orloff diamond (I certainly have my next destination mapped out for me, mustache and eyebrows in tow!).   

So here I am in Geneva, in hot pursuit of Tavernier who ended up purchasing the Barony of Aubonne (just outside Geneva in the canton of Vaud!). This incredible traveller (sixty thousand leagues overland), not only travelled far and wide in search of the treasures of the world. He was the greatest authority on gems in that time and wrote details of the glorious gems, gold, pearls, indigo, pepper that was to be found in the exotic shores of India. He was one of the people responsible for spinning the story of India in vivid hues that  propelled the journeys to India in pursuit of these very treasures. His description of diamonds the size of Hens eggs, enormous pearls that hang from peacock tails, richly colored silks heavy with gold thread and of course his famous description of the peacock throne as:

A 4ft by 6ft (takht)bed with gold feet, distinguished by a peacock, whose outspread tail was made of blue sapphires and other colored gems, and whose body was of enameled gold studded with precious stones, and with a large ruby in front, whence hung a pear-shaped pearl, about 50 carats in weight, or 200 grains. On either side of the peacock, and at about the same height, there stood two bouquets, the flowers of which were of enameled gold and precious stones. See below The Peacock Throne:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peacock_Throne

Tavernier goes on to say that, “on the side of the throne facing the Court, there is an open-set jewel, whence hangs a diamond from 80 to 90 carats in weight, and surrounded by rubies and emeralds, and when the king is seated he has this jewel right in front of him.” 

With descriptions such as the above, do you not think that the Spanish (and the other European wealthy states with colonial aspirations) would fund Columbus’s proposed voyage to India as he promises to return with cargo laden with diamonds the size of hen’s eggs and immeasurable gold. Now Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States seems a step closer to reality, as I can envision how the natives must have been beaten and bled to extract their  pound of gold. Where were the silks, the indigo, the pepper, how could they return empty handed home! All I can say is that we (in India) certainly “Started the fire…” and you landed America.

Back to Indiana Jones, Clouseau, The Pink Panther! It’s been told that the Kohinoor which found its way from Maharaja Ranjit Singh (A long journey from Nadir Shah, but all in the same neck of the woods), to queen Victoria and now it rests (no sits, how can the pink panther ever rest) in the tower of London embedded in a crown. So, I went to visit the Tower of London to see for myself…AND it was nooooot there! No buddy, it was not the pink panther. I know i will know it when I see it (after all I am the chief inspector!). So here I am in Geneva, in hot pursuit of Tavernier and his whereabouts. I thought I saw him, I thought I found him, our eyes met…but these bushy eyebrows got in the way and he was gone.

Roger, as you know, I have spent the summer in Geneva endlessly walking the dog (with the 22 assassins in hot pursuit), and entertaining the kids by taking them to the Geneva summer festival and museums. I was exhausted and we were all museum-ed out, when Tara, my 9 year old suggested that we visit the Museum of Natural History. “OK, well here I go again, another long day”, I though. So we trooped to the museum and wandered around, re-looking at the turtle with two heads for the nth time and trying to transcribe (fabricate/use creative license for) all the French headings. It was in this tired, bored and delirious state, wanting to break out of the “mommy” mould and make some mischief when we stumbled upon a long dark room filled with rocks and minerals. There it lay, proudly perched on its pedestal: the Pink Panther and the great Mogul, the gems of India! They were two, not one diamond as everyone had long speculated. There they lay bathed in soft unassuming light cradled in the  “regular” display cabinet. So this is where Tavernier had brought them and placed them, posing as replicas only to be discovered by the sharp scrutinizing eye of the chief inspector Clouseau himself.  What better surroundings, may they Rest In Peace!

See below the kids all time fav – Musee D’Histoire Naturelle de Suisse:

http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/fr/mhn/

See you soon.

Purnima


On Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 10:46 PM, Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

I’m feeling a bit less hassled tonight.  I’m glad the weekend is approaching.

I’m happy to hear that you are having a really positive experience at your Ecole Migros, and that’s a really fascinating question you ask about having some « preprogrammed » innate ability to learn French.  I’m sure most of it is your inherent and wonderful intelligence, but I can’t help but agree somewhat with Chomsky that human beings are genetically programmed to use and produce intelligible language.  There are many species in nature, however, who communicate with audible sounds – perhaps it’s just a different kind of language that we humans can’t understand.  On the other hand, I don’t believe that we have some innate ability to acquire a specific language.  While there is still much we don’t fully understand about first language acquisition, it is pretty widely accepted that an infant child learns his or her mother tongue by being exposed to it over a space of time and that he or she begins to produce utterances in that language spontaneously once the initial process of aural comprehension has progressed far enough.  The mother tongue that is acquired is, of necessity, the language the child is exposed to.  I don’t know of any case where a child born into a particular linguistic community comes away from the process speaking a language that is different from that of the community.

I had a student in Oregon who was born in Korea but adopted at the age of just a few months by an American family and raised in the US.  She told me that when her mother would take her downtown when she was just a baby, she had several people ask when the baby was going to begin speaking Korean !  They apparently believed that she was genetically wired to speak the language of her biological parents.  That, of course, wasn’t the case, and she is totally anglophone and speaks no Korean at all.

While I have no scientific evidence to back this up, I do feel that a second, acquired language resides in a slightly different part of the brain than the mother tongue.  Whenever I go back to Denmark for more than a few days, I find myself almost totally thinking in Danish again.  It is rather easy for me to translate orally from Danish to English and visa versa, or from French to English, but I have a really difficult time going back and forth between French and Danish.  In fact, I can remember one Christmas we spent in Denmark and I was really blown away by the fact that when I would attempt to explain things to Annick in French, I would often, in fact, do it in Danish and not be aware that I was speaking Danish rather than French.  It was really weird.  It is as though both my Danish and my French are stored in the same lobe and are somewhat conflictual.

Chomsky had a major impact on linguistics in the States and was somewhat at odds with Saussure, but we can discuss that later.  My more recent interest in Chomsky is as a political activist and analyst of underlying patterns and motifs in the political discourse of not just the United States, but throughout the world.  He is an amazing thinker.  I heard him speak at the University of Geneva four or five years ago to a standing room only crowd.  He was also interviewed for the book we did on the United Nations and I transcribed the interview for Annick so she could have access to the actual text of the interview.  He was brutally frank about the negative consequences of the United States’ position of influence in the UN.  By the way, the book, « Planet UN » was released in France yesterday and the English translation in the States.  It still isn’t out in Geneva yet, however.  I checked out a copy of it at FNAC in Lyon yesterday afternoon.

Annick is whisking me off to Bucharest and Brasov, Romania on Saturday as a birthday present.  I’m really looking forward to the trip.  I have always wanted to visit Romania, but have never had the chance.  We return on the 1st.

What time is your BD party on the third ?  Can we bring anything ?

More in a day or two from Transylvania.  What do you think, should I go visit Dracula’s castle ?  It’s right near Brasov.

Sweet dreams,

Roger


De : purnima

Envoyé : mercredi 23 septembre 2009 16:51

À : Roger Stevenson

Objet : Ecole Migros!

Dear Roger,

It seems like forever since I last connected with you, well as I was surfing last night with Darwin (until you find me some men with a pulse for a change to spend my evenings with) on this special 200th anniversary of his birth,  guess who flickered on my screen…Chomsky, and of course he promptly directed me right  to you. 

As you know, I have been attending french classes at Ecole Migros, and have found to my amazement that just with our three months together which was my introduction to the French language, I am able to follow perfectly almost to the point that I am unable to discern whether I am hearing the instructors voice in English or in French! Yes, if I drift off which I often do, I am not able to hear anything at all. So, my question is: was it you that worked the magic wand or was there some pre-programmed “innate” ability to acquire the French language in me. This of course brought my straight to my one and only long term relationship, my devotion to Darwin and I surfed Darwin and the evolution of language. Well, as I am sure you know if there have been any challenges thrown to Darwins theory of evolution, the acquisition of language (which is unique to our species) is one of them. This is tough terrain, and he had to respond and defend his theories, without the large reservoir of knowledge on genetics and linguistics that we have today. He acknowledged that language was not itself instinctive but like birds who have an instinct to call/sing, but the song itself has to be learnt; similarly humans have an instinct to acquire language, even though the language itself has to be learned.   

In my trying to understand Darwin, I repeatedly encountered your friend Chomsky (and you will have to shed more light/correct me), who I believe says that humans are hardwired for speech and what is learned cannot account for it all. Is language a biologically determined, do we somewhere have a map an imprint in our brains which we just “re-learn”? 

Well, the most exciting part of my journey down this road was the many familiar places I visited, California, Geneva and India. Apparently, Chomsky defers to Panini, the 4th century BC, great Indian Sanskrit grammarian from Gandhara who stands at the beginning of the history of linguistics itself(see how all roads lead to India)! Not much is known about him apart from references in the Panchatantra (wonderful Indian folk tales about animals, the precursor to Aesops Fables) and Hieun Tsang, the Chinese buddhist monk and traveller.

Then I stumbled upon Jean Piaget, the the Swiss psychologist and natural scientist (who created the school of sciences at the University of Geneva) and his great debate with Chomsky (how I wish we could see that on u-tube in satire!). Chomsky’s position being that the most important properties of mind are innate and Piaget position being that scientific knowledge is constructed by scientist and not discovered from the world, the only reality we can know is that represented by human thought. Well, that’s not all, Piaget has had so much impact on the field of computer science  we can connect him all the way home on the other side of the planet at R&D at Xerox in Palo Alto, California!

Finally, from Panini and Sanskrit, I went straight (back) to Saussure, Swiss linguist born in Geneva in 1857, known as the father of modern linguistics where he studied Sanskrit, latin and Greek and taught Sanskrit at the University of Geneva!  All these personas excite me today even though I had them peering at me from the bookshelves at home. As the elders of my family (symbolically)invited Max Muller into our living room and talked about the interconnectedness of Latin , Greek and Sanskrit…I was eternally absorbed with brushing my long brown hair!

See below Purnima with Saussure in Chamonix:

Back to Ecole Migros and this uncanny comprehension of French…what do you think?

Well, Roger, I must tell you I am having fun and I seem to have a group of people from all across the world: Panama, Finland (I think I have met half the four million Finns in Geneva!), England, Russia!  And guess what they all have in common, they have all been taught a second language from primary school! 

I was sharing with them my absolute belief that the children must be introduced to a second language right from primary school, and how the public school system in California did not provide for that( despite the fact that half the population is probably Spanish speaking anyway). So, I put Tara who was 7, into an after school Spanish class as we had decided that California was home and that was going to be the most useful language which unfortunately turned out to be basic daycare. I would have chosen French as a second language for my kids, especially with all my grandmothers nagging in the background, but unfortunately I don’t think French has really permeated down into the popular culture of America, its preferred in certain circles, but do “the Teenagers” think its cool is the ultimate question. What do u think, would your kids have opted for French as a second language living in America?

Lots of love, see you soon…Darwin is calling!

Purnima 


Dear Purnima,

Wonderful to get your email.  I just now found it waiting for me after I returned home from a rather long day (eye doctor appointment in Lyon today, all–day trip to Beaune in Burgundy yesterday – really a neat little city that seems to cater exclusively to wine connoisseurs.  I feel like I am now immersed in a clutter of flotsam rather than simply floating on the surface.

Anyway, I’m dreadfully sorry for my prolonged silence. 

So, you’ve discovered linguistics, Chomsky and transformational grammar and Ferdinand Saussure – the two giants of modern linguistics.  Can’t wait to have a long discussion with you about it all, perhaps after we spend some time musing over the great liberating movements of the 1970’s as you flutter your dazzling eyes and gently stroke the flowers in your hair.

More tomorrow.  It’s late and I have another long day tomorrow.

Gros bisous,

Roger

P.S.  The get together on the 3rd sounds wonderful !  It will be a treat to meet your brother


Date: Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 1:32 AM

Dear Purnima,

Busy day in a city that is both run down and modern.  Interesting to see the contrast between the luxury of some areas and the poverty in others.  But it is an interesting city and culture  Visited a wonderful museum of peasantry in Romania this morning and had our first experience with low level corruption with a ticket controleur on a bus. 

More details later.  Heading for Transylvania in morning.

Sorry you had a tough evening the other day.  It will be good when your brother arrives.

Love

Roger


Letter #6

The Black Pearl, Jack Sparrow, The Case For Polanski, Yet another collage pour moi et pour toi

9/28/09

Dear Roger,

I saw a fabulous movie this weekend which immediately lifted my spirits, Good Morning England a “must see”! Its about a band of rogue DJ’s broadcasting their music which was scandalous and unacceptable to the establishment of the day from a pirate ship stationed in the middle of the North Sea. I absolutely loved the movie, loved the story and loved the music!. A wonderful journey that captured the fever and excitement of the 60’s, the ideas, the music and aptly put together on this 40th anniversary of Woodstock (which I have been waiting to hear more about from someone who I am sure was in the midst of all the action, but instead I ended up browsing through a coffee table book on Woodstock’s 40th at Payot this weekend).

Somehow pirates and pirate ships have always excited me, as you remember from my fervent support of the Swedish pirates and our chat about cyberspace and piracy. And then of course there is my very own pirate story, adapted from Pirates of the Caribbean. I was captain Jack Sparrow and when it was possible and exciting enough, Elizabeth Swan. The problem occurred of course when they kissed…who was I? But her spirited response immediately put me into her shoes. Our black jeep Cherokee was the black pearl of course, and the crew included two half toothed brats seat belted in the back as we tore down the pirate lanes on 280 and 101! It was only when you got near Palo Alto that we all had to duck/ submerge as the police cars emerged and appeared to chase this motley crew (a California housewife, two brats and later a dog!) down the highway. 

Not to be outdone or forgotten in my current story, the pirate theme continues…last week  i found myself in a car without my handbag rushing to get the kids in time for tennis just across the border in France, I drove without an ID, without papers, with out cash or a license across the border praying to be spared for this very last time. As I passed the mustard fields surrounded by spectacular peaks on the Route de Thonon (my soul certainly feels good everytime I drink that water having seen its origins), I was convinced that the froggies were jumping up and down in a frenzy (I was told by the frog prince himself that The Frog always watches),   saying, “shall we nab her, shall we nab her not!” I guess Not!

Route de Thonon: 

https://images.app.goo.gl/kkBun79VKkDw4WS89

Then of course back home in Geneva, i have the radio blaring at 6am with Gaddafi’s indignant message for the nth time after the supposed affront by the Swiss authorities on his son, “this is a mafia country, they are all mafia!” Well guess who jumps up all excited, moi of course, and the creative juices start to flow again…

A mafia country, a pirate ship…could I really be on a large hidden pirate ship! Could this be the Pearl? Incredible, I might be home! Suddenly, everyone around me starts looking the part, the postman is certainly One-eyed Jack, and then there is Blue Eyed Bob behind the meat counter at CO-OP who so deftly uses his knife as his golden earrings glisten and swing, the bankers with their eye patches and attorneys with tall tales all neatly tucked into their neatly tailored European suits and of course the guard at the border post, a female that winks every time I pass (in this bizarre upside down universe as many girls seem to wink at me as boys do!), could my world be more exciting!

Good night.

Purnima

Btw: I did see the movie Coraline and now see whom you were alluding to when you talked about “the hair with a purple glow”, and insisted I watch the movie. A story about a girl with an ATTITUDE that is somehow permanently fixed at twelve with a particularly “long nose” unlike most cartoon characters, forever looking for that tunnel/wormhole to an alternate universe and driven to mischief by abject boredom. Dear Roger,  I wish to inform you, that I HAVE changed my hair color, it is no longer so black that it looks almost purple! 


On Sep 30, 2009, at 5:07 PM, Roger STEVENSON wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Back in Bucharest after two days of no internet, castle hoping, fending off pickpockets and marveling at the ubiquitous poverty.

I loved your last email about possibly being in a pirate haven – truly wonderful.  I’m not quite sure what to think of la Suisse after the Polanski arrest.

I have seen previews of the film about Radio Caroline and really like the actor who plays the lead.  I was in Denmark when it was broadcasting and used to listen to it.  The Danish authorities were going bananas over it too and tried unsuccessfully to silence it.  At the time, it was the only radio station that played good music.  I must go see it.

And can’t wait to see your new hair color.  I also have a wonderful passage to share about moving between different states of realty. I read it today on the train on the way back to Bucharest. It’s from Murakami’s After Dark.

Lots to share. Talk to you soon and see you on the third.

Bisous,

Roger


10/7/09

Now Your Day: a note filled with Magritte, Green Apples, and Yet another American in Paris!

Dear Roger,

Thinking of you on this special day and wishing you the very best for this day and the year through.

So, you are off once again to see an exhibit in Brussels of “our” favorite artist, I am turning apple green with envy. How can you see Magritte without me, you have to take me along! Imagine me seated swinging my legs on the tip of your spectacles. I must hear all about it.

Talking about Magritte and his green apples, I just returned to my french lessons after a break of a couple of days (bunking class to be with my brother), and guess what, I was completely “out of it”, could not follow a sentence without struggling. As usual inspired by Magritte and his passion for floating bowler hats and green apples, I was imagining my head as an enlarged green apple seated on the chair staring blankly in class(ironically green suits me best- another long tale with a capital S for surreal) with a giant pip stuck in the middle of my head occupying most of my brain and blocking me from thinking and and speaking! Whatever I said sounded ridiculous…help!! I now plan to grab people on the road here in Veille Ville and just say something to start a conversation in french, what do u think? need some ideas.

See below Magritte’s Green Apple:

Thank you for your lovely compliments on my dress, you are always so nice (such a contrast from the ogre at home) you certainly make my day. I understand what you mean about not getting a chance to spend more time getting to know people, I wish I had planned this around a small dinner so everyone could have spent more time getting to meet each other. Though I wish you had stayed, we did not go out for dinner as planned but stayed home as everyone just hung around chatting till midnight with my meager snack offerings (I wish I had known, i wish I had planned differently). Well, i guess there is always next time.

My brother seemed to have enjoyed that evening and his stay in Geneva, in his short trip he seemed to have checked out the nightlife of Geneva, more than I have done in a year, even a visit to Bobinsky’s theatre (Coraline and Kempinski) I am glad you met. You mentioned that you are still waiting to tell me more about the 60s,70s and the hippie era and I am anxious to hear. As I mentioned earlier, my brother who celebrates his 40th this year(1969 born), has always symbolized that hippie era with his passion for music and his ideas, But I found a change this time, a radical change, i fear that the dream might have really been hijacked…

And finally from Bobinski, Kempinski we go to Polanski…you mentioned Polanski and the shock at his arrest and extradition in your last mail and I dived right in! I have reading all about his arrest in Zurich and extradition to the US and as much of the issues surrounding this peculiar case. You seemed to be intimately familiar with him and his work, and I am not so, which possibly makes it easier for me to view the issues without the emotional entanglement of the “persecution of a great artist” as is being projected by his sympathizers and my cynicism of the often arbitrary sweeping action of the authorities makes me equally skeptical of the justification for his arrest and extradition being presented by the authorities and blasted by the media. 

As I struggled to understand the issues in full (which I still cannot claim), I stumbled across Yet Another American In Paris; well, Aix-en-Provence to be precise! Ronald Sokol is a lawyer in Provence, taught at the University of Virginia law school and made his way to France eventually. His op-ed in the Herald Tribune has to be one of the most educated, clear headed, balanced and brilliant pieces that puts the whole Polanski issue in perspective. Where were all these guys when I was in California…in Paris I guess! 

Roger, as you must know that there is no one more than me that believes that the protection of women and children form the core values of every civilized society and we must continuously do our best to ensure that this value is reflected with every revision and evolution of the law. However, the law itself must be adhered to and respected without which every other right which we take for granted in which are enshrined these core values of our society stand to be jeopardized.

Sokol lays out the facts quite clearly:

Polanski pleaded guilty in 1978 (30 years ago) in Los Angeles to the felony of having sex with a minor. Grave crime, assaulting one of our core values as mentioned above.

Following the guilty plea Polanski fled the US rather than go to prison. There is social value in discouraging criminals from fleeing the jurisdiction, time should have been done.

The victim has forgiven him and does not want him to go to prison. This is not an issue to be determined by the victim/individual, a crime is not just an offense against the individual but an offense against the state.

Blah, blah from little p: However, in our fervent zeal to pursue truth and justice we must be cautious that we don’t do this in a manner that will undermine the law itself. We have ensure that it conforms to Due Process and the systems we have laid down for an efficient and effective system. Now back to Super S…

 The US persecuting attorney has absolute discretion to persecute or not.  The purpose he serves by embarking on this persecution brings us to the primary aim of Criminal law: Revenge (illegitimate), Deterrence (he has been living in France for three decades with no history of crime),Punishment and Rehabilitation (not to be vindictive but help person to return to society as a normal member and in this case he has been living as a part of society) 

The prosecuting attorney in L.A. has sought his extradition from Switzerland now in 2009, the first request made since 1978 a gap of 31 years.The legitimacy of such delayed persecution is being called into question. 

Polanski has been living and working openly in France and Switzerland as he is one of the most famous film directors in the world and could easily have been extradited from Switzerland long ago.

This three decade-long delay makes the prosecutors action appear arbitrary. Both the European Convention on human rights and the principles underlying the Due Process Clause reflected in 5th and 14th amendments to the US constitution caution against such arbitrary action. Otherwise, by this very arbitrary action the state will appear to mock the very rule of law it seeks to enforce. In my opinion Super Sokol could not have been clearer. Do check out the article (HT oct 3rd).

Roger, as you know the Due Process clause is based on the concept of fundamental fairness, a guarantee of basic fairness with the aim that with the use of fair procedures you would prevent the wrongful deprivation of interests (life, liberty and property). Based on the principle that the government must respect all the legal rights its owed to a person according to the law and holds that the government is subservient to the law of the land, protecting individuals from the State and the States’ arbitrariness. Bottom line, baddie, fugitive or otherwise, the extradition action against Polanski after a 30 year gap was outrageously arbitrary jeopardizing our very  process of law!

Happy birthday once again and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Hugs and a big kiss from ginormous green apple!

Purnima


Letter #7

Geneva Polanski Privacy Pirates Manifesto Rahu Ketu

10/08/09 

Dear Purnima,

I feel like I’m still floating in a sea of neglected chores and catch up after being gone for four days, and that after wading through the throngs of tourists in Barcelona on Sunday afternoon.  We did catch a wonderful exhibit at the Barcelona Cultural Centre, “Le Siècle de Jazz” that traced the evolution of America’s one true and original art form and its influence on literature and art.  It was a veritable flood of images, sounds, album covers, sheet music, books, paintings, more sounds, all of which evoked a cascade of memories from different times in my life and the countless hours I have spent listening and admiring, first on those little 45 rpm records, then on 78 rpm vinyl disks, then on cassette tapes and finally on CD’s and MP3 recordings.

When do you want to do lunch ?  I had hoped to be able to come into Geneva this week, but it has been impossible.  Would Monday work for you ?  We are leaving again on Weds. for New York – yes, I know, I feel like a gadfly with all these trips, and it has only started.  At least flying on Swiss will be more comfortable than the Easyjet flight we took from Barcelona to Geneva on Monday.

I hope you’ve been well and enjoying your car and the nice weather.

See you soon,

Roger


On Sep 30, 2009, at 5:07 PM, Roger STEVENSON wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Back in Bucharest after two days of no internet, castle hoping, fending off pickpockets and marveling at the ubiquitous poverty.

I loved your last email about possibly being in a pirate haven – truly wonderful.  I’m not quite sure what to think of la Suisse after the Polanski arrest.

I have seen previews of the film about Radio Caroline and really like the actor who plays the lead.  I was in Denmark when it was broadcasting and used to listen to it.  The Danish authorities were going bananas over it too and tried unsuccessfully to silence it.  At the time, it was the only radio station that played good music.  I must go see it.

And can’t wait to see your new hair color.  I also have a wonderful passage to share about moving between different states of realty. I read it today on the train on the way back to Bucharest. It’s from Murakami’s After Dark.

Lots to share. Talk to you soon and see you on the third.

Bisous,

Roger


Dear Purnima,

We got home late last night after a return flight via Frankfort – an incredibly big airport, and it seemed like we had to walk for miles and miles to get to the right departure gate, but we were used to that after all the walking we did in Romania.

I have lots of ambivalent emotions about Romania.  It certainly has a rich history and a colorful culture.  Many of the old churches and medieval monuments are really marvelous, and then there are the grandiose remnants of the Ceausescu regime (He wanted to turn Bucharest into another Paris: there is a little Arc de Triomphe, an Avenue Charles de Gaulle, etc., etc.).  The parliament building he built is huge and imposing, as are his several palaces, none of which we visited, as I don’t get off on former tyrannical fear mongers who literally starved the population so he could pay off his debts through foreign exports.  However, we did go see one of the remnants of the monarchical past – the Castle of Peles in Sinaia.  It was the summer residence of the king Carlos and is in magnificent shape today.  It is richly decorated with exquisite wood panelling on both walls and ceilings, which is very impressive.  However, there is just a little too much of a mixture of architectural and decorative styles to suit my tastes.  It seemed horribly cluttered with all kinds of statues, paintings, ornaments, swords and pistols and armour.  The guide was very proud to announce the fact that the castle had running water and a central heating system and even a central vacuum cleaning system, but I couldn’t help thinking how much it all cost and at what point the population of the country had the same kind of creature comforts in their homes.

On the other hand, the country seems like it is falling apart.  The infrastructures are terribly dilapidated, and the older housing has not been very well maintained, and there seems to be litter everywhere – quite a contrast compared to Switzerland.  And while the Romanian women are a mixed lot – some of the younger women are quite exquisitely beautiful and the older women seem to have let themselves go completely –, I didn’t see one pair of enticing; deep brown eyes that could possibly turn my head.

And I’ll wait until I see you in person to tell you about our experiences with bribing, or at least being offered the possibility of paying a small bribe to avoid a steeper fine for not having the right ticket, a bus ticket controlleur and being victims of a really talented pickpocket in a crowded bus in Brasov !

It’s very thoughtful of you to invite us for dinner at Lipps tomorrow night, but I’m afraid that we will have to decline that part of the evening.  We are both, so very far behind after being gone for six days that all we will have time for is drinks at your place.  I trust that part of the invitation will still be valid.  I really want to meet your brother and I have a small gift for your birthday.  What time do you plan to begin ?

A bientôt,

Roger


Dear Purnima,

I loved your latest coloring book, especially your take on the nakedness of the global community.  I don’t know if you followed it, but a few weeks ago the former French Minister of Immigration and current Minister of the Interior, Brice Hortefeux, was caught on camera – an official camera of French TV – making a statement about Arab minorities during an end-of-summer political get together.  He was introduced to a member of his party, UMP, who happened to be a Northern African immigrant.  His reaction was : « We always have to have one of them. One of them is just fine.  It’s when you have a lot of them that you have problems » (“Il en faut toujours un. Quand il y en a un, ça va. C’est quand il y en a beaucoup qu’il y a des problèmes.”)

http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2009/09/10/le-derapage-de-brice-hortefeux-a-l-universite-d-ete-de-l-ump_1238744_823448.html

Le Monde put the footage up on its website, and it quickly spread to thousands of sites in the blogosphere and caused quite an uproar.  Those who sprang to Hortefeux’s defense roundly trashed the internet as the source of all his/their troubles.  It was a pretty feeble attempt to condemn the medium (messenger) and deflect attention away from the real content of his contemptible statement.

I’m sad that the Magritte/Keith Jarrett experience is now just a fond memory.  That’s the trouble with the passage of time.  Brussels is a really neat city on a much smaller and more human scale than Paris and considerably more lively and upbeat than Geneva, which sometimes seems rather staid. 

The Magritte Museum is in a brand new building and the exhibit itself offers a chronological meandering through his career that is punctuated by a lot of sketches, notes, letters, photos and paintings from the various time periods.  There was a lot of stuff that I had never seen before, but there were a lot of his more famous paintings that weren’t part of the exhibit.  There was, for example, only one green apple in the entire museum ! I could feel your heels kicking in protest on my chest. No green apple heads under the bowler or inside rooms.  But it was a wonderful exhibit and very well done – well worth the trip.

After the museum, we wandered through the quaint and colorful pedestrian streets of the center of the city and listened to the amazing mix of languages uttered by the many thousands of Bruxellois and tourists who were milling around, checked out the outrageous prices in the shops, withstood the daunting onslaught of restaurateurs trying to entice us to eat and eventually made our way to La Mort Subite – an artists’ café famous for its beer and clientele, which included in its time Jacques Brel.

The Jarrett concert that evening was nothing short of magical.  He is a real genius, and the exuberant and enthusiastic standing ovations brought him back for five encores.  It was a solo piano concert that was probably 90% improvisation.  In fact, he stated at one point that he never knew what he was going to play when he came out on the stage, or when to stop, but I love his virtuosity, phrasing and very subtle way of expressing himself at the keyboard.

We decided that rather than catch our Easyjet flight back to Geneva at 8 :00 the next morning to instead take the train to Paris and spend Saturday night there.  It was one of those wonderful, mild days in Paris when everyone in Paris, it seemed, was strolling through the streets of the Latin Quarter.  In between window shopping, a cozy apero in a little literary cafe and dinner in one of our favorite Parisian restaurants, we caught two movies, including Ang Lee’s film on Woodstock.  It was quite a gathering and signaled such important changes in society and the way the youth of the time viewed the world after the many long years of lies and war and rigid social conventions that were totally devoid of substance.

Have you started reading Murakami yet ?  I’m anxious to hear what you think of him.

Hope we can get together soon – I may be coming to Geneva Thursday or Friday late morning.  I’ll let you know and we can see if that would work for you.

Fondly,

Roger


The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so I sat in the house coloring, All this cold, wet, Geneva day!

 Dr Seuss: https://images.app.goo.gl/SYieoLG2KieFTKpYA

Dear Roger,

I’m home alone (with Thing 1 wrapped under the covers), captive to La Grippe on this dreary wet Geneva day. I was thrilled to get your recent email and await a longer one from Brussels. And, It feels so good to be able to share my coloring book with you, I am sure u smile at all my squiggles!

When I came across the article on Polanski by the law professor, Of course I was keen to share it with you, especially since you had recently brought him up in conversation, but, I also did it for myself as I thought it would be a good exercise to flex my severely diminished brain cells now clogged with olive oil and garlic (all that cooking) especially at such a time where my coherence and competence is being questioned by my near and dear ones. Do you know Roger, that there was a time where I used to call myself “The Fastest Gun in the West”, and strut around with a cool swagger, but like all good cowboys (girls), I guess I’ve been driven to dem dar hills awaiting the long journey home. The gun is rusty and the knee wounded, but i KNOW i can still ride!

Once again, and from your recent email, I understand your concern about the way the Swiss are dealing with the situation regarding the extradition of Polanski and i agree there are multiple complex legal issues surrounding this case but having spent as much time with the kids, I am now used to the 3 min elevator pitch. Regarding the Swiss reaction, I can only imagine the pressure this new world of technology poses to them and can’t wait to see how the Swiss reassert and redefine the Right to Privacy which they have managed to secure despite big burly neighbors and centuries of turmoil and change around them. The definition of this very sacred right with its wide and far reaching umbrella will not only secure them but also shed light on how the world should view the changes that technology is thrusting upon us at an accelerated pace (almost impossible to keep pace with legally).

Yes, technology has converted the globe into a huge nudist colony…a gigantic nude beach with the Swiss roaming around in Burkhas! What do u think everyone else on the beach is going to do, throw eggs on them of course. Strip them, pull off their floral underwear and place a nice big placard on their chests highlighting their every detail, name, birth, parents, school, girlfriends, bank account number, clients and what they floss with. Sorry, no more privacy, in the world of today IT JUST DOES NOT EXIST.

I was speaking to a friend from Afghanistan who has made Geneva home, and discussing how the two places had some remarkable similarities and striking differences. Both Switzerland and Afghanistan are mountainous landlocked countries with big burly powerful neighbors, and yet they could not be more different. Somewhere the Swiss had got their act together, and managed to avoid with their very intelligent policy of neutrality(?) (and possibly the only feasible one in their situation, love to hear your comments) exactly what the poor Afghans got caught up with (especially with Rahu and Ketu on their tail) and are still continue to struggle.

 However in this new flattened world (how i try to avoid funky Friedman but he always barges in), the big burlys need not be bordering you but could be all the way across the Atlantic, and this even the Swiss have to figure how to grapple. So, in their attempts to grapple with this new world, the odd Polanski will be shipped off along with the other fat cats that have taken shelter straight to the sharks. 

In Vedic astrology, Rahu is an asura who does his best to bring every area of life into chaos. Rahu is associated with the world of material manifestation and worldly desire. The mighty child of Maya (illusion/wealth). Ketu, has both good and bad ramifications as it causes material loss to force a spiritual outlook. The head of the great demon is known as Rahu and his tail as Ketu and one follows the others, they tyrannize together. Do these demons sound familiar???

In a previous mail, I mentioned the story of Rahu and Ketu and the Churning of the sea of milk (Samudra Manthan), but never did get down to telling you about it. The churning of the ocean of milk is one of the most popular stories in Indian mythology. The Gods who had recently lost their power made a pact with the demons to churn the ocean of milk for the nectar of immortality. They used a mountain as the churning tool and a serpent Vasuki (ruler of the nether regions and one of the demons) as the rope to churn the ocean. Lord Vishnu, the preserver, was supporting the gods and he helped them to trick the demons (without whom they could not have churned out the nectar) ensuring that the gods got to drink the nectar first and finish it. However, the serpent Vasuki (or Rahu Ketu), realized the trickery and stood in line disguised as one of the gods. He was discovered by the Sun and the Moon gods as he was gulping down the nectar. Vishnu chopped off his head which remained immortal, so he had a head which was the demon Rahu and a tail which was the demon Ketu with which he tyrannized the heavens gobbling up the Sun and Moon on which he had much revenge to spew. This gobbling of the sun and the moon and their subsequent release from his gaping neck is the mythology around eclipses of the sun and the moon. So everytime there is an eclipse, the children are told that rahu is slowly devouring the sun and its emergence is because it has finally come out of the demons severed neck.

However,  despite the challenges that technology poses, in my opinion, it also offers an incredible bonanza to such landlocked nations: For it offers them, for the first time, access to the seas, the Cyber-seas! Yes, a new parallel world HAS been created, and now it is for ones that can to rule!

And, as for the demons that rule the skies, Rahu and Ketu, they will always remain in the heavens but let’s leave them to terrorize this world and escape to ours.

Good night, have fun!

Purnima


Dear Purnima,

I loved your latest coloring book, especially your take on the nakedness of the global community.  I don’t know if you followed it, but a few weeks ago the former French Minister of Immigration and current Minister of the Interior, Brice Hortefeux, a fully certified creep, was caught on camera – an official camera of French TV – making a statement about Arab minorities during an end-of-summer political get together.  He was introduced to a member of his party, UMP, who happened to be a Northern African immigrant.  His reaction was : « We always have to have one of them. One of them is just fine.  It’s when you have a lot of them that you have problems » (“Il en faut toujours un. Quand il y en a un, ça va. C’est quand il y en a beaucoup qu’il y a des problèmes.”)

http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2009/09/10/le-derapage-de-brice-hortefeux-a-l-universite-d-ete-de-l-ump_1238744_823448.html

Le Monde put the footage up on its website, and it quickly spread to thousands of sites in the blogosphere and caused quite an uproar.  Those who sprang to Hortefeux’s defense roundly trashed the internet as the source of all his/their troubles.  It was a pretty feeble attempt to condemn the medium (messenger) and deflect attention away from the real content of his contemptible statement.

I’m sad that the Magritte/Keith Jarrett experience is now just a fond memory.  That’s the trouble with the passage of time.  Brussels is a really neat city on a much smaller and more human scale than Paris and considerably more lively and upbeat than Geneva, which sometimes seems rather staid. 

The Magritte Museum is in a brand new building and the exhibit itself offers a chronological meandering through his career that is punctuated by a lot of sketches, notes, letters, photos and paintings from the various time periods.  There was a lot of stuff that I had never seen before, but there were a lot of his more famous paintings that weren’t part of the exhibit.  There was, for example, only one green apple in the entire museum ! I could feel your heels kicking in protest on my chest. No green apple heads under the bowler or inside rooms.  But it was a wonderful exhibit and very well done – well worth the trip.

After the museum, we wandered through the quaint and colorful pedestrian streets of the center of the city and listened to the amazing mix of languages uttered by the many thousands of Bruxellois and tourists who were milling around, checked out the outrageous prices in the shops, withstood the daunting onslaught of restaurateurs trying to entice us to eat and eventually made our way to La Mort Subite – an artists’ café famous for its beer and clientele, which included in its time Jacques Brel.

The Jarrett concert that evening was nothing short of magical.  He is a real genius, and the exuberant and enthusiastic standing ovations brought him back for five encores.  It was a solo piano concert that was probably 90% improvisation.  In fact, he stated at one point that he never knew what he was going to play when he came out on the stage, or when to stop, but I love his virtuosity, phrasing and very subtle way of expressing himself at the keyboard.

We decided that rather than catch our Easyjet flight back to Geneva at 8 :00 the next morning to instead take the train to Paris and spend Saturday night there.  It was one of those wonderful, mild days in Paris when everyone in Paris, it seemed, was strolling through the streets of the Latin Quarter.  In between window shopping, a cozy apero in a little literary cafe and dinner in one of our favorite Parisian restaurants, we caught two movies, including Ang Lee’s film on Woodstock.  It was quite a gathering and signaled such important changes in society and the way the youth of the time viewed the world after the many long years of lies and war and rigid social conventions that were totally devoid of substance.

Have you started reading Murakami yet ?  I’m anxious to hear what you think of him.

Hope we can get together soon – I may be coming to Geneva Thursday or Friday late morning.  I’ll let you know and we can see if that would work for you.

Fondly,

Roger

——————————-

10/15/19

The One Green Apple !

Dear Roger,

How I love your mails, especially the extensive descriptive ones like this. I do feel that I am journeying on your shoulder and viewing all the fun stuff u do. Brussels sounds delightful, and I can’t wait to visit for not only is this the home of my favorite Magritte but also the character I absolutely re-live, yes that slight yet determined youngster/investigative journalist, with a keen eye and smart instincts,  always ready for his next adventure in some exotic part of the world and fortuitously finding his way out of as much trouble as he finds himself into, accompanied by his faithful hound who can sniff out the “baddies” and there are always baddies galore with their varied hues and in their many accents. Yes, Tintin in Tibet has to be my all time favorite and I will never tire of reading it! Did you come across a Tintin museum, he apparently celebrated his 100th year in 2007!

All what I have gathered about the French are from my many conversations with my grandmother since childhood who seems to have had a French past life connection (in addition to our family Pondicherry connection). In fact, I remember, my grandmother repeating my aunt’s many adventures in Paris, reading her letters out loud, as I sat wide eyed in wonder. Apparently the French loved everything about this lovely Tamil woman (my aunt), the sarees in their colorful hues, the bangles with their glitter and the fascinating bindis (dots) that adorned her forehead. Every time she stepped out, she was complemented not just on the fact that she was and IS a highly intelligent and sophisticated woman and  but on her beautiful Asian attire and southern beauty. It appeared that she had landed in a place where people were curios, interested and thirsty to learn about different peoples and cultures.I wonder where those stories vanished? I do hope to find them one day. In the meanwhile, no transit through Paris!

Goodnight.

Purnima


10/17/09

And through us perhaps The Twain Shall Meet- In India, In the New India!

Dear Roger,

Today is Diwali. This is the day lord Rama returns from 14 years of exile back to a joyful Ayodhya where its citizens light up the streets and celebrate the return of the conquest of good over evil by lighting the lamp of light and knowledge to dispel the demons of darkness and ignorance. The epic Ramayana, as you may know is this journey , This odyssey (quite akin to The Odyssey) of a man and the demons and dilemmas he faces in this journey of life and how he surmounts it returning home victorious. 

This is our new year and celebrated like you celebrate Christmas but for us this goes on for two weeks from Dussehra (the burning of the demon Ravana till the day of Diwali) with much fervor and festivities all over India. Sweets are specially prepared and distributed, new clothes are bought and worn, homes are a glitter with lamps and lights, the sky resounds with the sound of crackers, people spend this auspicious day gambling (a part of our story), eating and drinking ( its rumored that more scotch is consumed during these days in India than produced through the year in Scotland). And I was …home alone in gentle Geneva, (so quiet that I could almost hear a slash on the lake, where the Tooth Fairy of the Lake was returning with her bag full of goodies), with Thing 1 and Thing 2 watching Popeye the Sailor Man! 

Diwali reminds me of my most recent memories, of my time in California. You know, my response during my French class to the question about the weather in my hometown , “Il fait beau”, and I was talking about California because I still could feel the warmth of the sun on my back. India had been long gone!

 Roger, I wish I could tell you all I did to introduce my culture and my background, myself to the people in the Bay Area ensuring that they embrace me and my children and make it the home we were seeking…

However, fortunately, because of of me being me, and my being home alone with the brats, I took this occasion, to chat with them (a “pre-teenager” and one that is fast loosing interest with what mommy has to say) about our stories, our mythology our culture which is so entwined with our festivals and our rituals. Despite being minimally religious,  I embarked upon the whole puja ceremony (the rituals) with great gusto just so some piece of my culture would rub off. Upon discovering that I had misplaced the ceremonial bell, my son return with his Swiss cow bell which he rings throughout the ceremony with devout fervor (holy cow I do have them hooked I think or do they…!). As you know, through the myths and mythology, many moral dilemmas are evoked and resolved and this forms the corpus of rules (informal laws) and customs which represent the  wealth of  knowledge of our people, and of humanity, that which has been handed down over millennia. Where ever we journey and what ever we leave behind, this I find I am unwilling and unable to abandon as this is tied to me.

So, I find myself trying to create this wormhole between my world and theirs, your world and mine; between the East and the West! Which took me on a journey, back to Rahu and Ketu, the demons that tyrannize the heavens, the churning of the ocean of milk , their representation in both Hindu and Buddhist art and so entwined with the culture and mythology found across Asia.

 The Tibetan Buddhist story is similar in many respects to the Hindu Rahu Ketu story I mailed earlier, except that the main deity who cuts off the serpents head and chases the demon across the heavens is not Vishnu but Vajrapani. In buddhism, Vajrapani is represented as one of the three protectors of Buddha, Bodhisattva. In Sanskrit, Vajrapani means literally the holder of the thunderbolt, the Vedic god Indra. And, there have been references to the Vedic god Indra, as Purandra the breaker of forts, possibly the Aryan invasions that came in waves to settle on the rich river fed lands speculated as one of the reasons for the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization (pushing history back 5000 years, another tale). 

As I continued on my journey, I found the Rahu Ketu representations in the Ankor Vat temple art where Rahu is represented as the eclipse deity and Ketu as the eclipse; My Son (Vietnam) Rahu and Ketu on either side of lord Ganesha (our friend the Makara , sea goat /monster also showed up in the sandstone carvings); Sky Womb, 15c. Japanese art, with Buddha representing wisdom and compassion with the sun, moon, five planets and Rahu Ketu below; Then in Sri Lankan dance which are focussed on various deities, male and female demons, celestial bodies, I found references to Rahu and Ketu.  

I then stumbled upon the Pole Star Scroll in Dunhuang, a dried lake bed at the end of the Tarim basin – Valley of a 1000 buddhas uncovered by Aurel Stein with a cache of the most extensive buddhist art found to date. As you know buddhism spread along the silk route from India all the way across Asia. The Indian emperor Ashoka the Great, 3rd century BC, did much to spread this by sending his monks/teachers to all four corners of the then known world leading the exchange of ideas and intermingling of cultures. One of the scrolls uncovered at Dunhuang represented the Pole Star with Ketu by his side mixing Daoist, Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and weaving the fascinating story of Asia. In fact, in Chinese art apparently there is a constant struggle at the cosmic level from keeping the serpent (Rahu/Ketu) from eating the moon, often represented by the pearl. Now u know what the designs represent when you look up from your bowl of hot noodle soup at your favorite restaurant!

Buddhism then expanded into central Asia and fused with Hellenistic influences resulting in Greco-Buddhism(the result of colonies of Alexanders troops left behind), a fusion of Greek and Buddhist features, like the details of the hair, the clothes, ornaments and the greek gods themselves. Here the Greek hero Hercules was adapted to represent Vajrapani . Lord Buddha that represents the light of the world, adapted to dispel darkness was represented as Apollo. The Vedic gods Brahma and Indra were represented Zeus and Achilles. All the while, shortening the gap between my world and yours to a point where our world met and married blossoming into a vibrant culture. It’s possible isn’t it in a world where “Anything is Possible”?

Good night,

Purnima


PIRATES MANIFESTO

Dear Roger,

After reading you, I can’t wait to jump into bed with Kafka; Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore lies by my bedside visibly, patiently.

As for The Pirates’ Manifesto, I need help… guidance… direction. At this point the doors appear shut and I don’t have the access codes yet. Perhaps, I need to read your highly recommended “Millennium” and fully embrace the persona of the Swedish Girl “Hacker”, Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, broke the codes and got her information! Did u say u had an English version or was it Danish?

As you know, it frustrates me endlessly to find that access to information is often restricted, denied, to the very people who might need it the most: the unpaid, unaligned, unfettered. I just cannot support subscribing to every journal and offering my contact to every site before gaining access. I wish to surf seamlessly, quietly and stealthily. But, as you mentioned in your mail, the world around us wishes to track and keep tabs, make tables and profiles, all of which I vehemently reject and work covertly (at least in my mind) to expose, sabotage these very schemes of control! 

Then of course, I stumble upon Diderot! With whom I find, I share the inherent conviction that knowledge should not be confined, restricted to any group, subset, academies, class. Like this enigmatic Frenchman, I am totally and completely for the free perpetuation of knowledge, yes, even in this programmed world of today… am I being naive? This militant passion drove me all the way, through many wormholes, to the doorsteps of Diderot and d’Alembert, and their incredible project of compiling the knowledge, thoughts and ideas of the world of their times, the summary of the Enlightenment: the Encyclopedie! I discovered that this compilation of knowledge went on to have a pivotal impact on the society of their times, through the expansion of knowledge and the development of the critical modes of thought, lighting the spark that culminated in the French revolution.

 The Enlightenment of course was about expanding the realm of knowledge to all people which struck a blow to all those that were out to control, contain and stifle reason and free thought. Knowledge was no longer in the hands of a select few: the Academies, the Clergy and the State, the average man (and what is even more important, the average woman) had access to the ideas of the age. No longer could the cosy relationship where the Clergy ( complemented and substituted in our day and age by the gargantuan educational institutions with their power, influence and billions) supports the divine right of kings (or presidents), and the other (the State) bestows an abundance of grants, tax free income and subsidiaries for such adulation and support! Yes, Roger, now you know which side of the argument I am on. Thus through the Encyclopedie and the free dissemination of information, Diderot aimed to erase the dogmatism of government, religion and illiteracy that pervaded. An idea more relevant than ever in the world of today, in this controlled and monitored world of today, the cyberworld of today. Carving out a mission for the modern day pirates!

This of course brings us back to the pivotal question: what language should this (The Pirates Manifesto) be written in! In the time of Diderot, Paris was the intellectual capital of the world, thus many of the ideas written in this language had the ability to spread. His Encyclopedia encompassing all the novel and radical ideas of the times, easily disseminated, perpetuated. What do you think would be the universal language of tomorrow where knowledge could flow effortlessly, seamlessly, a platform for inspiration and consensus?

Surfing through the colossus, I came upon a wonderful paragraph taken from the very controversial article written by d’Alembert for the Encyclopedia on Geneva. I find this 16th century piece amusing and as relevant today, would love to hear what you think:

This is very – strange that a city with just 24,000 souls, and whose territory does not fragmented thirty villages, do not cease to be a sovereign state, and one of the most successful of Europe: rich in its liberty and its business, she often sees around her on fire and never feel it, the events which agitate Europe are a spectacle for her, she enjoys without take part: attached to the French by alliances and by his trade, his trade by Englishmen and by religion, she pronounces impartial justice of the wars that these two powerful nations are to each other, although ‘ it is also too wise to take no part in these wars, and judge all the sovereigns of Europe, without flattery, without injury, and without fear.


Letter #8

Brussels Tintin France US Sex Kamasutra Khajuraho Tale of Genji-Catalan Cutie

10/16/09

Dear Roger,

Yet another day under house arrest as the flu season has hit with a bang…”Thing 1″ is sniffling under the covers and I find myself, once again, home alone with the Cat in the Hat!

Upon revisiting your letters, I have found that many fascinating questions lie suspended and spaces unexplored, like SEX! So, let’s talk about it…

I was intrigued by your statement that “…all u need for sex is mind” (I would have added an exclamation point or two).  Is it really all in our heads ?  Are there not different kinds of sex, and what role does love itself play in it all ?  (Interesting to learn that we share something else in common – our favorite subject)

The statement “all you need for sex is mind”, or as it was told to me, “it’s all in the mind”, words I cannot honestly claim and must correctly attribute  to one of my fabulous female friends who owes humanity an encyclopedia on the subject. Yes, our very own modern day Vatsyayana, the Indian philosopher that lived during Gupta period, 4 century AD, and is known for authoring the Kama Sutra, the bible on eroticism. 

Vatsyayana, returned in the most exotic female form to whisper these words in my ears as she saw me determined to embark upon this incredible journey of self exploration, anticipating the great CRASH ahead. Of course there are many other FFF fixated on SIZE…and swear that that is what its all about; how little do they know, how far they have to go…!

On the subject of eroticism, do you know that the erotic sculptures carved on the facades of the magnificent temples in Khajuraho, in central India almost a thousand years ago commissioned by the Chandella Rajput kings, depicting all forms of passion and intimacy, were reputed to have been sculpted by and possibly for the education of the “Bramacharis”. Brahmacharis are young men during the initial stage of life as specified according to Vedic tradition, who live in a hermitage and absorb themselves in education leading a celibate life. This is the stage before they re-enter into the world of the “Householder” where they marry and procreate. From what i was told, the very fact that these young boys were so deprived of female relationships, the sculptures they sculpted and the forms it took were voluptuous and exaggerated, reflecting in the female form the epitome of desire. Their hands carved the fantasies they could only visualize and had not yet experienced (similarly, have we not seen many authors of what was considered at that time seductive and erotic works in literature who themselves led a very staid and puritan life). The Brahmacharis were certainly exposed to these sculptures as a way to introduce them back into the world so they may fulfill the very important social role of householder. In fact, I just read something that cannot be put into better words about these sculptures of Khajuraho which I would like to share with you:

If the temples of Khajuraho can be said to have a theme, it is woman. A celebration of woman and her myriad moods and facets. Writing letters… applying kohl to her eyes… dancing with joyous abandon… playing with her child. Woman – innocent, coquettish, smiling – infinitely seductive, infinitely beautiful.

Warrants a visit for sure, shall we?

Back to Murakami, Miro, the Surrealists and the realm lurking behind everyday reality; you could not have got it more Dot On…it’s surreal, it’s for me! Similarly, in the Tale of Genji, art permits assuming a persona, which in “real life” can never be you; a wormhole to transcend the physical form or personality that shackle. So Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the Tale of Genji,  a medieval Japanese noblewoman constrained by her gender, status and time was able to transcend it all and assume the form and passions of Genji, a character she created, and live him for a while in another world another existence: literatures version of “Second Life”. Yes, all this while retaining her own skin, her own form. For me, my expression is the escape I seek, as I realize I am entrapped not by anything else (the world, society, family), but myself and my sense of duty. And, the only escape is a journey into this surreal world, where I have “written in” The Whirlpool, permitting a return to my world. This way, I too can live, I live many lives, without relinquishing any…any piece of myself!

On the surrealists, I encountered references to your friend Andre Breton, all over Barcelona (if I have I told you how much I love that city, I could not have told you enough!). I need an introduction…please. The Miro museum was fascinating as usual, my second visit. But this time it was like rediscovering a whole new world. It seems like every visit unfolds something else, something new. This visit, I stumbled upon “The lion”, essentially a single black squiggly line over a brown paper canvas portraying a lion encaged in a circus. The only difference was that there were scratch marks on the canvas which added the multi dimensional multi sensory aspect to this incredible piece of art. With the scratches, you actually heard the lion attempting to burst out of the canvas. I think with this Miro took art to another level…engaging not just the visual but stimulating all the senses at once. Surreal for sure!

 I also found a lot of Miro’s works remained blanked out, incomprehensible, where the title has no relevance to the art itself…much too much for my mind to encompass. Yes, unreachable, waiting for another time, an accumulation of experiences, before the doors unfold and the art unravels.

The Matador and the Tapas Bar: Barcelona, with its bustling life, wide boulevards and Art, Food, Art for Food can be quite a heady experience! The best meal yet was at a famous Tapas Bar in the Born district. The restaurant was a bar table with everyone seated side by side and the cute cooks opposite us whipping up one fabulous tapas after another. We also had the next seating, our line of spectators standing directly behind us drooling over the dishes, both the cooked and live ones! Yes, the cooks were gorgeous Spaniards! The one serving us was like a  matador with a narrow waist tied in red cloth and a charming smile. His brisk movements from one end of the table to the other, from one plateful to the next, juggling multiple demands of the hordes lined with their hungry heads towards him and the deftness with which he charmed and fed everyones appetite was a spectacle worth the wait! On our end, he was completely oblivious of the ogre seated at the other end, and proceeded to show me how to eat the tapas with my hands without removing his eyes from my face. I was hot, I was red, I was embarrassed by the flattering attention. He then offered me the first clam open with its juices and watched me eat it, he proceeded to do the same with the mussel dish…I had turned crimson by this point. So, I looked up and said politely “Thank you, that was delicious”. He held my gaze for a full minute before responding “YES”. Absolutely MIND BLOWING!!! Talking about mind, I have not been so turned ON for a long long long time. That man had certainly mastered the art of making love in the kitchen!

One Catalan for me please!

 Now let’s journey to the exact opposite place: I found the most curious signs adorning the handles of all our hotels in Spain which read “No Molestar” instead of the normal “Do Not Disturb”. No Molestar, are you serious! That is like an open invitation to molest. Its like a little voice saying ” in case it has not crossed your mind yet, let me suggest it… I have this sign hanging which says don’t molest”… any ideas wink wink! I absolutely refused to have that sign outside my hotel room but desperately wanted to carry it back as a memento.

 Journeying around Europe has been quite an experience, between the “No Molestar” signs in Spain and the road signs that dot the autoroute in Germany which periodically say XXX”Farhts”, yes sounds like “Farts” indicating that you may exit (exit what???) . No one believes me, but the lady at the hotel we stayed in in Germany said “Goodbye” and “Have a good(ten) Fart(en)”, equivalent of have a good day, as we left the hotel. I was so chocked with laughter that I could not respond. Of course, I was ticked off by the ogre for being a brat kid as usual.

But, the “No Molestar” sign would have been very handy here in Geneva. As you know, I have had a bad knee problem but have been very hesitant to go for physio in Geneva. The last time I visited a physiotherapist, he set me up with his apprentice. I found myself on a bench with only my underclothes on and in walks a large obnoxious guy from Southern Cal who would have passed as a rogue football player. The rogue proceeds to stare and chat instead of working on my legs and getting me back on the slopes! Of course, after the appointment (I still cannot fathom what that was about), he tells the giggling nurse “Mal a tete”, yes, that I’m nuts! It’s for occasions like these that I need that “No Molestar” sign placed squarely on my chest with a skull and bones sign overlapping it!

So, I’m still hobbling but Megeve is not too far!

Hope to see you soon!

See attached Barcelona Adventures:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9osou5j1ko1jxcv/AAAl4rnZTLi6fCmOl0BHh2h8a?dl=0


Dear Purnima,

What a tantalizing treatise on sex, visual seduction, Miro, Barcelona and Genji.  It arrived just in time to rescue me from the boredom of illness – Yes, it seems the travel bug has mutated to a malicious head cold bug.  It hit me Saturday morning and I thought I could shake it off quickly, but it feels a bit worse each day.  At least I have some time to read.  Now that I’ve finished my Danish translation of volume II of the Millennium trilogy with a truly original and unique female character and a plot so complicated that you don’t really fully understand what is going on until the final pages, I can move on to the next Murakami on my list, Kafka on the Shore (I’ll try and find a copy for you on my next trip to Geneva).

Wow, your matador/Tapas chef sounds like a master at seduction with his mussel shell demonstrations and enchanting eyes.  Too bad you were so shackled by the ogre and at the end of the bar.  It is almost criminal to get someone so hot and bothered and then leave them dangling and blushing.  And you didn’t even have your Tale of Genji with you for bedside reading.  How did you manage to get through the night ?

Your sensual pleasure from eating Tapas reminds me of the several films where food and sex are intertwined, some more successfully than others.  Did you ever see Peter Greenway’s The Cook,The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover ?  It stars one of my favorite British actresses who can be as sultry as anyone on a given day, Helen Mirren, who can leave you panting.  And then there is the famous eating scene in the film Tom Jones where each bite of a pear or chicken leg is as suggestive as a tender caress.  Speaking of films about sex, did you ever see the French film adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover ?  It won the French Cesar award for best film two or three years ago, and was such a delightful rendition of a very lonely woman’s journey of self discovery and exploration of her own sexuality, all, of course, overshadowed by the moors and customs of a puritanical Great Britain where class differences were, and are somewhat still, very important.  The role of the neglected wife is played with such delicate innocence and yet delicious sensuality by a young French actress named Marianne Hands.  It’s one of the most refreshing, open and genuine evocations of female sexuality that I have seen on screen.

More later, but I have to go play cook tonight – I’m doing a salmon soufflé – for our week-long house guest from southern France.

Bon courage with your Florence Nightingale duties and try and keep your mind from wandering too often south to those warm climes, hearts and sexy Catalan Tapas chefs.

Love,

Roger


Dear Purnima,

Yes, in spite of the solitary green apple, Brussels was a real treat.  I had no idea you were a Tintin fan.  There truly must be an abundance of French blood cursing through your veins – inherited no doubt from your Francophile aunt.  Tintin is one of the favorites of French readers of nearly all ages, and he, of course, was omnipresent in Brussels.  We went into a shop in downtown Brussels that was entirely devoted to the books, many in various translations, as well as all the other derivative products, and the place was really packed.  We didn’t see a Tintin museum, but I’m sure there is one there just waiting to be thoroughly explored.

I found your description of your aunt’s encounters with the French extremely nostalgic.  I think you are correct in saying that the French « represent an exceptional group of very cultured and sophisticated people with whom you could not ever associate racist behavior (vulgar) and profiling (too American). In fact, it is just for these reasons that they appear to take a stance that is completely and in every way contrasting with and contrary to that of the US. »   In many ways that is true, but I fear that such attitudes are slowly changing, at least in the upper echelons of French society and the governing elite.  In the past, France was indeed a country that was curious about and fascinated by all sorts of exotic places and peoples.  Black American musicians and performers were always more readily accepted and revered here than they were in the States.  Josephine Baker is probably the prime example, but there were numerous Black musicians who found a welcome home in Paris and the freedom to perform and express themselves.  Many still call France home, such as Dee Dee Bridgewater and Archie Shepp, and where would Henry Miller have been able to write his wonderfully scandalous novels that form the backbone of his literary production (Quite Days in Clichy, for example), and that were banned for many years in the USA ?

However, that is not to say that there hasn’t been and isn’t today a certain French brand of racism, which, I’m convinced, has its roots in French colonialism.  The Northern African immigrant workers who were brought to France in the 1950’s and 60’s to fuel the economic recovery following the war have never been fully accepted into French society.  They have, instead, been shunted into housing projects on the outskirts of French cities that are today ghettos of despair – a stark reminder that the French national rallying call of « Fraternité, Liberté et Egalité » is a hollow echo in a society that is so hierarchically structured.  And since Sarkozy and his pals have seized power, it seems to get worse every year.  Brice Hortefeux’s not very subtle joke about trouble when there are a lot of them, I’m afraid, mirrors the official attitude of the ruling class in France today.  And, I should add that it has been just recently that France has begun to come to grips with the realities of the Algerian war and the outrageous atrocities committed there by French troops.

I agree that there are lots of good things coming out of the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden and Denmark.  I read a poll last week that found that the Danes were the most satisfied with their lives among the inhabitants of any other European country (I think France was 12th on the list).  And there are so many wonderful things Swedish – especially the marvelous films of Ingmar Bergmann.  I’ve been thinking that a trip to Stockholm is in order.  It’s not that far away and even in the cold of winter it would be a treat to visit.

What is a sqiggle ?  Whatever it is, I am always ready.

Have a good weekend.  Can I take you to lunch on Tuesday ?

Bises,

Roger


Letter #10

Tagore 17 Years, Alice, Art and Maths, Millennium

11/21/09

She used to call his name  M- – -…M- – -…m- – -…

Dear Roger,

As the 21st of March approaches, I look back on the 17 years…

I wish to share with you a poem by Rabindranath Tagore (Lipika) translated by Aurobindo Ghosh titled Seventeen Years. I have attempted to read this to an indifferent Mirko over the last few dismal years, telling him through Tagore that our time together is coming to an end, and that one day he will look back at our seventeen years which he so mindlessly threw away and think:  “She used to call his name”. 

And perhaps one day while leaning on his walking stick and gazing at the setting sun his mind will wander back to these years and query: “But those days and nights are no longer strung together by the binding thread of that name – they lie scattered.” …”Who shall call us together and surround us with her presence?” 

And I will be gone, we never make it past our 17th year of that I am sure!

Seventeen Years – by Rabindranath Tagore

I had known her for seventeen years.

So many comings and goings, so many meetings, so many tetes-a-tetes!

Surrounding those years, so many dreams, so many conjectures, so many hints.

And then, sometimes, when half asleep, the light of the morning star; sometimes the scent of the Chameli flower in the dusk of a rainy day; sometimes the tired strains of the Nahabat in the last hours of the spring night!

All this had passed round his mind in the course of those seventeen years!

And, mingling with it all, she used to call his name.

The person that used to respond to this name was not merely a creation of God – he was created out of the seventeen years of her knowing him.

Sometimes in love, sometimes in neglect,

sometimes in work, sometimes in leisure,

sometimes in the midst of all, sometimes in privacy –

thus was he built in the heart of one person.

After that, seventeen more years had gone by.

But those days and nights are no longer strung together by the binding thread of that name – they lie scattered. Therefore the days ask me daily: 

“Who shall call us together and surround us with her presence?” 

I can give no answer – I pause and ponder.

But they, flying away with the wind, say:

“We go searching.”

“Whom?”

They know not whom.

So they wander hither and thither. 

Like aimless clouds they sail across the sea of darkness and I can no longer see them.


3/15/10

Dear Roger,

I could not let this mail go and drift into the “unanswered”. There were so many juicy openings for discussion and debate, even if I am unable to cover them all, I must struggle with some. You should see me now, bent with furrowed brow with my black rimmed glasses dangling from the tip of a rather long nose, with a sprightly ponytail bouncing in excitement at having been saved, as i pound away one finger at a time… 

You had mentioned in your email that you finally managed to finish the Millennium trilogy and were left dissatisfied as the author died without completing his proposed series of 10. 

“There is no provision in Swedish law for a concubine to inherit anything from her partner if they were not married”. 

That sounds very surprising for a progressive country like Sweden where I assume such relationships are the norm before or instead of marriage (and btw a male partner can also be a concubine!). In its most simplistic: this immensely popular work where the author has suddenly died at the peak of the fervor generated by the book which (from what you tell me) seems to have taken on a cult status. In my opinion, the ownership lies in all who embrace the story, the public. Therefore, the one who attempts to assume the authors place, edit, modify or expand the work has to not just attempt to stay true to the original, the essence but have the readers ultimate clearance. The substantial property rights of course in this instance go according to what is outlined in the law. However, the law has to accommodate, perhaps use this case to evolve, reflecting the ideas in popular culture, commitment and contribution of a partner. I, of course, would only hand over my pen to the image in the mirror! 

“Or maybe Steve Jobs will have become the final arbiter of justice with a market place savvy that settles all conflicts with his new i-judge software and hand-held, touch screen, app-driven i-tort (that may actually be a better source of justice than our present, very flawed and political interest driven system or the justice frequently meted out by the religions of the day).”

Dear, dear Roger, you cannot underplay the human element to me! I cannot possibly conceive how a software program could make a judgement incorporating the essential elements of “timeframe” and “cultural context”, which would vary based on the issue at hand from decades to days, as we have seen in the rapidly evolving field of cyberlaw and technology where before the issue can be brought to court and final judgement be passed, it is redundant and replaced by a competing issue. Its at times and instances like these where there is need for the human, the subjective element, which can incorporate timeframe, cultural context, and the fall back on the core issues of common law before reaching a decision. 

There is a reason why the judges are selected: they are known, respected and we recognize them for more than the mechanical application of their knowledge and their ability to identify issues. They are selected because we have read their decisions, recognize their positions and defer to their judgements EVEN when it goes against us, for we are programmed with the inherent belief that when we join society and submit ourselves to the law, we are a part of the whole. And, if the judgement passed is one against us, it must be passed for the greater benefit of society, and since we are a part of it, we vicariously benefit! Otherwise, I can’t imagine why we would agree to anything that binds us, making us vulnerable to decisions by men in wigs and men in frocks, can you?

You are definitely wanted, my dear, dead or alive, preferably alive, but the question you should really ask is : Am I wanted, virtual or real ?

Do I wish to subsist in this virtual medium or in the real world? The ultimate question is: Where would I be more real? What is the medium of today, one that would engage a broad spectrum of ages, education, background and ethnicity? The exciting aspect of the fast evolving virtual sphere is that, the medium is not merely one of language as we are historically used to (with that familiar feel of paper between the fingers), but an all engaging 3D multi-media medium encapsulating sight, sound, text, (and soon even tactile sensations) which are enmeshed and indistinguishable from each other. The only parallel I can think of from my “old world” is the realm of comics… A sizzling Japanese comic that captivates the pulse of the youth in a world language! Yes, I think I would like to live forever (like Minnie still sprightly at 80), the heroine of a Japanese comic. You would too, if you ever got a chance to meet the hero of my comic book… Boom, Boom, Pow!!

It’s well past midnight, and since I have not turned into a pumpkin, and since there is no chance of dancing with the prince, not even a little froggie, I guess i will just continue…

Apart from my favorite comics, I guess theatre has played the historic role (Roger, I need your input/feedback here…urgently) of reaching out and disseminating novel and radical thoughts, ideas and developments in  the Arts, Sciences, Government. This historic role of theatre to disseminate new ideas and educate the public through a forum that was entertaining and perhaps comics permitted many radical thoughts to be so presented and disseminated which would have otherwise been strictly censored during its time. The impact of the theatre over time with its ability to permeate society in a similar multi-media format, would probably be akin to the realm that is today partially covered by the virtual world, don’t you agree? 

Returning to our old favorite subject of interdisciplinary studies, I believe that incorporating elements of theatre in most traditional subjects still forms the most effective form of education and dissemination of information where the onlooker/participant is entertained as he is being educated.  And talking about interdisciplinary studies, the oldest and dearest example from my childhood was Alice in Wonderland, Mathematics and Literature, with my father attempting to explain the mathematics behind the madness.

In fact, Lewis Carroll, a pen name for Charles Dodgson, a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, wrote Alice in Wonderland to satirize the then radical new ideas in the world of mathematics, where mathematics was getting more abstract with imaginary numbers, abstract symbolic algebra, non Euclidean geometry. He brilliantly used this fantastical piece of literature to present what he thought was the absurdities in the new mathematics. This was his forum, his stage to present his dissent, his point of view through a memorable and much beloved piece of literature in the form of a children’s book.

 In order to satirize these new age ideas, he found fiction as the best forum to present his opinion, his dissent. Alice moved from a rational world through a rabbit hole to a land where even numbers behave irrationally, erratically. Thus this irrationality, reflecting the new age mathematics, was created by Dodgson as a construct of Alice’s mind which exists only in Wonderland as it did not need to conform to any laws of the real world. Dodgson has Alice continuously changing in size from 9 feet to 3 inches, but when Alice calls this world absurd, the caterpillar (“the worm” in her story) who lives in this irrational world pipes up and says that “it isn’t”! Here of course, I am tempted to draw the parallel with “the worm” in my story, who returns with the same response! As Dodgson through the madness that exists in Wonderland tries to highlight the dangers of the new symbolic algebra, I chant to keep my balance, my ratios constant Ignoring putty like contortions, sometimes oval, sometimes elliptical, moving from one form to another… finally looming overhead across magical glittering lake Geneva, in the smile of the Cheshire Cat that seems to know it all!

As I come near to the end of my time here in Geneva, so does my Geneva Diary which has been my friend and companion, and thanks to you, with whom I have dug up many a ghost, walked the cobbled streets of the old town and discovered the alleyways of this charming city. Like Alice in Wonderland, this has been written in a young voice, for the old and the young (I plan to reread it at 70!). And again like Alice,  and my other favorite character Tintin, my stories and many (mis)adventures have aspired a light surrealistic touch with many looming body parts. Of course, I have woven in my area of experience, the law, and pivotal topical legal issues like privacy with a lot of bizarre storytelling.

In the story of Servetus, with his tombstone poignantly placed outside the university hospital, I have attempted to pose a reminder of Medicine and Ethics: Do not use Green Wood! If the case is terminal, the decision final, then let the end be painless, swift. In keeping with my mantra,  this tale would cover the spectrum, the subjects of History, Theology, Medical Ethics, Law, Government and perhaps literature with a suggestion of substance abuse !

See below images of Geneva:

Geneva Images-Paved stone-welcome messages:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9f7rbfpzv8d1wll/AAC3F1ogIW8c4qeJciUsRH9-a?dl=0

Old Town Geneva:

Pont du Mont Blanc: Crystal Blue lake Geneva

Parc des Bastions-Playing Live Chess:

Purnima Traversing the Blue Ridge Mountains – Wanted Dead or Alive: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xbsdh2fmbnsb526/Wanted%20Dead%20Or%20Alive%20-%20Virginia.mov?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/2omivt6w3f754my/The%20Blue%20Ridge%20Mountains-Virginia.mov?dl=0

Good night!

Purnima


3/21/10

Dear Purnima,

Sorry I’m so slow in answering your two very provocative emails of last week.  The family was here for four days this week (they needed to escape the frenzy and horrific noise of the annual Fallas festival in Valencia), and I don’t manage to spend much time at my computer while they are here (long evening meals and discussions and/or a game or two after dinner).

You’re right, it’s inconceivable that a progressive country like Sweden does not recognize the rights of what we in America call a common law marriage.  The sheer injustice of all the royalties for the hugely popular trilogy going to the father and brother of Steig Larsson rather than to the person with whom he had shared his life for the past several decades and who had worked with him in writing the three novels.  Swedish law definitely distinguishes between your “public ownership” of his works and the royalties that accumulate through sales.  What will eventually happen to the rumored manuscript of a fourth novel, which is in the hands of his partner, is still very much up in the air.

I was, of course, being somewhat flippant with my take on Steve Jobs and an imaginary iTort device that would render justice in the future.  It seems that our society is moving more and more in the direction of control by those little machines that send digital code back and forth.  While I agree that there should be the subjective element in every legal decision rather than some blanket and uniformly administered take rendered by a machine.  However, I must take issue with you in your seemingly blind faith in the legal system (but it is only logical given your own legal training and background) and especially in the judges that are selected to deal with our own inability to come up with viable decisions.  Not only are they human beings and subject to the same foibles and inconsistencies as the rest of humanity, but they are also wont to frequently hand down judgements that are not only counter to what is best for society as a whole, but at times totally unjust and tainted with their own political leanings and the influences of powerful groups within any given country.  The very fact that it is so important for each sitting president in the US to be able to appoint Supreme Court judges of a particular political leaning so that he/she can stack the Supreme Court with judges that think and decide along their respective position on the political spectrum is evidence enough that they are not all totally objective, to be blindly respected and that we should accept and live with their every decision.  There is a long list of Supreme Court decisions that have had no positive impact on society or that have been subsequently overturned by later court decisions.  Plessy vs Ferguson, a Supreme Court decision that declared that separate educational facilities for whites and blacks did not violate the 14th amendment, and , in essence, ruled that segregation was legal in the United States.  That decision, I’m very happy to say, was overturned in the famous Brown vs Board of Education that said just the opposite was the case.

And then there is the case of current Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas.  I remember how incensed I was during the hearings in the Senate when his nomination was being considered.  He was, in my opinion, the weakest possible candidate for such a lofty office.  Not only was he an alleged sexual predator who constantly harassed one of his former female law partners, but his intellectual grasp of the constitution and the legal decisions that he had rendered prior to his appointment left one with the impression that he was Mr. Mediocrity being thrust into one of the most important positions in the United States.  I learned just recently that this same Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the landmark Supreme Court decision which gave Monsanto and other huge conglomerates the right to patent genetically modified organisms.  Thus Monsanto now controls a large portion of the seed industry in the world and literally goes after those farmers they suspect of not buying their seeds from Monsanto each year but, as farmers throughout the centuries have done, saved their seeds from one crop to the next.  Hundreds of cotton farmers in India, for example, have been hooked on the Monsanto modified cotton seeds, but have gone bankrupt in the process because they can’t afford the high cost of the seeds and the fertilizers and pesticides that they are told they have to use.  The suicide rate among Indian cotton farmers, as you more than likely know, is astronomical in comparison to other similar groups.  And guess what ?  Clarence Thomas, before becoming a Supreme Court Judge, was a lawyer for Monsanto !  Sorry, all respect just flew out the window.

Enough of my ranting.  I thought your 17 years song was great.  Too bad for him that he never really listened to it.  Is it ;your anniversary today ?

And, you also wrote , ” As I come near to the end of my time here in Geneva”  Does that mean that you have definite plans to move on ?      

I loved what ;you wrote about Alice in Wonderland.  More on that later, but the new Tim Burton film version of his interpretation of Alice is playing in Geneva.  Annick and Alexandra went to see it on Friday.

Off to watch election returns.  At least Sarkozy is getting his just desserts.

Bisous,

Roger

PURNIMA VISWANATHAN

Disclaimer : P

All persons, places, events are fictitious; all imputed relationships purely aspirational. There were no men harmed during the penning of the Feminist Manifesto

Published by Purrnima

Travel Writer - Art Blogger - CyberSmurf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: