Geneva Diaries #36

Bonne journée internationale de la femme ! ! !

Dear Purnima,

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Women’s Day.  I heard a report on the BBC yesterday of a state in India (Kerala, perhaps) where it was forbidden for women to wear jeans and to use a mobile phone.  There are obviously some religious undertones in this decree – it appears that there is a rising tide of Popular Front Islamic extremism in that part of India, but why are there interdictions for women and none for men ?  Will it eventually be against the law for women to use computers and to log onto the internet ?  Are you sure you want to go back to India ?

But, of course, I shouldn’t pick on your motherland.  There are plenty of examples of gender inequality in every country in the world, even in Scandinavia where they pride themselves in being more egalitarian than most countries in Europe (Norway boasts a parliament that is made up of over 40% women).  And even in France, the birthplace of Simone de Beauvoir, women didn’t get the right to vote until 1945, and that came largely because of the relatively strong influence of the Communist Party after the liberation of France, and in some cantons in Switzerland women couldn’t vote in cantonal elections as late as the 1970’s !  And then there is divorce law !

Hope you have a wonderful day.

Gros bisous,

Roger


3/8/11

Dear Roger,

Great to hear from you! Yes, I have been reading the responses to this controversy regarding jeans(do not know the details) but the communities across the spectrum in the highly educated and emancipated state of Kerala seem to be panning it. This is a state with the highest literacy rate (over 90 percent) for both men and women in India and the (correspondingly) lowest infant mortality rate. The position of women has always been strong as it has traditionally been a matriarchal society with women as the anchor and core of society, inheriting property, heading the household. One of the few states in India where a girl child is received with as much joy as a boy child.

This reminds me of an old story recounted by my grandmother about the feisty and proud women of Kerala (she of course came from Madras just across the border): During the Raj, when the British supervisors came to this idyllic lush tropical paradise of Kerala they found to their Victorian/puritanical horror that the women were robed only waist down. They wore skirts around their waists leaving their chests and shoulders completely bare as they walked about and worked in the paddy fields. Of course the Brits decreed that such immodesty was unacceptable and that all the women must immediately cover their chests (yes, they must adopt what is “acceptable western attire and modes” in the steamy tropics. The Kerala women not to be outdone, immediately covered their chests as the English supervisors passed by…BUT they did so by lifting up their skirts and using the same material to cover their chest. Of course this bare bottom surprise was not what the English had ever anticipated, so the laws were relaxed and the women could revert to their traditional customs. Now you know who started the fire…”BURN THE BRA”!!!

 And Roger, do remember, I am a Kerala woman, and I assure you I would look as grand in traditional Kerala dress(ahem, ahem) in those paddy fields as I would in a black cocktail outfit… do you now see the source of some of that same fire?

Now that I have ALL your attention, I have a little correction to make, my French teacher/Arabic student finally reverted to me clarifying that jwd means “excellent” in Arabic, and “magic” is Ruqiyah or Sahr. Well, interestingly enough, Sahr is a common Hindustani (Urdu/Persian) word( another child’s name) and it means dawn or bewitched. She confirmed the same meaning for Arabic… yippee we have found yet another pathway through the woods!

As you must have noticed from my euphoric tone, I’ve just returned from a superb weekend in the mountains, it was Chamonix again. The bright sunshine, clear blue skies, friends and  magnificent vistas were the best antidote for this long hard winter in Geneva. All I thought about was me, me and me! I explored the countryside as far as my ill equipped boots could take me, and dined in the warm sunshine on top of the world(you must take the cable car right on top). In the evening I was treated to a Swedish delight with a French accent, a desert few could resist, who who filled me with flattery till i was floating on foam and then swirled me and twirled me in the ice cream bowl(self created dance floor by sweeping the corridors of the tightly packed bar aside) till we were a mix of vanilla, chocolate and cream which he topped off with a sweet shining cherry… a shock, a kiss! The following day we were joined by another bunch of girls “on holiday” and I was the center of yet another (mis)adventure, finding myself marinated in lemoncello (how these spills occur on my head I never know) I returned home Monday morning to recover from The Hangover. In Chamonix you have the serious “high rollers”, mountain men who take extreme risks, some Disney Characters on Ice (comme moi) and the bunnies on the bunny slope, the apres ski, the superb food and the French accented deserts of course. I guess what happens in Chamonix, stays in Chamonix!

However, I suspect I will not be invited back in a hurry to my friends pad, my snoring was so intense that my sweet girlfriend paced up and down finally settling by the window in fear of instigating an avalanche. She was so shell shocked that I noticed that she even forgot to take off her bright blue earplugs when we were out skiing! Oh, how I LOVE my girlfriends for the sacrifices they make for me!!

Hope to see you soon.

Hugs

Purnima


3/9/11

Dear Roger,

I just remembered, that the “bare bottomed” story was (recently) related to me not by my grandmother but the cacophonous Kerala contingent from Stanford during an Onam celebration… wish you could have joined me for that delicious evening, spicy curry rivaled by a bunch of fun feisty “hot” women with flashing eyes and enigmatic smiles all settled in sunny California, far far from Kerala at the other end of the world. I can just imagine you wandering down that path fresh with your “info” on subservient Kerala women… you dear Roger would have been devoured, but then, perhaps you would have enjoyed it!

Returning to more familiar shores, as I plan the schedule for my summer, my mind flits to the sun kissed South, the south of France where “Bronzed and Bare” might be more the norm and I might be able to find a spot just for me in the sunshine. Any suggestions?

And regarding women in Switzerland and their being denied the right to vote  right up until the 70’s, sounds bizarre, inconceivable! From what I have seen of my Swiss girlfriends, they are as smart and tough as any guy, far far from any docile and repressed image that might be floating around, even Swiss Barbie could pack a punch. And when you peer close, contrary to the pretty picture, they seem to have a strong determined look in the eye as though they are as capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the men defending the passes… perhaps i am mistaken… perhaps you are. Are you sure about Swiss women not having the right to vote up until yesterday(the 1970’s)??? Must check this out!!!

Goodnight!

Purnima


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Dear Purnima,

Well, I was a bit wrong about the women’s suffrage issue in Switzerland.  It was even much later than the 1970s !  It was first in 1971 that the Swiss Parliament passed legislation giving women the right to vote, but it only applied to federal elections and not to cantonal elections.  There were two cantons in German-speaking Switzerland where the men continued to deny women the right to vote on a local level.  The following document is revealing, especially the notes at the bottom of the page.

http://history-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch/chronology-womens-right-vote-switzerland.html

Just because a Swiss woman looks like she is ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with her man defending the passes (military service is only obligatory for Swiss men), that doesn’t mean that those same men were willing to grant them entry into the sacrosanct voting booth.

Hugs,

Roger


3/10/11

Dear Roger

This is absolutement incroyable! The two cantons you mentioned only recently granted their women the right to vote (1990) and even debated if they( the women) could be included under the category of “citizens” !! Hmmm… Now things are starting to make sense… The burden appears to be completely on the woman in this society to demonstrate that she is capable and coherent and thus entitled to equal protection under the law( i just can’t add enough exclamation marks at the end of this sentence).

Thus all my pleas of identifying and apprehending The “molestor” at Manor, The Fake Freak Physiotherapist (remember the “mal a tete” story) and The Pervert in the Park  would have most probably fallen on deaf ears unless i had the capability to multiply myself tenfold (i wonder if that is the going ratio of a credible female voice) in order to make my claim?

Good night!

Purnima


3/12/11

Dear Roger,

I’m off to check out the much hyped Geneva Auto Show tomorrow with the kids, I wonder whether they will have my dear old jeep tucked away in some corner?

Do you have any plans to visit Geneva anytime next week, it feels like a long time since we met and I know it has probably not been that long. And GUESS WHAT is unfolding at our favorite coffee superstore… a manifestation of our surrealistic adventure…The Globus theme for Springtime is: Alice in Wonderland, can this be happening, can this be possible!?! Roger, you will have to come and pinch to confirm if I’m dreaming, or whether something unrelated, spontaneous and bizarre is unfolding around me?

The “happy news” is that I have my brother coming to Geneva in two weeks and I am over the moon. Roger, if there is one person who can lift my spirits, it’s my brother and DO i need some spirit lifting! He immediately befriends all, makes everyone his buddy, and spontaneously there is a party, all I’ve ever needed to do is hang around. So much so that by the time I left Singapore, every time I mentioned my brothers name, the Singaporean girls used to giggle (and surprisingly, I’ve noticed the same here… Yes, while chatting casually i’ve often mentioned my family in India and at the mention of the words “my brother” to a(random) French girl, I find her bursting into giggles as she hides her crimson face… could the words “my brother” spoken in my accent mean something odd or embarrassing in French I’ve often wondered). Well they are all arriving, My brother with his wife and kids, my cousin with her husband and kid and of course there will be me with my kids… it should be a BLAST, can’t wait!

Hope to catch up with you next week.

Hugs

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3/15/11

Dear Purnima,

Oh la la la la –  Not the Salon de l’auto !   I actually went to it last year when we had a German guest who worked for Mercedes Benz in Stuttgart, and he just had to go see it.  Did you find your jeep ?  Or was there something else that caught your eye, like a bright red Ferrari ?

The shakers and movers at Globus must be on the same wave length.  Where have they placed the entrance to Wonderland, and who is playing the Queen and the Hare ?

That’s great that your brother is coming.  You should have a grand party.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t leave behind too many giggling Geneva women in his wake.

Doesn’t look good for Geneva this week.  We are leaving for Kuala Lumpur on Sunday and I have tons of stuff to do before hand.  The week after we get back (on the 31st) should be much better for me.  I’m looking forward to some sun and warmth and C is making an appointment for a Thai massage for me.  My poor body needs a good working over.

And we remain glued to our computer screen following the latest news from Japan.  What a terrible tragedy !  We are scheduled to leave for Tokyo on May 1st, and still plan to go, provided there isn’t a huge radioactive cloud hanging over Tokyo by then.

Gros bisous,

Roger


3/21/11

Dear Roger,

I returned to the slopes once again, perhaps for the last time this year or for some time to come. As I passed through a tunnel and came face to face with the magnificent Mont Blanc, I drew a sharp breath gasping at its splendor and thanking the heavens, the earth, nature for giving me this wonderful vista, this moment, this soul stirring experience that is free for all to absorb and inhale. I’m not quite sure where life and destiny seem to be taking me but I sense it will be a very different landscape from the one I’ve kind of got used to over the last two and a half years. 

Today, the 21st of March is supposed to be a very auspicious day, the equinox(exactly now 23:21), the Parsee (Persian) new Year as my friends remind me and of course on this day 19 years ago a sacred vow was made which appears to have gone up in the very flames that bore it witness. I spent the day far away from all the memories, up in snow capped peaks of the Alps in communication with the mountain gods (the mortal ones with their snow mountaineering gear were not too bad either). 

I though of you the moment I opened the Financial Times this morning and the headlines screamed (American) Air Raids on Libya, yes it was an article on the “blitz” authored by someone named Blitz. I am serious, do check it out.  Apart from the irony and the bizarre twisted humor of the FT, I just could not swallow my sacred three cups of tea after viewing this headline. Are they serious in Rome (Washington, whatever)? Have they completely lost it or are they just incapable of projecting ahead(it seems Bobby Fisher no longer plays on the American team, and “Viswanathan”, the other grand master, you guys have effectively bumped off)! 

So with their blitz they infuriate Hannibal(mad mad Hannibal and behind that madness lies the most effective facade, one of randomness), who traverses these passes and comes to your doorstep with his mammoth killing machines (yes, even if he makes it to Rome with his three Mammoths it’s intimidating enough). As I look through the mists / gunpowder, i see that as the stakes rise, the Europeans all hide under a rock keeping only their (oily)interests in mind, the froggies switch sides from bank to bank on a whim as they ribbit ribbit among each other “ooh those stuuupiiid Americainns, tres fou” and the Americans become a warrior nation stretched across the globe killing and being killed. We then all look back to the music of LOVE and PEACE, the one that brought us to these shores as a hallucination, an illusion and question if it really ever happened. As the American industry, talent and creativity is all harnessed in this endeavor, to dominate and devastate, I’m afraid I hear the dooms day bell toll in the distance: The beginning of The End!   Do you?

Marvin Gaye again: What’s going on!?!

Hugs and good night!

Purnima


3/23/11

Brothers Visit To Geneva

Dear Roger,

No news from you? I know you are far away in another world enjoying the flavors and colors of South East Asia, but forget-me-not, pllleease!

I have much to look forward to on my horizon, my brother (giggle, giggle I hear in the background) is arriving with his family tomorrow evening and this is their (kids) first trip to Europe. I can’t wait for all four of them to discover Switzerland together, I have promised them a grand adventure. I know my father would be looking down from the clouds thrilled that his babies are enjoying the memories of the places he brought back home to us in India. 

I have much planned for this week: Geneva of course, Lausanne, Ouchy and chateau Chillon, Montreux once again for my brother whose spirit is entwined with music, then Chamonix and the Col de Forclaz and possibly the dinosaur footprints in Emission. We will absolutely have to visit Martigny to check out the Saint Bernard museum (all four kids love dogs) and finally Gruyere to complete the story Le Magicien D’Oz. However, we are planning to start the adventure by taking a train ride and I know there is not much out there to rival a Swiss train ride across this picturesque Alpine nation, by making an overnight trip to Lucerne and then upto the Jungfrau glacier. There I have promised them that we will  (as promised by the SBB posters across town last year, do check it out below) “Rencontrez avec des peuples authentiques”

I skied furiously over the last few days, like an escaped convict, a vagabond, I ran from home without turning back trying to capture the last snows of skiing season before I’m teleported to another realm. It was spectacular, I could have camped out there and vanished from the world. And talking about vagabond again, on my escape route to the pad of a fellow vagabond, I found I passed  a charming spot nestled in the mountains cradled to Mont-Blanc, Gite Le Vagabond. So that you (and I ) know that this is not another story, check it out below:

Gite Le Vagabond

But the whole notion of a vagabond brings back nostalgic memories, for my translation of a vagabond in Hindustani “आवारा or Awara” (concurred by the University of Chicago’s online south asian dictionary) defines Vagabond, Awara, as a wanderer.

آواره āwāra

P adj. Vagabond, wanderer, disso- lute.

Somehow, to me, a wanderer represents  the romantic notion of a carefree soul removed from the oppression and bondage of the material world. This translation of vagabond in my universe could not be more apt when viewed from the lens of one journeying to these environs. However, I would like to share a snippet from my soul, my culture, of a 1950’s Hindi movie called Awara where the charismatic Raj Kapoor epitomizes this concept of a free spirit, awara, unburdening himself from the shackles of society, class and culture and through it showcases an entire era of India’s (socialist) past. Do check me out as Raj Kapoor in the below pasted song:

See Bollywood song Awara Hoon below (with English subtitles) where Raj Kapoor Indian cinemas golden boy asks whether he is a Vagabond or merely a free floating star in the night sky:

Awara Hoon – Raj Kapoor

Oh, and before I end this sound and light show, I absolutely have to share with you my incredible time at the Geneva Auto Show 2011. Swiss efficiency shone like never before, the crowds were overpowering, the excitement and energy palpable, the youth seemed to stream in from all sides seemingly to devour the delights in every color but the organization was immaculate and we managed to cover all our favorites without being trampled over. The list was endless, the Lamborghinis (La, la,la), the Lotus’s (OM), The Porches (Endless Love), The Ferraris(Drooool), De Tomasos(One day), Aston Martins(Taras Favorite), Bentleys(When I make partner in another life of course), The Rolls Royces (which always remind me of the Raj) and the one and only Jeep Grand Cherokee which I hugged, I sat in, I searched for the key to zoom out of the Palexpo, ALAS and as always I was missing the key home! 

Yes, I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, and I’m W_A_N_T_E_D …Dead or Alive! See me in the photos pasted below riding the Pearl:

The Geneva Auto Show 2011

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v8whzpa07ch76dk/AAAnlhyv_R0n8Nssg30t5kWFa?dl=0

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, I’m WANTED… Dead or Alive!

Much to do, gotto run. Hugs to all!

Purnima

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

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