Geneva Diaries #46

Shantaram Bangalore Birthdays, Seizure, Prise, Qabza and the 4th

Bangalore: An image in the mirror!

Dear Purnima,

Been thinking about you lately and wondering how your transition is going.  It really seems strange AND sad when I go to Geneva now and realize that you are no longer there.  I had a two-hour break today between meetings, and it would have been so delightful to meet you for coffee or lunch !

But I am feeling more and more engrossed in India through the wonderful book Shantaram. I think I mentioned it to you in an earlier email. He presents such amazing insights into the Indian soul and culture, and with such a remarkable style, and I love the way he imitates the native Indians’ use of English. I just finished the chapter where he describes his six-month stay in a small village far from Bombay where he goes with his friend/street guide and protecting angel, and he talks at some length about the gesture the Indians have of wiggling their heads at each other as a sign of peace and friendship and understanding. Is that true of all social classes in India ?

His description of the ordered chaos while boarding the train that took them to the village was priceless.  He described how the passengers literally pushed and shoved and fought with one another to try and get one of the available seats, and how his friend was pummeled with blows by people trying to dislodge him from the seat he was saving for himself and the author.  And yet, once the train started moving, the entire mood changed and everyone settled down in an amical and cheerful acceptance of where they were situated for the journey and there was genuine give and take and helpfulness between the passengers.  It’s fascinating stuff.




Dear Purnima,

Let me guess.  You’ve been kidnapped by the Standing Baba in Mumbai and forced to spend your days preparing their Charas ??

Or, you have landed a great job that is so time consuming that you don’t even have time to connect to the internet ??

Hope you are well and doing well.



Dear Roger,

It’s fabulous to hear from you! My AOL account has completely shut down with no possibility of access so I have not been able to read or respond to any emails you might have been sending. I suspect it’s time for another identity, another email, what do you think? And on the subject of identities, how did you guess I’ve been mulling over the issue of identity and state action…a window to my mind? Or yet another conspiracy theory?

And yes, as you very aptly put the cyber mists have formed a digital vortex through time and space linking the two silicon valleys of the world, and I believe it’s with the Golden Gate as the portal. I just remember driving my black Jeep Cherokee across the Golden Gate Bridge, being enveloped in the mists and finding myself in Bangalore. I’m still blinking…how did I land here? 

As for the silent pulsating gargantuan structure next door, I keep wondering what The Oracle will unveil in the morning. Have you ever visited Delphi in Greece, it’s absolutely fascinating. 


See short video from Rick Steves: Delphi, Greece: Spectacular Ancient Site 

It was here that Pythia the Oracle intoxicated by the fumes emanating from the ground would spin into a trace and her garbled emissions were translated by the priests to address everything from personal issues of the common people to decisions of war by the Greek city states often moulding history in it’s path. At this difficult juncture in my life, I would appreciate a few words of guidance and look over my shoulder to see if Pythia is watching. In the interim, I’ve taken some tough decisions, taken up an apartment in Bangalore. My two day stay in Bangalore is now indefinite. So, all my plans of getting my job and my life back is shelved for the moment, I can’t think beyond today, an unnerving ambiguous stage in a much to long a journey. 


However, looking at the brighter side of life, I have two friends, and one of them may be more than a reason for me to stay. Yes, while you have been reading Shantaram, I think I’ve met him! He is charming warm and caring, from my college, my universe, my world, and he claims to have journeyed to the edges of the universe and wishes to hold my hand and take me there, to share his story, to journey with him. I can’t wait to hear, I can’t wait to translate!

Lots of love,


On Sunday, September 11, 2011, Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

I have the distinct impression that those very cyber mists have formed a

digital vortex through time and space that links the two silicon valleys of

the world.  And, the very title Oracle has some awesome connotations.  Did

you approach them about working on some of your fascinating theories

concerning the internet and the issues of identity ?

How much longer in Bangalore ?

Giant hugs,


Date: Tue, Oct 11, 2011

Dear Roger,

As always, your mail comes like a burst of sunshine in my gloomiest hours, it’s great to hear from you! And yes, my computer, my beloved mac has resurrected, ironically on the day that Elvis died. Yes, Steve Jobs is The King and I struggle to think of the universe without him. If only we could somehow capture, seize, hold that spirit, that incredible creative energy, the essence that could not have vanished with the physical form and continue the magic.

I have landed back in Bean Town, or Bengaluru as Bangalore is now called taking its name from an old tale about a Hoysala king Veera Ballala who came to these hunting grounds and got separated from his hunting party. Tired and hungry he reached the hut of a poor woman who was warm and hospitable to the stranger and offered him the only thing in her home, boiled beans (hence the name Boiled Bean Town or Benda-kaalu-Ooru). 

The other story attributes the name Bengaluru to Kempe Gowda as the one who conceived, planned and built Bangalore in the 16th century. 


All I know is that I have consumed a copious amount of idlis, the steamed rice puffy pancakes (don’t know how else to describe this staple south Indian dish), but I’m not getting into the naming game (iddly-ville…?) or else I might find them tossed at me and not served for breakfast tomorrow.

See Idlis below:

Now back to “The Story”, how my fingers have been itching in captivity as my mac appeared to breathe its last, there is so much to tell! I left you last with a persona, a reason for me to remain behind. Well, not only did I remain for a month, I’ve returned back to Bangalore. 

When i first landed in Bangalore I was Captain Jack the pirate having emerged from captivity from the dungeons of Chillon on the banks of Lake Geneva, after being bound in chains, smeared with dirt and draped in tatters for many long years. Upon landing, I was blinded by the brilliant light of the Indian sun and was struggling to find my bearings when I found myself standing on the windswept Deccan Plateau. A Plateau built over 65 million years ago by a frenzy of volcanic activity, a frenzy which appeared to still be bubbling in its deep dark murky depts. It was here on these desolate windswept plains that I encountered another being, someone in the distance, perhaps a pirate like me. 

As he “coiled” his way towards me the vision became clearer, the paths seemed to merge, a sense of comfort, a familiarity emerged…perhaps in this end of the earth I’d found a friend, a soulmate a fellow traveller I thought. The energy and excitement of this meeting was palpable, I appeared to have him as “rattled” as I was and thus began a dance, a dance between two strangers who find each other at the edge of the earth. Do check out my friend whom I have named Rattlesnake Jake below (and uncannily enough I discovered after sharing with him the character I selected that he was called Jake by his friends):


Rattlesnake Jake Outlaw of the West

The dance was passionate, brimming with danger and desire, each watching out that they return with all pieces intact yet giving into the swells and twists of each others being. All this coming to a grand culmination at the “Bar Scene” where I was Rango “the lizard that could (make a complete ass of himself)”. I decided to perform for the audience, no not with water and neither with cactus juice, but with the infamous “Martini” which left me both shaken and stirred! Do check out my upside down glass of martini in this snapshot taken in Provence:


Of course, the “Bar Scene” unravelled at the swankiest place in town, of course I was the outsider who had walked in with a swagger, of course I was told I was “A long way from home” to which of course I retorted as i took a deep swig, “I come from the West, the Far West…California”! Do check me out as Rango in the Bar Scene below:

Rango Bar Scene

Then there was NIGHT, no not light…Night or complete Black Out!

The dance continued across Bean-town with its familiar superstructures, malls, Bay Area multinationals, multiplexes and the workforce that had a sprinkling of the international lining Bangalore’s famous pubs and restaurants. The keyboards appeared to click away as we danced and the monitors peering out of the dark windows appeared to wink. This cybercity was awake and humming having transformed itself into a borough of the Bay Area for the night, for a brief glimpse I was back home.

However, after all those martinis I morphed. I became every creatures heartfelt desire, an irresistible, unquenchable, intoxicant, a lean green three breasted Martian. Do check me out in the movie Paul below:

Paul (the movie) and the Green Three Breasted Alien


As Jake the Rattlesnake coiled himself around the three breasted Martian, seizing his prey the skies opened up and thundered a message “you were destined to meet, to be joined together in common passion, drop the green babe!”.

 Jake having finally seized his prize in his vice like grip was reluctant to let go but the idea of joining together in a common passion seemed to excite him more than this midnight meal however exotic. It was then that I decided no more green costumes for this lifetime and pondered over the word that would have been the end of me: Seizure.

We think of seizure in general as taking hold of, to possess something, to capture something or someone, to grasp, either lawfully or against someone’s will. In Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu) the word seizure has other nuances:

قبضه qabẓa for A. قبضة qabẓat, fr. qabẓ, q.v.P قبضه qabẓa (for A. قبضة qabẓat, fr. qabẓ, q.v.), s.m. Grasp, gripe (of the hand), clutch; power; possession; occupancy; holding, tenure, tenancy, tenement;—a handle, hilt 

گرفتاري giriftārī, vulg. giraftārī

P گرفتاري giriftārī, vulg. giraftārī, s.f. Seizure, capture, arrest, apprehension;—captivity, imprisonment, bondage; embarrassment, entanglement.

پکڙ पकड़ pakaṛ v.n. of pakaṛnā

H پکڙ पकड़ pakaṛ (v.n. of pakaṛnā), s.f. The act of seizing; seizure, capture, apprehension; catch, hold, holding, grip, grasp; handle; gain, profit, haul; objection, criticism, laying hold of a defect, &c.;

And finally I explore French to fully understand this word and I find I am a bit lost as I have only come up with “prise” (from prendre which I am familiar with) which means to grip, hold, capture or the word “sasie” which I found in the dictionary defined as seizure, confiscation of goods. How far off the mark am I, can you please help me to find the appropriate word in French?

The word seizure then led me down the path I was already traveling to discover more about the south of India, its history, art and architecture. I had just read about Siege of Seringapatnam and the third Anglo-Mysore War where the well-equipped British forces under the command of the Governor General Cornwallis with the aid of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Maratha state outwits Tipu Sultan, the sultan of Mysore State by disarming all his troops and driving him into his forces into island fortress of Seringapatnam which was the capital of his state of Mysore. Eventually the British breech the walls and seize the town which compels the monarch Tipu Sultan to agree to the flagrantly unfavorable terms and hand over his sons as guarantee of his abiding by the terms of the agreement.

The story of brave and patriotic Tipu Sultan who dared to battle the British and was one of the rare monarch who managed a couple of victories against them aided by the French has been recreated in popular culture through books, comics for children, theatre cinema and television, the most famous and controversial being the television series The Sword of Tipu Sultan (the colorful tv series gives a sense of how he is perceived in popular culture). I have pasted below some pics of old prints of this historic battle. Do check it out below:

Photo: Siege of Seringapatnam

Photo:Tipu Sultan Warrior King

Since I was in Tipu’s turf, I decided to visit his famous teak palace in Bangalore. 

Do check me out below in Tipu’s Teak Palace:

The teak Palace had a miniature of the famous Tipu’s Tiger organ, the original being kept at the V&A(Victoria and Albert museum, one of my favorites) in London. This magnificent organ in the shape of a tiger mauling an Englishman was an extension of his arch rivalry against the British colonial influence that had swept through the subcontinent moulded and supported by the French as was this Tiger organ. Tipu who was known as the Tiger of Mysore, used the tiger motif on all his objects and ornaments including his banners and weapons. Do check out this fabulous page from the V&A which gives an overview of the Tiger organ and has a must see video clip at the bottom:

Victoria and Albert Museum Tipu’s Tiger

My photo of Tippu’s Tiger:

To round up the story on Seizure, I will have to inflict you with my musings on the 4th Amendment, Search and Seizure and it’s application to the cyber-world. While I was in the throes of an amorous embrace by Rattlesnake Jake, intoxicated by all the heady excitement my mind wandered over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (please tell me this is not totally psycho) and an article I had read about the arbitrary seizure of domain names by the government and its impact on the first and fourth amendments to the constitution. As the tongue came flickering out to lick my cheek (see above clip Rattlesnake Jake), I screamed out at the injustice of this draconian system and decided it needed some of my brain juice. Of course, explaining to my buddy Jake why I had shrieked is another story. Roger, I would really appreciate it if you could read the pasted article below and my thoughts and musing on this case and tell me what you think. Am I totally off the mark or do I have something of substance there? Do check article pasted below:

EFF: Domain name seizure 2011

(Updated- 2017)

Domain name intermediaries should not be held responsible for the content of websites that utilize their domains

“.cat” Domain a Casualty in Catalonian Independence Crackdown | Electronic Frontier Foundation

And my musings on the case below (please give it a shot, i promise its not all fluff) :

Search and seizure, Speech, and the Internet

Amici Curiae brief of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in support of petitioner-appellant (puerto 80 projects)

Puerto 80 Projects v  The United States of America, Department of Homeland security

Are there different Rules for physical searches and seizures as opposed to searches and seizures performed online/ in the virtual sphere

In the physical realm we have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes and such searches and seizures would necessitate the production of a search warrant, do we have the same expectation of privacy online: in our domain/ web site/ IP address ? There is a long historical background to claiming our home is our castle does it transfer to our online residence? would the activities being carried out in the home parallel the expectation of privacy in the activities carried out on your website? Is this based on public access, the fact that one is a physical space and the other is virtual or is it some other criteria? If not then the authorities would have no need to demonstrate probable cause before crashing into the party, your website, searching and seizing it! However, would these 4 th amendment rules apply so seamlessly, how could they, what is being seized? A website, domain name, ip address is being seized… And how can these be seized in the sense as it is understood conventionally. What are the ramifications of this seizure? The realization must hit that the impact goes way beyond the briefcase and the seizure of the car, here there is a network of lives and vested interests that come together and interplay on these sites, impact a community. 

So have we reached a realm beyond arrest warrants and probable cause are we in a space that is not physical and nor is it illusionary? one whose existence has real ramifications on the real world but appears to exist somewhere in between eluding the two. In such a realm would the arbitrary  imposition of the laws of the real world upon this space be rational and just? I say a hearing, an online consensus yes, arbitrary imposition of the laws of the real world, no! The laws of the virtual realm have to emerge from that realm backed by a consensus of the netizens who would support it’s enforcement, every other system would fail, appear unjust or be plain ridiculous awaiting the judge to identify another shape in the clouds to attribute to this animal.

The first issue to determine is the nature of this space, whether it is physical ( uh huh…no,) and thus covered by the search and seizure laws of the fourth or whether is it a purely creative expression, Speech,  to be covered by all the issues and safeguards that fall under the first amendment (dunno). Does it really warrant those forms of extreme protection I wonder? Or is it an amorphous evolving something in between neither a physical form nor pure expression but one that needs to be identified before every judge on every panel ascribes it a form (this cloud looks like a dinosaur) and passes judgement. 

The speech based protections which in my opinion form the core of any civilized society are dear and sacrosanct and must NOT be blurred. This virtual animal on the other hand is to be defined and the creative Speech based aspect is to be secured, the vested interest of the multitude that go into this beast are to be taken into consideration and then whatever form of appropriate Search based laws can be applied should be “tested”. I repeat tested, as the ramifications of searching that handbag, the equivalent of someone’s iPhone today can result in the violation of the entire communities data. A simple search to might result in catastrophic consequences: The doctor could have a list of all the teenage pregnancies and abortion lists in the area, there could be lists of “friends who smoke”, a group people with a transmittable disease, a categorization of ethnicity and weapons, all of which would grotesquely violate privacy that goes beyond the individual and sometimes community and could (should)never satisfy any larger government purpose.

The information disseminated into “the system” would target these groups forever, they would be categorized labelled (each and every one of us would fit into some label). The reality of this tech centric world of today being that every iPhone, handheld device has layers and layers of data that could and would compromise. How then in this overlapping interconnected realm where everyone is exposed in their polka dotted briefs do we allow ANY form of search and seizure…Yes, the cop suspected the man parked in lot was doping (perhaps he was an attorney, perhaps he was the head of the hospital, or perhaps it was their kid) and the data is seized from their devices along with the dope. The results can be catastrophic much beyond the intent of the legislature and the judiciary. This goes beyond the physical realm of catching that coke head and making him do time, it compromises everyone in his stream/ network. The realization that we have moved beyond the physical realm and that many are carrying others data, and form a part of a connectivity/ network has to be incorporated while enforcing the laws we know and recognize in the physical realm to the virtual one.

In the above-mentioned brief, in order to clarify for the audience these oft repeated and for most the ambiguous terms of domain names, IP addresses and websites, using a real world parallel the author very creatively, compared the website to the Empire State Building, the IP address as it’s actual physical address on 5 th avenue, And the domain name as the name that building on that address is known as by the public, which is the Empire State Building. Now if the domain name, ie ” the Empire State Building” were seized because of some illegal activities on some floor, it would be akin to putting a board up in front of the Empire State building and saying it’s out of service or boarded up. However horrific this may sound, the ramifications would be even more dire if this domain was The Bank of America, Lehman brothers or UBS which due to some irregularity on one of it’s levels was being seized/ boarded up, being told to the general public that it was now “out of operation”. There would be a run on the bank both in the real and virtual world and the result would be unsalvageable! Therefore, search and seizure when applied to this virtual plane has to be done astutely if at all, understanding the interconnectivity and interdependence of all the elements that go on to make this universe.

Roger, did I totally bore you? Was I sounding garbled? I hope you didn’t skim through the whole thing and read at least the last paragraph. I would love to hear your thoughts.

I will end with the promise of the story of Jake or the new age Shantaram, one with whom I appear to have shared a formative journey, similar lives, families, background and even the same Cambridge Mission college on whose lawns we soaked in the sunshine.

Good night and sweet dreams. I hope to hear from you soon.


Dear Purnima,

What a delight to get a long missive from you.  A wonderful investigation of seizure (saisie), although I don’t know if that is the word I  would choose to describe your union with Jake.  It’s almost too negative in one sense in that the object/person seized has no control over what is transpiring, but I need to mull over that  as well as your long treatise on cyberworld privacy.

Thanks for the Martini picture.  I had at first hoped  that it was a picture of you raising your glass, but it did remind me  of southern France.  I don’t usually drink that (or those in the sense of dry), but I did have a Tequila Sunrise last night from the bar on the 12th floor of our hotel overlooking the bay in Hakodate,  and I, of course, sent a warm and tender thought your way.  We’re off to Sapporo this morning and the final chapter in our current Japan adventure.



Dear Roger

My tumultuous ride has not ended. My two day stop in Bangalore has transformed into a two week marathon with Tara falling sick, homesick and being completely unsettled. It’s been very difficult for me as well, the cutting of the umbilical cord. 

So, I’ve decided to be Bangalore based, explore the city, it’s sights and sounds and add another chapter, a Bay Area to Bangalore chapter to my diary, at least for the next month until the dust settles or I get my dream job. 

In the interim I’ve been exploring the city with its glitzy malls, skyscrapers, and being dazzled by the development, all seemingly enveloped by a distinctive pulse of youthful energy.   This garden city that I had been told much about appears to be in a stage of metamorphosis, with all its pieces spinning in the air. Of course there is heady development as Bangalore has reinvented itself but in its midst,  there appears to be absolute chaos. The traffic, the roads the base infrastructure to support this grand idea seems to be suspended perhaps in someones mind waiting to take a breath from this dizzying growth.   

This growth of course is a result of the fire emanating from technology worldwide as Bangalore forms the technological triangle with Singapore in the east and the Bay Area to the West, both of which have been home to me.

So, my adventures continue as I explore Bangalore via “scootie” (tuk tuk), taxi and on foot, often  inadvertently  finding myself at the other side of the road, dropped off at the wrong place where I have to skillfully negotiate my way over the suspended sidewalks (most of which are floating pieces stacked upon each other and to add to the excitement are punctured with holes just about the size to trap a lady’s heel -talk about rules against women in heels…equal protection my brain screams !), intermittently separated by deep dark ditches between the floating sidewalk pieces (which I believe suck you straight to the river), finally there is debris and as i discovered cables of live wire strewn just in case you have managed to dodge the other hazards and make it thus far. Well, I did and that too with a kid in tow (who carried me) who being the upbeat kid that she is recognized this surreal experience as having slipped into a Super Mario game of dodging obstacles and successfully making it through the hazards. Yes Roger, it’s a real life Super Mario game and i have not even mentioned the piece of walking across the road…you have to come and join me here sometime. 

Hugs and love,


Dear Purnima,

Glad to hear that you are enjoying Bangalore and from the vantage of an old colonial club.  Sounds charming !

We are leaving tomorrow for four days in the land of the Little Mermaid and Hans Christian Andersen, but I doubt the blond Nordic creatures can hold a candle to your beauty punctuated by those deep, fascinating and enchanting eyes.  Wish I were there too ! ! !

More when we return.

And, if I were a partaker, I cannot think of a more delightful preparer of charras.

Gros bisous and fond thoughts,


Dear Roger

Writing to you from a breezy veranda in Bangalore, a charming old club, a relic from our colonial past that I have been fortunate to enjoy as a grandchild of the Raj. 

The Bangalore Club – A Relic of The Raj:

My Pics of The Bangalore Club:

You have been in my thoughts over these last few weeks as I have ventured into very exciting territory, one that straddles the globe as I venture from France/French, to Persia/ Persian – Urdu and finally arrive in Delhi with its Sanskritized Devanagari script. 

Yes, I have been delving deep into my culture, reading Persian poetry, Urdu poets, ghazals, love stories in English, French ( with a struggle) Urdu/Hindi in both the Roman and Devanagari script. It’s been awesome, find the connections being able to see the bridges… As i guessed, French and Persian sense, sensitivities and sensibilities,(looking for the Urdu word “ahsaas”?) are one! wish you were here!!

Hope I get a quiet afternoon to write to you in detail. At this point all I can think of is dropping the kids off in boarding school and hope they settle in, then everything next. 



Btw: I would not hire me to pack your charas… Talk about biz going up in smoke. 

Purnima Viswanathan

Roger Stevenson

Mon, Oct 31, 2011,

Dear Purnima,

Are you still in Bangalore rubbing shoulders with the IT elite ?  Has your new-found former friend completely swept you off your feet and into his life ?

I saw the pictures you put up on Facebook (by the way, you are about the only reason I ever venture onto that so-called social media site), and you aren’t there very often.  I listened to an interview on NPR yesterday of an American social butterfly who is a self-proclaimed social media Ann Landers and has written a book about Facebook and its joys and pitfalls.  He said that when Facebook first appeared on the web, everyone said, “Wow, this is really unique”, but eventually Facebook turned out to be just like life itself.  You not only have the pleasure of being connected with your friends and those you really like and admire, but you also have to confront all the long-lost cousins and old school mates that you have absolutely no interest in pursuing a relationship with, even on Facebook.  The big question of the interview was how do you tell someone on Facebook that you no longer want to be their Facebook friend and still remain friends with them ? )  This is really heavy stuff.

There is an Indian film playing in Geneva at the Festival de tous écrans.  It is called 

The Kite (Patang)

Have you seen it ?  Know anything about it ?  It sounds interesting.  I think we’ll go see it next Monday.

Halloween was really big in Japan (check out the pictures below)  Is it celebrated in India at all ?  I still have such wonderful (and frightful) images of India floating through my mind from Shantaram.

And speaking of books, I finally have all three volumes of Murakami’s latest novel IQ84  That should keep me busy for a few weeks.  I need another long plane ride so I have nothing else to do but read.

Take care of yourself.  I still think of you every time I drive into Geneva !

Giant hugs,



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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