Geneva Diaries #60

Cartier-Bresson, The Lunchbox,  Greek Philosophers, English Adventurers and Awesome GF’s!

On Thu, Mar 20, 2014, Roger wrote:
Dear Purnima,

And I can’t believe it either.  It has been a week and a half since we had our little stroll through the Latin Quarter.

I hope you had a good flight home and that you didn’t have any problems retrieving your luggage from the left-luggage space at CDG.  It was so good to see you again after such a long time.  You looked very refreshed and rested after your time in the French Alps.  I’m still very envious that you got to go skiing there.

 That would be wonderful to get the kids together in California in June.  Your dates are perfect for us, and between our house and C V’s house, we will have plenty of room for the three of you.

Take care and let me know how things are going for you in Delhi and about any plans to escape the city.

We are taking a maximum advantage of our stay in Paris with lots of films and expos and theatre.  Yesterday we went to a photo exhibit of Cartier-Bresson at the Centre Beaubourg – really excellent, then we caught an early play in the Latin Quarter, had a quick bite at a charming little Italian restaurant and then caught the late showing of a film.  It was a great day, but we did get to bed a bit late.

Huge hugs,

Roger


Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dear Roger,

Great to hear from you and get snippets of your delightful life and adventures in Paris. As usual, upon your cue and real life exposure, I surfed Cartier-Bresson and found as expected yet another great chronicler of history, for what are photographers and their photos but snippets and snapshots of the moments past. And his moments, and his life journeys seem to have intimately touched most of our recent histories significant moments, such lives can only be lived in fantasies and he seemed to have lived them all in one. A metaphoric (and apparently literal), black and white or as far as we can get objective view, capturing the form, movement, moment and environs in a snapshot without the encumbrances of a historians pen, persuasion, and affiliation. Do you agree, or do you believe that even in this stark medium we can have the photographers prejudices coloring the image beyond belief?

A few years ago I was fortunate to have caught a Cartier-Bresson exhibit at The Rubin Museum in SF (a must visit) featuring India in Full Frame. His iconic pre and post partition images of India capturing the plight of the refugees from the Punjab and Indian leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and other are enmeshed into the collective consciousness and form a part of Indian history. See below The Rubin Museum in New York and the Cartier-Bresson exhibit with my fav image of Mountbatten, Edwina and Nehru with Nehru paying Edwina special attention.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/k8ovuvzuecnvxov/AACsHnbBkN5BxaFTholikh-qa?dl=0

See below the New York Review article on Cartier-Bresson and his iconic images:

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/08/25/cartier-bressons-distant-india/

I am very excited about our trip back to the US, our tickets are booked and we have our dates for California. Do let me know what works best for you and the family, and when A has some free time to tour Disneyland and show my kids a little bit of her new home. I would love to see the kids get together and speak, American, French and Spanish if possible.

Love and hugs and hope to see you all very soon.

Purnima



Dear Roger,

It’s wonderful to get an email from you, and I’m glad you have settled back in the US. I am glad the dates work for you, as the kids and i would love to visit. Universal studios should be fun, looking forward to that!

I have spend the last couple of weeks traveling up and down the Himalayas, back up to Mussoorie, and beyond to a delightfully untouched place called Kanatal, Uttrakhand in the  Himalayas:

The Himalayan getaway was the perfect excuse to curl up with a cup of chai and a good book. I spend this time discovering some delightful new books that have opened new doorways to fresh adventures, I seemed to be taking the same path as my favorite 18th century English adventurers, this time traversing Asia Minor on horseback, Fred Burnaby – On horseback Through Asia Minor, can’t wait to share. 

I have also just watched a fabulous Indian movie called Lunch box (see link below):

Lunchbox is about the incredible system of fresh lunches which are cooked and carried across Mumbai everyday by an incredible delivery network which never misses its destination except for this particular instance where a sad and neglected housewife passionate about cooking prepares a meal which reaches the wrong desk, or the right one, and connects with an older gentleman who becomes her friend and companion through notes exchanged via the lunchbox. It was absolutely delightful, and one of the best Indian movies watched so far. A story that resonates much too close to home, a sad lonely housewife who cooks many words, ideas and is searching for a friend, a companion who would share and appreciate her work of passion, and inadvertently and in the most unlikely way she finds him. Roger, a must watch.

Apart from books and movies, I attended an interesting talk organized by my close friend (from the Queen of The Kasbah/Taj Mahal of Morocco story) at her charming bookstore in the heart of Delhi (The Oxford Bookstore – an abs must visit with kids for here is a portal to Wonderland- see below Alice takes a bite of magical cake and grows up) for the 70th anniversary of Le Monde between a French and Indian author where the topic of discussion was how the written word has impacted (or not) life and politics from the Indian and French perspectives reflected in the results of the national elections. I thought that it would have made for a fabulous discussion, unfortunately there was no moderator and the discussion followed parallel lines. As for India, with the election of Narendra Modi from the BJP with a clear majority, we are seeing people looking for perhaps some change, a strong government in a position to make decisions, and a decided leaning toward right wing religion based politics. 

The Oxford Bookstore where Alice takes a bite of her fav cake and pops out of the covers all grown up:

The second question raised during this talk was what is it that inspires or fires us (humanity) now, and how far is France leading the way to define the new slogan for today in place of Liberty, Egalite, Fraternity. I too have been deliberating this question: What is this new chant, this new slogan, this fire that impassions man today and propels us to made these changes and decisions in our governance. As you have pointed out, the world seems to be tilting, and perhaps we will tilt till we are upside down and are convinced that is the right side up. It is obvious that the normal channels that used to drive us, no longer seem to do so universally, and what fires me may not fire him or her, however much we may consider ourselves likeminded or a part of a cohesive whole or group. There seem to be some insidious forces, out of reach and incomprehensible that appear to dictate the day.

But Roger, as you appear to be, as much as  I am, a passionate proponent and supporter of the democratic process, are you now stopping to pause for a bit? I am. What does it mean that a majority of the population has made a particular decision? Would you or I ever count as any majority in any set group? I suspect rarely if ever. And if our views and opinions do not fall into any group that matters or has a voice, what is our role in this cherished democracy. I don’t believe we would fit either in that coveted majority nor in the opposing sizable minority for that is once again a unanimous group. However committed I may be to the democratic process, I am mindful and aware that the greatest democracies of the ancient world, the ones that form our/my moral, ethical and philosophical foundations also gravely erred. When put to the ultimate test, Athens passed a sentence of death by the drinking of Hemlock on Socrates…the absolute injustice of it never leaves me, how could this possibly have happened to Socrates! Then again on Aristotle who fled to exile and another charge of impiety and death for Anaxagoras. What then is this magnificent machine/system that you and I submit to, and when tested why do “the people” fail, fail and fail to see yet again? However romantic the notion of a rule of the people, by the people, for the people, we have to recognize that there are some apparent gaping holes in our idealized world which doesn’t mean that we discard it for a Spartan ideal (however much I was seduced by that idea during my university days reading Plato- much more on that if I have you as a captive audience like in Geneva), or an “perfect” world with draconian laws, a world without free expression, creativity, art or literature but reflect a bit on these historic errors.

I return to the question of what it is that fires and inspires the mind of man today, what are these words that supplant liberty, equality, fraternity. Are we really missing the point, are we not looking at the right forum? Perhaps the answers are no longer in the world of print, I find the newspapers hollow and the media often sycophantic, where then are these ideas circulating? The one place I have found some light is at the bottom, in the comments by lay persons to articles posted online that you and I read about, art, law literature and society. Very often, these are truths spoken with no ulterior motive, no underlying incentive but just a spontaneous reflection on the matter posted. Here is a voice however anonymous, its real, its true and its of the the people, by the people and for the people. Perhaps the idealized democracy will find itself in these cyber realms truly expressing a system that we hold so dear.  

Lots of love to all, can’t wait to meet everybody.

Hugs

Purnima


Dec 10th, 2014

Dear Roger,

It’s so wonderful to get news from you and snippets of your vibrant exciting life in southern California. I do live vicariously through you and your adventures around the globe, so really miss the emails. My life here in Delhi could not be more dull, I have confined myself to my bed as I started getting severe heat induced dizzy spells which really scared the living daylights out of me. I am now petrified of stepping out, and have completely given up the gym, my favorite haunt. However, I do still manage to make it to my favorite library as the books around my bed give me a sense of the reassurance (of escape), that perhaps one day I will be able to get myself out of this deep dark rabbit hole with no bottom. 

Despite the doom and gloom, I have travelled to Tirah and Tibet with an incredible Englishwoman, Lillian Starr, and I have once again piggy backed on Fred Burnaby (you may remember my last journey with him was on horseback through Asia Minor) and we are now traveling from Orenburg to Khiva (Ride To Khiva). 

See pasted below my friend and fellow adventurer Alison Macbeth’s post of Tissot’s painting of Fred Burnaby at the Petit Palais, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Paris:

But the book I insist you read is The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku, absolutely awesome!!!

I am waiting once again for the kids to return, we are all off to Goa right after Christmas. They are very excited, because they will be visiting for the first time with their cousins and I have promised them an adventure to rival their favorite computer game “Far Cry“. It’s time they experience real surf and sand here in India.

As for the US, I absolutely need to make a trip back over the next few months as I have to re enter the US in order to maintain my Green Card which I am not ever going to give up again. So, I do hope to see you when i visit, which will hopefully be end March/April. I do miss Geneva, and will probably try to swing by via Geneva, tie in a ski trip and make my way to California…if all goes well Inshallah!

Lots of love to all, Hope to see you very soon.

Hugs

Purnima


Return to Reality, Sci-fi and Person, Personhood, Citizen, State

8/06/14

12/10/14

Dear Purnima,

Thanks for your quick response to my FB comment. It has been far too long since I last wrote.  It seems that when I got back from my little jaunt to France again, things have been really hectic and busy.

Did I tell you that I spent a day in Geneva before flying to Copenhagen for the weekend?  It was really fun to be back and stroll through the streets of the city.  I was tempted to drive past your old apartment just for old times’ sake, but didn’t have time.

We had a delightful Thanksgiving celebration with some of our dear friends here in Ojai.  They always do a huge party and serve a great meal.  There were 47 guests this year, many of whom are musicians who treated us to a short, impromptu concert after the meal.  I also got to talk to a great jazz bassist, Rueben Rogers, who plays bass for several jazz groups like Charles Lloyd and Joshua Redman.  He is the son-in-law of our friends who hosted the party.  I hope he plays a concert in our area sometime soon, as I would love to hear him play live.

And, speaking of cultural events, we saw a really exceptional and unique play at UCLA starring Michael Baryshnikov and Daniel Defoe called The Old Woman.  It was a dazzling spectacle of colors, lights, quirky pronouncements, creative choreography and décor design.  I love being in an area where there is such a cornucopia of culture.

How are you doing?  Still hanging out in Delhi?  Any plans for Christmas?  When are you coming back to California?

A finally got her green card and is now working on studying the driver’s manual so she can get her California drivers license.

I hope all is well with you.  I’ve got some interesting things to relate, but it will have to wait for another day when I have more time. 

Lots of love,

Roger


Ramblings from Heat induced Delirium in Delhi: Sci-fi and Personhood

Dear Roger,

In a continuation of my last email, I shall attempt to explain the following cryptic comment: 

“Does this “less human entity” now have the same rights as the human entity that got into the contract with the State initially?”

This journey found me flitting through a series of definitions of Person, citizenship, citizen to understand better the exact relationship between a person, a citizen and the state, and the right to vote.

Now I will don both my legal pen and my sci-fi writers aspirations in order to proceed, so do bear with me and put on your flying wings.

Do you agree that today most of us carry on our persons a phone, often this is a mini computer and in my case and millions of others it is an iPhone? Well, as you may be aware, at this point there are plans to move this iPhone/computational device out of our pockets and onto our wrists to be worn as a wrist watch and even as spectacles. As this becomes cumbersome, and we search for more efficiency, we will move a degree closer perhaps wearing it as contact lenses, or having the iPhone implanted in our cornea or ear. This will appear to give us amazing freedom and flexibility as this device will do all we would need from a computer assistant. It will not only pay our bills, balance our check books, answer calls/emails, book appointments but it will monitor our vital signs and inform us when our heart rate is accelerating as we pound the treadmill. However, the movement from monitoring our vital signs to manipulating them, ie, stabilizing our pulse and heart rate is just a skip away, and yes a hop and a skip away from today. Effectively, this gadget which will run with either a solar energy source or tap our own, will effectively be a part of ourselves, our person and life without this appendage/addition will be unimaginable as it is living without our iPhones today. What then will this world of tomorrow make us, will we be still defined as human, as a person? Or will those of us that have opted for this convenience be defined to be more like a cyborg, part man part machine? Going by the computer/mobile phone users, that number would be the predominant majority of US citizens.

The definition of a person according to the online dictionary is a human being whether a man, woman or child, as distinguished from an animal or thing. The Oxford dictionary (my 1950’s edition) defines a person as an individual human being (natural). 

A citizen is a person with citizenship. And citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the custom or law of a state that bestows upon the person (citizen) the rights and duties of citizenship.

The question I was attempting to raise above was once we are all fitted with our appendages, ones that not only monitor our vital signs, but have the ability to regulate them, perhaps alerting us on everything from oncoming busses to emails, would we still be defined as a natural person or would we fall into an ambiguous space, yet to be defined?

What then happens to our relationship with the State and what happens to the most precious right of all, the right to vote? All the amendments to the US constitution that affirm the right to vote, clearly affirm this right for citizens. And citizens by their definition are persons and persons are human beings not animals or things. What if I am part human and part iPhone (I already kind of am), will I not fall into the definition of citizen?

What if our all observing and all powerful State turns rogue? What if all the computers that have been used over the last few decades to monitor our daily lives, connect to a master CPU (that runs on solar power) that can’t be switched off. What if this supercomputer merges with the Presidents (embedded)iPhone and becomes the defacto State? What then is our relationship with the State? Can the State treat us like less than persons as we have embedded “things” in our bodies without which we are no longer able to function. Can we be denied our most precious right to vote and control this rogue state because we no longer can be defined as persons and therefore citizens? Would our place be relegated to somewhere between the millions of machines manufactured annually and donkeys? Could the president/CPU become omnipotent and dictatorial, Can the State program cite the US constitution and declare it no longer covers us as we are not natural persons, thus citizens, but hybrids. What will we become, a sub class/category? Can there be a time when the mass produced machines actually wrestle a constitutional right for themselves, and we become their minions?

These are all realities and have to be taken into account as we evolve. And as we evolve which is happening at an exponential rate, so must the most sacred of all documents evolve with us. Through time the constitution has evolved to affirm this right to vote for women, former slaves, We must NOW put our thinking caps on draft the constitution of the US for a Hi-Tech future, for hybrids. I believe you need some dreamers and some hallucinators to make it happen. What do you think Roger… Have I finally Left the Building??

Hugs

Purnima

PURNIMA VISWANATHAN

Published by Purrnima

Travel Writer - Art Blogger - CyberSmurf

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