Geneva Diaries #41*

Geneva, Mother and Child, Women, Milan, Assange and The Pumpkin Prince

Milan in Milan

Milan in Milan-Old Friend Meet Up In Milan-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

He Had It Coming!


Dear Roger,

I was so pleased to get your mail, of course a distant second from meeting in flesh but very welcome. It’s so good to hear from you, especially during these very trying times, the mails make me feel that a part of you is with me, in touch with my life. 

My life is an emotional Tsunami waiting to happen, and as I chew my hands to shreds I see the ocean withdraw. I know the further it goes, the higher the wave. At this point I am locked in a surreal plane, experiencing life and this withdrawal sensation in slow motion. Wondering where will it end and how far will it go, I hold my breath. The devastation I fear is to be unfathomable, nothing I can anticipate and prepare for, so I live now NOT waiting for the year, the month, the day BUT the hour. Yes, the Big One has been coming for the last ten years in my life but when and where I was never sure. But now I see the ocean in retreat and the end is inevitable. The only question remains, how far?

See below The Great Wave off Kanagawa an iconic image by Hokusai used to represent the menacing monstrosity of the gigantic wave or Tsunami and its portentous impact representing the(8.9 richter scale)Tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11th, 2011 mirroring this moment in my life. See The Great Wave of Kanagawa at The Met below:http://By Katsushika Hokusai – Metropolitan Museum of Art, online database: entry 45434, Public Domain,

The Great Wave at Kanagawa at The Met

The Great Wave by The Khan Academy:

As I sit up for yet another night escaping from the early morning light, I notice that the stress is finally showing on my face. As I glance at my reflection I am met with a bizarre sight composed of jagged corners, vivid colors and a pasted smile. Yes, very much like a Picasso sketch. Check me out below as Pablo Picasso’s sketch of Dora Maar au Chat:,

Roger, it has been ten long years… ten year too long! I believe the sightings of the Black Jeep Grand Cherokee emerging from the mists being driven by a headless horsewoman is increasing in frequency. This coupled with (or perhaps the result of) the harassment in “the marriage that wasn’t” you must admit, would have cracked the toughest nut. 

However, on that final drive down 280 to the airport (SFO), I sensed I was being escorted by a silent cavalcade that stood behind pillars and doors bidding me a fond farewell and safe journey. Now and then I caught a glimpse, but then it could have been any teenager/student leaning against the pillar listening to his/her music. Before embarking I did turn back for one last time and in a clear loud voice that rang across the airport to those sympathetic ears, I said:

(Assuming Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tone in Terminator) – I’ll Be Back! 

The story did not end in California. I was told repeatedly that I was that cracked nut, hallucinating, conjuring up people and situations up to the point where I started doubting myself. It was at this point that a dear relative whispered that I watch the movie Gaslight, “You are not mad, you are slowly and systematically being driven out of your mind”. Have you seen it, a similar plot? Do check out the trailer of Gaslight below:

Movie Trailer Gaslight (1944)

Competence Questioned – Custody Battles

And then Geneva happened! At first I heaved a sigh of relief to be out of a situation where my sanity was being tested, only to tumble from the frying pan into the fire. My world completely inverted, the villainy became omnipresent, pervasive and violent. There were creatures behind every crevice, around every pillar and on every rooftop. It was as if the entire United Nation with all it’s representative countries had embarked upon a vendetta to “Persecute, Pursue, Punish Purnima”. I was beside myself with anxiety, afraid to mention yet another incident of harassment as our marriage was coming to an end and my competence was being questioned. Could a hallucinating mother ever hope for custody of her children? Of course close friends did mention that such tactics are employed by some unscrupulous spouses who wish to end the marriage without baggage. I toyed with this idea and then dismissed it, how could everyone be corrupted, everyone be influenced… it was impossible, so the logical answer is that this is a manifestation of my mind which has been under severe distress. 

Roger, can you make any sense of a society, even this very chauvinistic male dominated society (much to say) unanimously decreeing that on this 500th anniversary of Calvin, yes 500 years later, Servetus be burnt again? Can you imagine people of every color, creed, nationality almost representative of the entire United Nations issuing a Fatwa against a poor innocent California Housewife? And Roger, can you imagine that even if the above were true in the most irrational of all worlds, that the 250 organizations whose job it is to save the common man from the oppression of these gargantuan institutions, would also mirror the common consensus and chase Purnima through the narrow cobbled streets of Geneva? Of course the above cannot be true, and I must be a tad bit mad… but can you imagine a world comprising of Ants not men all responding in a similar manner to the same stimuli, all rushing for the kill?

My mind is absorbed with all the question that might be raised as I appear in court tomorrow and am queried by the judge. Roger, how will I tell the judge about my tumultuous tale, how will I infuse it with a filament of believable reality? Would you believe anyone would have stayed in a marriage for ten long years without any mental, physical, emotional relationship? All I could think of whenever I saw him was…babies, babies, babies! I married him for the babies, I lived with him for the babies. There were babies in my dreams and in my reality, there were babies everywhere! See me as Ally McBeal below, a show we watched together, laughed and lived hallucinating about babies and the biological clock. See below when Art becomes Life :

Would you believe the tenacity and determination in keeping this facade of a marriage alive against all odds where leaving meant a vastly superior life in terms of mental, emotional and professional fulfillment? But as you know, I dug in my heels and I stuck on ready to battle all day and all night. Can you imagine having to wrestle the pillow off the bed that separated us (yes he insisted we sleep with a bolster between us)  and battle for “performance” every night, night after night, week after week, month after month for ten long years? Can you imagine a husband who had a ten year “headache”? What would you do…? See video at The Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden in Washington DC below – I married a prince and he turned into a pumpkin:

And That Used To Be A Prince…

The Pumpkin Prince- The Hirshhorn – part 1-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

 But He Turned Into A Pumpkin!

The Pumpkin Prince Part 2-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

See below The Pumpkin Prince at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden:

The Pumpkin Prince – The Hirshhorn Washington DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Marrying “vegetation” is not an unusual thing in India, there are many instances of Berkeley, Stanford and Wharton Graduates going to India and marrying a tree. The customs and traditions of India – when the stars are not in your favor- you are married to vegetation. My brother married a tree (fact!) and I married a Pumpkin:

I Married a Plant – by a Berkeley Graduate:

Married to a Tree:

Tree Marriage:

See below My Brother’s Wedding to the Tree. He was first married to the tree which watched enviously in the foreground as he later married his wife:

My Brother’s Wedding- First Nuptials with The Tree looming in the foreground and then his Beloved Anjali – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

So, I replaced the bolster with a holster…” He had it coming, he had it coming, he only had himself o blame, if you had been there you would have seen it – I bet you would have done the same”.

Do see me below playing all six of the betrayed women in Chicago the musical below:  

Chicago Musical – Cell Block Tango (He had it coming)

Good night sleep tight and think of me when you hear that bang in the distance!



Dear Roger,

I find myself magnetically drawn to the computer on Easter Sunday, desperately in need of a friend, hoping to find you at the other end. The final paperwork (on the divorce) was completed a few days ago (and with that ends this session of the Grand Theatre de la B- – – – 2000-2011, do check out the photos)and I’ve been down, sick with the flu… or perhaps some unknown internalizing of emotion expressed as a cold. Can’t resist to play this following track from my favorite Broadway Musical – Guys and Dolls, check me out as the unlikely Adelaide lamenting not for that band of gold but for why I held onto it for so long, with the same result – A COLD:

Guys and Dolls – La Grippe:

Back to your wonderful email and our continuing discussions on women, I believe a woman’s position in society should not to be viewed as a “grant” from men but a claim asserted by woman for all the women in that society. I don’t really believe all the blame lies with the men for they don’t necessarily grant or deny rights to women, but it’s the women themselves (and this is a fact from the most progressive to the most conservative) who instill the ideas of superiority and dominance into the heads of the males reaffirming the restrictions and regulations imposed on the women as they whisper these ideas with their lullabies as they rock their babies on their knees. The core educators are the women, and social change has to spring from them, they have to inculcate these ideas of equality, respect and fairness into the minds of their children for it to be reflected in society. And Roger, I have seen first hand how these mechanics work, (elegance, articulation, education all for perfect dinner party conversation…) for I was married off to “a suitable boy”! 

As for the French assault on the billowing burqa,  I wonder if this was an assault on a “questionable” dress sense, one that would not quite fit on the haut couture fashion ramps? Undoubtedly, the French were reiterating the element of freedom that women have within their society to express themselves in all their designs and hues, one that represents an integral part of their culture (this of course in no way translates into their being more liberated but let’s indulge them…). And what magnificent hues, what beautiful designs, I can never tire of watching their lean limbs peering through gauzy fabric on the fashion channel. I know this culture well, my grandmother, who was as lean as any of these ramp models would always say, “the body must be like a frame that clothes hang on”, “skin should be stretched tight across the bone”,… “It’s all about the bones”. Which is all very well if you are essentially designed like that, but what if fitting into a French tailored outfit means being perpetually starved, contorting your core structure, then loose fitting billowy outfits might appear a happier option, assuming it were an option. 

Of course, I can understand the dress, and everyone’s choice of dress, I must admit I would be positively claustrophobic in the headgear anywhere out of a sandstorm. But the core issue here as we know is not of liberation or equality but the arbitrary imposition of laws (as this garb is worn by a insignificant group (size) that exists somewhere in the outskirts) where such laws are not warranted and impose the risk of a graver danger, that of jeopardizing what they are looking to preserve, their culture. For preservation of the core of what I think (and admire) of being the French culture, is the passionate protection of privacy. What do you think?

Back to more joyful topics, I had an absolutely marvelous trip to Milan, It was truly a “Milan in Milan”. Now is when I wish you could journey with me for a bit to my universe “Hindustani”. Milan or मिलन, means meeting, and this is a meeting I had with a dear childhood friend after many years in Milan. 

ملن milan

S̱. s. m. Meeting, mixing, agreement, to meet, to mix, &c. See ملنا milnā.

It was a whirlwind trip to Milan, what a magnificent city, fabulous food, exquisite buildings, beautiful people and fashion oozing from the sidewalks. 

See images of vibrant Milan below:

The Duomo, gothic Cathedral was breathtaking and I was very fortunate to have a savvy friend who makes all the best choices, we got a rooftop table facing the Duomo and spent a perfect  Italian afternoon bathed in sunlight with great food, drink and company (see below).

Purnima with Udita in Milan (Milan in Milan):

The best seat in Milan- adjacent to the Duomo with an old friend who came with her bouncing baby reflecting the magnificent carvings of the Duomo:

Audio – The Best Seat in Milan:

I left with many pictures, many images of this grand place some of which I have pasted below to share but most of all, I returned with images of mother and child, my friend with her first born, madonna and child, of baby Krishna playing in the arms of his mother. This reminded me of a beautiful verse in Sanskrit recited by my grandmother in praise of this child, this baby, in the form of baby Krishna likening his image to that of a lotus – Kararavindena Padaravindam A beautiful song I have heard from childhood, one she sang as she held my babies in her hands and the one that came to mind as I saw these images across my table, across Milan.

The lotus flower has a great significance in our culture and every aspect of beauty, love, compassion, wisdom and harmony are compared to the lotus flower. Here the verse compares the delicate gentle hands, feet of baby Krishna to the lotus flower, it compares his beautiful face with the lotus and compares his eyes to the petals of the lotus. Do check out the video of the song of baby Krishna and the lotus (aravind) below:

In praise of  Baby Krishna(whose feet, hands and eyes are like the lotus…Padaravinda Karavindam)


karāravindena padāravindaḿ

mukhāravinde viniveśayantam

vaṭasya patrasya puṭeśayānaḿ

bālaḿ mukundaḿ manasā smarāmi

I meditate on that infant Mukunda (Krsna) who is sleeping on the leaf of a banyan tree with his the lotus like foot placed in his lotus like mouth with his lotus like hand.

The Sanskrit name for lotus is aravind, yes like my brother who was named after Sri Aurobindo symbolizing a lotus. However, during his last trip here with the family I was afraid of losing our (my brother) lotus to a toll booth maiden in France! Yes, after an entire day of sightseeing with four screaming children, an angry spouse and a tired sister, my brother had the energy to chat up a French maiden who seemed to be paying extraordinary attention to him. I had to literally jump into the toll booth to retrieve him and remind him of ten tired hungry beings he had left behind in the car, otherwise you might have had lotuses growing in your French alpine countryside!

Roger, in all our excitement about the controversy around the burqa, bombings and the continuing revelations of embezzlement, have we abandoned Assange? Where is Assange, how is Assange, was he Assanginated? The last I heard was that he was shoveled into Sweden and then there has been radio silence. Absolutely no mention, no news, not a purr not a blurb! Or is it that I’ve not been looking? Roger, you do know this is another issue that gets me all hot and fiery under the collar, I absolutely believe that we need “another voice”, we need checks and balances in a very contrived, monitored world. We need the media and the establishment to know that they are not the only ones monitoring but there are other “un-interested” in the sense of not having a stake in any camp, persons on their tail. As we have seen, in a  universe where everyone responds like ants, and where it is known how to elicit such a response for everyone harbors this deep dark grotto of prejudice, there is often no opposing voice it gets trampled and intimidated and then of course holocausts happen. It is precisely to prevent such thunderingly uniform responses, such contorted consensus that we in society permit and encourage that opposing voice. We air it, agree to let it be heard and debate upon it. The danger is when we all agree to agree on all! This is when that opposing voice gets squelched, and Assange gets Assangi-nated. I do wish to hear him, or hear what has become of him.

 I sit quietly facing Place Du Molard here in Geneva where the trees seemingly to reflect my indignation morph their stubby hands into paddles whacking all the Thor like characters who come galloping onto Place du Mollard rearing on the backs of their stallions as they stare at their reflections flicking their golden locks. These trees then bend down and give them a nice tight whack on their derrieres till they disclose the exact location of our buddy Assange … do check them out, the smooth Scandinavians, breakdancing on Place du Mollard below dodging the looming paddle armed trees:

Geneva’s paddle armed trees and other sights:

Swede Breakdance – Geneva

Good night and hope to hear from you soon!


PS: Did you see the Varaha in the photos next to the Book on The Birds of Asia, my beloved bronze?

The Birds of Asia – An Image from Home-Photo by Purnima Viswanthan


On Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 10:43 AM, Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Sorry to be so long in getting back to our next to favorite topic – Women, but having our American guest for a solid week of French lessons, excursions, fixing meals, entertaining in the evening, etc., etc., I finally have a bit of breathing space.  She left for Detroit via Amsterdam last weekend and I have been struggling to catch up ever since.

Where do I start ?  From the Swiss suffragettes who couldn’t wring out a positive vote on being able to cast theirs from their conservative and macho husbands until very, very late (They really should have adopted the Lysistrata tactic.  It would probably have been instantly successful) to young 14 year-olds charged with adultery and sentenced to be stoned to Muslim women in France who are rendered criminal for covering their faces, it’s all a mixed bag of religious bigotry and sexual discrimination.  In every case, these are punishments meted out to females by the males in power whose sole intent is to keep them in their place, that is in the kitchen and pregnant AND not available to any other male.

See below an outline of Aristophanes play Lysistrata – Greece 411BC:

The right to vote for Swiss women is an historical anachronism that is hard to believe for a country that is known for its neutrality, humanitarian caring and progressive thinking, but it is indicative of a deeper impulse on the part of many men who consider women somehow inferior and who should not be allowed to participate in the political process.  It’s strange that such attitudes persist in a country where the percentage of females in the highest levels of government is extremely high.  Four of the seven federal councillors are women and the current (as well as the past) president of the confederation is a woman.  It is true that the two cantons who refused to give women the right to vote were very small cantons in the German speaking part of the country, and most of their population resides in rather isolated villages perched on the sides of mountains.

The case that I really have difficulty with, however, is the recently voted law banning any article of clothing that hides a person’s face.  There are issues of religious freedom, freedom of expression, religious intolerance and downright intolerance on the part of society as a whole toward a specific religious practice.  I do, however, remain somewhat ambivalent about the burqu.  French feminists are strongly opposed to it because it is something that the male-dominated religion has imposed on its women as a way of protecting their chattel and keeping them unavailable to roving eyes.  The feminist camp argues that such forced garb is contrary to the priorities of the Republic and denies a Muslim woman the right to dress as she pleases.  From a philosophical point of view, I concur totally with that perspective.  It is just one more in a long line of oppressive and self-serving measures taken by religious fanatics throughout the centuries to insure their rights over and domination of the female.  There are very few similar dress codes for males.

That said, there are many women who may indeed choose to wear the burqa  for reasons other than an imposed dress code by males of their religion.  I have read several accounts of women who find a special solace and protection, even freedom, to walk down the street completely enclosed (encased) in a free-flowing gown and head covering. A spoke in length with a young British writer who had spent some time in the Middle East researching her latest book, and she said she wore a burqa frequently while she was there and found it a very pleasant experience.  In her case, there was no coercion involved and it was entirely her choice to wear it.  If that is the case, then the French law, which by the way went into effect on April 11th and the Parisian demonstration by Islamic groups resulted in three women being arrested, runs counter to the principle of freedom and democratic rights of self expression.

What I find most objectionable about the new French law is the hypocrisy behind it.  It is obviously driven by racist tendencies and anti-Islam feelings both in the government itself and the far right, which Sarkozy has increasingly been playing up to.  The recent pronouncements by his new Minister of the Interior, Claude Guéant, are a sickening example of the government’s anti-Muslim campaign.  I am convinced that this attitude and the resulting discriminatory laws against a particular religion have nothing at all to do with the so-called reason for outlawing women from covering their heads and faces: it prevents the authorities from identifying the person involved.  But surely, with new technologies available today in the form of cameras that read a person’s iris in order to make a dependable identification render that argument quite weak.

In short, I find the new law despicable and hypocritical.  The only solace is that the leadership of the French police union has said that the policemen on the street has far more urgent and pressing things to worry about and that enforcement of the new law will be very problematic.  Most of the reported 2000 women who wear a burqa in France, live in sections of town where the police are often afraid to enter or where they are seen as “the enemy”.  I don’t foresee any wide-scale and consistent enforcement of this law.

Thanks for resending the pictures you took last Sunday.  It worked this time.  You look great in your white cap !  You also seem to be obsessed by cemeteries and monuments to those past figures who have shaped the history of the city.  Did you, by the way, see the grave of Sergio Vieira de Mello in the Cimetier des rois ?  He was Annick’s boss and long-time friend at the UN and was killed in the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003.

How was Milan ?  It’s a fun city and I love the train ride through the Swiss Alps and down through the Italian valley where Lake Como is situated.  Did you drive or take the train.

What are you plans next week ?  I’m not sure when I’ll be coming to Geneva, but it’s been far too long since we had coffee.




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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