Geneva Diaries #16A

What Does The Fox Say? Who…Who…Whodunnit??

What does the fox say?
What Does The Fox Say – Fox 1 — Kamakura Period- National gallery of Art Washington DC
What Does The Fox Say —Who…Who…Whodunnit? Fox 2— Kamakura Period- National gallery of Art Washington DC


Exhibit at The National Gallery of Art Washington DC — The Life of Animals in Japanese Art

Sacred Foxes- Kamakura Period- The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Disclaimer :p

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

Purnima Viswanathan

Geneva Diaries #46*

Shantaram Bangalore Birthdays, Seizure, Prise, Qabza and the 4th and the Fabulous Tale of The San Francisco Sea Lions
Purnima at The Tipu Sultan Palace in Seringapatam -Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

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.

See below Priestess of Delphi (1891) by John Collier, showing the Pythia sitting on a tripod with vapor rising from a crack in the earth beneath her:

John Collier, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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 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 a long year. Upon landing in Bean Town, I was blinded by the brilliant light of the Indian sun and struggled to find my bearings, as my eyes focussed 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, a long shadow, perhaps a pirate like me. 

As he “coiled” his way towards me the vision became clearer, our 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:

See images of Rattlesnake Jake – The Indian Shantaram from Bangalore, India 2011-2012

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:


Martini – Medieval Villages, Alpes Maritimes, Southern France – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

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.

See below The Bangalore Bar Scene with Rattlesnake Jake – The Indian Shantaram:

Jake at the Heart of The Bangalore Bar Scene-Photo Curtsey Sanjeev Jacob

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.

See below Rattlesnake Jake and Beans:

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 with 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:

Tipu’s Teak Palace-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Tipu’s Teak Place-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

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:

Tipu’s Tiger – The Victoria And Albert Museum – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

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 YES it’s “CAT” again!

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

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

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 a forum for creative expression, to be covered by all the (speech based) first amendement issues and safeguards (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.


PS: Please note the clip about the three breasted alien is a commentary about the objectification of women. Three breast are equivalent to the enhancements expected on women which from the male gaze is absolutely awesome. However, if the woman is large and naturally endowed with large breasts or super size derriere that is the “gross, repulsive, ugh” response equivalent to four breasts in the above clip. Did it ever cross anyone’s mind watching that clip that three breasts (or its enhanced equivalent) themselves are perhaps one too many? Who determines what’s awesome and what is ugh? Left to the fantasy of the male gaze perhaps next we’ll be sprouting breasts from our earlobes!

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…pavements are for all…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,


January 16th, 2021

Dear Roger,

The story of Jake continues into the New World…

Today, January 16th, 2021 has been proclaimed by San Francisco mayor London Breed as Sea Lion day commemorating 30 years of this adorable blubbery and vocal mammal landing en masse on the boat docks of San Francisco’s Fisherman Wharf, Pier 39. http://SF sea lion day Jan 16th

WWF: Sea Lions – Endangered:

NOAA – California Sea Lions – Protected and Thriving:

The Tale of The San Francisco Jake and The Sea Lions:

I had spent the last year taking snapshots of my favorite images of San Francisco from every angle in the rain, fog and sunshine, a journey which took me to Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf…

See me below attempting to capture an image of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz:

Purnima in San Francisco-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

See Fisherman’s Wharf – Pier 39 below:

Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco -Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

It was here near the boat deck filled with cacophonous sea lions that I heard someone call out my name…Purnima…Purnima…Purnima

See below my video of the cacophonous sea lions with their long eyelashes and kohl rimmed eyes each one trying to be heard over the others:

Sea Lion Pier 39 in San Francisco -Video by Purnima Viswanathan

I looked around, and then again but couldn’t see a soul. Who was it that was calling out my name I wondered. That’s when I picked up my phone and heard a familiar sounding voice on the other end welcoming me to his platform. It was Jake again but this time it was San Francisco Jake. “Follow me Purnima” he said and I will take you on an adventure…a journey to our new home on the Bay. I turned around to find the sea lions morphed into bedazzling sculptures painted in vivid hues each telling a fabulous story and right there in the midst of this colorful crew stood out one more colorful than the rest. It was Sea Lion Jake of course waving at me with a beaming smile. See below the surrealistic image of the colorful sea lions in Pier 39 with Jake in their midst:

Pier 39 and Sea Lion Jake – Photo Curtsey George Jacob

See in the links below The Aquarium of The Bay’s STEAM program of merging science and art by creating and installing 30 hand painted sea lions across the city of San Francisco to inspire awareness, conservation and education. Sea Lion Love Website: has an interactive map. It can also be found here:

Jake held my hand and took me deep into the murky depths of the San Francisco bay to view his fantastic new abode – the proposed new Aquarium of The Bay. But first, we had to make a mandatory stopover at the Great Gatekeeper Sea Lion that had gifted his glossy coat of gold by Jake himself, who waved us into the inner sanctum. See Jake below with The Great Golden Sea Lion and a model of their proposed shiny new home in the San Francisco Bay:

The sun was going down and It was soon time to bid adieu. Jake held my hand to his heart happy to have shared this dream with a soulmate and said “forget me not for we shall meet again in our new abode in sunny San Francisco”.

I soon found myself back on the surface standing on Pier 39 to find myself amidst the sea lions all dressed up in their Christmas gear dancing and bidding me farewell…till we meet again they sang and blew kisses in the air.

Goodnight and sweet dreams.


PS: What did the sea lions say? Purnima, Purnima, Purnima of course!


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

Geneva Diaries #45*

Alice In Tourette, The Wax Palace, Bali Hi, Cote d’Azure/Provence, Red Rackhams Treasure,The Supreme Court of The Cyberworld and The Human Condition

Purnima in Nice: See below as I become a part of the Nice Museum Installation

Purnima at The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011, Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Have you landed safely on the other end of the rabbit’s hole ?  I hope your tumble through space was eventful and exciting.

Thinking about you !



Dear Roger,

It’s great to hear from you, and yes, I have landed on the other side of the rabbit hole or the other side of the long dark tunnel leading from the Wax Palace to the outside world. Do you remember my relating the story of the Wax Palace from the Indian epic poem Mahabharata (akin to the Iliad), where the five Pandavas were housed in a magnificent palace by their cousins the Kauravas who were contenders for the Throne of Hastinapur?

The Wax Palace

 This perfect palace was made up of entirely combustible materials (thus the name), as their cousins the Kauravas, who were their rivals and contenders to the throne of Hastinapur set up this trap. The Kauravas warmly invited their cousins the Pandavas to reside in this sumptuous palace, after ensuring their cousins the were comfortable enough, the Kauravas planned on finishing them off by setting the palace on fire. I remember many verses in the Mahabharata describing the beauty of this grand home, and its construction. As you may remember, our home on Boulevard des Tranchees, in Geneva,  was wrapped in construction for the most of our time there and when the construction facade was removed, it was time to go/escape. See below our home Blvd des Tranchees in Geneva:

Blvd des Tranchees, Geneva, Switzerland-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

 I have pasted below some clips from youtube relating to this story of the Wax Palace and how many things in this perfect palace aroused the suspicion of the Pandavas (like I was forever suspicious about the “kitchen for show” where it seemed like no one had ever cooked a meal, just not practical) which made them pre-empt the plot , set fire to the palace and escape through the tunnel dug under the palace to safety. Check it out below:

Indian Epic Tale – Mahabharata- The Wax Palace

However, Roger, I will return, this I am convinced of, as I feel there is much left undone, unexplored, unwritten…

In my dreams I see Tavernier standing in his stockinged feet flashing his treasured gems in his sparkling eyes, as he holds open the door to the living room inviting me in. He moves deftly as he removes my coat and whispers in his soft voice ” you have barely entered the building, do come in, there are many voices waiting to greet you, have you met Voltaire?”

Bali Hi

But it’s both surf and turf for me, so apart from the scintillating minds, I yearn for the mountains, for adventure, for snow and ski. The magnetic Matterhorn, standing in all its isolated glory beckons me with the haunting melody of South Pacific, Bali Hi.

Do check out Bali Hi on youtube:

The Matterhorn

Bali Hi – Lyrics:

Bali Ha’i may call you,

Any night, any day,

In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:

“Come away…Come away.”

Bali Ha’i will whisper

In the wind of the sea:

“Here am I, your special island!

Come to me, come to me!”

Your own special hopes,

Your own special dreams,

Bloom on the hillside

And shine in the streams.

If you try, you’ll find me

Where the sky meets the sea.

“Here am I your special island

Come to me, Come to me.”

So, I will have to return, I will have to return to my special Island where the sky meets the sea. I will return to the Matterhorn as he beckons me through the mists and across the seas.

Rick Steves – The Matterhorn:

Cote d’Azure/Provence

Before I end this last leaf, I must share with you my adventures with the kids in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azure. We stayed in Tourrettes-sur-Loup an area between Vence and Grasse. Another dream filled with sun, sea, azure blue skies, charming medieval villages, quaint streets, vibrant art, museums, fab food and The Black Shark(The adventures of Purnima in the Black Shark follow).

Tintin in the Black Shark- Red Rackhams Treasure:

 See below Purnima and The Black Shark in Tourettes-Sur-Loup:

Do check me out below in touring in Tourettes sur Loup, Gazing at the fab art in St Paul de Vence, enjoying the museums in Nice, Eating out in the medieval square in Biot, submerging my Black Shark in Antibes (Marineland) and Cruising in Cannes. 

St Paul de Vence below:

Purnima in Provence/ Tintin in Tourettes: See below images of my trip with my pre-teens across the Alpes-Maritime region of south eastern France discovering the wonderful medieval villages of Eze, Gourdon and Menton below:

Medieval Villages, Southern France-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

This galley housed in one of the ancient habitations of the medieval villages of south eastern France presented itself as the original home of the artifact that was to become the much beloved Chia Pet, see images below:

See below a commercial for the much beloved American toy – The Chia Pet. Of course I wanted the Chia pet when I saw this commercial on TV, but when I looked into Mirko’s eyes, I saw a quizzical look…Why he said…it was then that I realized that I was the Chia Pet!

See Purnima as The Chia Pet below:

Purnima in Gourdon, France-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See below Adventures with my American Pre-teens in Europe At MAMAC – The Museum of Contemporary Art in Nice: We merge with the artwork titled San Francisco-Nice-India…

Purnima and The Kids at The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice with the Exhibit Titled: San Francisco-Nice-India(na)-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Purnima in Nice: See below as I become a part of the Nice Museum Installation

Purnima at The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice -Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice below:

Red Rackhams Treasure:

Red Rackham’s Treasure as we discovered after all our dives and explorations was the experience of spending a summer in Cote d’Azure.

However, this page cannot be turned without sharing with you the story of embarking on an adventure in the belly of The Black Shark. As I was preparing for this adventure, doing everything by myself for the first time, the place, the hotels, the car, the sightseeing, the restaurants, I found a reasonable car rental online, one similar to our VW golf  and confirmed the booking. Upon arriving in Nice (after detouring back via Zurich-my bookings!) I found that they did not have my VW Golf but instead offered to upgrade us to a sports BMW. Wow, I thought, life looks goood. Now, backtracking a bit, I have been driving from the age of 14, and a car is almost a natural extension of me. However, all my cars have been large, powerful machines bulldozing those that dared swerve into their path. They have all started with a deep growl as I have felt them first pulsate then thunder under my fingers as I’ve turned they key. A sense of supreme control, power over a magnificently powerful machine. Well here I was in a strange land with two sulky brats and a sleek swish machine shinning black and glossy in the sunshine with it’s fin perky and erect behind it…ready to go. I got in and of course fumbled for the keys, I pushed the plastic square I was given into what I thought was the keyhole (all the while being observed by my pre-teens) and struggled to turn it. After the third attempt, still stationed in the parking lot, I requested the parking attendant to assist. He pressed a button that said “start“(how bizarre I thought but did not question him further so that the sneaky pre-teens did not get a whiff of their antiquated mom). Once the car had started all I needed to do was follow the gps, my maps and make my way to the Bed and Breakfast over the hills. Simple. Oh no, not so simple! After I found myself taking a third round of the roundabout being completely confused by the GPS, I decided to stop and peer at the maps. After confirming the directions to myself and an exasperated audience in the backseat, I tried to re-start the car by pressing the “start button” of course. Well, life is not so simple and the start would not start even after half and hour of trying. I then called the tow service for assistance but was unable to give them our street name.I did think of sprinting back to the parking lot because even after an hour of leaving it we were not too far from the departure point having circled the roundabout a couple of times. Then a kindly soul in a large machine (like the ones I was used to) came by jumped into my car and with a large smirk pressed the start button (with the brake!) the Black Shark opened its jaws and it yawned. “Hurray” yelled the back row, “hurray he found the start button, Mom you have to press S-T-A-R-T, the start button!”. I growled under my breath and zipped into the now inky darkness of the depths of Cote d’Azure as the kids yelled “merci beaucoup monsieur, merci beaucoup!” And thus started our adventures in Provence.

The Supreme Court of The Cyberworld:

Before I say goodnight, I am posting the piece I mentioned during our last lunch that I wrote while lazing by the pool in our place in Tourrette-sur-Loup as I scanned through issues relating to free speech, in the Real World and in the Virtual World. Issues relating to public space, dissent, public arena in the virtual world for pamphleteering. As I scanned through Lessig’s Code I realized the limitations on these gatherings in the cyberworld/ chat room limits which spurred me to frenzied activity as I realized that the Anti-Code needed to be drafted. The framework, the basis which would be acceptable in the cyberworld as the laws of the Real World could not be so arbitrarily imposed. The norms would need to be generated from within this space, by the netizens of this space, by the contributors and creators of this space thus bestowing upon them the rights regardless of race color, sex, creed or even age (do remember the Net is in the hands of a 15 year old with a backpack). The only rules that will be accepted are the ones that come about through a “consensus among the Pirates“(sound familiar?), as the Pirates rule these waves! I would love your feedback, here are my ramblings:

*the predominant issue as I see it: verification of authentic dissenters v programs /viruses /spam. 

The pivotal question to be discerned/ identified in the cyber world (especially when there are free speech issues and pamphleteering on the Net, you want to persuade/be persuaded by a human not by an auto generated barrage tailored to tempt you/spam)is whether we are interacting with a real persona or a programme that is smart enough to mimic one, for its only then that we can include that entity into the list of valid voices/ dissenters on the Net. 

In fact, as I see it, the Supreme Court of the Cyberworld will be predominantly engaged in identifying “human error”, which once identified would then provide the “Entity” with requisite status and all the rights expected of a Netizen. 

So effectively, the Supreme Court of the Cyberworld would turn the idea of the Supreme Court of the real world on it’s head ( upside down), as it would seek to identify human error, the one core element that makes us human, which once identified would give the Entity all the rights of a Netizen. 

In a world of perfect beings, programs that mimic the ideal persona, inclusive of personality with wit and vanity encased in the choice of the  structure/ form of your phantasies, memory, computational skills, speed, reflexes incorporating the ideas and decisions made by personas through time and being able to in a flicker scan the wealth of human data and respond with “The appropriate response”, the patently correct and time-tested reaction topping it all off with superhuman restraint and self sacrifice.

Do we really want to be governed by such perfect programs,

do we wish to be subjected to their standards and be measured against them,

do we choose perfect design/response or do we choose humanity with all it’s errors and flaws? 

Do we not wish to refer to this corpus of human knowledge take what we need but be in a position to improve/ change/challenge it when it does not reflect our time and space? 

Do we not wish to forget our path through the woods and reinvent/rediscover an alternate path?

Do we not wish to remain human with all our desires and all our errors and construct a world that fits Man (mankind)? 

The first step in that direction would be in identifying Man from the endless barrage of identities impersonating all the traits of man claiming a voice for their ethereal selves. Thus the Supreme Court of the Cyberworld would have the pivotal and difficult task of doing precisely the opposite of what it’s expected to do in the real world ( prosecute the errors), identify the entities that express human error and liberate them.

See below a charming sundial from Tourrettes-sur-Loup that seems to completely embody my message: Ce nest pas aux cadrans humains qui sonne l’heure de la Justice, which I translate as – it is not the human dials that sound the hour of justice, effectively stating that even as man in his pursuit for perfection attempts to capture the sun and tell the time, these sundials crafted by the hands man can only be limited to serve that particular purpose, of reading the light and shadows (ie telling the time) in a particular place and time. Unlike the soul and the spirit, these manifestations of man however precise are not eternal and cannot tell eternal time – the final hour, L’heure de la Justice. We have to acknowledge our humanity with all it’s errors and accept that our devices cannot be immaculate, immutable and perfect as they are an expression of ourselves. The error occurs when we look upon our own devices (algos) as an expression of the eternal and bind ourselves to them. There must be a distinctions between the Laws of Man by which we accept to govern ourselves, ones we mould, tweak, revise, update reflecting us and our changing times and the Eternal Laws which we may kneel to but that exist outside the realm of man.

Sundial from Tourrettes-sur-Loup, France – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See link to the fabulous sundials in the Alpes-Maritimes (Southern France)- Cadrans Solaires des Alpes-Maritimes


See below some images from the SFMOMA exhibit on the Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte where he explores The Human Condition:

The Human Condition:

The Human Condition and trompe-l’oeil:

The Errors upon Which we Rest our World: http://Errors in Perception:

See below another example of “What We See and What We Know”, the fallibility of human perception upon which we rest our world:

With these final words I must say goodnight and hope to hear from you soon, very soon, perhaps by daylight?

Goodnight and Thank you once again for a lovely evening and dinner. Love to the family.


Dear Purnima,

Although you have escaped your scaffold enshrouded castle and are now thousands of miles away, in some ways it seems that nothing has really changed, and getting a long, marvelously crafted email from you with a myriad of tantalizing thoughts and questions really (continues to ) makes my day.  It’s as though cyberspace allows a kind of warp that brings the thoughts of distant persons ever closer.  There are no physical barriers or borders to get in the way of communication.

Your description of your start button experience in the shinny black BMW (I must admit that I have never driven a “beamer”) was hilarious.  It reminds me of the time in Hawaii when we had rented a car for a few days on the big island of Hawaii, and when we stopped to fill up with gas, I couldn’t get the gear shift (it was an automatic transmission !) to move out of the PARK position.  I tried everything and nothing worked.  In exasperation, I finally called the car rental company and told them of my problem, and they told me that I had to put my foot on the brake before the transmission could be shifted out of PARK.  Needless to say, I was both relieved and slightly embarrassed.   I, too, have driven since I was 14 (I used to sneak out in the night and drive my mother’s car), and nearly all the cars I ever drove were manual transmissions.   But, bravo for having dealt with the situation.

It’s interesting that you chose Bali Hi as your mantra for returning to the Swiss Alps.  I love that song, and that South Pacific version of the song in the first YouTube clip you attached brought back memories of seeing that film and being haunted by the idea of some enchanting island that beckons with its mysterious aura.  There aren’t many musicals that I really like, but I did enjoy South Pacific and that short, stout beetle-chewing islander singing Bali Hi to the young American pilot is one of the things I loved most about the film.  Let’s hope the song does indeed bring you back to the Matterhorn. Do I sense a bit of nostalgia for Switzerland and the Swiss Alps in all of this ???  I think the only other musical film that I really liked was Damn Yankees – a modern version of the Faustian myth.

We’ve been looking at all the pictures the family took during their travels.  V loads them onto a USB memory stick (une clé USB), and we can see them on our wide-screen TV.  I thought their pictures from Mumbai were really great.  And then I just recently began reading the novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and his description of the slums in “Bombay” is so vivid and explicit AND fascinating (Two different people have recently recommended the book to my as one of the best books they have every read).  After dealing with the chaos, the poverty, the beggars, the noise, the confusion, the contrasts between old and new, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, he finally writes:

Above all else, Bombay was free — exhilaratingly free.  I saw that liberated, unconstrained spirit wherever I looked, and I found myself responding to it with the whole of my heart.  Even the flare of shame I’d felt when I first saw the slums and the street beggars dissolved in the understanding that they were free, those men and women.  No-one drove the beggars from the streets.  No-one banished the slum-dwellers.  Painful as their lives were, they were free to live them in the same gardens and avenues as the rich and powerful.  They were free.  The city was free.  I loved it.”

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Speaking of books, A has received advance copies of the first two tomes of the latest Murakami trilogy, IQ84.  The English translation won’t be out until October, but she is thrilled to be able to read it in French and said that it grips you from the very first pages.  Maybe I’ll have finished Shantaram by October.  It’s over 900 pages long.

The usually pleasant summer in our area has been uncharacteristically cold and rainy for the past week.  I actually lit a fire in the fireplace one evening last week just to take the chill off the house a bit.

Thanks for sending along your piece about the supreme court of cyberspace.  I’ll have to mull it over a bit before responding.

And thanks to you for the delightful coffee/lunch at the museum.  It was a bitter-sweet final chat before you were whisked off to your beloved India.

Lots of hugs,


Tara et Moi (le Chat):

Tara et Moi, Gourdon, France-Photo by 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

Geneva Diaries #44*

Women and Choice, French Films, Geneva Blockbuster, Jack and Gilles, Ghazals and Mughal India


Dear Purnima,

Are you back in Geneva again ?  I hope you had a wonderful time in London.

See anyone or anything totally fascinating ?

I agree that the male dominated societies in which we live insist on making

choices for “their” women, choices that they have little or no understanding

about, and choices that tend to keep women under the yoke of servitude to

male desire.  And one of the things that most worries me is the

used-to-be-called “moral majority”, although they now exist under the guise

of the Tea Party, and their avowed determination to overturn Rowe vs Wade.

One of my all-time favorite French feminists, Gisèle Halimi, was a

Tunesian-born lawyer who was very instrumental in finally getting the French

government to legalize abortions.  She took on the case of six women who had

openly admitted to having had an abortion as a challenge to the French law

against them.  The trial took place in the city of Bobigny, just north of

Paris, and after a series of frustrations because of legal manipulations on

the part of the court, Halimi finally won the case, which became a watershed

decision that set precedent for the eventual legalization of abortions in


By the way, there is a very powerful film, “Une Affaire de femmes” with

Isabelle Huppert who plays the role of a woman who performs abortions in

order to make enough money to survive and raise her son.  It’s a true story,

and she was arrested and executed (long live the guillotine ! ! !) by the

French government as an example to other women.  Can you imagine ?

Claude Chabrol Collection:

With Bush II stacking the supreme court with conservative justices, I’m

really afraid that Rowe vs Wade’s days are numbered.

What is your schedule next week ?  Your Geneva days are coming to an

all-too-rapid end.  We at least need to have a long chat over lunch.

Hope to see you very soon.  Giant hugs,



Dear Roger,

The French feminist Gisele Halimi whom you mentioned in your letter, recently passed away (in 2018) after what can only be described as a stellar life in support of women and women’s issues, see link below.

Her unwavering, dedicated and determined support and defense of women’s rights, and specifically a woman’s right to choose in a precarious environment dominated by radical religious sentiments that didn’t hesitate to sacrifice women, their choices and their freedoms over dogma deserves a thundering applause. Thanks to you Roger, I have finally found a Frenchwoman I can completely embrace, one encompassing grit, determination, passion and brilliance in what must have been a brutal battle with the establishment to secure a woman’s intrinsic right to her own body and her privacy. She is certainly one to look upto and to aspire towards. The below pasted samurai helmet with deer antlers rightfully belongs on her head. See below Samurai helmet from the Japanese exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Samurai helmet from the Japanese exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC
– Photo by Purnima Viswanathan



Dear Roger

Still in London and surfing between meals… Guess what flashed

across my screen, a must watch update on the latest on the Pro-Life vs

Pro-Choice debate chk it out below:

Tell me Roger, do you really believe having an abortion is a choice

for women…”hmm what should i do today a manicure a pedicure or swing

by the local planned parenthood and have an abortion?”

Absolutely not!!! There is no question of choice but a compulsion, a

desperate act based on the physical fact of being born female. There

is no Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice debate as a woman is not left that


What do you feel?



PS: See images below from an installation at The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC by Edward and Nancy Keinholz titled In The Infield was Patty Peccavi depicting religious attitudes towards birthcontrol and the result of a lack of choices for women. Here a forlorn pregnant woman is seated on her bed and is looking out through the window at the glaring sunlight of her reality, her form expresses her situation of despair, her angst and anxiety, the vulnerabilities of womanhood and the limited choices to determine her future.

The Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC by Edward and Nancy Keinholz titled In The Infield was Patty Peccavi-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Jack and Jill (Captain Jack and Gilles)

Dear Roger,

My introduction to French cinema at this late stage has been a thunderbolt out of the blue, jolting me out of my current sleepy/un petit peu bored state into this new and fantastic realm of relatable humour. I’m a fan. 

I have just forwarded you the video clips (which I made) commenting on the movies recommended : Le Diner Pour Le Cons, Le Nom des Gens, Le Rue de Plaisir (to be watched) and my favorite Rien a Declarer which is a “must see”, chk it out below:

Would love your feedback and recommendations!

Much more in the pipeline…




Dear Roger,

No response from you regarding my nascent attempts at movie making. Yes, it looks like I’m morphing into your “Woody” and would greatly appreciate your feedback on the forwarded impromptu clips taken with my iPhone.

Well, much to tell as the story of Jack and Jill(Gilles) continues. Yes, I know how this one will end, but isn’t it all in the journey? I wish you were there when I first asked him his named (after he spent six months flirting /winking at me from behind the video library counter)…”It’s Jill”. “What”, I responded, and he repeated Jill. I finally pinned him down and invited him to engage in dumb charades…”So what does it sound like/ Rhyme with?”, and then I got it. He was saying Gilles, Gilles, Gilles which sounds like Jill, Jill, Jill. That’s because the French “G” sounds like “J” and the “J” sounds like “G”! I then leaned forward and introduced myself “You can call me Jack, Captain Jack”. 

Contrary to the opinion of the misogynistic Mr. Naipaul, most female writers are not full of fluff. And most importantly, as the editor of the IHT correctly highlighted “the confusion/ contradiction” in his succinct piece on Naipaul’s attitude towards female writers mirroring my view that as you delve into a story, you are essentially delving into fantasy, an alternate reality, where your environment, time and space are altered, neither do you exist (as a male) and neither does the writer(as a female), but merely the story where you might find yourself playing (empathizing) with the male role or the female one which does not change your gender and neither does it modify the gender of the author. I think it’s time for him to retire… what do you think?

Do check me out with Jill(Gilles) the guy behind the counter at our local Blockbuster (Video Club) making a strong case for “Real Life”, otherwise how would one ever meet Jill! 

See below my first attempt at movie making (a movie credited to my tech savvy pre-teens who taught me iMovie and helped to merge sound and video):

See below a French version of my favorite Bollywood song – Nigahein milane ko ji chahata hai – I wish to express my desire through the meeting of glances. A distinctly south asian cultural expression of love and desire. (Poor Jill was barricaded behind the counter he never did manage to jump over the barricade at Blockbuster and make it a reality lol).

Jack and Jill – Geneva Blockbuster – Sex on Fire:

Jack and Gilles-Geneva Blockbuster-Sex on Fire- Video by Purnima Viswanathan’s American Pre-teens Dhruvum and Tara

I then realized that this above clip (however thrilled I was with it) was insufficient to fully reflect my state of mind/expression, it did not say the words of my favorite Hindi love song/ ghazal:

So, I have pasted below an old Bollywood favorite Hindustani ghazal with Nutan playing the lead female role. Growing up I was often told I had a resemblance to this actress Nutan, do you see me this Indian actress of yesteryear from Bollywood of the 1950’s and 1960’s?

Do check me out below aspiring to fit into the persona of Nutan from an old b/w Bollywood movie from 1963- Nigahein Milane Ko Ji Chahata Hai:

The lyrics voice my clip pasted above:

My soul (Ji) desires the exchange/ meeting (Milana) of glances (Nigah):

The ghazals reflect the majestic era of the Mughal dynasty in India with the flourishing of art, architecture, music, literature, food and dress as an amalgam of culture of central Asia entwined with the art and expression of the Indian subcontinent. See below my friend Neesha who in my view best embodies the essence of the time (the time of the Mughals) and the music (ghazal) in the image below:

My friend Neesha Singh embodying the Ghazal- Photo curtsey Neesha Singh

A ghazal is a song, a piece of poetry from my part of the universe spread by the Sufi mystic poets (a long mail pending on the Sufi mystics…Sherazade has a few more nights). The Persian poets like Rumi, Iqbal and Galib, their words and ideas have filtered down into the vernacular languages creating a magical mesh of verse, sound and music which forms an integral part of our culture.

A Ghazal is best described by Wikipedia as:

The ghazal (Arabic/Bengali/Pashto/Persian/Urdu: غزل; Turkishgazel) is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain.

Roger, I would like to share words of the above pasted ghazal with my definitions supported by the definitions(from the University of Chicago Library of South Asian Languages) pasted below:

It is a secret (Raz) matter

Unsure if I should speak of it in the open court (Mehfil) or not

My soul (Ji) desires the exchange/ meeting (Milana) of glances (Nigah)

My soul desire the relinquishment/ permitting to be taken (Lutna) of heart and life

The allegation/aspersion(Tohmat) that the world calls love (Ishq)

My soul desires to accept that allegation

See meanings below:

P نگاه nigāh [Zend ni+kaśa, rt. kaś; S. निकाश, rt. काश् with ni], s.f. Look, glance, sight, view, regard;

milānā, v.n. To pair (as birds), milānā (-se), To unite in feeling

عشق ʻishq inf. n. of عشق ‘to love passionately’

 راز rāz [Pehl. rāj; Zend razaṅh, rt. raz; S. रहस्, rt. रह्], s.m. A secret, mystery

A محفل maḥfil (n. of place fr. حفل ‘to collect, come together,’ &c.), s.f. A place of assembling or congregating;

P تہمت tǒhmat (for A. تہمة), s.f. Evil opinion; suspicion (of guilt); allegation; false accusation,

Anxiously waiting as time closes in…

do write




Dear Purnima,

What a funny take on Jill/Gilles, and now I understand your earlier references to Jill.  Just so you’re not tumbling too far down the hill, but if you land in a cool little “arts et essai” cinema showing French classics…

I’m thrilled that you have (finally) discovered French cinema, but I’m a little worried about your choice of favorites.  Danny Boon and his admittedly really funny films are terribly popular with the French (and Belgian) public, but he doesn’t quite carry the intellectual baggage that made French films the envy of Hollywood for many years.  Try some Alain Resnais, Goddard (Breathless – A bout de souffle), Chabrol (Le boucher), Agnès Varda (Sans toit, ni loi), Truffaut, even Beineix (Diva is a great film).  Another film you might enjoy is Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain.

Speaking of films. the new Woody Allan, Minuit a Paris, is excellent and the new Iranian film, Une Séparation, playing at the Rialto, is superbe – the consequences of a divorce in an Iranian family (you could relate to the theme !)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to savour your film making talents.  As usual, none of the links to Flickr worked for me.  I always get the message that I don’t have authority to access the pages.  Can you show it to me tomorrow over lunch on your iphone/ipad ?

Yes, indeed, Naipaul should definitely withdraw from the public scene.  I don’t know why old farts like him who have achieved a certain measure of public acclaim because of a Nobel Prize have to spout off about topics they really know nothing about like the superiority of masculine writers.  Putting down the likes of Jane Austin is like Gerard Depardieu, an icon of French films for some 30 years, saying that the actress Juliette Binoche is a looser and has no talent.  In my opinion, Binoche is one of THE great French actresses currently on screen, and Depardieu should be retired.  If you ever get a chance to catch Binoche together with the mesmerizing (he has fantastic eyes) Daniel Day Lewis in the film adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, don’t you dare pass it up.  It is a beautiful, haunting film.  I could picture you playing the role of the other female character in the film, Sabine !  And then there is always the exquisite The English Patient.

And, my dear, you are far more beautiful and enchanting than the Nigahein in the clip you attached.

Where shall we meet for lunch tomorrow ?  1:00 is fine.

And can you come for dinner here on Weds. the 29th ?

Love and hugs,


P.S.  I’m already feeling teary eyed at the thought of your leaving Geneva !


Dear Roger,

Thank you for this wonderful long list of French movies to watch, I just wish I had this list earlier before my 1001 nights were coming to a close (truly, it’s almost been 1001 nights in Geneva!).

Well, this is a list I plan to take with me where ever I land, and hope I am still linked with you through cyberspace. it would be fun to watch some films together.

I’m looking forward to our lunch tomorrow at 1pm, shall we meet at my place and then walk downtown?

See Purnima below spending her 1001 nights and days exploring the art, architecture and music of Mughal India. See me following the sounds of the ghazal echoing off the walls of The Humayun’s Tomb below:

Purnima in front of the Stone Latticework Window at The Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi, India -Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

love and hugs,

See you tomorrow.



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

Geneva Diaries #43*

Jack and Gilles, Privy Relationships and The Balance of Power, Law and Technology and The Vanishing Saraswati and The Veena
On May 24, 2011, Roger wrote:

Dear Purnima,

It’s me again with a link  to a great article about DSK.  I am thrilled that someone has finally made the link  between what happened at the Sofitel hotel and what the IMF and other financial organizations have done in their assault on the poor nations of the world.





Dear Purnima,

It was utterly delightful to see you Weds. and have such a great chat over delicious food.  You were in great form and I could tell from the sparkle in your eyes that you are optimistic, upbeat and, as my friend from Texas used to say, “bright-eyed and bush- tailed” about your future.  It’s just sad to think that that was probably our last lunch in Geneva !

Here’s a link to an interesting piece on Weiner and his pro-Israel, anti-bike lane stance.  I love Juan Cole’s blog, Informed Comment (By the way, he has recently written several lengthy entries about the Bush II administration asking the CIA to dig up dirt on him because he was such a vocal critic of the invasion of Iraq).  The comments by readers after the article are also very telling about the guy as a shill for the Israeli lobby in the US.

We saw the film adaptation of Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood last night.  It’s in Japanese with French subtitles and is a beautiful and quite faithful adaptation of the novel.  The music and sweeping photography are mesmerizing, and A was overjoyed to be able to understand a great deal of the Japanese in the film.  It’s a very melancholic film with a somewhat upbeat ending, and what I find totally refreshing with both the film and the novel is the very natural and matter-of-fact way that it (they) deal(s) with human sexuality.  To my great surprise, many of the French critics have stated that the film is full of crude and raw sex, which, coming from the otherwise tolerant French who never shun the opportunity to indulge in a bit of eroticism, almost shocked me.  There is nothing at all raw or crude, or even graphic, in the film, and in spite of some steamy sex scenes, there is not one bared breast.  There is, however, some very frank discussion of both male and female sexuality.  God forbid if the French are becoming more prudish !

Hope you’re staying dry on this wet and dim Sunday.



Dear Roger,

It was wonderful as always to see you, I enjoyed our long leisurely lunch and chat, Thank you!

It’s uncanny how I feel I have been continuously communicating with you, sharing all my ideas and thoughts on the ones you have posed and the numerous topics we have touched upon, but somewhere I feel those communications have been lost to ether as I fear i have missed penning down those lines and sending them across the sea. Perhaps, one day you’ll catch my brainwaves, and i will get my shabashi (reward/praise).

However, my time has been put to optimal use as I have ventured down the pathway of communication. I have been playing with photos, film clips and music, and have just recently sent off samples to share with you, see pasted below Geneva Blockbuster – Anjaana Anjaani. 

I have roped in my charming (and very obliging) neighborhood video library guy here in Geneva, who seems to have lots of free time to chat with me in French and at the same time practice his English. He has offered to assist me with all my clumsy attempts at film making. The fact that he is very cute adds the necessary incentive for me to gather all my hi-tech gear (essentially my iphone) and trek across the road to engage my new found French friend, chat/flirt and make movies. I must admit it keeps me very entertained and excited as I not only translate his French into English and my English into French for him but all of the above into Hindustani for my video clips where I have set our movements to a popular Hindustani song Anjaana Anjaani. The clip Geneva Blockbuster: Anjaana Anjaani, kind of tells our story… where two people, an unknown or “Anjaana” (male) and an unknown or “Anjaani”(female), two travelers/soulmates “hum-safar” in a dark night “andheeri raat” meet(milana), literally an Asian version of “Strangers in the Night”. Can’t wait for you to check it out.

See Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night:

See Geneva Blockbuster – Anjana Anjani, a video by Purnima Viswanathan below: Once Upon A Time when we used to visit Blockbuster to chat up the cute video library guy…

Anjana Anjani Geneva Blockbuster Mashup – Video by Purnima Viswanathan

I’m not sure if you can access this, but do check out The Prince of Persia (my video Library guy) as he jumps off the shelf right into my arms. Then there are photographs of my daily haunt, The Tea Room in Champel which keeps those featured Devilish Delights (more about them later), and of course the video clips that just don’t load. 

See below The Black Swan with The Prince of Persia: Remember the days of Blockbuster when there was a real person to chat with behind the counter?

Back to your email and more elevating issues (the Boehner and the Weiner), I must admit I am completely out of the loop when it concerns issues that surround Israel/Palestine, I always skip through those articles as je ne comprends pas rien. Roger, i feel that there are so many great minds continuously mulling over and debating this issue that there could not possibly be any room for an additional comment/unexplored idea. However, in the defense of my state of deliberate ignorance, I do believe that there are some problems created (by man), that are created NOT to be resolved but merely to ensure that the maximum energy and the greatest number of minds are absorbed chasing their tails (one way to keep them busy with the equivalent of Fermat’s this time unsolvable theorem while the Paris burns). So Roger, I don’t venture anywhere near this blackhole of infinite diameter as I believe that once sucked in, there is no way out. And NO you can’t even tempt me with a Weiner!!

As the time for leaving approaches, the boxes are piling up and I am struggling the tick all “things to do” off my list. The first being- Divorce the b@#$%^&! The date has been set for the 28th of June, 8 long days. I have much to do and getting back to work is priority #1, so i spent a couple of hours last week completing the requisite continuing education classes required by the California Bar, to get some things out of the way while I still had the time. However, in my hyper stimulated state of mind (dwelling on Jill/Gilles), these classes took another form as I found myself flicking the computer screen trying to knock the speakers off their comfy chairs seated across the screen out there in California. These were technology related seminars, and once I got my concentration back(and realized I could not knock the SEC rep off), I discovered  how technology, mobile phones with cameras, tablets/iPads had become an integral part of an attorneys existence during this prolonged stint in wonderland. 

There were comments about how indispensable the camera phone was to take instant shots of of whatever needed to be collected and stored, photos, designs, documents with designs etc. The tablet seemed to replace the laptop in the courtroom and conference room as being an unobtrusive extension of a person as opposed to the laptop which builds walls(raised screen) and makes noise (punching of keys). And especially, when it came to issues of “Discovery” the knowledge of storing documents, retrieving information, knowing what and how to store the information at hand for easy production seemed to have moved light years. It now appears that if an attorney involved in basic litigation does not have the knowledge of this basic technology, he will be handicapped as he will not know what he can store, how he can store it, what he can demand the other party to produce and the various forms in which the material can be produced. This will then have an impact on the core competency of an attorney as he/she will be unable to produce or discover materials that he/she is unaware of, especially how materials have been stored and how they can be produced searched and scanned in a form that is not a waste of time and money for the client and the court.

Roger, in these long years of being out of the “formal” workforce, I have found that the world has truly turned on its head as far as digitalization and media is concerned. The computer, mobile/camera, gadget/tablet, seem to be omnipresent clicking, recording, editing and broadcasting continuously and in order to represent, advise, assist in any professional capacity in this universe, you have to be tech/media savvy. You core competency as an attorney, doctor, financier could be called to question if your advice has not incorporated the latest and most popular method of managing the matter. For this reason, I absolutely believe that a media center must form the core of any legal or medical library for apart from the attorneys who have to keep in sync with their client’s universe, the  medical universe is getting more technical, more remote and more visual from what I read and see. i can’t imagine the normal two dimensional medical libraries lasting out beyond this decade, we will all be diving into our notebooks/tablets to get a look, feel, touch smell of the real situation and only then will be be able to credibly attach any of those letters to our names. I certainly have a long way to go, and these trysts with tech may not be in the right direction, but at least I’m holding on to the edge of the bandwagon!

See below Tearoom in Champel: Sin

See below Tearoom in Champel: Sin – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

The photos pasted above of the plateful of sin remind me of another overwhelming issue of this world of today, not the issue of saving information which has occupied our minds for all these generations, but one of deleting information, of erasing it, wiping it out. And as discussed in my last mail, this is where the Weiner got stuck. He certainly broadcasted, but upon discovering his error, he was unable to retrace his steps and simply erase the self photo he apparently sent 77,000 fans instead of the single one. Akin to the sculpture below at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art:

Not only did that tear through cybersphere at breakneck speed, but once the Weiner was out of the bag (or brief) there was no way of putting it back. We are all faced with this glaring reality with it’s violent consequences, and it’s surprising how little we know and understand it. The reality that storage costs almost nothing and that it is much cheaper to store than to erase is a notion that even I can’t get into my head as i continue with the painstaking collation of information in various forms (especially print) so that a copy remains. We have few tools and fewer ideas on how to put the cat back into the bag, how to erase and delete. There have been suggestion of a digital signature, metadata that follows your script, photos etc, but in my opinion the replication, references and ownership of materials will not be easy to resolve however sophisticated the tools. Then there remain issues between nations, a clash of ideas and ideologies, the US viewpoints on the storage and destruction of data versus the more conservative European views on privacy and deletion. Roger, personally, I would like to write with a magic pen that holds magic ink which vanishes whenever and wherever I wish. I could merely trigger a command and that plateful of sin would disappear forever (tragically swallowing all the delicious dreams with it).

However, with this onslaught of scandalous headlines whether it be the story of Rep Weiner and his “sexting”, or the more sinister story of Strauss-Khan and the maid or even the tale of our beloved governor and his tango/tangle with the help, made me think of relationships and what it means in the hyper digitized universe of today where Weiner could not retract quick enough as the flick of the finger determined his fate terminally- he “resigned” to the gallows, where now it’s irrelevant whether Strauss Khan will ever get his day in court as he has been tried and convicted by the media and is serving his term as per the dictates of the digital diaspora, and dear old Schwarzenegger was sex-posed and shunted out due to his matrimonial meanderings. The information, the misinformation, the speculation together with the gore and the embellishments are out there, and are now out there forever like a shadow attached to the individuals identity unshakable unerasable eternal. Such is the reality of this realm. As I dwelt on the issue of relationships (and I had a long long time to dwell considering I HAD NONE), I engaged my prince of Persia into a dialogue and video clip (any excuse to get us together on film) and discussed the same. 

Relationships: In the below pasted clip, I have attempted to explore relationships: Attorney-Client relationships where there are a set of rules prescribed by law on the manner in which this very private relationship be conducted, and again the Doctor-Patient relationship which also has it’s own prescribed set of rules, these rules rest on the basic premise that the doctor and the attorney are privy to information about you that would put you at an unfair advantage. It is essentially an issue of balancing of power so that the patient/client is not unduly compromised. Then there are relationship which do not have rules per se but require you to formulate the rules as you perceive them. For example, the rules that govern the front desk staff at a hotel and a client versus the rules that govern the bartender and the client in the same hotel and finally the rules that would govern the valet/cleaning lady and the client of the hotel. Even though they are all employees of the same hotel, would the implicit rules be different? I guess we would have to use the common sense “balance of power” and “undue influence” rule to ensure that the other party is not being victimized by the situation that he or she finds herself in. See image of sculpture below (Viola Frey – Man Observing Series II) at the De Young Museum in San Francisco:

Then I moved onto the older woman younger man and the influences and power-play in that scenario where I was reminded in a heavily accented voice that despite my being the older woman the power lay with him…(hmm I paused to drink that in before I continued on my schpeel/spiel). I ended with engaging him to fly with me and imagine that the Blockbuster video club was not a real place but that we were actually somewhere in cyberspace, and this was a video club online, he and I were avatars, personas collection of texts and messages, icons that represented a male and a female designed in our form who were interacting with each other. I then asked him to assume we were intimate, lovers on this virtual plane with an intense graphic relationship, perhaps even marriage. Now I asked him to assume that the person behind his avatar/persona was a man in some remote location and then I asked him to assume that the real person behind me was also a large beer bellied man burping beer, very different from the avatar he had envisioned. 

I then asked him the pivotal question: Is our intimate relationship/marriage in the virtual world a homosexual relationship? He flipped out! Yes, he absolutely flipped out after indulging me and walking down this rose scented garden path, there was no problem with comprehension, homosexual translated directly into French! He then bend closer across the counter and assured me that OUR relationship was NOT homosexual, and he repeated this quite emphatically. I returned home to mull over this information. Was this a case of (as the counter punch article aptly put it) a Weiner  wanking in front of the mirror, or did these excursions into the cyber-realm, where there is absolutely no chance of exchange of bodily fluids, translate into something tangible in the real world. If these adventures are anything more than a foray into fantasy, having “real” implications for its participants, then our avatars however feminine mine might be and however masculine his, our intimacy, would translate into a homosexual relationship if the persons behind our personas were two men. What if they were two men unaware of the identity of the other (as it would normally play out in the cyberworld), then would this relationship gain sanctity of union in a cyber-society, sanctity of union requisite for marriage in a conservative society? Are we not merely playing with illusions, wanking off in front of the mirror??

So, contrary to your stand (and regardless of his), I say Free the Weiner!

Check me out below in Privy Relationships-Geneva Blockbuster-Purnima with the Prince of Persia. This video clip was only possible because he was keen to learn English and I was excited to have an attentive “real” video library guy locked behind a counter to bounce my ideas off, material for my Geneva Diary.

Privy Relationships and Unequal Balance of Power- The Geneva Blockbuster: 2 minute video clip by Purnima Viswanathan pasted below

Privy Relationships-Purnima with the Prince of Persia-Geneva Blockbuster-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Full Video Link:

Good night and sweet dreams.


And, no more hot dogs for me for lunch tomorrow, I’m weinered out!!!

Identity Allegiance and Citizenship – The Vanishing Saraswati

Dear Roger,

The tale of V and his visa brings me back to a very personal conflict, of identity, allegiance and citizenship, what to embrace and what to relinquish, recognizing that time itself makes these decisions for you as you travel and mold and evolve. I am constantly questioned as to why I insist on holding onto the passport of a place I left far behind, one that requires me to stand in endlessly long lines and obtain visas at every port while my kids with their US citizenship sail through. I have also often questioned myself as to why I choose this difficult route, why I don’t give up the card of my origin and take on the one where I have spent most of my adult life.  This I rationalize to myself as a last holdout, a connection with a culture, my roots, my being, but now I find, two decades later, even these arguments to myself seem weak and remote. 

However, on the converse side, as I look at the place where I have spent all these years and lean towards fully embracing it (and making the questions disappear along with the endless queues) I re-look at the US from afar, at all your “issues” and obsessions (particularly concerning the issues in the middle east) and find that I am unable to relate, to connect, to embrace. And isn’t it (the American story) all about assimilation, melding into the melting pot, taking on both your dreams, ideas AND “issues”, or is it? Then how do you deal with this new wave of immigrants, “who are like me, who walk like me, who think like me”? Ones for whom your “issues” are much too remote both ethnically and culturally, who can talk about them in an educated manner but are unable to feel the passion… burn in your fire. Unsure of how I fit in, and what role we play in the future of America, I hesitate but from the brink, recognizing the facade of these two identities living in one and clinging to the memories of another.

Of course this brings me back to my roots, to India, and to the story of Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and learning, one of the three powerful female deities and a personification of feminine power. A story with its references ringing across Asia with the Vedic, Hindu, and Buddhist incarnations that enrich our culture. See below images of Saraswati a revered deity in Japan, which travelled to Japan through China, and like it’s representation in India, the image of Saraswati in Japan is also associated with a sacred body of water and depicted holding a veena, or biwa in Japanese. See images below of Saraswati from the Japan Center in New Delhi, India:

In my current form as a mother and a teacher, one that my children look upon for knowledge and guidance, I fully embrace this form. In reading up about this dazzling goddess, I also discovered an interesting fact, that this guardian of the Vedas, knowledge and speech (“Vak”, sound being the most sacred and in our culture being the path to the ultimate reality) has a terrible power, she speaks nothing but the truth but moreover, everything she speaks becomes the truth (hmm… do I sense a parallel with my magical pen and alternate realities or have I stretched this one too far?)! See the story of Saraswati below:

Saraswati, a mighty river enriching the soil and supporting the Vedic culture as it flowed across a vast land (now postulated as being an offshoot of the mighty Indus) as mentioned in the Vedas was personified as a female deity in the hymns, one that would through knowledge, culture and creativity enrich the minds of those that bowed to it. A four armed deity dressed in white, riding on a white swan, seated on a white lotus, holding the Veena (referred to earlier) a musical string instrument in two hands playing the music of love and life and the vedas (sacred book) and rosary for meditation in the other two hands. See veena, the south Indian stringed instrument below and the sounds that used to melodiously resonate around the walls of our home:

The Veena is represented as early as the mid 4th century in this gold coin from the golden age of the Guptas depicting the great king Samudragupta a patron of the arts playing the Veena from the article linked below:

By Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., CC BY-SA 3.0,

See images from Japan of the veena or biwa represented as a sacred body of water around which are build beautiful shrines to the deity Saraswati. Also see image of lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan formed in the shape of a biwa or veena below:

Saraswati Shrine, Shiga Prefecture-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

And here is my favorite pic of my mother who was named Veena after this musical instrument by the Dal lake in Kashmir, India:

My Mom Veena named after Saraswati’s musical instrument by the Dal Lake, Kashmir – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Even though Saraswati, a goddess much loved and revered across Asia and associated with the sacred river Saraswati which is mentioned extensively in the Vedas, we have no trace of it in South Asia today. There are many myths and legends about its disappearance, the stories melodically retold how this very revered river vanished, was driven underground by personas of the very culture which it raised and nurtured (more about the vanishing Saraswati and The Indus Valley Civilization).

See below snippets of my travels to the breathtaking buddhist caves of Ellora in Aurangabad, Maharashtra and the mind bending Hindu Kailasa temple where I find this magnificent sculpture of Saraswati carved into the temple, an incredible temple hewn from a single mountain, the largest rock cut sculpture in the world:

See below Purnima in Ellora:

Purnima in Ellora, Ellora Caves, Maharashtra, India – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Purnima at Kailasa temple, Sculpture of Saraswati- Ellora, Maharashtra – Video by Purnima Viswanathan
Purnima finds the Saraswati Sculpture Kailasa temple-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

The most popular story of the disappearance of Saraswati involved a ferocious feud between the two great sages Vashistha and Vishwamitra. In order to seek revenge in their ongoing feud, sage Vishwamitra commanded Saraswati to carry sage Vashistha to him as he was making his offerings to the river. Saraswati swept Vashistha off but refused to deliver him to sage Vishwamitra and saved him by depositing him out of troubles way. Vishwamitra was so furious with Saraswati that he cursed that she would flow in blood in the land of the demons. Horrified by this injustice, the gods assembled and purified the river granting her immortality. However, lands once cultivated by this rich river never saw her again. She remained a persona of myth and conjecture, embodied in the hymns of the Rig Veda and in the imaginations of those that recited and received them. I sense that time has come for me as well, to disappear, vanish, go underground, relinquish the identity I clutched onto so dearly all these years and perhaps somewhere in some realm I will flow again…




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

Geneva Diaries #42*

Andy Warhol Portraits, Wanted, Swiss Camouflage, Law of the Sky and the Blood, DNA Claim, Japan Travels, Fukushima and The Tsunami
Andy Warhol Portraits – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan


Dear Purnima,

It was really wonderful seeing you today.  You looked, as always, beautiful and full of wit and intelligence, and it was such a treat to sit outside and enjoy a coffee along with great conversation.

The book fair at Palexpo was really very good. Not quite as jazzy as the car show, and there are no stunningly beautiful women standing next to the book stalls to explain them to an eager, drooling and mostly male public, but I really like browsing through the various stands and wishing that i had much more time to read.. We try and go every year, but I am always amazed at the enormous number of books that are published each year. A has a new novel that will be coming out in August, and her editor was there, so they got a chance to do a lot of chatting.

Here’s the link for the article on Japanese nuclear plants written by a Japanese anti-nuclear activist.

More in a few days from the land of the rising sun.




Dear Roger,

It was fabulous to see you as usual but I felt somehow that this meeting was very brief as there was so much to exchange so much left unsaid, all in all, I just did not get enough “Roger time” so you have to promise me an endless afternoon the next time we meet with no schedules, no appointments tearing you away. I can’t wait to cook for you, so many recipes, much bubbling in the cauldron!

Thank you for the article, I have been reading endlessly about Japan, the Tsunami and the ensuing catastrophe especially the soul shaking nuclear one. I think this has dramatically changed  most peoples mental maps and the infrastructure we take for granted (or has it not?). I would love to get news from the ground, can’t wait to see what you bring back from Japan (However, I would go easy on the greens, there’s the vacation glow and there is the irradiation glow).

So, you’ve caught your Ace… congratulations! Roger, being the eternal conspiracy theorist, I would have somehow been more at ease if we actually saw him, had him given his fair trial and then done the dunking. This night raid, shootout and vanished into the waves act just does not flow down my esophagus(he may have just moved residence from the suburbs of Lahore to the suburbs of Washington closer to his namesake… just joking), what about you? See below an artistic recreation of the Abbotabad home where Osama Bin Laden was found:

Well, guess what, once the Americans got Osama, guess who else they had listed as #2 on their most wanted…

See Purnima at the Andy Warhol exhibit below – America’s Most Wanted:

Purnima at the Andy Warhol exhibit below – America’s Most Wanted-Video by Purnima Viswanthan

Yup, I was chased by a US missile which came to a grinding halt millimeters from my toes finally pinning me into a storefront on Rive, right here in downtown Geneva. Do check out the images of the US missile on Rive, The ultimate US WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction) lol to which I finally succumbed in the photos below. Also pasted is my favorite snap of “Swiss Humour“, do check out … is it a babe, is it a cow…Oh No… it’s a SPEED CAMERA!!! 

See pics of Geneva Speed Camera Camouflaged as a Swiss Cow:

Swiss Speeding Camera Camouflaged as a Swiss Cow – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

And I always look twice to see if it really is the missing crown prince Gaipajama in disguise, perhaps that’s where he’s been hiding… After all Gaipajama literally means means cow’s pajamas! See crown prince Gaipajama in Cigars of the Pharaoh in link below:

US Missile on Rive, Geneva:

Talking about demons from the sea and demons from the air, do you remember the Skylab? The Skylab was the first US space station which could not be refurbished and sustained in space and disintegrated, breaking up into pieces as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. These pieces were scattered in space and found their way landing over the Indian Ocean and parts of Australia in the summer of 1979. The Skylab incident gravely impacted my grandfather who was furious that the skies were being littered by debris that might hurl downwards at him disturbing his peace as he went for his routine evening walk (Yes, there are people who have concerns about the sky falling on their heads in “real life” outside the Asterix comic books). He used to return every evening declaring that he was un-hit and this continued for a long time… till the point where I felt that he was almost disappointed that the Skylab did not fall on his head, he would have enjoyed that fiery end to a passionately lived brilliant life. See link to The Skylab Disaster:

But Roger, coming back to the issues that plague our world, I just read Helen Caldicott article in the IHT, “Unsafe at Any Dose”, and after reading her in on the same issue of the impact of radiation from the nuclear fall outs on the human body which impacts not just our physical bodies, but our core, our DNA, and that it impacts not just this time frame, us and our families but that of our progeny stretched out through time infinitely. She outlines in both these articles, that the impact is not merely immediate perceivable and addressable but can alter our DNA, be carried in a recessive gene (hidden gene) which will only rear its head when coupled with another recessive gene (from your partner) many generations into the future. See link to Helen Caldicott’s article below:

See Viswanathan with his walking stick and The Sky Lab looming ominously overhead below:

So, we are looking at contamination, pollution that is not just constrained in the here and now but is stretched through time (as in the case of radiation leaks) and space as in the case of Skylab debris. We are no longer just looking at air, water, soil contamination but contamination of spaces beyond our reach and beyond our control: The contamination of outer space and the contamination of inner space (our DNA). 

The cardinal question of course is, who will take responsibility, and how do we assign responsibility for a time and space so far out into the future? Do we divvi up the skies/space like we have done the seas… A Law of the Skies? Do we assign gene pools/ DNA’s to certain groups and leave it to them to monitor and control? How do we assign that, would it be assigned to the group most impacted by the number of persons or the percentage of persons? Or else would it be assigned to a group that is distinctive not merely by the number or percentage impacted but by it’s own unique culture and language (a distinctive genetic-cultural unit) eventually giving them the final say over a particular decision, drug, weapons impact?

See below Andy Warhol Portraits – What I re-title DNA Claims: a composition of the same person in different hues and expressions akin to the same DNA with differing linguistic, cultural and ethic expressions each distinctive in itself. Which version has the highest claim?

Andy Warhol Portraits – What I re-title as DNA Claims – A composition of the same person in different hues and expressions akin to the same DNA with differing linguistic, cultural and ethic expressions each distinctive in itself. Which version has the highest claim? Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

OK, let’s be real, would we ever really let Tuvalu (the one made famous by .tv as it’s domain name) have the final say if a certain virus (derived from guano or bird poop from Tuvalu) was to be introduced into the human body which would replicate and within a short time frame cover the globe give the first world majority immunity to a deadly disease(Covid) and there was no research on how the introduction of this virus would negatively impact the people of Tuvalu physically or economically… would we let a handful have their say? Who is it that makes these decisions for all, and why should those that incur the danger of possible extermination (even if they are a handful and their chief industry is collecting guano- bird poop is impacted) accept it? How would they reject it? Now what if the issue was not a virus but a group’s concerns about nuclear testing and radiation impacting their gene pool which was not dispersed /differentiated enough for them to survive till the next generation? What if the issue was relating to climate change risking the submersion their isle? To resist would they need to resort to muscle power? To weapons? To the very same weapons that they were fighting against to secure their will? Stalemate again or Act of God??

See video clip of the plight of Tuvalu in danger of being wiped out due to Climate Change:

Wish you all the very best on your travels to Japan, I am probably off to London for a week but back before you return end May and perhaps a short trip to see The Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfalls in Schaffhausen. I guessed Schaffhausen should be the safest place around for #2, as the Americans could not possibly go “oops I did it again”! Or could they?

Lots of love and hope to see you back very soon!



Dear Purnima,

I was really tickled to get your email before we leave, and I agree that our brief interlude over coffee on Saturday was all too short.  I promise a complete and leisurely afternoon when we return from Japan.  We still have to have a glass of champagne to celebrate your liberation.

That’s indeed a terrifying WMD !  One should really stay as far away from that one as possible.  It might even be worse than the armor piercing missiles with depleted uranium that the US and NATO have fired all over the Middle East and elsewhere, and I drive past the cow-radar quite often and always get a kick out of it, but I was flashed by an undisguised and lurking variety driving back from Yvoire the other night.  At least you might be able to see one disguised as a cow at night, but a naked speed camera is another story.

I don’t quite know what to think about the O & O circus.  The Obama crowd is certainly milking it for all they can, and it will undoubtedly give an enormous boost to Obama’s re-election hopes, but I’m disgusted by the stupidly naive exulting in the streets by all those super-patriotic Americans who are so happy about the event, that they can’t even stop to realize that the US has adopted a vigilante posture and that it’s quite all right to rub someone out with a middle-of-the-night raid.  What ever happened to due process ?  And I’m not sure that the American public hears much about the many doubts that folks in Europe are expressing about the event.  I must say that I was really surprised to hear that they had dumped his body in the ocean so quickly.  I can understand them not wanted to open any windows to martyrdom by burying his body in a grave that would then become a pilgrimage site, but there must have been something else that could have been done

I loved your analogy of the contamination within and in outer space.  Fabulous !   It will be interesting to talk to some of our Japanese friends about Fukushima and nuclear power.  By the way, did you hear that Sharkozy in a speech yesterday to the workers in one of France’s nuclear reactors denounced the “irrational and medieval fear” of those who contest the safety of nuclear power plants.  There is no question of France giving up the advantage it holds in clean, safe ? ? ? power generation, our chief cheerleader for AREVA/EDF continues to stress.  One would think he had just gotten off the phone with George Monbiot.

Got to run and finish packing.  More from the land of the rising sun….

Love and hugs,


Fukushima Nuclear Disaster:

Dear Purnima,

Greetings from Japan !  It’s delightful to be back, but it was really like walking through the mirror into a Murakami-like fourth dimension secondary reality.  Where just hours previously we were going through security in Geneva and Vienna in familiar surroundings, we emerged from a Japanese-filled flight (there were only something like four non-Japanese on board) to an eerily empty immigration counter at Narita airport, but once we settled into our Narita Express train car for the trip to Tokyo Station and the Tokyo Metro we felt we had returned to a familiar entity that we had really never left.

Tokyo is still glamourous, lively, unending, invigorating, tantalizing and tempting, and the extremely beautiful and stylishly-dressed Japanese women gracing the sidewalks of Ginza are a constant head-turning distraction, but all that flashy fashion is somewhat tarnished by the relatively dim lighting in the streets, in the subway and even in some of the large department stores.  About half of the lights have been turned off to save electricity, and almost all of the escalators in the subway aren’t working.  There are also very, very few tourists.  Last year Ginza was full of non-Japanese strollers, but they are really few and far between this year.  I just read an article in today’s The Japan Times about how most of the foreign exchange students, and a large portion of foreign faculty members have left the country.

We’ve still had some really delightful and memorable meals thus far.  Last night we ate at a tofu restaurant that blew us away with the many creative and beautiful ways they prepared the myriad tofu dishes they served us.  Even the dessert was a soy-based ice cream with a little biscuit made from soy.

A and her parents arrive tonight and Thursday is sushi night at our favorite sushi restaurant.

What’s new in Geneva ?  Any new developments on the home front ?  Have you discovered any new female martyrs ?

Check out Noam Chomsky’s article on Common Dreams about his reaction to the killing of Ben Laden.  As usual, he is right on target.

We leave Friday for Nagoya and Kyoto.  I’m really looking forward to swooping past Mount Fuji in a shinny-white Shinkansen bullet train.

Giant hugs,



Dear Purnima,

It was wonderful to get your  email, and I did  indeed begin to wonder about your prolonged silence.  I thought maybe you had fallen into a rabbit’s hole and been kidnapped by the Mad Hatter and secreted off to his warren.

I can  really understand your feelings about having to deal with everything and be out of the apartment be the end of June. Major moves and divorces are  proven sources of stress.  Some diversion on  the banks of the  Thames should really do the trick.

We are leaving this morning for Kyoto after two days in Hiroshima.  We found a really  cool  bar last night run by a guy from Nepal, and then we had Okonomi Yaki in this little hole in the wall restaurant that was  really funky.  Hiroshima doesn’t seem to have been effected very much by the earthquake and  its aftermath.  Life seems very much what it was last time we  were here.  We also spent yesterday on the island of Miyajima, which is a sacred Shinto island with a large shrine and a Tori gate, red in color, that was built in the harbor just in front of the shrine.  It was a bit  touristy, but quite beautiful.

More from Kyoto, where we have rented a house with WiFi.  I have an  absolutely delicious definition of what  wine is all about to send to you.

Enjoy your trip to London.  We must get together soon after you return.

Love and 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

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

Geneva Diaries #40*

Images of Indochine, Celadon pipes, Ceramic pillows, the Singapore Girl, Milly Finch from Pondicherry, Lights Out In Wonderland – Le Divorce

Like Alice (in wonderland) see me stretched out in this chaise lounge immersed in my pipe dream of a marriage that wasn’t…In this painting by Whistler at the Freer Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, I am Milly Finch. Also see below images of the Cambodian celadon opium jar and pipe from which the expression “a pipe dream” arose about an illusion, a story, a fantasy , an artifact from our collection once displayed in our home in Geneva and India that corresponds well with Whistler’s imagery of Milly Finch as I read it stretched out on a lounge in an oriental opium den.

Whistler:; A Pipe Dream: ;

Milly Finch – Whistler at The NGA :

Purnima as Milly Finch from Pondicherry below resting on a Chinese Ceramic Pillow:

Milly Finch Resting on a Chinese Ceramic Pillow – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Pasted below is the Cambodian celadon opium jar sans pipe which complements the image above, an artifact from home and a from link online:

My friend Sucharita Shankar as a lovely Singapore Girl at home in a cheongsam below:

Suchi as The Singapore Girl – Photo curtsey Sucharita Shankar

The Freer Sackler Washington DC:

The Freer Sackler Museum DC- Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Overlaying images of Indochine, Celadon pipes, the Singapore Girl, Milly Finch from Pondicherry, I must add this beloved old time Bollywood fav song and dance number set in a nightclub in South East Asia/Singapore of the 1940’s and 1950’s, see Helen an Anglo-Burmese Indian actress below in Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu:




Dear Purnima,

One last little blurb from Japan before we leave to come back to the land of rude shopkeepers and cashiers and nasty old men who chase beautiful damsels through the parks of Geneva.  It will be strange not to have charming and smiling young Japanese hand your change back to you with a quick bow and a thank you as they gently place your bills, with the coins on top of them, in your hands before thanking  you profusely for doing business with them, and that no matter the size of the purchase.

You’re probably getting ready for your London adventure.  I hope you have a wonderful time and that it energizes you for the packing and moving that will await you on your return.

Here’s a delightful passage from “Lights out in Wonderland” about wine.  Now, we have to decide if such a wine really exists or if we will have to step into another reality to find it.

Things have changed with wine, uh.  We’ve identified another element of taste – called travel. Nobody understands it yet.  A kind of propulsive length, a panoramic effect.  Almost a dimensional shift.  You’ll hear scientific types speculate about ethanol re-uptake, aldehyde lay-off and gas perfusions of nasal mucosa.  But your romantics whisper about hormones.  They say passions can imprint hormones – and as we know, hormones can fly.  A grape can receive them.  Anger, lust, despair, Love.  It becomes a vaccine.  That’s why a true winemaker sleeps within seventy metres of the head vine.  It’s about alchemy, about spirit, about the yearnings a grape can translate.  She’s an ovary inseminated with dreams… 

First, he says, get out of your head that wine’s just a drink.  Oceans of grape fermentations are  pumped onto the market every year – but they’re not wine.  True wine is  the missing gene in the human animal.  Second: forget about your wine-taster cunts with deck shoes and garden settings.  While they’ve been out wanking on the patio, a new elite has developed with high-octane senses.  People who won’t sit around guessing notes of flavor or nibbling cheese like fucking mice.  People who won’t wait forty years to discover that a cork, which is just a lump of wood, has fucked their evening.  People who’ve seen and done things nobody understands.  They want an invitation somewhere humans don’t go.  Somewhere they have to abandon themselves to.  They want a wine unchanged by a cork, a wine with a cap that locks like the tip of a missile.  Those people drink Toque.  There’s evidence that up to three in ten bottles have travel.  Production’s confined to ten acres of Mediterranean lava, ash and pumice,  with a cemetery in the middle – locals say widows’ tears cause travel in the grape.  Others say it’s lovers’ hearts decomposing.  Whatever it is, the next five vintages  are sold out.

Then there’s a world  above that.  A handful of palates who know of a decadent  wine with travel in almost every bottle.  Production limited to four acres of rare geology – very rare, a coincidence of a million and  a half years, dating back to the first human ancestor.  Some say four acres because that’s how far a virgin’s pheromones blow  when she cums.  Maybe true.  Maybe not.  But see where I’m headed ? First human ancestor, same mineral soil – the missing gene.  A correction of nature.  A unicorn vineyard, where the winemaker lives in the vines.

Have a great trip and see you when you get back,

Giant hugs,



Dear Roger,

It’s been almost a decade since this correspondence, and now looking back I find I can journey back dispassionately and illustrate that dark period with images I have collected over my travels. Lights Out in Wonderland or Le Divorce is best illustrated with this image from The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC – Georges Braque’s Le Jour or the day, with motifs of a pipe and a jar which in my interpretation represents the male and the female, two partners who are an integral part of this composition, with the knife taking center space in this still life by which Le Jour or the day is butchered in half. See below Georges Braque’s still life – Le Jour: http://Still life – Braque – Le Jour

The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC – Georges Braque’s Le Jour – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan
The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Dear Roger,

It’s over, the story is done… I have just signed my divorce documents. Yes, right now, during these last few minutes, between our letters. I have accepted all, relinquished all just to end the story. And what a story! Ten years of endless anguish, harassment and intimidation right here in Geneva! This WHODUNNIT is now not a private question. I do hope one day the “WHO” is unravelled along with story.

My attorney/friend upon being told of my decision to take this final step, questioned, “why, why, why did you wait so long“, I waited in silence at the other end of the line sensing the anguish in her tone but realized that my story was much too long and deep to share over this brief conversation. It’s a story of ME, and all my pieces… a long story. A story that started on the lap of my father as an infant, then a child and finally a young girl who did her best to shine and impress her father with her charm, her memory and her creativity. I was always rewarded by my father’s words of encouragement and fascination with everything I did and everything I said. He often read too much into my silly words and praised too highly but that gave me reason enough to perform and pirouette which I did over and over again. As a child I sat on his lap as he read out along from his books especially the books on bird calls, till the point where I would mimic the bird call even before he turned the page. He trained me to mimic the calls of all the birds of Asia to a point where even the birds wouldn’t be able to distinguish. I then recited verses from memory and other pieces of information getting a “shahbash” (congratulations) every time. However, my most vivid memory was of reciting poetry while sitting next to my father who would often continue and complete the poems with the same passion as he infused in me the ideas behind the words weaving them into my matrix.

So today I journey back twenty five years and recite to you the reason WHY…Why I stood on the burning deck whence all but I would have fled: Casabianca by Felicia Hemans (from the UPenn Library collection of women writers). Felicia Hemans takes an incident from The Battle of The Nile 1798 where Nelson destroys the French Fleet in Aboukir Bay in Egypt. Here the rear Admiral Casabianca asks his little boy to wait for him in place while he defends the ship. The boy steadfast and loyal does not leave his post even as the flames consume the ship and him along with it. See Casabianca and The Battle of The Nile links below:;

Roger, it was ingrained in me to NEVER ABANDON SHIP… So I stood, and stood and stood. See me below as the boy who stood on the burning deck whence all but he had fled:

From the UPenn Digital Library:


The boy stood on the burning deck

  Whence all but he had fled;

The flame that lit the battle’s wreck

  Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,

  As born to rule the storm;

A creature of heroic blood,

  A proud, though child-like form.

Yes, in my heart I was this creature of heroic blood, this proud though childlike form! I stood, and stood and stood for ten long years with an intrinsic belief that till I’m relieved I must withstand the storm, the flames, the fury…

The flames rolled on–he would not go

  Without his Father’s word;

That father, faint in death below,

  His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud–’say, Father, say

  If yet my task is done?’

He knew not that the chieftain lay

  Unconscious of his son.

And I often called out to my father in my dreams to ask if my task was done, if I may leave the burning ship as the flames engulf me … but my father was gone. He died when I was 17, there was no one to respond to my cries.

‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,

  ‘If I may yet be gone!’

And but the booming shots replied,

  And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,

  And in his waving hair,

And looked from that lone post of death

  In still yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,

  ‘My father! must I stay?’

While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,

  The wreathing fires made way.– 

Of course I stood stoic and strong as my father would have wished me, holding out till my final breath as the merciless flames burned my flesh and bone.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,

  They caught the flag on high,

And streamed above the gallant child,

  Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound–

   The boy–oh! where was he?

Ask of the winds that far around

  With fragments strewed the sea!–

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,

  That well had borne their part–

But the noblest thing which perished there

  Was that young faithful heart.

No Roger, I did not abandon ship but this I know, I did meld with fire, wind and sea relinquishing myself absolutely save a sparkling spirit that I believe will live for eternity!

With love,



Dear Purnima,

While I was fully aware that you had begun the process of divorce/separation, I was both startled and amazed and relieved (for you ! ! !) to read that it was finally over. The wheels of Swiss justice must move incredibly fast.

When I was Resident Director of the Centre Oregon in Lyon, my secretary divorced her husband.  He contested everything and it took her over five years to finally escape the marital yoke.  I was afraid that you would be in for a similarly lengthy process.  And while there is certainly a sense of relief and liberation attached to that final signature, it can also call up some really deep-seated emotions.  I remember the sleepless nights and anguish over seeing a 23 year-old marriage come to an end, and also, the second time through the gauntlet, the immense sigh of relief that it was over with and that I had a new life ahead of me.  And, one always asks that inevitable question:  “Why did I wait so long ?  Why did I put up with such a condition for so long before finally acting in my best interests? I have always been profoundly puzzled why M treated you the way he did and especially why he stopped any physical relationships with you so many years ago, you who have launched a thousand fantasies and driven, I’m sure, any number of men out of their minds.

I was really moved by your story of sitting on your father’s knee and wanting to live up to his expectations to never abandon the ship.  I think that society has far different expectations for males and females, especially when it comes to marital relations and such thorny questions as divorce.  Women are expected to toe the line, to persevere, not to rock the boat.  Although the play takes place in nineteenth century Norway, I always think of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler – one of the first literary renditions of an independent and self-sufficient female character who refused to allow herself to be compromised by society’s conventions and restrictions.  The final line in the play, after Hedda has chosen to shoot herself in the temple, with her father’s dueling pistol,  rather than conform, is “That just isn’t done !”

I’ve got so much more to say/write, including my thinking about your questions concerning women and the new French crime of covering one’s face (I thought the article in the Herald Tribune was very good, but a little shy on substance when he looks at the reasons why the law was passed.  I loved his logical and right-on deconstruction of the law itself and why it so very much runs counter to democratic principles of freedom, though.  But it’s been a long day and I’ve got a very early start again tomorrow, so I’ll pause for now with my   à suivre:

This week is really crazy for me.  We have a young American woman staying with us for a week to immerse herself in the language and it’s really hard to find time for anything extra-curricular, but next week will be much more open.  We should really celebrate with a bottle of champagne. 

Sweet dreams et à bientôt,

Tender hugs,


Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen see movie link with Ingrid Bergman below:

Video clip summary of Ibsen’s play Hedda Gabler below:


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

Geneva Diaries #39*

More on Women – Dress and Adornment


Dear Roger,

Before we traipse through our prior correspondence, I wanted to take you along for a twirl exploring the topic of women represented in art through the ages in all their fabulous facets. You will be journeying with me to the National Museum of Art in Washington DC, The Hirshhorn and the awesome National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), a museum devoted to showcasing women in all their artistic, literary and creative aspects in Washington DC, and an abs must visit. See below a video clip of the NMWA:

National Museum of Women in The Arts, Washington DC-Video by Purnima Viswanathan
The National Museum of Women in The Arts, Washington, DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See below the iconic image of Women at Work – titled A Lockheed worker working on a fuselage of a P-38 from the series Women at War by Edna Reindel, which I retitle – Equal Pay For Equal Work:“women-at-war”-edna-reindel/mgE9KZRiXyX33g?hl=en

A Lockheed worker working on a fuselage of a P-38-Women at War by Edna Reindel from the collection of NMWA – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Here are some other historic depictions of women displaying their strength, beauty, love and tenderness with great pride and aplomb: As a great beauty or Venus, as huntress or Diana, and woman representing love and tenderness, mother with a child or Madonna and child. In all of the above, the strength, the beauty and the tenderness of women and womanhood is showcased and adored. Unfortunately, real life (especially the cyber-world) seems to be left lagging and it’s time to update it with these images as women often find themselves badgered, beaten and berated if they appear to stand too tall, speak their passion, or shine too bright.

Woman as the embodiment of beauty – See below Venus by Bernardino Luini at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC:

Venus by Bernardino Luini at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Woman as the embodiment of strength– See below Diana by Auguste Renoir at The National gallery of Art, DC:

Diana by Auguste Renoir at The National gallery of Art, DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Woman as the embodiment of love – See below Madonna and Child – The Cowper Madonna by Raphael:

Madonna and Child – The Cowper Madonna by Raphael – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Now let’s swing by my fav, the Hirshhorn Museum of art in Washington, DC. See below a woman working on a fabulous mural titled We The People…but tucked away in a cosy corner it reads – The Future is Still Female!

Mural – The Hirschhorn-We The People- Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Let me wrap up this blurb on women with a pic of Purnima at The Hirshhorn below:

Purnima at The Hirshhorn, Washington DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan




Dear Roger,

More on women!

As I was shifting through the congratulatory messages of India having won the World Cup on Facebook (you do know India is obsessed about cricket), I stumbled upon an article posted by a close friend about vile and horrific treatment of a 14 year old girl who was decreed to be lashed to death because of adultery. A 14 year old child, absolutely horrifying, unreal and unacceptable! Do check out the article below:

CNN: Bangladesh

To compound the horror of the incident, I found it occurred in Bangladesh, so close to Bengal. Having spent my early childhood in Cal, and getting to know the Bengalis, I have an expectation that when I hear Bangla the probability is that it will be from the lips of a cultured sensitive person, but most of all, one who respects woman and womanhood. In fact, Bengal is the one state where a woman can dress as she pleases, walk on the streets at night and take public transportation without the fear of harassment. This fact is often flaunted to the much troubled (and as the Bengali’s quietly whisper “barbaric”) northern Indians. Ironically, this decree to lash the poor 14 year old  girl child to death was probably delivered in Bangla (the language of Bangladesh), impossible, unbelievable!

Bengal, it’s culture and ideas have undoubtedly played a pivotal role in my life and forming the basis upon which the rest has haphazardly evolved. The charm of old Calcutta, the story of the Zamindars (landowners) at the time of the Raj captured in film still strikes a deep cord. My love affair with Guru Dutt, an actor film maker director who embraced the persona of Bengal capturing the essence of that time, that culture in his films, burns in me till today as I walk around park Bertrand, in the heart of Geneva, steeped in nostalgia listening to old Hindi songs from Guru Dutt’s Black and White movie genre. 

Do check me out below me as Meena Kumari adorning myself, “Solah Shringar”, the sixteen items of adornment and the pampering of all the body parts expected of a Indian Bahu (housewife) in anticipation of her spouse… (and as in the movie but in a different form we end up tragically, destroying each other): 

Sahib Bibi aur Gulam: Piya Aiso Jiya Mein




Dear Roger,

And yet again, Women!

Did you get a chance to read Ronald Sokol’s article in the IHT (Sat-Sun), “Two New French Crimes”? It was just brilliant. I scan the paper for familiar voices, the ones I’ve grown to respect and jump whenever I hear Sokol. Roger, as I embark upon my new life (post kids/divorce) wondering how to reinvent myself, I hope to find a niche, to be the voice, the go-between the Public and the Pundits where I am viewed with equal respect and credibility. I would appreciate your feedback on this new brew, spicy, tasty, palatable?

In this article Sokol very coherently discusses the new French law which makes it a crime to hide ones face in a public space. There are many arguments put forward to support this law, none of which sound credible(to me). Apparently, the idea is to dissuade Muslim women from wearing the niqab in public as it supposedly  “breaches the minimal needs of social life”. Now Roger, you know me as a fervent feminist that would labor incessantly to elevate the status of women in society and one who intrinsically rebels against all forms of restraint and confinement imposed upon women by man and society. But, this is an altogether different matter, and one of grave proportions that impacts not only a minority but the core infrastructure of the state: its credibility, its legal system.

Apparently, this “new crime” does not require intent but only that the face was hidden and the person was in a public space. What if I have a cold and wear a face mask along with my sunglasses as usual do I fall within its purview; What if I am recovering from surgery and the doctor has asked me to cover my face would the doctor fall under its purview; What if I need maximum cover due to a vulnerability towards skin cancer, does that fall within its purview; What if for fashion or style I wish to wear a lacy hat and large sunglasses that flop over my face, would that fall under its purview? If not, then by targeting muslim women wearing a niqab, this law would be outrageously discriminatory and unacceptable in any civilized democracy. 

I can understand if it were imposed out of security concerns which it is apparently not (as understood from Sokol’s article), I can even understand if the government wishes to impose this in government institutions or places where there is government funding and a requirement for human interface. But, for the government to intrude upon an individuals private space in this manner whether it is to ban body piercing, tattoos, outrageous hair (as cited by Sokol) or a face cover just because it can, is violating some core intrinsic right which a citizen takes for granted in a civilized society. Sokol also brings up this looming current issue of the oppression of the minority by the majority, and this new law is a glaring example of such an act. 

Yes, I do believe that women should be liberated and freed from bondage and covers imposed upon them but this should not be executed by the laws of the State but a natural cultural process of integration and assimilation where the minorities are educated about their rights and given the opportunities to better their economic and social status. When the State  intrudes into the private space of an individual, when the Laws are used to impose arbitrary restrictions upon a group/ minority, it erodes the entire supra-structure for ALL. The credibility of the state and its laws are called into question and persons like me who might be at the other end of the spectrum wonder and worry about what arbitrary act the State (and the majority… and do I know that heaving majority with its vulgar side) might impose upon me, my ideas and my expression!

There is no simple answer, undoubtedly the minority women need to be given all the options and opportunities that other women in the same society enjoy but this has to be done through another machinery, the cultural one. I believe that these women must be educated, and if initially they resist going to government educated institutions because they have to mingle with men and uncover their faces, then women’s only institutions should be set up for their education and integration so that they may emerge as doctors and lawyers and architects contributing elements of their culture (which could only enrich your society Roger believe me) and bringing the others out of the dungeons where they would be sent if the minimal facilities were not provided for them and they were left at the mercy of the conservative radical elements (i have found that they exist across the spectrum of society). 

Roger, what amazes me is that the French are doing everything to erode and destroy their advantage. Like the English, the French have had a colorful colonial past but exactly contrary to the English who through the Commonwealth and other organizations have maintained their influence, the French whose influence over these predominantly muslim lands (please correct my ignorance as I tend to rant) which I sense till today have an intimate cultural connection with France, is doing it’s best to erode the same. Whenever I think of North Africa, the (Hindi-Urdu)word “Jagir” comes to mind (vous connaissez?):

1. جاگير jā-gīr : (page 604)


جاگير jā-gīr

P s. f. Land given by government as a reward for services, or as a fee; a pension (in land), a fief. جاگيردار jāgīr-dār, s. m. The holder of a fee orjāgīr, a feoffee.

Yes, a sense of a fief, a fiefdom is what I got when I travelled and read about North Africa. However, not where the people feel bound by the colonial powers but where the people choose to associate themselves with a cultural identity. Would love to hear your thoughts on this and how the “new crimes” would impact the same.




Note: Ironically this was written before we were struck by the pandemic and compelled to asphyxiate under face masks returning the above issue of restrictions against face coverings moot. This has illuminated how law and code is relevant within it’s own capsule of time, extending it beyond it’s time and turf does not make for a more equitable society. See me traveling by San Francisco Public Transportation in the summer of 2020, reluctantly double masked and venting my fury in inaudible guffs and gasps much to the mirth of the boys in my life who have finally managed to have this fervent feminist zipped and covered:

The Summer of 2020 – Purnima Double Masked traveling in San Francisco- Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Women and Traditional Attire

Dear Roger,

On the subject of traditional attire, wouldn’t the world be a dreadfully dull place if we all looked the same! Women across the world use pigments, piercings, tattoos, dress, design, jewelry, adornments to express themselves, to completely deny them this self expression would be to deny them a piece of themselves. Society has to permit a private space for where such an expression is permissible. See below Saida by Kees Van Dongen a fab fauvist at The National Gallery of Art,DC: An image of a Moroccan woman in traditional attire displaying her charm and sensuality through the vivid palette of the artists brush:;

Saida by Kees Van Dongen at The National Gallery of Art,DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Here is a pic of an Indian woman, a dear friend, mirroring Saida above with an Egyptian silver head ornament. Adornment is integral to women across cultures, it’s our express, it links us:

My Friend Suchi as Saida- Photo curtsey Sucharita Shankar

Let’s head back to The National Museum for Women in Art at gaze a while at this wonderful painting titled The Eastern Lady (Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise 874), an image closer to home for in this image, in the dress and adornments I see a glimpse of my girls and the culture of the East.

The Eastern Lady – The National Museum for The Arts, DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan
The Eastern Lady – The National Museum for The Arts, DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See me below as an Indian Bride echoing the adornment of The Eastern lady- From The Weisshorn of The East:

The Eastern lady From The Weisshorn of The East – Purnima in Wedding Dress – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

And Women again, and more adornment…. Adornment worn by women across cultures, educational and socio economic strata, at work or at play, for rituals and customs or just as a ubiquitous expression of self worn while harvesting rice or threshing wheat. See below some images from South Asia, my lovely friend, an Indian Lady beautifully draped in a silk saree and adorned from head to toe:

More Central and South Asian Images: See below the similar headdress/jewelry worn by Gul Panrra in this wonderful Persian Urdu (Hindustani) song about love Man Aamadeh Am by Coke Studio, a style of adornment still popular with the women of central and south Asia today:

Screenshot of Gul Panrra wearing Traditional Jewelry from song Man Aamadeh Am by Coke Studio – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

In fact, as a young girl I have been adorned in similar jewelry for the perfect photograph 😊.


Apr 5, 2011, 4:18 PM

Dear Roger,

You never did get back to me on my barrage of emails on “women”, but hope you will respond to the burning question of the role of the government and it’s outrageous intrusion in an individuals private space. Do you not agree that we do not relinquish all when we join society( yes I would like to wear my mid-riff exposing saree and the dragon tattoo…imaginary lol) and that an individual/groups/minorities need to be able to identify and outline their space as they co-exist within the heaving majority is a conscionable and valid right. And above all, do you not agree that we need minimal governmental interference in the daily existence which includes taking the government to task for imposing excuses like the Patriot Act and other intrusions to monitor and interfere in our daily lives. And do you not agree that the time has come for a citizen alert whereby they may wrestle back some of the right they seem to have unconsciously relinquished by immediately imposing the requisite checks and balances upon the executive (ensuring that the current machinery does its task) so that the president does not declare War on a Whim??

Back to our favorite topic of women and wardrobe… I guess a rational case can be made for government intrusion in the instance of individuals who choose to walk nude in public which most would agree is not socially acceptable as there is no cultural basis for this behavior; I guess, a similar argument using the same rationale can be made for wearing a full body cover… it’s not socially acceptable as there is no cultural basis for this sort of behavior. However, Roger, as I pointed out in my last email, France is the last nation that can make that claim as it has been historically, culturally, administratively involved in lands where the niqab is the norm and following the French argument and idea, having grandfathered these nations they exist as an extension of the same albeit with the reins driving the direction and ideology, do you not agree? Waiting for your response.




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

Geneva Diaries #38*

Geneva: A Magical Week in Wonderland with Family and Wild Turkeys!

Subject: We are off to meet the wizard… The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!

Dear Roger

Its been such a whirlwind ride that I’ve had no time to think about The Break-In/Burglary on the Boulevard, Trouble/ Theft in Tranchees! My brother is in town with his family and its been such fun showing the kids around Geneva. The girls are 11, they are the age when Alice first slipped into wonderland. 

My niece at 11 as Alice in Wonderland: See below the Viswanathan girls in Wonderland

We have taken a billion photos posing with all the personality and landmarks around Geneva as we’ve build our scrap book of memories. I have also attempted to introduce a taste of this unique Swiss French canton to the children (and my bro) without becoming pedantic still being the “ultra kool” aunt by asking them to point out the sights that excite them and then chatting about them. And as a prof you might be interested in understanding how the mother and home subliminally play a vital role in the education of the children/village: i periodically reward the kids with “brownie points” to point out the sights that interest them and thus keep up the competition between the girls and the boys and keep them excited. 

Since the girls are currently falling behind, i have recently modified the rules, not only do they get a single brownie point by pointing out the sculptures and busts of the personas the (French/Swiss )that have impacted the cultural literary and intellectual life of the city( the world) but  have granted them quadruple brownie points if they are busts of French/Swiss Women… There must be some glittering female French/Swiss personas that have impacted our universe that this wonderful wonderland deems worthy of placing on a pedestal! However, i silently fear that we may come across only a discrete handful in all of Geneva perhaps hidden in the Parc Bastion near the University of Geneva, i just hope I’m not being too unfair on the girls. However, i have told them the stretched mannequins on the store fronts do not count however glam and arresting though in my heart i fear that all the French Swiss women have been procrastinated (medieval torture) and entrapped in the forms of those magical mannequins that grace the store fronts. So Roger, we are off to emerald city, Gruyere, to meet the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz to plead with him to release the French/Swiss women from their magical entrapment. 

Gruyere The Emerald City – The Magical City of Oz:

Hugs will send u snaps. 


Dear Purnima,

What a bummer !  You are the second friend within the past week who has had their home broken into (the other friends live in France and their place is in an isolated neighborhood).  It is such an intrusive and depressing experience, and not the kind of feeling that you would like to go out on.  How did they ever break through your solid front door ?  I feel very distressed for you.

And what do the sages lingering above have to do with it all, other than observing your misfortune ?

We’re on the island of Borneo now at a beach resort at Damai Beach.  It’s very idyllic, but it’s just a bit too hot and steamy for my liking.  It will be fun to lounge and relax a bit and continue my reading of “Solar”.  Going to try another massage tomorrow afternoon, but I’m going to opt for a softer, more gentle approach this time.

There have been frequent reminders of you over the past two days.  I’ve seen several examples of your marvelous hand pieces in various shops in Kuala Lumpur and last night in Kuching.  None of which, unfortunately, is quite as delicate and beautiful as yours.  I’ll keep looking for just the right curve and length of the fingers.

Enjoy your brother in spite of the break in.

Gentle hugs,


Dear Roger,

My brother and family have left and it feels terribly lonely, sad and grey. I do hope to see you sometime next week, it would be a pleasure to sink into your adventures and share the flavors of South East Asia, a region I grew to love.

The last week was absolutely delightful even if it was chaotically so. The kids wanted to see everything, learn everything and inhale everything all at once. I wanted them to experience with their senses and enjoy these new environs before embarking on a barrage of information which was difficult as their attention span flitted from one object to another view as an entirely new universe unfolded in front of their eyes. Even my kids seemed to relive and view anew their surroundings from their cousins perspective. 

We covered half of our scheduled trips, which was a lot more than I expected. We walked around Vieille Ville, see below the center of old town Geneva:

 Of course and saw the Jet d’eau cloaked in rainbow hues,

Geneva Jet d’Eau-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan
Jet d’Eau Geneva draped in rainbow hues-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan
Purnima and The Jet d’Eau-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See in the video below a snapshot of Geneva:

Then we travelled to Chamonix where I saw my brothers eyes sparkle at the possibilities, See below our kids in Chamonix: 

 Had chocolat chaud in Argentiere and went sledging in Col de Forclaz. 

The kids (my Himalayan Ibexes) scampered joyfully in the snow as they chased each other around the Alpine mountainside in pure bliss. Ironically my Tara was born in the year (2000) when the last female Iberian Ibex became extinct!

Yes, our kids/the Ibexes are an endangered species and the only way to ensure their future is to protect the environment, the magnificent glaciers, the clean water and the green mountainsides so that they get a chance to enjoy what we have grown up to take for granted. And, this message could not have struck home with more fervor than when I saw them scampering in this spectacular Alpine setting, perfect, just as nature had intended it!

See The Great Himalayan Ibex:

The next stop was The Saint Bernard Museum in Martigny, see pics below:

Snowball Fight in Parc Bertrand, Geneve-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

We visited Chillon after a late departure from Geneva (coordinating four kids, bother and sis-in-law with her heart in Rive shopping, in a seven seater rental is more difficult than you can imagine). See below Chateau Chillon with family and the link to Lord Byron poem The Prisoner of Chillon inspired by the Chateau Chillon and the tragic tale that unfolded within:

 And wrapped it up with a leisurely lunch in breathtaking Vevey. See a snap of Vevey’s famous fork sculpture below:

We ended up much too late for the visit but enjoyed walking the ramparts of the Chateau and up to the waterline to relive for a moment The Prisoner Of Chillon. The next stop was Montreux and the  Montreux Palace Hotel where my brother relived/recounted the story (by now interwoven with his soul having played the riff from childhood) behind the lyrics of the song “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. Do check it out the story behind the iconic song:

The story behind the Song

See Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple below (1972):

Smoke on the water

My brother “The Rocker” reaches his dream destination after many years of playing the riff with his school band The Rock Angels, The Doon School, Dehradun, India: .

My Brother Arrives at His Dream Destination – Smoke On The Water- Montreux Palace-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See my Brother Arvind with The Rock Angels performing in The RoseBowl, The Doon School below:

Arvind Viswanathan-The Rock Angels-The Doon School, India-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Bro and Sis-in-law enjoying a private moment at The Montreux Palace:

My Brother and His Wife Take a Break at His Dream Destination – Smoke On The Water- Montreux Palace -Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

This was followed by the much anticipated trip to Gruyeres named after Grue which means Crane after an ancient folk tale about the founding of the city and the castle. See below glimpses of The Grue in Gruyeres:

The cobbled stones, the maze of stairs and stairwells, the magical rooms with panoramic views despite the drenching weather kept the kids excited and the adults entertained. The video presentation was exceptional and the kids learned that glimpses of the crane could be seen  in the reflection in the fountain of the cobbled central square till this day. Of course, our baby Siberian Cranes who had travelled all the way from India (Bharatpur /Sultanpur bird sanctuary where the Siberian Cranes migrate to during the winter) danced around the fountain adding to the reflection and the myth of the Grues in Gruyeres!

However, the time soon came for them to leave, to return to their indigenous habitat and as I tearfully said goodbye, I was reminded about the much promised en-cashment of the “brownie points”. Over this week, they had enthusiastically pointed out every sight sculpture, sound, smell and design that excited them and I would assign them the “brownie points” based on the originality and perception. 

See below the sculpture of a girl (with my girls) in old town Geneva:

My Girls in Old Town Geneva-Photo by purnima Viswanathan
Old Town Geneva with Family-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Kids Adventures in Switzerland:

My brother’s kids who were visiting from India found the fortresses of Agra in the ragged mountaintops on our way to Chamonix, they saw cobras in sculptures lining the facades of buildings in Geneva, all derived from images of their universe thus opening up the minds of my kids with their US/European perspective all adding to Alice’s Wonderland! I was thrilled to have this expanded audience with sparkling eyes and open minds willing and wanting to believe. So, I introduced them to Yuki Yuki salad and took them to the Librairie Ancienne in Vieille Ville where I whispered that the the window always displays the next chapter of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. This time the theme was La Mer du Sud, “I wonder where Alice is headed next”, I speculated… “perhaps, the sea of the south” to 8 enormous eyes. 

Librairie Ancienne in Vieille Ville, Geneva:

We then walked past the exotic parfumerie Theodora an establishment in the old town of Geneva and sniffed at the delightful fragrances that wafted through the open door at the same time staring apprehensively as the array of beautiful bottles that lined the front, wondering how our cacophonous crew would be welcomed, as we jingled our pennies in our pockets. I then whispered to those four pairs of attentive ears that this Parfumerie was no ordinary store but enchanted and also a part of the story, the story of Alice in Wonderland. A story where the old town of Geneva, Vieille Ville, comes to life pulsating with the rhythm of the music and the personification of the verse. Magically, upon Alice’s journey to Morocco, Theodora transformed herself in to the ancient Roman settlement of Volubilis (which Alice visited on her trip to Morocco), infusing the surroundings with the fragrances of North Africa somehow mirroring and extending the dream… true, absolutely true!

Parfumerie Theodora – Old Town Geneva – Showcasing Volubilis:

Parfumerie Theodora – Old Town Geneva – Showcasing Volubilis – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See  Volubilis Wonderland in Morocco below:

The day after… after the clan left and the dust had settled and I though the unencashed “brownie point” story was over, and how I was mistaken! My son confronted me with his eyebrows perpendicular to his face and growled that they were misled, defrauded. The much searched for sculptures (for which they were all to be awarded quadruple brownie points) of French/Swiss women who have played a pivotal role in the artistic, intellectual, cultural history of this nation “THEY DO NOT EXIST”! And since the kids waited till the end to find these busts (not the size 36DD which the French/Swiss men are in agreement to put on a pedestal, they do not count), they were unable to encash anything. As their final attempt they pointed at the image of Minerva on the Swiss coins and adorning the waterfront (yet to be shown). However, the Roman Minerva, or the Greek goddess Athena, the goddess of ware fare and wisdom, I informed my son does not really count as she is a mythic character, does not exist, never existed. the challenge was to find a real, live woman who has lived as a woman and been hailed as a woman, admired not for her mythic qualities but “real” ones admired and elevated for the same.

See below standing Helvetia with spear and shield fashioned after Minerva the roman goddess of wisdom and warfare on the Swiss 2 Franc Coin:

Helvetia with Spear and Shield- Swiss 2 Francs-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

 I could not believe my ears when my son hollered back and said that these busts/sculptures did not exist(and I should pay up immediately the full quadruple amount to all four kids), I had a million questions for him and myself:

Did such French/ Swiss women who impacted the intellectual cultural history of their nation women not exist? Did the sculptures of these women not exist in all of Geneva? Did the women themselves not exist (after all the last email was about a Swiss canton which till recently debated whether their women could be categorized as “citizens”) and the ones we see around Geneva are actually beautiful bovine forms with mascara and lipstick that have wandered down from the higher alpine passes to enjoy the green grasses of the valley during the cold winter months? OK, so my son called my bluff. I sensed it would be difficult not impossible. However, upon endless surfing the Net, tragically I realized what my son said was true “they do not exist”! 

Do they Roger…?



Dear Purnima,

After a more than 24-hour trip home, which included three bus rides, one plane trip and two trains, we are home again.  It was a delightful trip and I’m dying to tell you all about it (unfortunately, my second massage was more enjoyable as far as massages go, but it was done by a young male, and I had been hoping all the time for another beautiful Malaysian lady to run her fingers up and down my spine).  Have you ever gone to a fish spa ?

You’re probably off enjoying the splendors of the Swiss Alps from the comfort of the Glacier Express.  Let me know when you’re back.



Roger Stevenson


November 26, 2020

Dear Roger,

Happy Thanksgiving!

And of course I have a tale for you…a Turkey Tale from Maine! But first lets have a good look at the Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning the Turkey. See below president Obama pardoning the turkey:

See Link below to the most notorious presidential pardons covering persons convicted of crimes ranging from treason, burglary, illegal campaign contributions, teamster activity, drug charges, lying to the FBI, involvement with the Iran-Contra affair and then ritually and annually…the humble Turkey:

Now Follow Me Closely as I Unravel the Tale of The Wild Turkey or rather The Wild Tale of the🦃…

See below The Wild Turkey, a quintessentially American Bird:

See Below Whodunnit with turkey emojis from from

Looking for The Turkey…

Looking for The Turkey – Wild Turkeys Maine-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Why Did The President pardon The Turkey?

Why Did The President Pardon the Turkey? Video by Purnima Viswanathan

What Was The Turkeys Fault? Did The Turkey Commit A Crime or is it a Crime to be a Turkey?

What Was The Turkey’s Fault? Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Because The Turkey was Fowl…Foul….???

Because The Turkey was Fowl…Foul?Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See below from The Singapore ArtScience Museum exhibit on Big Data:

Big Data is Ethically neutral, we have to choose how to use it.


Data Don’t Care

I return once again to the fab Uncanny Valley exhibit at The De Young Museum in San Francisco and the screenshots of the film below says it all…

Data makes mistakes

Data labels you as Foul and

Data Don’t Care…because it is ethically neutral.

But we are human, we have a moral code and we care. So let’s keep our code on top!




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