Geneva Diaries #37*

Zurich, Schaffhausen and The Right To be Forgotten

On Thu, Mar 24, 2011

Dear Purnima,

How could you even suggest that I might forget you ???

Your last two emails have been really upbeat and positive, but how could it be otherwise after swooshing down the slopes of Chamonix in the shadow of that giant, glacier covered cone, and your anticipation of your brother’s arrival seems to have brightened your outlook considerably.  I’m jealous of all your adventures, especially the skiing and the pilgrimage back to Gruyère and the Glacier Express trip. Will this be your farewell fling with Switzerland before moving on?


The street scene here in Kuala Lumpur provides an almost constant tweak of my consciousness about you: there are enormous numbers of Indians hanging out in the shopping centers and the lobby of the Hotel Marriott – one of the nicest and most elegant hotels I have seen, and no, we aren’t staying there ! You are everywhere!

Kuala Lumpur

Yesterday we spent most of the day playing tourist downtown and sampling the spicy hot curry dishes, watching the multi-ethnic shoppers, imagining what delicacies are hidden under the elegant, black burkas with only two deep and beguiling eyes peering out behind a narrow opening (maybe I’ll have to change my attitude about Muslim traditions), dining in a fabulous Malaysian restaurant with a Thai waiter with a contagious and intriguing smile, and winding our way back to Celine and Vincent’s apartment in a taxi driven by the most friendly and talkative cabbie I have ever met.

Today will be more of the same with a planned apéro high above the city in one of the Petronas twin towers.  Tomorrow we fly to Kuching on the island of Borneo for three days of idleness at a beach resort, then back to KL for three more days before winging our way back to St. Pierre via Paris courtesy of Air Asia.

Kuching and Baku

I had my very first Thai massage yesterday as well.  I was sufficiently warned that it would be a painful experience, but I was determined to see what it was like.  It was excruciatingly sensuous torture as a young Malaysian girl clad in black stroked, kneaded, crushed, stretched and twisted every muscle in my body.  I can still feel the aftereffects, especially in my back where she not only used her hands, but her elbows and knees to exert pressure on those muscle fibers. At times our two bodies were entwined in strange configurations as she seemed to have a unending source of techniques and new positions to inflict such sweet suffering.

Before leaving for KL, we spent two days in Paris at the annual Paris book fair.  I attended a fascinating question and answer session with the British writer Ian McEwan, whom I really love.  I’ve only read two of his novels: On Chesil Beach and Atonement, but his latest novel, Solar, has just been published in France.  It is about a Nobel Prize laureate who spends the rest of his life coasting through his decades-old fame but remaining void of new ideas and imagination.  The underlying theme of the book is climate change (one of the reasons the book wasn’t well received in the USA).  McEwan was such a treat to listen to, and I found him not only extremely intelligent and witty, but very human and down to earth.  I found his book in English at a bookstore in KL yesterday, and I am now in the middle of his tale of failed marriages and unfulfilled expectations.

Do enjoy your brother’s visit. I’m really happy that you can get away from the dreariness of your apartment in Geneva for a few days, and I look forward to hearing all about it.

Giant hugs,



Re Coucou,

Thought you might appreciate this take on the OBL killing by one of my favorite journalists in the Middle East.

Re hugs,


The Other Side of the Mirror


Dear Roger,

I was thrilled to get your mail before you left and then again from Tokyo. You must be curious about the silence from my end as I am always the eager beaver jumping up to react/respond. However, things on the home front, the rapidity of change, has set my mind into a tizz. Can you believe three years have passed, and now we have to be packed and out of our home by June 30th.  I have been completely frozen into mental and physical inactivity. There is also disbelief lingering in my soul, that very soon, I might just be free… finally!

In order to keep myself lucid, I have decided to travel, meet friends and family and spend as little time under one roof with my (in) significant other. I’m off to London for a week next Wednesday, a much awaited trip which I had put off for the fear of going through the motions of getting a UK visa. Yes, I’m still a part of that visa line and it’s long and it’s tiresome. The forms are endless, the questions relentless and the queries and cross examination continue through what seems a never-ending inquisitorial barrage just waiting to beat you down, to exhaust the applicant, to catch you weak and vulnerable so that on the umpteenth query, putting the same questions in a slightly different language (to trip you up of course) on whether you are a part of a terrorist organization or are in some form or manner duplicating for OBL you spill the beans and pilaf all over the application form. Exhausted after responding to the 130th question, I find myself hollering and running out with the application flying YES! YES! YES! I’m  a baddie. Yes, my mother’s origins are from the region near Abbotabad (Lahore) where Osama was found and finished, Yes, I speak in strange tongues and certainly can understand and communicate with most of the chappies(can’t call them baddies) you have bombarded in the region on your long search for #1. “But hold on” I say, “I wish to plead the case for the Crane, for it’s a long migratory bird, a fact that you (English) should know well. These lands of my ancestors were the waters of the Siberian Crane, but it flew, it fled the fires that destroyed its home and journeyed to Bharatpur, India. Now this very bird for a land far, far away continues its journey (despite its faulty radar) and has found a magical lake to rest a bit before it flies on. No, I just come to visit, I don’t intend to stay!” The message was received and the visa was granted.

See below an artists depiction of Abbotabad in Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden was found:

Still on the subject of Abbotabad and OBL, which one can’t help but be on, considering all the various ideas and theories circulating in both the worlds, I find absolutely nothing that satisfies me (here I go again)! Roger, I’m afraid, not even after chomping on your dear Chompsy and his article did I find a sliver I could digest. The whole story is absolutely bizarre, surreal almost and all i can say, all I believe anyone can say on the matter of OBL, is that: There was a consensus… Yes, there was a consensus between the Network (the powers that be) and The Sponsors (the funders), crafted by a very creative writer. A Virtual Death!

Roger, believe it or not, May 6th was World Virtual Death Day! But jokes aside, as we progress deeper into this universe of mass digitization, there are some grave issues we confront in todays society such as the ability to access and persuade a wide swath of people in one quick swoop falling into the hands of those with superior accessibility and information. This alarming issue made me finally browse through “Delete” a book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, which was lying for an eternity by my bedside begging for attention. The book highlights how Digital technology and global networks are impacting us, our minds and our social structure and things that were “natural” to man. A part of human nature (like our natural ability to forget and thus forgive) is being supplanted by immediate and accessible history, which due to being transcribed and stored in digital form is etched for eternity. If there is no forgiveness, how do we proceed to the next day, if there is eternal memory of pleasure and pain (god forbid we remember all the contortions of childbirth) how do we rationally take that next chance, have that second baby? 

However, as Schonberger points out in his “Delete”, what is most alarming is the fact that since everything is being digitized, remembered, often far surpassing our own memory, do we then defer to this extraneous collection as our collective history. What happens to humanity when we defer to history stored extraneously that has been contaminated (as has been done so throughout time) the only unfortunate thing in this scenario would be that there would be no opposing voices as we would not be able to revert to our own memories as we had already come to an understanding that since memory was imperfect, this source was tainted. We would be left at the mercy of the Network and The Sponsors armed with their crafty writers who would spin alternate realities and virtual deaths for us leading us to agree to be enslaved for eternity… Are we heading in to an abyss, is there a way out, what do you think Roger?

See below images from The Uncanny Valley at The De Young Museum in San Francisco. Trevor Paglen in his installation at the De Young showcases man’s glaring vulnerability to retain his identity and right to his own image and data in the digital world where everything is scanned, monitored and uploaded often without consent or knowledge. The installation showcases how the use of images of accused or deceased convicts to train AI algorithms for visual mapping which was released by the government without obtaining prior consent from the accused and deceased convicts who should have had the right to be forgotten with their data and images deleted upon the completion of their sentences or death and not have to live the life of an convict for digital eternity. Correspondingly the innate bias generated in these AI systems that gleans data from a subset that is fraught with it’s own demons with a disproportionate representation of certain communities feeding back into the loop of prejudice about categories, groups, racial profiles and physical attributes based on this data.

De Young Museum -Trevor Paglen – Unconsented Use of Convict Data to Build AI-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Back to happier notes and more colorful journeys, Tara and I visited The Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen this weekend, spending the Sunday exploring Zurich. It was a delightful trip where mother and daughter bonded as it was just the two of us Tara and Myself on an adventure of exploration and discovery, I have pasted a bunch of photos to share- 

See Purnima and Tara in Schaffhausen below:

Schaffhausen-Photos by Purnima Viswanathan

The minute we got on to the incredibly efficient Swiss train network, (even second class was super cool, super comfortable) we found that the three hours just flew by chatting and  admiring the picturesque Swiss scenery framing the windows. What I noticed was that as we moved further away from Geneva and into the Swiss German heartland, the sounds slowly changed till the point where it was vividly guttural. Wow, the “GH” and the GHKK” were all around us, a train full of passengers turning blue chocking. I looked around to see whom I must immediately assist with the Heimlich maneuver, help get that apple out… “ghhhkk”! Yes Roger, I have been often asked what I inhale and that it’s only fair that I pass it around… “no no absolutely no cigarettes” is my perennial response.

After being drenched by the spray (of the Rhine Falls) and drenched by the rain,  we landed in Zurich to spend the night. Zurich is an absolutely charming city with much to discover. The cobbled streets of the old town, the Fraumunster Cathedral with the Chagall stained glass windows, the Candy Store (Chocolate Factory), the magnificent vistas of the twin towers of the Grossmunster cathedral etching the skyline. My absolute favorite, the giant clock face on St. Peter’s Church, supposedly one of the largest in Europe. So we wandered up and down the cobbled streets searching for this giant clock which was visible from every point in the city looming large except when you were very close to it, and we spent half a day playing Peep-a-Boo with the clock face till we finally caught him 

Do check out Zurich below:

Zurich by Night

During that walk around the city we encountered the name “Schmuck” pasted across a jewelry store that I absolutely had to capture.  I imagined inviting Mr. Shmuck for dinner and introducing him to our friends in New York (so much a part of the New York lingo)… I assure you we would have had a party of guests on the floor in splits. 

See Schmuck pasted across Zurich’s commercial skyline:

Schmuck pasted across Zurich’s commercial skyline-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan
Schmuck pasted across Zurich’s commercial skyline-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

We then met The Stork. It was hoisted high on the wall and was petrified, immortalized, unable to respond to my query “Are you my mommy” , “Where did I come from?”

The Stork – Zurich-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

I then descended into my pre-pubescent self (which is always hovering on the surface) and took photos of all the street names which seemed to all end with “Gas (se)”, I had just about forgotten Fahrt (Exit), that I was faced with the route (Gasse) that leads to the exit (Fahrt)!

Road Signs Switzerland-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

We ended the day with a hearty lunch at the grand train station before taking the train back to Geneva. However, we realized we had an hour to kill, and decided to visit the Landsmuseum (which is the Swiss National Museum) just across the train station. This was the greatest treat ever, not only was the structure of the building, a castle, spectacular, I discovered that the much awaited exhibit on the story, a Biography, of the WWF, World Wildlife Fund was currently on. The central courtyard of the castle was converted into a biosphere footprint forum, detailing our impact on the environment, and how we (humanity) are out-consuming what the earth can replenish  in a wonderful interactive form that was easily comprehensible to both children and adults and did not really require language to understand. Roger, this exhibit was truly superb and I was wishing with all my heart that I could somehow carry this across to the parts of the world where there is an alarming confluence of both population pressure and scarcity of resources (especially water), to India and put this in front of the new generation encouraging them to think ahead and conserve, innovate. 

See Landsmuseum below:

Landsmuseum, Zurich, Switzerland-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

A Biography, the exhibit that traces the story of the WWF,  founded 50 years ago by a bunch of British bird lovers (ornithologists), who has turned from passionate “Shikaris” or hunters into conservationists ( a story very close to home). This foundation was set up in Switzerland with the passionate involvement of a Swiss attorney in Gland along Lake Geneva. Interestingly enough, it was not only  for the beneficial tax status that Switzerland was selected (as England would have granted the same) but the fact that it was a neutral country and thus the negotiations would not be tinged with any flavor or color. This certainly made me sit up and recognize the incredible role and universal advantage to an organization dealing with a conflicted world Switzerland’s neutral status bestows. As I glanced at the photos of the men behind the organization, their stories which led them to this path, i felt a pang within. We then arrived at the fabulously reconstructed Game Room, with it’s typical hangings and  mounts, the books, the desk, the air, the feel and the sense of a time gone by, a people and their passion. A picture I was very familiar with, the faces I had seen, the voices that had raised me we here, in the heart of Zurich, surrounding me. I distinctly sensed, unknown to the rest of the world, somehow my physical presence in this space converted the Reconstruction into Reality… C’etait de l’epoque, sans le choses materielles, dont j’ai herite, l’essence et l’idea.

See below an iconic image from the days of The Raj- My dad Vijay Viswanathan with his faithful retriever ready for Shikar (a shoot) in The Himalayas:

Images from The Raj-My dad Vijay Viswanathan with his Retriever Prepped for Shikar-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Good night!


See the history of WWF below:

On Tue, May 10, 2011 at 6:32 AM, Roger STEVENSON wrote:

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.

Alexandra 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,



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 #36*

Kerala Women, Equality, Geneva Auto Show, Chamonix, Vagabond and A Midsummer Nights Dream

Bonne journée internationale de la femme ! ! !

Dear Purnima,

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

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

Hope you have a wonderful day.

Gros bisous,



Dear Roger,

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

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

Kerala: ;

Kerala – God’s Own Country (See video below):

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

Now that I have ALL your attention, I have a little correction to make, my French teacher/Arabic student finally reverted to me clarifying that jwd means “excellent” in Arabic, and “magic” is Ruqiyah or Sahr. Well, interestingly enough, Sahr is a common Hindustani (Urdu/Persian) word (another childhood friend’s daughter’s name, and once again in the India I grew up in, the child’s name was reflective of our composite culture and had little to do with the religion of the parents) and it means dawn or bewitched. She confirmed the same meaning for Arabic… yippee we have found yet another pathway through the woods!

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

See below yet another Ski Trip with my Girlfriends: Chamonix

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

Hope to see you soon.




Dear Roger,

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

See photos pasted below of the vibrant and cacophonous Kerala contingent in The Bay Area, California draped in silks of vivid hues, bedecked in Indian gems with eyes rimmed with kohl celebrating Onam, Diwali and California life with Cal-Kerala cuisine. See my friend Poornima Kumar below with friends and family celebrating Kerala traditions in California (Photos curtsey Poornima Kumar):

Cal-Kerala Cuisine-Photos Curtsey Poornima Kumar

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

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



Dear Purnima,

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

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




Dear Roger

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

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

Good night!


PS: See below the image that lights up in my brain in neon. No wonder the Swiss heaved a sigh of relief at my departure lol!

From The National Museum of Women in The Arts in Washington DC

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


Dear Roger,

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

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

Purnima in Wonderland – Chicago-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

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

Hope to catch up with you next week.




Dear Purnima,

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

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

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

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

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

Gros bisous,



Dear Roger,

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

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

A Midsummer Nights Dream – A Sacred Vow – India: It feels like a these images should belong to another life, a life left behind in another time, another dimension. See below a Hindu marriage blessed by the pundits of the North and the South…

See below a Hindu Wedding. How would I have known…his long ears were neatly tucked under the turban!

On the subject of Salon de l’Auto, see a pic of the Daimler that brought him to my door and that would whisk me away to A Midsummer Nights Dream from which I never awake:

Here is my favorite image from The Hermesvilla, Austria, a mural of A Midsummer Nights Dream painted in the Empress Sisi’s bedroom – Titania and Bottom (The Donkey): http://By Carl Rudolf Huber (1839-1896) –, Public Domain,

By Carl Rudolf Huber (1839-1896) –, Public Domain,

See below my friend Ena Singh with the adorable donkey that stole our hearts at Val des Bagnes in Verbier. My friend Ena here embraces my persona and poses with Bottom below. Ahh…Those ears again…

The Poitou Donkey – Rare Endangered Donkeys From France – See Below Conservation Status Critically Endangered:

Here are some images from The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival at McLaren Park – A Midsummer Nights Dream:

Finally a shoutout to ShakeSoc – The St Stephen’s Shakespeare Society: A Slice of ShakeSoc at the SF Shakespeare Festival – A Midsummer Nights Dream. See me in the video below at The Shakespeare Festival at McLaren Park San Francisco:

Purnima at The SF Shakespeare Festival- A Slice of ShakeSoc in SF – Video by Purnima Viswanathan

And then almost miraculously on this day the 19th of November, 1998, the skies crackled and sparkled and Zeus descended in a shower of gold. Yes, the on the night of November 18th the skies above Singapore were lit by the Leonid Showers that came down in the form of a thunderbolt and surrounded my bed at Mount Elizabeth hospital. Ahh… to be loved by a God!

See article by NASA Science on the spectacular Leonid Showers November 19th, 1998:

The theme of Zeus descending from the heavens in shower of gold to lie with Danae has been a favorite theme replicated across the art world for over two millennia. See me as Danae by Titian below bathed in a shower of Gold:

Danae by Titian: By Titian – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain,

Zeus in Art:

See below Zeus and Thetis by Ingres at The Musee Granet in Aix-en-Provence, a must visit, both Aix and the museum :

And finally and incredibly see below Washington depicted as Zeus at The National Museum of American History in Washington DC, An abs must see:

Washington as Zeus at The National Museum of American History, DC-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Greek Mythology – Danae and Zeus: http://Zeus and Danae- The Golden Shower

And as expected the union gives birth to the brave, the magnificent and valiant Perseus. On this day, November 19, 2020, I wish him a very happy birthday for it’s already the 19th in Argos! See my Perseus in California below:

My Son – Perseus in California – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

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

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

Marvin Gaye again: What’s going on!?!

Hugs and good night!



Brothers Visit To Geneva

Dear Roger,

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

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

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

Rencontrez avec des peuples authentiques -SBB Poster-Switzerland-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

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

Gite Le Vagabond

Gite Le Vagabond-Chamonix-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan
Gite Le Vagabond-Chamonix-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

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

آواره āwāra

P adj. Vagabond, wanderer, disso- lute.

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

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

Awara Hoon – Raj Kapoor

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

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

The Geneva Auto Show 2011

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

See below a recreation of a Wanted poster of African Americans who had escaped the slave plantations in the Southern United States by supplanting the faces with African American activists, writers and heroes he subverts the meaning.

Much to do, gotto run. Hugs to all!



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 #35*

Le Magicien d’Oz and Gruyeres, The Southern Langurs, Universities and Cyber Nation States


Dear Roger,

It was wonderful to catch up with you earlier today, I’m afraid I rambled on incessantly pouring out every bit of my heart and mind as though there was to be no tomorrow. But, as you know tomorrow has been a long wait!

Did you try the Yucky Yucky salad at Globus, are you ready to enter the portal? Well, here goes the much promised marathon!

In order to spice up my French lessons (after what felt like endless hours of grammar), I suggested to my French teacher that we practice conversational skills through a story. Since my  fabulous French teacher had gifted me some cheese (Gruyere) from her hometown, I suggested that I would prepare in advance and this time tell her MY story about my visit to Gruyeres in French, une Fabuleux (not the same as fabulous I discovered but closer to fantastic/fantasy) ville. See below Gruyeres, Switzerland by drone:

As Gruyeres stretched out with its magnificent Montagne (mountain), incomparable Campagne (countryside) and Majestueux (majestic)views, tout le vert( all completely green), the glistening green vistas spun me into a tornado of childhood memories. I was in Emerald City, La Terre D’Oz, the land of Oz. I was in le livre ecrit par un ecrivain Americain Frank Baum (I was in the book written by the American writer Frank Baum), The Wizard of Oz!

I saw Dorothy (Tara – ma fille) in the distance with her petite chien Toto (Leonardo our puppy), far away from home, not Kansas but Kalifornia, qui chercher pour sa maison(who was searching for her home). So Dorothy walked the yellow brick road( la rue aux briques jaunes) all the way to Emerald City as she was told it was a place où les rêves deviennent réalité (where dreams become reality) and it would take her back home. She was joined by le Epouvantail (scarecrow, moi) qui chercher la tete(who was searching for his head, could not be more apt for me), who followed Dorothy as he also believed that in that magical place he would find his mind. The Lion (le lion– mon mari) qui chercher son courage(who was searching for his courage), also joined the entourage. Finally they were joined by le jeune homme en etain (the Tin Man – mon fils) qui chercher son coeur(who was searching for his heart – in reality he has the gentlest kindest softest heart). So the whole family with Dorothy, toto, le lion, le epouvantail, le jeune homme en etain, all headed out through the glistening green countryside, along the yellow brick road all the way to the chateau sur the montagne, the grand castle on the mountain of the Wizard of Oz. See Dorothy following the Yellow Brick Road from the movie The Wizard of Oz:

This as you pointed out was all a fantasy, maya. The wizard was a humbug (and I really searched that word and came around to the French word equivalent of “charlatan”, a quack and the Hindustani equivalent of “dhokhebaaz”). The wizard merely promised to fulfill what already existed, he was just very clever about it leading the characters to believe some magic mystery had unravelled and they have acquired the attributes they were searching for. Eventually, ils avaient les qualites qui ils cherchaient.  Do check out the photos, unfortunately the Epouvantail was the designated photographer so I was out of the snaps.

Gruyere – The Emerald City

Gruyeres, Switzerland-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Tara as Dorothy with Toto on the Yellow Brick Road (Switzerland):

Moving from my childhood to my kids demanding preteen years, I found I was being bombarded by questions/definitions that as usual required immediate answers. “What is Ethnic” (upon hearing the repeated usage of the term ethnic cleansing on TV), “what does it mean, who or what does it refer to?” Of course, I am the only one that goes on to refer to the dictionary (the kids think they have a portable one), and I gasp as i unravel this fantastic mystery. Ethnic (derived from the Greek Ethikos, from ethnos, refers to peoples, nations) refers not only to  the characteristics of a group and classifications into groups based on a common culture, linguistic basis, religion (those other than Christians, Jews and Muslims are referred to as heathens…ooouch!),race but also nations. 

Of course many questions come to mind: What among the above characteristics constitutes an ethnic group, what combination of the above and in which order of precedence? Which characteristic is the pre-determinant, dominating one? I have always believed the ethnic identity to be based on culture, ideology, but can it be completely devoid of race? This takes me to the baboon on my bedside (yes, I got rid of the last one but these were more endearing) Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth. I discovered that contrary to what most people believe, some animals express an innate predisposition, a genetically determined inborn bias, its not all a blank slate, a tabula rasa. Citing the example of sparrows, the authors describe how there is an innate disposition to learn ones own species communication. The song and the swamp swallow raised with both the species bird songs each selects and sings his own tune. Where the song swallow may be persuaded to incorporate the others notes, the swamp swallow always sings its own song. This does raise the question that certain qualities are innate and perhaps species and race cannot be completely ignored. However, we humans have evolved a complex social and cultural structure that distinguishes us from our aviary relatives which I believe further distinguishes us not by race but by idea and ideology. 

See below pics, video and links to The South Indian Grey Langur that I found resting on my bedroom balcony in Goa, India. Since I’ve had just about enough monkey business for one lifetime, hear me chase him away in the video clip below:

South Indian Langur resting on my Balcony – Goa, India-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Southern Plains Grey Langur:

15 Species of Moneys Found in India:

See video of The Southern Langur on may balcony below:

Grey Langur Resting on my Balcony in Goa India-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Which brings me back to the above-mentioned definition and the meaning of “nation“. I mulled over what this “nation” referred to, (and was so keen to run this by you, but was bulldozed by my own ramblings), was this a group of people that despite their diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and racial roots come together because they subscribe to a common ideology thus forming a nation and owing allegiance to it, that idea (does turf play any role, is it to be understood as a group existing within prescribed physical boundaries?). And talking about ethnic groups, what “ethnic group” would Americans fit into, my children fit into? America is a fast changing nation with multitude races, languages and cultures many of whom are still in various phases of integration, both assimilating the popular culture and more importantly with the individuals/new waves contributing their indigenous culture to the melting pot. I come back to the fact that the definition has to be based on the underlying idea/ideology which makes one a part of an ethnic identity.

Roger, in any debate how can I leave out the impact and its expressions in my land of fantasy, in the cyber realm! How is “nation” and “ethnic identity” reflected in the virtual world? If we imagine the cyber realm comprising of a half billion facades (profiles/personas/identities), what is this community and what is the universe that governs it?What moves it, what makes it tick? Whom do these facades and netizens belong to and do they/should they, have any parallel to the groups, nations and ideologies of the real world? What are the portals (apart from yucky yucky salad), borders and boundaries and where are the hubs, the core, generating the stars and extending the universe as we know it? As i see it, the hubs the core, the virtual nations of the future lie where the ideas and ideology is being generated: The educational institutions, the universities!

The universities are to be the nations of the future, the hubs and the core of the cyber realm around which would revolve the various star systems, the netizens, the ones that subscribe to the idea, the ones that have been generated from these ideas and those that would in return generate new pathways and disseminate those core ideas thereby expanding the spheres of influence. These stars and black holes are being fervently searched, claimed, fought over and acquired ( I am certain by all means fair and foul). La guerre des universites (the war of the universities) has begun, its wild its vicious. The biggest and the best have already laid out their tentacles across the web securing their space, their future their identity and the identity that most netizens would subscribe to in lieu of the nations of today.

As I was mentioning earlier today, many of the large universities (in Europe and some in Asia) have existed many hundreds of years prior to the nations that claim them today. Cambridge I was told is over 800 years old and Oxford almost a thousand, Stanford is over 120 (but more importantly the US universities are so unbelievably wealthy and powerful that many nations would cower in front of them), my own university, St. Stephens College, Delhi, India is 130 years old, existing much before the formation of the Republic (of India)… and the list continues and the list is mind boggling (do check it out below) in the sense that these universities, centers of learning have been through numerous identities as in being physically situated in the fluctuating political maps of nations and boundaries, yet retaining their core, their identity over the hundreds of years, being the constant around which the nations fluctuate. And, projecting into the future, I see that they will retain that identity and perhaps become the new nations around which the facades fluctuate.

List of the Oldest Universities in continuous operation

However, the picture is not quite so rosy, because the institutions and organizations that have the power and the influence (not forgetting the insight) of establishing a presence/dominance in the cyber realm do not necessarily represent what I believe to be the underlying culture of the web, a genuinely free forum for all, but choose to utilize this universe to replicate the control and influence that they already wield (and which we have run to the cyber realm to escape from) in the real world… the establishment is here and upto the same old tricks! Do check me out as Snow White outside the UN headquarters in Geneva invoking all my forest friends (the “other world organization: The Uni-Teen Nations” to invade and penetrate and unravel all the secrets, dark chambers, handcuffs, chains and boxes that the establishment has contrived for the control, containment, manipulation and surveillance of this New Cyber Realm) :

Snow White and Led Zeppelin: 

Let me leave you with a single image from The Uncanny Valley exhibit at The De Young Museum in SF showcasing brilliantly through Art the challenges of being human and asserting ones humanity in the age of AI:

De Young Museum San Francisco-Uncanny Valley Exhibit – Screenshot by Purnima Viswanathan

After all these journeys to various realms, I find I am home alone once again, absolutely alone! So I visit a sunny place, a happy place, my very own teen years where “anything was possible” and bring home a movie, a favorite from my time: Dirty Dancing. 

Do check me out as “baby” in the video below, back home everyone still calls me baby!

Good night, of course I will be waiting for Patrick Swayze but this time around with a different hairdo.

Ok so now with with my new found 2020 vision, I see that all my 80’s heartthrobs are gone…Patrick Swayze is dead, George Michael is dead, Simon le Bon looks dead, and I’m still called Baby!

Dear Roger,

No news from you, are you already on your way to KL? An update from my end: the court session which was scheduled for this morning (and not Thursday) was uneventful, the judge refused to proceed because there was no interpreter. However, we progressed in our discussions and have decided to modify this from a separation to a divorce. I just can’t wait to be free, to be able to breathe again! Did you see the movie 127 hours, fantabulous! In case your heart is pounding for him (the chap who was trapped for those 127 hours and broke free by severing his hand from the rock with his blunt penknife), in my case it has been over 166,000 hours and still counting…

However, unlike the cutie in the movie, I never leave home without mon couteau suisse!

Back to brighter things, I sensed my last email Le Magicien D’Oz was incomplete, it needed a corresponding Hindustani title (and since I have seen the plight of the vernacular dictionaries not providing for the new world language of technology and cyberspace, I’ve decided to include a little Hindustani/Urdu): Oz ka (da) Jadoo-gar

“Jadoo or Jadu ” a word which beams at me everyday from my TV remote control here in Geneva, is a Hindustani/Urdu(Persian) word meaning magic, and Jaado-gar means magician. I suspect, Jadu has a similar meaning in Arabic because its a (pet) name for my friend’s son in Morocco. She being of Indian origin with Hindustani as her basis and her husband being Moroccan with Arabic as his basis miraculously found a meeting ground, came together in Jaado with its Hindustani/Urdu/Persian/Arabic(?) references. And here in Geneva as I spend another lazy afternoon by the TV, I wait for Jaadoo to turn my world around, finally putting it right side up !

Hope to hear from you soon!



Dear Purnima,

It was lovely, as always, to see you on Weds. AND to get another semi-marathon email yesterday.  And, no we don’t leave for KL until the 20th.  I thought you looked absolutely stunning and your colors, both dress and makeup, were really dazzling.

It sounds like your day in court was less than satisfying.  Don’t they have judges in Geneva who speak English, or isn’t the court supposed to be on top of things to the extent that they arrange for translators and interpreters (that reminds me of the time we were arrested in Sarajevo by the local Sarajevo police because I took a picture of the US Embassy (A had lived next to and worked in the same building when she was in Sarajevo with the UN during the siege, and I thought it would make a neat souvenir to have a picture of the place).  We were held in the police station for over five hours while we first waited for two UN interpreters (our interrogator only spoke Serbo-Croatian) and also while waiting for same interrogator to return from another investigation).  The interpreters were great and really facilitated our case, but the long and short of it all is that they realized that we weren’t terrorists planning to blow up the embassy and they simply slapped our wrists, confiscated the roll of film in the camera (it was before the ubiquitous digital camera) and unceremoniously turned us out into the by then dark streets at an hour when most of the restaurants had already closed. 

And I haven’t seen 127 hours, but your imagery is more than poignant.  A more fitting image would be to find some way of extricating yourself without all that self-mutilation, like blowing the rock/blob to smithereens so you would be freed intact.  It would be such a shame to so harm even the slightest square inch of yourself.

Speaking of self-mutilation, have you seen Black Swan yet ?  You absolutely have to see the film, if only for the magnificent acting by Nathalie Portman and also by Vincent Cassells – a great French actor, but the story line is indeed fascinating.

Do I take it that you didn’t return to Chamonix ?  I thought of going skiing this weekend, but I have too much to do and also want to take advantage of tomorrows promised sunshine and warm temperatures to go for a nice, long bike ride.  Sunday, we are invited to lunch at our Japanese/French friends and they are having a Japanese woman from Annecy come and do the cooking for the meal.  We are going early enough to watch the entire process, but my mouth is already watering.  It sounds like a wonderful experience.

I’m still toying with your thesis about the rich and powerful universities becoming the arbiters of democracy in the future, and I am trying to figure out how that might come about and what kind of founding documents (you know, like a world constitution that would apply to all citizens of the world) would emerge and how would such an amalgam eventually result in the dissolution of nation-state borders so that there would be no more nationalism, thus no more wars arguing over who owns what and which people/culture/ are best suited to rule the rest of the planet and exploit the planets natural resources for the benefit of all and not just of the ruling elite/dictators/multinationals, and how would an association of universities reign in the groveling avarice of those same octopus-like multi-national entities, and what would the various military organizations the world over do if they had nothing to prove their virility and male pride over ?  It would also, of course, entail the dissolution of the United Nations, since there would theoretically not be any more nation-states.

Do have a wonderful weekend and keep me posted about your next day in court.  Maybe that is the place where the two of you need to go in order to talk to each other and to discuss things ?????

Lots of hugs and bisous,



Dear Roger,

Here is a snapshot of your Black Swan!

The Black Swan – Snapshot of the Video cover for the movie The Black Swan by Purnima Viswanathan

Geneva, Switzerland 2011




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 #34*

Poetry and Prose from The East and The West, Kalidasa, The Soldier, Oscar Wilde, Mythology Greek and Indian, Naga Sadhus and Evangeline


Dear Roger,

It was fabulous seeing you the other day. I felt closer than ever before, like a best (boy) friend (the girl one is taken) or even family, perhaps a past life connection?? I truly felt I could “unload”, and I’m afraid I did (with out without your white collar). However, upon revisiting the scene of the crime (no better description comes to mind) our conversation over that hour and a half, I realized that I had made some gross generalizations about men from my VERY limited experience (which I have every intention of modifying the minute I’m released from jail) and you responded with the same look of wry amusement perhaps like a scientist studying an exotic specimen that has decided to preen in the petri dish.

To clear the record, I wish to revert with the following statement: No, NOT all men swing in all directions! I was just visited by my grand father last night (in my dreams) who gave me a hard knock on my head to set my brains back in order, reminding me of the poetry and verse recited in my home in praise of woman, covering both the exotic and erotic facets of women (so integral to our culture) from the fullness of her lips to the curves of her hips to the long dark tresses that frame her face and snake down her back. The representations in art, sculpture adorning our temple walls from the Yakshis (guardians) to the temple dancers who seem to swell out to embrace the devotees, culminating in the scenes of intimate embrace which act as guides for the common public of the pleasurable duties and expectations of a householder (supported and sanctioned by the priest and the temple as it helps maintain social order). Now, Roger, since I belong to the family of the high priests, you must ensure I don’t stray near the Sistine Chapel with my  vivid paintbrush, the restoration might appear alarming to some! I can affirmatively say that if my grandfather was found in your “situation”, the French student demanding favors would have been skinned and stuffed and found hanging with the other wildlife in our entry hall. 

See below some of the links to the verses from Kalidasa (recited by my grandfather in melodious Sanskrit) in praise of the female form. Kalidasa is one of India’s greatest Sanskrit poet and playwright from around the 5th century AD with his works and words embedded deep in the culture of South Asia.

Kalidasa’s Generous Description of Women: With eyes like the gaze of a startled gazelle, Body like a sinuous vine, Lips like the Bimba fruit, Thigh’s like the stem of a Plantain trunk.http://women-in-kalidasa

The Divine Woman by Usha Kishore:

Here the sensuality and voluptuousness in the description of the female body is a form of reverence for the female form and the deity within. See below excerpt from Kalidasa’s Śyamalādaṇḍakam from link above:

Your upraised breasts, golden goblets, bow your glorious curvèd form, O woman, the three worlds bow down to you.

A line of dark hair adorns your glistening, deep navel lake, like a chain of darkling grass, O woman endowed with sweet speech.

See below – Explore Kalidasa’s Meghaduta on LiveHistoryIndia:

Meghaduta by Kalidasa – Hypocrite Reader by Eric M Gurevitch – This is an interesting writeup and well worth a read my only issue is with the author’s seemingly flippant comments about Kalidasa painting all of nature with “sex”. As I understand it, Kalidasa paints through his verse an evocative imagery of animated nature which in itself is (prakriti) or a creative regenerative form that in the form of a cloud kisses and caresses the Earth as it passes on a message from a pining lover separated from his beloved by the expanse of India. The lover is a Yaksha or Sprite(nature spirit) who was sent down south far from his home and his bride in the Himalayas by the demi God Kubera for slacking on his duties. The Yaksha while pining for his bride summons a rain cloud to carry his message of love across the expanse of India from Ratnagiri to Alaka his hometown in the Himalayas where his bride awaits his return. This marvelous work describes the journey of the places the cloud would touch, pass over, on its way to his bride. This masterful work of Kalidasa, a much beloved love story, one of Sanskrit literature’s great secular works is truly to be savored in all it’s facets as it’s words and imagery to this day stir the soul and the imagination.

See excerpt below describing the beautiful form of the Yaksha’s wife from Hypocrite Reader by Eric M Gurevitch

She is slender and young,

Her teeth are sharp and her lower lip is a ripe bimba fruit,

Her waist is slight, her glance that of a frightened deer, her navel a deep concavity.

Her gait is slow with the weight of her thighs,

She is slightly bent over with the weight of her breasts.

Here is a link for Meghadutam for Children, a must read:

An excerpt from the above:

“You’ll find a lady lying on the ground, like a wilted land-lotus.  Her eyes too will resemble a lotus, but a half-open one on a cloudy day, swollen as they will be from weeping continuously. Linger on and observe her a while…”

“See her pale lips, dry hair, unpared nails and dull eyes and understand her anguish. Being a kamarupa you can assume any form. So, adopt a suitable disguise and approach her with the message from me…”

See Purnima as the Yakshi below (this version has lipstick and hairspray):

Purnima as the Yakshi from Meghaduta – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

1945 Bollywood movie – Kavi Kalidasa  (Meghadutam referenced in this song with the kavi or poet informing the cloud messenger the various lands and peoples it would need to traverse before it reaches his beloved in the Himalayas): See v corny movie below

And finally this wonderful clip from Live History India – Finding Mahakavi Kalidasa. Kalidasa was deputed by Chandragupta Maurya II to the Vakataka court to accompany his daughter Prabhavati Gupta as a part of her wedding entourage. My artistic license stirs me to believe that perhaps he was wrestled away from his home and wife settled in the North near the Himalayas and duty bound to follow the princess to Ratnagiri. Perhaps Meghadutam is his personal love story of being separated from his beloved and addressing the clouds that rolled over the Vindhyas to convey his message of love across the expanse of India to the Himalayas in the North. See clip from Live History India below:

Moving from the East to the West- Did I ever tell you about my incredible journey to the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat (which means serrated mountain) in Catalonia and my encounter with Abbot Oliva, the spiritual founder of Catalonian culture and the monastery, known for his penmanship and translations (from Arabic to Latin) whom I persuaded to lend his quill. 

See me below with Abbot Oliva:

Purnima at the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat – Abbot Oliva- Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

 So Roger, some people are more vulnerable than others and in order to save us from ourselves we have to ensure that someone stands by them, represents them priest or pirate (I of course thrive on the role of the Devil’s advocate, even if it means Assangination!).

On the subject of idealism and standing by what you believe in regardless of the hazards they may pose, I have a story from home which I had started to share with you over our clandestine coffee (there was something distinctly covert about it) but in all my excitement and current state of mind(lessness), I seemed to forget all. Well here it is… As I spent a lazy Sunday with the kids going through the latest book by my bedside, The most famous poems in the English Language, I rediscovered many of my childhood favorites which I proceeded to share with my not-so-enthusiastic kids. So we played a game and I asked them to read three poems each (only effective upon a substantial bribe), they of course chose the shortest and threatened to run. Fortunately the poem selected by my daughter was The Soldier by Rupert Brooke (do see attached poem with the photograph of that foreign field) upon reading which I was immediately reminded of my grand uncle (my grandmother’s brother, the grandmother about whom I talk of endlessly, the one who played a pivotal role in raising me) Tyagarajan or Tiger as he was called by his friends. Tiger, this tall strapping handsome man of 24, was a student in London when the War (WWII) broke out with much to live for and far from his home and family in Madras, fired up by his idealism that he must do everything in his power to prevent the gross injustice that was taking place across Europe, he joined the RAF as a fighter pilot and ironically on the day of the liberation of Paris he was shot down over Normandy. What was even more ironic was that his father, my great grandfather a prominent attorney in Madras supported the revolutionary cause against British colonial rule in India, eventually following Sri Aurobindo and settling in the French colony of Pondicherry in South India. The eyewitness was a young boy who happened to be out in that field in Normandy on that fateful day and said that he saw a fiery plane crashing into the field. The village people later picked up the unidentified pieces and buried them within their village churchyard. It was only recently that the remains were identified and Tiger was honored (our family was searched and found and invited to this wonderful ceremony by the French and the British with the Indian representative that took place at the church in Normandy in 2007). 

See below an image of the field in Normandy where Tiger’s Typhoon aircraft crashed superimposed upon which is a verse from Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier:

Field in Normandy where Tiger Thyagarajan’s Typhoon Aircraft Crashed – Photo curtsey Priya Viswanathan

See below a pics of the church in Normandy, of my granduncle Tiger Thygarajan next to the Typhoon aircraft and The Memorial Plaque:

Tiger Thyagarajan RAF- Screenshot from Video by Purnima Viswanathan

I must admit I sobbed as my daughter read out these lines for the story was dear to my heart as it was my father who first read out these verses as my grandmother reminisced about her childhood and her brother all the time. 

If I should die, think only this of me: 

That there’s some corner of a foreign field,

That is forever England (Pondicherry)

Of course, in our story, England is exchanged with Pondicherry, India, for it is my grand uncle a Tamil boy who is forever melded with that earth.

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed

The idealism and passion of this young man from far away fighting for neither wealth nor glory, nation nor home but to uphold an idea, the idea of justice, without which neither nation nor home has much meaning reflected in the following words of this enigmatic poem.

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England (India) given

Interestingly, as I translated this poem to reflect India for England, my daughter replaced the words America (New India) for England as she recited the same. It was beautiful, i sobbed again.

And, talking about India, I AM finally escaping from jail, even if it is for a brief respite (as you aptly put it), for my current state of being or non-being, is nothing but a mindless endless incarceration that defies all logic and rationale. I leave for India for a short break this Tuesday and am holding my breath until then!

As I progressed through the book of poems I encountered some familiar poems and other favorites, one gripped my wrist with his hand and led me through the book into the cyber realm. It was my wild old flame Oscar. As we journeyed through time and space he brought me to the place he reached (a place found not in my poetry book), a wretched place, a place he languished, where he suffered and toiled. Oscar Wilde wrote these dramatic lines during his horrific time in jail for the crime of homosexuality and seeing my similar predicament (despite the allure of moto moto, I’m straight), dragged me through the cyber realm back to Guttenberg (The Guttenberg Project) to reread The Ballad of Reading Goal. These lines taken from the Ballad of Reading Gaol were written for me, for my time in chains:

 I know not whether Laws be right,

                 Or whether Laws be wrong;

               All that we know who lie in gaol

                 Is that the wall is strong;

               And that each day is like a year,

                 A year whose days are long.

               But this I know, that every Law

                 That men have made for Man,

               Since first Man took His brother’s life,

                 And the sad world began,

               But straws the wheat and saves the chaff

                 With a most evil fan.

               This too I know- and wise it were

                 If each could know the same-

               That every prison that men build

                 Is built with bricks of shame,

               And bound with bars lest Christ should see

                 How men their brothers maim.

               With bars they blur the gracious moon,

                 And blind the goodly sun:

               And the do well to hide their Hell,

                 For in it things are done

               That Son of things nor son of Man

                 Ever should look upon!

               The vilest deeds like poison weeds

                 Bloom well in prison-air:

               It is only what is good in Man

                 That wastes and withers there:

               Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,

                 And the warder is Despair.

               For they starve the little frightened child

                 Till it weeps both night and day:

               And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,

                 And gibe the old and gray,

               And some grow mad, and all grow bad,

                 And none a word may say.

               Each narrow cell in which we dwell

                 Is a foul and dark latrine,

               And the fetid breath of living Death

                 Chokes up each grated screen,

               And all, but Lust, is turned to dust

                 In Humanity’s machine.

               The brackish water that we drink

                 Creeps with a loathsome slime,

               And the bitter bread they weigh in scales

                 Is full of chalk and lime,

               And Sleep will not lie down, but walks

                 Wild-eyed, and cries to Time.

               But though lean Hunger and green Thirst

                 Like asp with adder fight,

               We have little care of prison fare,

                 For what chills and kills outright

               Is that every stone one lifts by day

                 Becomes one’s heart by night.

               With midnight always in one’s heart,

                 And twilight in one’s cell,

               We turn the crank, or tear the rope,

                 Each in his separate Hell,

               And the silence is more awful far

                 Than the sound of a brazen bell.

               And never a human voice comes near

                 To speak a gentle word:

               And the eye that watches through the door

                 Is pitiless and hard:

               And by all forgot, we rot and rot,

                 With soul and body marred.

               And thus we rust Life’s iron chain

                 Degraded and alone:

               And some men curse, and some men weep,

                 And some men make no moan:

               But God’s eternal Laws are kind

                 And break the heart of stone.

               And every human heart that breaks,

                 In prison-cell or yard,

               Is as that broken box that gave

                 Its treasure to the Lord,

               And filled the unclean leper’s house

                 With the scent of costliest nard.

               Ah! happy they whose hearts can break

                 And peace of pardon win!

               How else may man make straight his plan

                 And cleanse his soul from Sin?

Roger, as I run through this open gate for my brief respite I find myself glancing back to through the last decade, I find a tragic reminder of the irony and injustice of life in the lines (of Oscar Wildes The Reading Gaol), which say: 

For each man kills the thing he loves, Yet each man does not die

How justice meted out by nature is so selective, irrational, unfair, where one man finds himself hanging in the gallows, while the other for a similar crime (of destroying the one he loves) walks away unscathed without a scratch or a smear, humming as he walks away into the sunset. 

He did not wear his scarlet coat,

                 For blood and wine are red,

               And blood and wine were on his hands

                 When they found him with the dead,

I’d like you to share my journey as my spirit traces these lines (from the above mentioned poem)leaving my form lying in my bed:

               Yet each man kills the thing he loves,

                 By each let this be heard,

               Some do it with a bitter look,

                 Some with a flattering word,

               The coward does it with a kiss,

                 The brave man with a sword!

               Some kill their love when they are young,

                 And some when they are old;

               Some strangle with the hands of Lust,

                 Some with the hands of Gold:

               The kindest use a knife, because

                 The dead so soon grow cold.

               Some love too little, some too long,

                 Some sell, and others buy;

               Some do the deed with many tears,

                 And some without a sigh:

               For each man kills the thing he loves,

                 Yet each man does not die.

               He does not die a death of shame

                 On a day of dark disgrace,

               Nor have a noose about his neck,

                 Nor a cloth upon his face,

               Nor drop feet foremost through the floor

                 Into an empty space.

Good night and I hope to hear from you while i’m in Delhi.




Dear Purnima,

Already gone !  😦   I didn’t realize that you were leaving so soon for Delhi.  Thanks so much for your email from the airport.  Hope you had a great trip, and I can imagine that the joy of being back among friends and family must be overwhelming for you.

I loved your last email.  I agree that it was wonderful to see you last week, and I thought our chat was one of the best we have had in a long time.  We seem to always be on the same wave length.

I’m reading another Murakami novel after several months of not reading anything by him.  The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and it is really marvelous.  I’m only a hundred or so pages into it, but so far I think he captures better than in his other novels his concept of a different and secondary reality.  He writes some things that just simply blow me away.  For example, the main character is a young man who is trained in the law but doesn’t enjoy working for a law firm, so he has quit his job.  In the process of looking for his wife’s lost cat (she eventually runs off with another man leaving him alone sans chat but with lots of questions), he encounters several other characters, one of whom is a young woman who is a former prostitute.  He has some rather vivid fantasies and dreams about her, and on two occasions dreams of making love to her (or rather of her making love to him)  On a subsequent meeting with her, she at one point tells him that they have indeed had relations (those were her terms). To his great astonishment, she recounted all the details of both of his dreams, even the clothing that she was wearing and also the fact that in his second dream, the woman he was making love to suddenly turned into an entirely different woman that he didn’t know (He had been getting strange phone calls from a woman claiming to know him and wanting to talk to him for ten minutes).  She then explained that they hadn’t actually physically made love, but that it was in his consciousness that it all occurred.  I can’t wait to read further and see what else develops.

I’ll write more later when I have more time.

Have a wonderful time and soak up all that love and warmth and caring so you can make it through to spring here in Geneva.

Hugs and gros bisous,


Dear Purnima,

I heard a short piece on the BBC today about India and the things that brought the Indians and the British closer together and those things that didn’t.  The big bone of contention between the two countries, according to this journalist, was the complete disparity between the two countries and their respective approaches to making tea.  While tea was introduced in India by the British colonizers, the Indians, according to the report, soon adapted the British national drink by adding some home brewed techniques and practices, resulting in Tchai, originally served in clay cups that were then thrown away and which degraded in the hot Indian sun very quickly.  With the advent of plastic, the clay Tchai cup has almost disappeared.  Well, of course, while listening to this fascinating report, I thought of you and wondered if you might be sipping a cup of Tchai at that very moment.

Geneva is an increasingly staid and boring city, especially without you here to liven up the place.  Every time I go downtown to the area around Globus and the Place Mollard, I feel like I’m walking in some kind of fantasy world where everyone is beautiful, exquisitely dressed, and completely self-centered.  I keep wondering what Murakami would have to say about Geneva, at least that part of the city. He would probably far prefer the Paquis.

And speaking of Murakami, I’m almost through with “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” – one of his best to date, and now I can’t wait until 1Q84 comes out in an English translation

I’m watching “Black Swan” through a streaming site on the internet, and it’s a fascinating film about ballet, self-consuming visions and veering off the beaten path of sanity, not to mention a totally overbearing, possessive and nearly demonic mother.

I hope you haven’t been swept away by a Tibetan Yeti (you’re so much closer to the Himalayas now) and held prisoner in his ice cave.

Big hugs.  Looking forward to hearing all the details of your trip,



Dear Roger,

My apologies for a very abrupt response to your warm and concerned email, I was truly in pieces. I returned from a tale of high adventure to an atmosphere of gloom and despair. 

This trip back to India was unusual in the fact that this time back I appeared to have completely lost all trace of my Indian immunity, I was afflicted with every bug that the routine Western tourist suffers from and subsequently found myself on all kinds of medicaments which they give in “horse strength” in India over the counter! Now, despite my various ailments, which I kept concealed most of the time (disappearing stealthily around the corner every time I swallowed or drank) so that my friends don’t do the “ha, ha, ha”, My system finally gave out on the last day and I prayed Swiss Air would get me back home to Geneva in one piece. Miraculously, as soon as I touched down the stomach related ailments evaporated (true story) and was only left an Ogre to deal with.

Now that i have cut my long nails and have my breath back,  I find myself revisiting and assimilating all the pieces of this whirlwind trip to share with you its vibrant hues and multifaceted odors. The energy, the excitement and the enthusiasm especially of the women I met and I knew, blew me away. I found my girlfriends buzzing with dynamism and energy that would make most men gasp, like the old friend (few keep count of the years beyond the respectable 10) who uncannily manages to smile perfectly through three screaming babies, work, home, travels across three continents with the entourage and offices in tow, and manages to metamorphose onto center stage(her dinner) in a perfectly draped kanjivaram silk sari. Then there is the other gal who is as passionate about her social life, work and trio, as she is about her cooking and still leaving all men between 14-94 sizzling on the platter. The inspiration was endless… friends who were in fashion are now the icons themselves( universally size “0” , I was grateful for my diarrhea which left me for a brief moment with the “in”( emaciated) look ). The writers were writing, the designers were designing and the cooks were cooking, everyone seems to be living their dream, ideas we had discussed eons ago were being realized in a frenetic frenzied pace. I was thrilled for my girlfriends, Go Girls!

However, there were some meetings that left me with a pang of jealousy, it’s incredible how that silently slithers onto the picture: I attended the much heralded Art Summit in Delhi and found (to my surprise), it was even better that it had been projected. The location was superb , the facilities, service excellent, it seemed to be well represented by galleries from across the globe, art on display was spectacular and I got a chance to meet everyone under one roof… awesome opportunity to socialize! Then I met a dear old friend, one who was an architect turned fledgling artist in Singapore when i last left her over a decade ago, who had morphed into this creative Kraken making her splash all over the summit from the brilliantly contrived car at the entrance to the profusion of colors, images collages representing cultures across Asia on her canvasses/installations. See below a glimpse of The Creative Kraken who so brilliantly fuses East and West to drum roll of Africa:

With Ketna at The Tate in London-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Of course she jumped and hugged and kissed and then through all the din I heard the dreaded words, once again, “so, what are you doing now Purnima?”…I used the din as camouflage and slunk away hiding in the shadows so that I was not accosted by another superstar and asked the same question. I had already dodged offers of faith healers, get aways to no where, priests, astrologers and a trip to the Osho ashram in Pune (I remembered you). But we met again and had a chance to reconnect, this was where I was told about my girlfriends incredible trip to the Kumbh mela and how she was invited by the Naga Sadhus to share their tent with them. Yes, the same Indian holy men who walk naked, smeared in ashes with long matted hair, their ultimate sacrifice, the absolute relinquishment of the ego. I heard tales of the Naga Sadhus morning ritual of stretching their penises around a stick as my friend “sparkly eyes” viewed on in wonder and amazement, in addition to other incredible adventures across Asia and as the logs in my fireplace were dwindling my Envy-o-meter had shot sky high and I just about held myself back from adding her to the logs, so with a strained smile I said “dinner is served”. 

See below the ash smeared Naga Sadhus (The fabled Naga Holy Men of India):

Conversation over dinner continued in the same exotic strain but this time we were visiting the east coast of Africa. She is part of the incredible Indian diaspore (three generations removed) that has settled in east Africa and maintained their (Indian) language, customs, food and habits. Her journey continued to England (architecture) and then East Asia and now finally, perhaps back to India, a full circle! Since we were talking about journeys (and not exotic men and penises) I found I could participate and especially since it was my favorite topic of journeys/migrations. I discovered, as I suspected, upon a little digging, that Swahili, the local dialect had infact entered covertly into her mother tongue which was Gujarati (the western Indian state where most of the Indian migrants to East Africa are from). She was completely unaware that the language she knew to be Gujarati had assimilated these African words. It was only when she spoke to the Gujaratis in Gujarat that she realized they had no such word (for pressing), the ones she had grown up with. These incredible milestone or markers are what remain in language marking the journeys of man and the discovery of such I find mind-blowingly exciting almost as much as the sharing of “chillum” with the sadhus (which I can’t say I did not… only some different kinds of sadhus)!

Check out the Naga Sadhus at the Prayag Kumbh below:

My journeys in India continued to breezy Bangalore and more friends, fun and food. The outdoor cafes, fabulous weather and very international community made me think of California, of home(?). I decided immediately that this was the city for me in India and I had to find my way back there. The trip ended with a cracked tailbone, but that is much too long a tale to tell, ridiculous really. The more interesting piece was reconnecting with my (cute) yoga instructor who is also my confidant and spiritual guide. I met him with pleading eyes showing him how over the last two years I had turned to stone, begging him to reverse the process as I am convinced only he knows. So we started our sessions, and midway I felt a pulse, then a heartbeat and then I found I almost jumped him! He seemed to read my mind and deftly handled the situation continuing with the close body contact ensuring every muscle was stretched and seemed to smile when I looked at him saying “what am I supposed to now do with this heartbeat?”. The tale of the yoga master is certainly To Be Continued…

Before leaving Bangalore, I stumbled into a old shop in an old alleyway with a bearded old (wise) man, dim and musty, filled with lanterns, brass objects, bells, sculptures and stuff with just about enough space to turn your head praying nothing would fall on it. It was there that I spotted it, a magnificent bronze, a sculpture of Varaha (you might remember this Vishnu avatar from my last email and our dinner, the one who returns to vanquish the demon in the form of a wild boar). I absolutely had to have it, it spoke to me, it was waiting for me, it had to have me! So, I went through the motions of the routine haggling, disinterest walking out and returning. I did get my Varaha, and was informed by the shopkeeper that this Kerala sculpture was sold to him by a seller who was in distress and anxious to sell his bronzes at any price. Ironically, that bronze sculpture left a Kerala temple to enter the home of someone from Kerala whose ancestors may have been the priests in those very temples. lt now sits proudly in my living room awaiting its long journey  back perhaps one day to the new world, the New Kerala! Varaha, the wild boar Vishnu avatar, after vanquishing the demon rescued the Earth from the (ocean) deluge, this is one of our Vedic deluge stories (akin to Noah and his Ark) and thus would be appropriate as the mascot for our ship as it sails through the deluge eventually finding its way back home.

My Varaha bronze:

Varaha Bronze-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Varaha – The Boar God:

Purnima with The Varaha Sculpture Commenting on The Vedic Flood Myth at The Asian Art Museum San Francisco – Video by Purnima Viswanathan
Purnima with The Varaha Sculpture at The Asian Art Museum San Francisco-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Varaha and The Vedic Deluge Story video: 

I left Bangalore in high spirits and upon reaching Delhi I was greeted by a curious person with a ruffled shirt who embraced me passionately saying all the while that he had waited long for this moment, Sir William Jones, an English ghost! The embrace dissolved within me and I was left standing hugging my shirtsleeves as people passed me by seeming to say “oddball”. Are you familiar with Sir William Jones, the famous Orientalist, philologist, founded The Asiatic Society (I guess the same as the one in NYC which I happened to frequent…oops sorry that was The Asia Society),  the Englishman who sailed to Calcutta in 1783 as a Calcutta Supreme Court judge and buried in Calcutta in the South Park Cemetery. He also was the first to point out the similarities in the roots of Greek, Latin and Sanskrit (very close to home for me), and furthermore, his articles outlined the Greek, Latin (ancient Roman) and Vedic/Indian mythology had many similarities, with many parallel deities, a story that I have not stopped telling my children. All this I unearthed in a delicious book, Awakenings about the Bengal Renaissance by Subrata Dasgupta (University of Louisiana) which opened up many doorways to explore and pursue, both journeys ahead and back through depths of time, the ideas that were born during this momentous time and bubbled over to the south to excite the minds and spirit of the youth with the novel ideas of freedom and independence but also had a lasting impact upon the members of my family.

Sir William Jones:

Sir William Jones parallel resounds in my experience, the stories I relate to my kids, but with a twist. The stories of Greek and Indian mythology that appear to “happen” for no reason at all (just like my cracked tailbone tale, where my dimpled dentists response was “things happen for no reason”), the is no cause, no purpose, no justification no reason what-so-ever which makes someone who has been raised on “moral science” classes frustrated beyond belief for there is absolutely no “moral of the story”! Invariably the kind, good, pious and innocent fall victim to LIFE and the devious and dastardly go home with the cake. I guess that kind of mirrors “real life” because in real life Sh*t Happens! 

Heracles (Hercules) after valiantly completing his twelve labors weds Deianira and slays the centaur intent on abducting her, instead she tricked into believing Heracles unfaithfulness makes him wear a poisoned shirt which burns through his skin driving him to immolate himself on the funeral pyre. A brave hero who has vanquished all demons dies for no reason at all and tragically. 

Similarly in Indian mythology, one of the stories of the kind and benevolent asura king Bali (mentioned in previous emails) who is know to be just and righteous reigning over a happy and prosperous kingdom happens to expand his kingdom as far as the heavens and the netherworld. Now unfortunately, king Bali is from the wrong camp (asura/demon camp) and even though he has been good and righteous, the Gods are threatened as he has encroached upon their space so they plead with Vishnu who comes down to earth as Vamana, the diminutive brahmin, people in my part of the world are still very wary of the diminutive/humble variety that come knocking on their door especially when it is a brahmin. For unlike Greek mythology where you have the classic wars between the Gods and the Demons, with the poor expendable humans, in Vedic mythology in addition to the Gods and the Demons, we have a third element which is the Brahmin or a member of the priestly class who relinquishes most of the temptations of the material world to lead a life of simplicity and austerity. In our mythology, whenever a brahmin enters the story, he wins the day and of course he would because even though he relinquishes his material goods he retains control of the pen and he writes the stories and he paints the victors. So, in the case of poor king Bali, Vamana was invited to take the three steps he requested at the sacrifice and Vamana grew to the size of the earth, took one step on earth, one on the heavens and the third on King Bali’s head (the “devoted” king had offered his head when there was no other place for Vamana to step upon), so for his devotion king Bali is brought up from the netherworld and gets to meet with the jubilant citizens of his state Kerala, this is celebrated as the festival Onam. Poor, poor, king Bali I say…

King Mahabali:

Vamana The diminutive Brahmin:

Happy Onam!

Happy Onam Rangoli with Flowers- Bangalore India-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Back to the Greeks, Apollo chases Daphne, daughter of the river god who runs for her life to escape his rapacious embrace and end up as a laurel tree. Of course, Apollo continues to wreck havoc with the lives of the other men and women that cross his path. Poor poor Daphne…what did she do? I guess she was desired by a god!

Similarly in the case of Ahalya, the most beautiful woman in the world, in Indian mythology, the sage Gautama won her hand as he outwitted Indra the king of the gods to the race of being the first to circumnavigate the world three times, while Indra was flying, sage Gautama walked around a cow who upon giving littler was pronounced as three worlds (you see not only do the brahmins win the day but they also get the Gal… wouldn’t you if you could write it in?). So furious Indra decided to come in the form of sage Gautama to his humble hut and sleep with beautiful Ahalya while the sage was out bathing. Ahalya, who had no clue whatsoever, welcomed her husband. Upon returning to the hut, the sage curses Indra with a thousand vulvas later turned into eyes (Greek mythology has its 100 eyed Argos) and turns lovely Ahalya into stone. Now tell me what was Ahalyas fault in this gigantic drama… she was loved by a god! 

Story of Ahalya in pictures:

Similarly, in real life Sh*t Happens, things happen for no reason… none whatsoever, Sir William Jones probably saw it and So Did I!

So much to say and the night is rolling on… but its my time of day… so I roll on.

I was thinking of you yesterday, it was Valentines day and I had my pen poised in hand to to wish you love and many kisses but it was not to be, so a day later I send you my wishes. I knew February 14th, 2011 would not be a day to remember, in fact possibly one I would prefer to forget but even then it was churningly awful. How could relations disintegrate to this degree… echoes of “how did I get here” were resounding off the walls. I spent the eve of Valentines day immersed in myself, my books, my poems. I came across Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his famous poem Paul Reveres Ride, then I returned to a book which mentioned The Acadians and uncannily enough I found myself surfing through the most beautiful and poignant poem to read on Valentine’s eve: Evangeline

Evangeline is an epic poem that outlines the tragic story of the French Canadian settlers of the 17th century in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, who refused to swear allegiance to their new colonist the English and thus resulted the most horrific instance of ethnic cleansing of the 17th century. The Arcadians, apparently 14,000 of them were driven out of their homes and farms, which were burnt along with their fields and livestock and they were packed onto ships, exiled. The ships scattered them across the 13 states who were not all welcoming, many were sent to south America, some to England and some back to France. Many perished during the voyage, the ones who waited in the ships perished of disease and many died on foreign shores. The ones who returned to France we like outsiders with their our peculiar accents and culture and could not easily integrate, many left and went onto Louisiana, merging with the Spanish community and creating the Cajun cultural identity. Some did return to Acadia, but they were but a handful. 

The poem strikes a chord not just for its picturesque scenery and vivid images of Acadia and their pastoral and peaceful lives but the tragedies suffered by these people in the mid 1700’s because of the Grand Upheaval (Les Grand Derangement), where these peace loving French Canadian settlers after having settled for 80 years were driven out of house and home and all that was familiar to them scattering them across the globe and even those fortunate enough to return to their indigenous communities did not find home for they left their ancestral lands long long ago. They were really people who belonged to the New World. The following words from Evangeline ring uncanny true, familiar:

Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile,

Exile without an end, and without an example in story. 

All this told through a love story where Evangeline is betrothed just before the Grand Upheaval and spend the rest of her life searching for her beloved as she passes through strange towns, scenery and habitations chronicling the tale of a people. The heart-wrenching final scene ends with Evangeline finding her beloved at the end of their lives among the dying and deceased. As he hears the sound of her name, her voice, it brings back vivid images of his youth, only to have him die in her arms.

Do see if you can spare the time to read this beautiful poem of love, loss, separation and togetherness. 

Evangeline: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Purnima recites Evangeline (Acadia National Park):

Purnima in Acadia – Across Frenchman’s Bay-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See Evangeline below (some lines on leaving home, familiar shores and exile):

MANY a weary year had passed since the burning of Grand-Pré,

When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed,

Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile,

Exile without an end, and without an example in story. 

Far asunder, on separate coasts, the Acadians landed;

Scattered were they, like flakes of snow when the wind from the northeast

Strikes aslant through the fogs that darken the Banks of Newfoundland.

Friendless, homeless, hopeless, they wandered from city to city,

From the cold lakes of the North to sultry Southern savannas —

From the bleak shores of the sea to the lands where the Father of Waters

Seizes the hills in his hands, and drags them down to the ocean,

Deep in their sands to bury the scattered bones of the mammoth.

Friends they sought and homes; and many, despairing, heartbroken,

Asked of the earth but a grave, and no longer a friend nor a fireside.

Written their history stands on tablets of stone in the churchyards.

Good night!


Dear Purnima,

Absolutely no need to apologize.  Your lengthy missive was most welcome and I stared at my computer screen, mesmerized by your tales and vivid descriptions of your adventures.  Although, I was sorry to hear of your debilitating mishaps.  You must indeed have been Westernized.  You have obviously spent too much time away from your beloved India, and now your immune system is susceptible to various little bugs (It sounds like a case for Dr. House).  But the tailbone incident sounds a bit painful also.  Are you sure it didn’t happen during your reunion with your Yoga master ?  Your description of that encounter was absolutely delicious, and I’m glad he was able to restore a heartbeat.

Your descriptions of your journeys and encounters made me want to visit India all the more.  Actually, C and V are this very moment as I write en route from Kuala Lumpur to Bombay.  They will be in India for about ten days, including four days in Goa.  I think the closest that I will get to India in the very near future will be next month.  We are going to Kuala Lumpur for a week to hook up with them (we got an incredible special promo price on Air Asia from Paris to Kuala Lumpur).  I can’t wait.

It was really unfortunate that your experiences were hampered by the little bug you caught.  I remember returning from Egypt many years ago and being hit by nausea and stomach cramps in a restaurant in Italy.  It didn’t last too long, but was really distressful.  And to overcome those pangs of jealousy when you encounter your successful girlfriends, just wait until you publish your bestselling novel.  I’m very serious !  I am constantly dazzled by the depth and scope of your mythological references and your wonderful prose and imagery (jealousy that “silently slithers” — that’s absolutely delicious !).

Thanks for the link to the images of the Naga Sadhus, but I didn’t see any penis stretching in them.  Does it really work ?

I can’t wait to see your newly acquired bronze from Kerala.

I’ve been biding my time waiting for some new snow to go give my new skis a better workout, but, alas, there isn’t much on the slopes.  I did take advantage of the clement temperatures last week to go for a couple of delightful bike rides.  We also saw an incredible film last week, Incendies which is playing at Les Scala.  I also watched the new film everyone is raving about, Black Swan.  (watched it on streaming on internet, so the quality wasn’t as good as in a cinema), and Nathalie Portman is absolutely fantastic in the role.  You should definitely see it.  I’m not sure if it is playing in Geneva yet, but it is bound to be here soon.  All the major newspapers and film guides in France have done lengthy articles on the film and on her as an actress.

Let’s try and connect next week.  Can’t wait to hear more of the details of your fantastic (in spite of the bug) trip.  I have a light schedule and should be able to get into Geneva for coffee, or are you going skiing with your kids during the winter school break ?

Lots of gentle hugs,


Dear Purnima,

Is this minimalist franglais ?  “tue in geneva” ???

Actually, tomorrow, Monday, won’t work for me.  Maybe Weds. or Thurs, but you are going to Chamonix on Weds, right ?  I’ll let you know as soon as I can work something out.

Hope you had a good weekend.  Do anything interesting ?


Dear Roger

I’m afraid an omission, a missing “/” caused the “tue” to sound Franglais, it was a plain simple “Tuesday” meant to be sent as an sms being sent instead as an email, my apologies. However, being my French teacher, you would be pleased to know that i include some French words in my notes, the outlines i create before i set out on my marathon letter sessions and I’m not quite sure why but some words seem to pop up in French and some in Urdu, love to invite u into that inner parlor one day! 

So, do you think you will be able to join me and my friend for dinner in Chamonix? I can’t wait to explore the area, perhaps the Pirate of the High Seas will finally get to meet with the famed Pirates of the High Snows. I know they lurk there in the recesses of the White Mountain. 

Hope to see you next week. 



Dear Purnima,

I also watched the new film everyone is raving about, Black Swan.  (watched it on streaming on internet, so the quality wasn’t as good as in a cinema), and Nathalie Portman is absolutely fantastic in the role.  You should definitely see it.  I’m not sure if it is playing in Geneva yet, but it is bound to be here soon.  All the major newspapers and film guides in France have done lengthy articles on the film and on her as an actress.

Lots of gentle 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 #33*

Assange – Journalist or Spy, Language – Hindi/Urdu, I Kissed a Girl, Laws in The Real and Cyberworld

Dear Purnima,

I find I’m missing having a nice, long chat with you.  It’s been ages since we last went for coffee.  Let’s try and get together next week sometime. 

I found this video about the water shortages in India that I thought you might enjoy, if that’s even the right word for it.  It all looks terribly futile to try and provide clean drinking water for the increasing masses of humanity that populate the planet (7 billion people on the planet soon), and water is just one of the issues humankind needs to address, but I’m afraid that it will increasingly be a vital matter for populations all around the world.

*PBS India Water Crisis 2020 Update:

Is there any escape from the impending nightmare ?  Isn’t there some hole in cyberspace that we can jump through and be whisked instantaneously to another dimension ?

And will the Americans ever let Julian Assange live in peace ?  Rumor has it that his next revelations will concern the Bank of America and its shady dealings.

Hope to see you soon !



Julian Assange Update 2020:

Journalist or Spy: See below The Carrier Pigeon whose traditional role was to convey messages transformed into a Spy Pigeon with camera, Germany 1914-1918, from The Spy Museum Washington DC:

Champion of Government Transparency or Dangerous Rogue: Six Leaks (repeat fast)

The Spy Museum, Washington DC- Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

BBC: Why is Assange A Wanted Man

Wikileaks published hundreds of thousands of documents leaked by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.They revealed how the US military had killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan.Files from the Iraq war showed that 66,000 civilians had been killed and that prisoners had been tortured by Iraqi forces.

Why Snoop, Why Spy, Why Reveal: Citizens Should Know What Their Government is Upto. A Free Press is the cornerstone of a Democracy and It is their duty to Reveal when the balance between Transparency and Secrecy has tipped the scales.

Assange Documentary: Journalist or Spy – 📰 Julian Assange: Journalist, publisher, info warrior … spy? | The Listening Post (Full)

Confessions: I Kissed A Girl And I Liked It

Dear Roger,

Your video clip on the water shortages in India, is much too close to home. The slum colony they mentioned is indeed next door to every posh neighborhood and the situation is dire. As the clip mentions, the city(Delhi) is growing at a haphazard and accelerated scale far outpacing the basic infrastructure which is stretched to its limits. I too can envision revolts and mayhem (as the video speculates) as the majority of the 16 million inhabitants anxiously call around town chasing the high priced alternative private water truck for a few bucketfuls to cover their basic sanitary needs. All I remember is my grandfather shouting that the tap must be turned off while we brush our teeth (from running the country all he was left with at retirement was running the life of one impertinent pre-teen), and I holler the same to my kids. So, I guess we have to ingrain water preservation into the psyche of society and in the meanwhile pray that the pundits have some miraculous alternative up their sleeve to relieve us from calamity!

There was an excellent interactive exhibit at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich about our fast dwindling fresh water resources and conservation of this precious resource created specifically for young children to educate them about water conservation through play that I dragged Tara to. Unfortunately in India, the place in dire need for education about water conservation, I found such few resources expended to educate the next generation, specifically our youth that I wanted to lift the Swiss museum with all it’s exhibits and bring them to our kids in India, perhaps the cyber world will make that a reality one day as national boundaries and transportation within become irrelevant. See below the fabulous Swiss National Museum in Zurich:

As for my holiday season, unfortunately, it’s been the lowest point for me yet. It’s not just the cold and dismal gray skies, it’s the lack of friends and family and having people you love and care for around you. I have made a promise to myself that from this point onwards(as soon as possible), I will ensure that I am always be surrounded by a party; song, dance, theatre, theatrics dragging in every possible person (who has the misfortune to be associated with me) and compelling performance (I of course, will always be permitted two appendages – a ludicrous nose and six fat pota-toes that i will demand be massaged by one and all), yes a mini Versailles!

So, in order to feel a bit more at home in frosty Geneva, I filled my house with nostalgic Bollywood tunes of yesteryear (we are talking OLD) and reminisced as these poignant Hindi-Urdu-hindustani verses filled the air, covering every crevasse they travelled right up the nostrils (no longer blocked) and came flowing out. Once again, I struggled to delve deeper into the words, the lines I knew by rote, to extract the exact meaning so I may delve into my culture, my soul. Most of the verses were in Hindustani, which is the popular language of India and combines Urdu and Hindi. Urdu is a language which evolved from Persian (which was the court language under the Mughal emperors of India) mixed with the local dialect, making an intimate connection with the community and eventually the language used by the local population (over the more formal Persian) and written in the Perso-Arabic script. Hindi, on the other hand has a Sanskrit basis and is written in the Devanagari script. Now, Hindustani, as I see it (and Roger for gods sake don’t base your world according to Bart/moi),which is really the popular language of India is a combination of Hindi with its Sanskrit basis and Urdu with its Persian basis combined with flavors from the local dialects (Punjab, Bengal, Bihar, UP etc.). This is the spoken language and the language of film and media. The way I see it is that it does appear to me to be a deliberate effort to bifurcate a culture/language; when it is written in the Perso-arabic script, with archaic abundance of Persian words its Urdu and when its written in the Devanagari script strictly attempting to confine itself to the Sanskritized version (and thereby omitting the essence of any language the cultural reference points considering its been a joint culture for a thousand years from the time of the Sultanate) it’s Hindi. When the language of the people is really Hindustani, a combination of the two, a magical space where two ancient cultures Persian and Vedic/Sanskrit overlap, combine. So, I went in search of a Hindi-Urdu dictionary so that I may delve deeper into this magical space. 

What I found was both expected and unexpected. I found the word “mausam” (which means weather) in both the Hindi dictionary written in Devanagari script and in the Urdu dictionary written in the Perso-Arabic script meaning of course exactly the same thing, weather, as expected. However, what left me flabbergasted was the complete inadequacy of both the Hindi and Urdu dictionaries when describing words relating to the new world, the Internet, cyberspace, email ect. I struggled to find a word, a reference and found almost none. Infact, the Oxford dictionary(my bible) for Urdu had the word “E-mail” in English and it’s translation into Urdu was not even transcribed in the perso-arabic script, it was merely repeated in English as E-mail! Absolutely horrifying? It seems as though it has been decided that these tech related words which are so much a part of our popular parlance are to be completely kept out of the realm of “other” languages. Imagine a world where the nations are moving away from each other at warp speed, where no one is able to comprehend or communicate with each other not because they speak different languages but because they inhabit different universes which have no interconnections, no bridges. When there is no communication and connection, there is complete desensitization. Then what would prevent the “pushing of the button”, we do it to cattle all the time. Doesn’t it give you goose bumps?

Still on language and the innate interconnectedness of communities, I discovered that the French word for medicine is “comprimes” (which refers to the structure, what it comprises of) and of course the English word is “tablet”, (a form, a shape). The Hindustani word is “dawa”(which does not refer to form or structure and can be used for medicine across the board), which upon consulting my favorite online dictionary, I discovered was derived from Hebrew. My French teacher(who is also a student of Arabic) later informed me that “dawa” is the Arabic word for medicine. So, you see, we all started off as neighbors(i know you are thinking of the Ice age)!

Back to the old nostalgic Hindustani music playing on my stereo (computer), I have a confession… Roger, you have been a good friend, mentor (encouraging my fledgling forays into writing) and now I beg you to play the role of priest (you would look dapper in that white collar). As I downloaded the music onto my iphone, a close friend called and invited me for a coffee. I went scampering across snowy Park Bertrand, filled with my music, hoping to share these poignant moments/words with a friend from a common culture, (one who has Persian as her basis). See below Parc Betrand, Geneve with my kids:

Upon reaching the coffee shop, in my (pantingly) excited tone I asked her to take one earbud of the iphone, share the music and the moment, and help me to transcribe the words.We sat together and translated the words of this romantic song where the poet smitten to his beloved was describing her every feature in melodic verse: Jaam the intoxicating drink, nectar (he refers to drinking from her eyes), Zulf, which is the poetic equivalent of hair rather like tresses(Hindustani/Persian have the same word and connotation) which he praises, and Najma, the jewel that he attributes to her voice. Do check out this beautiful song by Mohd Rafi a glimpse of another world (Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabaat ki kasaam). Do see my friend Neesha (as Purnima)that image of the other world, which we share, where the Mughal (Indo-Persian) motifs, architecture, dress, jewelry, art, language, poetry and music combine with the colors, the flavors and the essence of India:

My Friend Neesha Singh in a Mughal Setting-Photo curtsey Neesha Singh

Mere mehboob mujhe teri mehboob ki kasam – Mhd Rafi ( My mother always said I looked like the actress Sadhana – see me as the heroine of yesteryear Sadhana in the video clip)

 As I sat across my friend in our little corner of the coffee shop, I hummed out the song, the verses and we took turns translating the Hindi and the Urdu. Then suddenly in the midst of of this excitement, she pensively covered her mouth with her hands, and as I stared across our little table into her eyes…I was spun out of space, time. My brain was in a spin, blurred, unable to identify the gender, the sexual identity(it’s incredible how much of the sexual identity is enmeshed in “Maya” or illusion, a play of the mind), it seemed as if for a moment all was ambiguous and all I perceived was the persona as distinct from the physical self…AND I had an Alex moment (Madagascar the movie where Alex views his best buddy Marty the Zebra as a t-bone steak). Yes, I found my claws sharpened, my jaws where they had no business to be (all this of course was playing out in my brain, I was still physically seated very properly across the table). Do check me out as Alex the lion (and my best friend Marty the Zebra) in the two videos from Madagascar the movie below:

I blamed it on the striated fur coat she was wearing, I was driven back to the WILD, I blamed it on the music, the grey skies, the loneliness… but there it was staring me squarely in the face, I had just pounced on my best buddy Marty (at least mentally) and the heavens will never forgive that! Fortunately for me, Marty had no clue (or did she?) and the moment passed like so many many other moments. But, it certainly had my mind ticking, Tell me Roger, if you were to describe me, paint me with your most colorful brush, would anyone be able to identify my gender purely from my pen (persona)? I think not. In fact, I suspect they might be quite surprised expecting something exactly the opposite. I’m leaning more and more towards my friend who is compiling the modern day Kamasutra titled “It’s all in the mind”.

Now, i would not have bothered with the above incident all that much if this was not preceded by (what now seems to my hyperactive mind) a pattern. There was that hairdresser with the sumptuous derrière (a Kim Kardashian double), whose every move, twist and sway caught my eye, what was that !?! I like them BIG, I like them CHUNKY

I like ’em chunky

I like ’em big

I like ’em plumpy

I like ’em round

With something, something

They Like my sound

They think I’m funky

Yesss I like them BIG, I like them CHUNKY!!

There is something about large women lolling in the sun eating juicy succulent grapes.  Do check out Big and Chunky below- Madagascar 2 ):

Then there was the woman, the first one ever, with whom I was besotted, for whom this following song seems to be written: I kissed a girl and I liked it the taste of her cherry chapstick. Do check me out as Katy Perry below.

Katy Perry- I kissed a girl and I liked it

Yes, once before, I kissed a girl and I liked it! It made me hot, it made me steam, it made me very very excited…

So what if that too was in my imagination… the person, the situation, the feelings were real…AND I liked it!! 

Back to the our second favorite subject, Cyberlaw. Could thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears, expressed/communicated online (though never pursued, realized in the real world) have legal implications/liabilities in the real world? Could the above (a girl kissing a girl and liking it) be construed as deviant behavior appealing to the prurient interest of the netizens and thus have legal implications for me as I sit silently punching away at my computer in a distant shore? Could it be possible that instead of applying the “real” world laws onto the cyberworld, we fall into the web of cyberlaws impacting our real lives. Have we come to a point where our dreams and phantasies can be censored? Je pense, oui, to all the above. However, the most interesting part of this being that the cyberlaws would be imposed not just on our avatars but the underlying real person in the real world based on the fact that the real person subsists predominantly online( believe it or not, a number of people spent the majority of their waking hours online working, playing, living) and thus transferring jurisdiction to the online realm, online court. After all, after a certain point, if that is where his/her predominant activities lie, and there is substantial time spent inhabiting it, he or she would come under the jurisdiction of that realm and be subjected to its laws in both the real and cyberworld. Now that’s what I call AWESOME!

Goodnight sweet dreams and many kisses… i’m off to meet Moto Moto (which can be translated in Hindustani/Punjabi as Fat, Fat!)


Dear Purnima,

Wow, confessional !  Not a role I ever imagined for myself, and no, I would find that high, white, starched and stiff collar far too restrictive and debilitating. And besides confessing to a priest has far too many undertones of contrition and regret where the superior, judgemental  attitude of the cleric is juxtaposed to the humble, downtrodden stance of the confessant.  No, I would far rather play the role of an equal footing, non-judgmental confident.

I can imagine how dismal celebrating the end of the year holidays must have been feeling so very isolated, uncared for, and far from family and friends who love and care for you.  Quite understandable that you would find refuge in the music and nostalgia of your culture, and where that experience eventually led you was fascinating.  My first reaction was, “Did Marty pounce back?”, but in rereading your email, I assume not.  Will it remain one of those moments of lucidity that stroll incessantly through your consciousness and  give birth to so many fantasies ?, or will it …..?

And to answer your question about whether one would be able to determine your sexual orientation purely from your portrait (characteristics) ?  A written description might prove to be very ambiguous indeed, but in my estimation there is far too much tantalizing femininity in you that would be very difficult to omit from any characterization.

As for kissing someone of the same sex and liking it, I can certainly understand the appeal and seductiveness a woman can have for another woman, but I am saying that from the perspective of a male that has always adored and revered the opposite sex.  For my part, I have never had the experience of humming to myself, “I kissed another guy and I liked it.”  The only time I even came close to that was when I was in the fifth grade and spent the night with a cousin who suggested that we kiss each other as a form of practice for when we were able to kiss girls.  I didn’t especially like it.  But I do recall absolutely loving and longing for the kisses bestowed on me by an older girl a few years later.

And while I have rarely been attracted to another male,  I do remember a young and striking saxophone player touring with the Dave Bruebeck Quartet back in the 80’s that could have turned my head in the proper circumstances.  My only first-hand brush was a rather uncomfortable and unpleasant event one evening in Ashland, Oregon.  A teacher from northern California frequently sat in on my French classes.  We often talked after class and he frequently invited me to dinner.  After one such invitation, he announced to his wife that he was going to walk me home.  I though nothing of it at the time, but on the way down the hill to my place, he stopped to urinate in a field and then invited me to caress him.  I was shocked, but in a way not surprised, and found the whole experience rather revolting.  Maybe it was his age and his demeanor, but I flat out told him that I had absolutely no interest in any physical contact with him.  I told him that I considered him a friend and would continue to think that way about him, but our relationship was never the same after that incident.  

And back to our second, or third favorite topic, the internet.  I’ve been listening to NPR’s Morning Edition in the afternoons while working on my latest remodeling project (aren’t those iPhone apps wonderful ?) and yesterday I heard an interview with a young American writer of Indian descent who has just published a new book about India.  It was a fascinating interview and his cultural ambiguity with one foot in America and the other in India so closely parallels your own.  You can read the article and even listen to the interview from the link below:

He had some very perceptive analyses about the class system in India and how it differs substantially from the social ladder in America, but that, ironically, the tables are turning and he finds that India is fast becoming the land of opportunity where dreams are realized and that America is turning into a stratified, static and unhopeful place.

I may come into Geneva on Friday and would love to have coffee with you.  I’ll let you know tomorrow.  We’ve got a lot to share.

Tender hugs,



Dear Roger,

Thank you for forwarding the article, Anand Giridharadas is the name I anxiously search for in my morning Herald Tribune. I love his writing style, his ideas and find each article different, informative and interesting. Roger, it is really uncanny that you forward this link to me, we must be connected by an invisible cord, for I’ve lifted my pen to write to you about this Indo-American writer many-a-times. Now I see that this fascinating Indo-American writer and I also share a story (we are the product of “Two Nations”, North and South India), it would be VERY fun to chat with him!

Roger, It looks like we will be up in the mountains (finally) skiing this Friday, is it possible for you to make that trip Saturday instead? I really look forward to catching up!

See you this week I hope!


Dear Purnima,

Are you sure it’s his writing and not his penetrating and debonair eyes that make you scour your IHT each morning in search of his articles ?  I thought the picture of him on the NPR site was enchanting .  But, I was terribly impressed by the interview he gave on NPR and his analysis of India and the US (By the way, I just read a story in Le Monde about how Indian entrepreneurs are buying up huge parts of London and British industry).

I hope the weather improves for your skiing outing tomorrow.  What about Monday morning?  I have a French lesson in Nyon that finishes at 10:30 and I can probably be back to Geneva by 11 or 11:15.  I have to be at the airport by 1:00 or so, but that would give us time for a good chat over coffee.  I’ll confirm Sunday evening.

Enjoy the slopes and keep your eyes open for a cute bi-cultural ski instructor, of either gender !

See you Monday,


Envoyé : mercredi 5 janvier 2011 23:46

À : Roger Stevenson

Objet : Re: Confessions XXX


Dear Roger, Monday 11:15 works perfectly, look fwd to seeing u then!

And, i am always looking out for interesting wildlife, the alpine variety that pops its head curiously out of its ice cave as it sees me whizzing by thinking…”now what would a tropical bird many miles away from Bharatpur be doing in these snowy heights…hmmm dinner or dance or both?” works even better for me for i generally like to dance before dinner yum yum!

See u Monday



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 #32*

Dinner, Gods and Demons, Paris, Property, Cyberlaw, Assange and Tom Dispatch


Dear Roger,

It was my pleasure to have you and the family join me at home for dinner! I do hope we can plan a repeat upon their return from their around the world adventures.

The dinner provided me with endless ammunition for the Great Inquisitor (my French teacher), I had much to relate, many new French words to learn and it was fun. I described the evening in detail (in my fragmented French), the dinner, the food and the table, the handicraft animals placed in front of each diner posing as their napkin holder and virtual persona. See the handicraft bronze animals using the ancient Dokra metal cast lost wax technique a method still practiced across the tribal belt in India in the link below:

The table was distinctly divided into two with 3 personas on each end, on one end was the elephant signifying grandeur and royalty (N), on her right was the Barasingha (A), a magnificent deer (cerf) found in India’s great sanctuaries which stands tall and powerful, with twelve horns(dooze cornes), one of the most coveted trophies of the land (lucky lucky Roger), across the Barasingha is the delicate and beautifully decorated little pony (C).

Chk out the Barasingha below:


Barasingha –Red List – Population decreasing

Remnants of The Raj-Barasingha-Viswanathan House-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

And across the table from the Gods, sat the demons, with me at the head! There was my animal, that appeared to be a horse with a odd bump, upon which I imposed my idea of the Unicorn(Licorne). I was the fantasy animal that roams in your dreams and night-mares, il est pas vraie. To my right sat my dear friend, you were another ambiguous creature that appeared to be a combination of several (elements de beaucoup d’animaux), a Chimera (Chimere)! Such a creature, at least in Greek mythology is often linked to the dark side…and then across you was charming V, a wild boar (Sanglier), a fierce looking creature that can kill if you happen to fall in its path/charge. A delightful animal, a delicious one, il est bien pour le chasser et pour le viand!

So, the Unicorn morphs into Ravana, the demon king, who in the great Indian epic Mahabharata, abducts the wife of Rama and wisks her away to his kingdom Lanka (I have my own fairy frog that i intend to abduct from a city not too far). Ravana, through great penance, meditation and learning acquired the weapons of the Gods, he then used them to tyrannize the three worlds convinced that he was invincible (check me out laughing with all my ten heads below).


But Roger, I’m now going to turn the tables on the charming ladies across, as the demons turn back into Gods. In Indian mythology, there is a famous story about Hiranyashipu a demon who like Ravana acquired much power and was granted the boon/grant from the Gods that he would not be defeated by man, animal or beast, indoors or outdoors, on the earth or in the sky, and neither during day or night. Well, as usual this power translated into arrogance and tyranny and lord Vishnu (one of the Hindu trinity) was invoked to vanquish him. Vishnu came in the form of a Chimera  (Narasimha) yes, neither man, animal nor beast, he placed the demon on his thigh so he was suspended resting neither on Earth nor in the sky, it was in the veranda which was neither indoors nor outdoors and it was during twilight which was neither day nor night, and Lord Vishnu in the form of the Chimera tore the demons entrails out killing him on the spot. 

The story of Hiranyakshipu and Narasimha:

 Video clip:

Narasimha Asian Art Museum SF: 

Narasimha Asian Art Museum SF – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

The other story, relating to my diner companion on the left, is about Hiranyasha, the demon brother of Hiranyakshipu who also acquired great power and submerged the Earth into the Oceans. Here Vishnu takes the form of a wild boar (yes Sanglier), grows to an enormous size and rescues the Earth retrieving it from the ocean with his horns and snout. The wild boar is much worshipped across India as a Vishnu avatar. So, here we are, the demons turned Gods ready for dinner ( for even Ravana is worshipped in some parts of India as a great learned (demi) God, with a story told from his side).

See below images of tribal depictions of The Indian Elephant, Horse/Pony and Varaha (Vishnu in the Boar Avatar) at The Craft Museum in New Delhi, India and Asian Art Museum, San Francisco:

See below a majestic elephant from The Kabini Nature Reserve in Karnataka, India:

Kabini, Karnataka, India-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

It’s fun to play bad, do check me out in this clip of Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood:

George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone:

And its me again, this time as The Governor, chk it out:

Terminator 2 – Bad To The Bone (Arnold Schwartzeneggar):

So, after much excitement, the dinner ended and you all went home.

See below a very unglam setting in the same room and at the same (albeit reduced) table of groggy adults at breakfast with the kids (and yes fruit loops journey with us across the globe), our real monsters, the monsters we love:

The Dining Room-Geneva-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

I was left sad and lonely in cold, damp grey Geneva. 8 Below is not an exaggeration (even though its celsius). To compound my woes, Froggie left me. Yes, froggie completely, totally ditched me telling me to find someone else as he had done. Of course I threatened my opponent to a duel, of course I threatened to abduct him and of course i warned him of my ten heads and invincibility. But somehow, it seemed to make him clearer in his mind to hop far far away, all the way to India! But before he left, he reminded me that this is what happens when you neglect your possessions, you no longer have claim! The reason I took that train urgently to Paris was because I sensed a finality in his words…””Obviously you neglect your property”! this sent my mind and body in a tizz, I could not have been more quickly jolted out of my slumber, my property, my possession, my possession! I tried to reclaim, reassert, renew… but to no avail. 

Property… what exactly did froggie mean? I would need to embark on a journey into the froggie brain (is that one wild ride!) to better understand my predicament. Property as i understand it is something owned by a person (or entity), real (like land) and personal(like a computer). Personal property is both both tangible and intangible. Tangible personal property being something that can be physically possessed and is referred to as “Chose in Possession”, and intangible personal property being something that cannot be physically possessed but one that you can claim  through law, have enforced through action, this is called “Chose in Action”. Now, I’ve read and used the word “chose” innumerable times, understanding it to be a thing and more but never quite grasping the real essence of this word. The legal dictionary does not help as it does not define chose. that’s because (yes the light bulb flashed above my head in disco lights) its a French word! I have used the word “chose” in French but never connected it to the property term “chose”. Eureka, now it all fits!

With a lot of help from my French teacher, I finally covered half the references she so painstakingly had listed out for me describing the word chose. Chose: Designe un object, une idee, un concept ou une abstraction sans avoir a l’identifier ou a le nom. An object, idea, concept or abstraction without an identity or name, basically the significance of the word chose depends upon the context of the phrase. For example:

(Object) C’est quoi cette chose? (une table) What is that thing? a table

(An idea) Il a tres bien pris la chose/ He has taken it very well.

((Concept) La chose que je deteste le plus au monde c’est l’hypocrisie/ The thing I detest the most in the world is hypocrisy.

(Expression) Appeler les choses par leur nom/ call a thing by its name (call a spade a spade)

Then I came across the fatal “Soigner ses choses”, to take care of ones things. Here the “thing” could be books, pets or relationship signifying possession, property, ownership (Ring, Ring!!). In many cases the owner loses property(premises) when he looses possession by ceding it to another who occupies it for a specified time thus acquiring a claim by adverse possession. Do you remember Baron Tavernier from our first few email exchanges, well one story is that the famous Kohinoor diamond was cleaved from The Great Mughal diamond (the size of half a pigeons egg) and this French jeweler was the last to have seen the Great Mughal diamond shown to him personally by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. There has never been a mention of The Great Mughal diamond since. In my story, the one written in ink fed by the waters of lake Geneva, Tavernier never really relinquished possession, I guess the Kohinoor always remains his to enjoy encased in its glass case posing as a copy (for the museum and the world) at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva!

I find that the word chose seems to be so expansive, cover such a vast cross section, everything from thing, ideas, action that it might be the ideal word, terminology to incorporate and to use to define Intellectual property and its relationship (lack of) to the internet/cyberspace. Perhaps there is a need to explore the concept of cyberspace in another dimension, alternate language that might have tools built within to assist us. Another justification for me to learn French before I leave Geneva!

As I mull over the question of “Who owns the Internet” for the thousandth time, and surf endlessly, a wonderful window opens up and I find myself at Fordham University attending a lecture on Intellectual property, who owns the Internet, by Markus Muller (yes, this one is not the one with the eye patch that chased me from Brussels to the Bay Area) where he addresses all the pertinent issues and educating the audience on the basics of the internet at the same time (a very good article in the Fordham law journal by Markus Muller on Intellectual property – find link below):

This is what I gleaned from my sinuous surf:

The Internet is an American “thing” built and funded by the Americans. The use of the word “thing” is very interesting, is it a place , is it an idea, an expression or a concept? Would we be more accurate if we re-coined it to Cyber-chose? Don’t you agree that language sometimes restricts us, by compelling us to define an idea by a limited restricted set of words which might not possess the ability to express the ideas of tomorrow, of changing technology. Then one stumbles across a word like “chose”, one that encompasses both the tangible and the intangible, both space and place (choses corporelles et choses incorporelles) and seems to fit this realm we are so attempting to define. Of course as I read Muller, I see that this “thing” property, real, personal, intellectual cannot be possessed by a single nation, no one nation can assert absolute sovereignty over something that might infringe anothers (the rest of the worlds) sovereignty.

According to Muller, there is an argument that the root server, the heart of the beast, is located in the US, that the top level domains  like “.com” and “.org”  as well as the country code domains like “.ch” (Switzerland) and “.eg” (Egypt) are controlled by the US and through this the US controls the Net. What if you fell into the US “do not like list” as an individual or a state and your domain was sold to your rival who erased you from the Net causing you to cease to exist, your virtual identity and all those that you carried with you under your domain .ch, would this not be a conflicting sovereign issue? What about the instance where two competing governments belonging to the same state request for the domain to be issued to their authority, would the “best friend of…” win the day?

The United States of America – I guess It’s Good To Be The King (chk out out below on youtube):

Apart from the domain names, you have the IP (internet protocol) addresses, represented in a numeric value and as I understand it, are like the pulses under the #8 key of your telephone that send a message through the network that #8 has been dialed. In this instance your telephone number being your domain name and the underlying mechanism/pulses that get you dialed through the network being the IP. From our last communication, we know that Assange’s site Wikileaks was bumped off the domain “.org” but he continued to retain his IP address, a numeric translation through which his website can still be accessed. Finally, we should have a secure space, a decentralized structure that no authority can turn on and off at whim. This space belongs to no one and everyone, or does it?

Now conversely, every country has the power to control the ISP based on their soil, and block physical access to the internet. Websites can also be subject to regulation if a server is based on the ground (back to Wikileaks) arm twisting the website owners to comply who might have assets on the ground or interest in future relationships. However, there have been instances when the countries have influenced the websites compelling them to remove materials from their home sites and certainly from the country’s site, in some instances specifically blocking access to certain goods being sold to their citizens (subject of a prior email where Patricia from Paris can never access E-Bay for her (eg)Prada bag for a bargain), essentially blacking out the pathways for free access for their citizens. The question of course is, whose rights are being compromised and when did the citizens relinquish these property rights to the state?

The challenges faced by intellectual property law is that it is often inadequate when attempting to cover cyberspace. Thus US ownership of the internet is based on a number factors, apart from the fact that the core funding to develop the internet was sourced from the US (apparently some core research can be attributed to CERN here in Geneva according to Muller) the fact that the root servers are US based, ICANN which controls the world wide network through a series of contracts is California based, and controls the registries at the top end. However, Muller reminds us that the root file is a set of algorithms which cannot be copyrightable as they are an idea and not an expression and similarly the internet protocols are not patentable as they were not filed within the one year statutory period. Thus even though the property claims seem to fall by the wayside by taking Mullers argument into account, I guess it does boils down to “who took care of his property”  did not relinquish possession, and continues to retain control of the same even though we are unable to identify exactly what property category the internet falls under. 

It’s late, almost time to rise but I have really enjoyed, reading learning surfing educating myself about area I’m very interested in but have much to learn but most of all writing to you during these dark silent hours. I hope you enjoy reading it as much!

Good night!


Julien Assange Update:


Dear Purnima,

What a delight to find your two emails waiting for me when we returned from our skiing adventure.  I am always blown away by your captivating and imaginative prose, filled with myriads of historical, mythological and just plain wonderful references and symbols. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!  I always do, my dear.   I am very serious when I say that you should really write “the great Twenty-First-Century novel “.

The skiing at L’Alpe d’Huez was minimal, but we had a great time anyway.  We rented a cosy, little chalet in a quaint little village down the road a bit from the resort.  The building was 200 years old, but had been remodelled with open beam ceilings and comfortable furnishings.  We really enjoyed having meals together and playing Saboteur together after dinner.

L’ Alpe d’Huez:

The snow was very hard because it had rained the week before.  The best skiing was on the lower slopes where they had snow making equipment, but the runs were very mild and at times a bit crowded.  All the upper runs were so icy that after one exploratory run to check them out, I decided that I would stay on the man-made snow and enjoy it a bit more.  I was just glad my new skis had excellent and sharp edges.  It also got progressively colder while we were there, which made spending too much time on the slopes a bit painful because of cold fingers.

I was shocked to read that your Froggie had moved on and left you behind, but curious about his statement that you “neglect your possessions”, as though he indeed were a possession or une chose.  Vraiment curieux de s’identifier avec un objet, une chose, qui par définition est immatériel et inanimé, but maybe that was simply his way of saying that he didn’t care for long-distance relationships and that even Geneva was too far away to allow you not to neglect him.  Has he found someone closer, someone who can be whisked off to India with him ?  It seems that he, not you, was lacking in his ability to truly love you and to endure any and every hardship necessary to hold on to you.

What will you do now ?  It doesn’t make much sense to pursue one of those cute, muscle-bound (or are they) instructors at the gym since your time in Geneva is relatively short.

Are you taking the kids skiing or are you staying in Geneva for Christmas ?  My son and his wife, are arriving on the 25th.  I wish you could meet them, but their time here is rather limited.  They are leaving already on the 28th for Spain and not coming back until the 10th, just two days before they fly home again.  They are very much Bay Area hippies, complete with tattoos, solid black dress and a hint of Satanism in their attire.  You could have some great discussions about who owns the internet with them.

Thanks for the article from Common Dreams on the Wikileaks charade.  I read Tom Dispatch, the original source of the article, all the time.  It now appears that the internet may have played a capital role in undermining the case against Assange by the two Swedish women who have accused him: their own comments on Twitter that were originally erased by them, but have been found and circulated anyway by interested hackers.  Speaking of hackers, why don’t we become cyber-hackers and delve into that murky world of undercover sleuthing, the world of Lisbeth Salander of Millennium fame?

And talking about Les Choses, I love this sketch by George Carlin about “Stuff”  His take on religion is wonderful too.

Lots of hugs and bisous,



Dear Purnima,

Thanks again for the absolutely “awesome” meal last night.  You were delicious to feast my eyes on and the food was equally tantalizing.  I thought you were in fine form last night, and I don’t think I have enjoyed conversation around the table so much in a long time.  I think the kids enjoyed playing together, as well.  We’ll have to try and do it again when the vagabonds return from their travels.

I kept looking for the little zipper on your neck (I didn’t want to appear too obvious), but you must have disguised it well, but I can just imagine you slipping through the Assange mirror into the lower depths of Helvetia and causing quite a stir. 

We’re off to L’Alpe d’Huez around noon.  I’m looking forward to getting back to the mountains.  More when we get back,

Gros bisous,



Dear Purnima,

Here’s the latest article from Tom Dispatch, and the introduction is revealing in that the US government has blocked access to the site from government computers.  Really quite shameful !  If I disappear down an Alice-like hole, you’ll know that I’ve joined the ranks of the new version of deep ecology and become a cyber pirate fighting for openness and transparency in all government dealings.

It would indeed be fun for you to meet my son, and for him, as well.  I’ll have to see what their schedule will allow.  They aren’t spending very much time here at all before they go to Barcelona.  I’ll keep you posted.

December 21, 2010
Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, A Shadow Government of Kindness

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: As this year ends with a remarkable spate of contributions and show of  support for this website, I offer one last deep bow of appreciation to all of you around the country and the world who have offered a helping hand and so assured us of a good 2011.  As of the 24th of December, the offer of signed books from Andrew Bacevich and Adam Hochschild will end (and only my book, The American Way of Warwill still be available in return for a contribution of $75 or more).  And speaking of helping hands, the TomDispatch crew — Joe Duax, Nick Turse, Andy Kroll, Timothy MacBain, and intern Jennifer O’Mahony — get a special bow from me.  I couldn’t begin to do it without you!  Finally, I want to offer thanks to Christopher Holmes, volunteer extraordinaire and eagle-eyed copyeditor, who helps keep TD remarkably error free.  He’s a superb example of the phenomenon that Rebecca Solnit discusses in her piece today.  Thank you, Chris!  See all of you again in January and here’s wishing you a fine holiday season.

I have a friend who sends a note every year in December, pleading with me to pen one upbeat, hopeful piece before the next year rolls around.  Mind you, I consider myself an upbeat guy in a downbeat world and, for me, when it comes to pure upbeatness, you couldn’t have beaten this week if you tried.  This was when my Oscar came in — or the equivalent on the political Internet anyway.  On December 7th, the State Department announced its brave decision to host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day in 2011. (“[W]e are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information…”)  Less than two weeks later, I learned that if you try to go to from a State Department computer, you can’t get there.  The following message appears instead: 

“Access Denied for Security Risk (policy_wikileaks) 

“Your requested URL has been blocked to prevent classified information from being downloaded to OpenNet.” 

OpenNet is what the State Department calls its unclassified Web system.  Maybe it should now consider changing that name as it prepares for World Press Freedom Day. (Small tip to State Department officials: remember that TomDispatch is just as good a read at home as at work!)  I’m sure this is all part of the Obama administration’s fabulous sunshine policy, that “new standard of openness” the president embraced on his first day in the Oval Office.  It’s certainly part of the U.S. government’s ridiculous attempt to bar its officials, contractors, and anyone else it can reach from the once-secret State Department documents that WikiLeaks is slowly releasing and that everyone else on Earth has access to. 

As for me in this holiday season, I couldn’t be happier.  Among those sites banned by the State Department, I’m sure in good company and, of course, you’re not likely to be banned if no one’s reading you in the first place.  And here’s the holiday miracle: somehow TomDispatch made it onto The List without revealing a single secret document or even hosting one at the site, evidently on the basis of having commented in passing on the WikiLeaks affair

So that’s the news here at TD when it comes to upbeat.  As for hope, hey, I’ve learned from the Bush years.  As they privatized war, I’ve privatized hope, farming it out to Rebecca Solnit, who from her first appearance at TomDispatch has filled the endowed Hope Chairbrilliantly.  It’s now nothing short of a tradition at this site that she have the last word of the year. 

So, as the eighth year of ends, it’s up the chimney with me.  Enjoy the Solnitsian present I’ve left under the tree — and to all a goodnight (until January 4th when TomDispatch returns).  Tom

Have a wonderful evening,




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 #31*

In the Belly Of The Beast – The UN and Modigliani – The Spy Museum and Snowden


Dear Roger,

I revisited Coubert and l’Origine du Monde, and discovered that the art did not quite fit, the lines, the colors were somehow not really me. I would like to introduce you to Modigliani, an artist I have a deep connection with, one who seems to capture something essential, intrinsic, fleeting but familiar and very much more me. I have found myself somehow reflected in his art, as though he had me in mind as he lifted his brush and mixed his palette. This Italian artist who spent most of his life in Paris, I met and became intimate with in my favorite city, New York. Yes, another ghost, but one that captures my true colors. Do check out Red Nude below and tell me what you see.

See below a woman’s deepest desire…to be painted by Modigliani’s brush:

See below a Snippet of Modigliani- Red Nude: Nu couché

Amedeo Modigliani, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Amedeo Modigliani, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ok, so I flatter myself and imagine the reflection of the red nude when I pout into the mirror, warm… no… sizzling, sensual and sexy. But then I look again and I see Coraline, yes that impertinent 12 year old with the determined stare and impish glare and I find myself yet again in Modigliani’s closet as the Head of a Young Girl, one looking achingly at the mirror waiting to grow up. Do check me out below:

Modigliani- head of a young girl

By Modigliani –, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Roger, what I found in Modigliani was something i’ve been struggling to translate, a fleeting glimpse, a flicker or as we say in Hindustani “Jhalak” (झलक), something intimate, familiar. What would be the French (word) equivalent je ne sais pa quoi? In fact, talking about French and Hindustani, I seem to have stumbled upon something quite radical! I have discovered that even though English and French are both written in the same (Roman) script, the letters translate into completely different sounds and neither the French nor the English know that the other universe exists. It’s as though they reside in parallel universes and believe theirs is the only true one! Guess what, I come along and hear them both, am able to hear them both, and realize that even though they use the same alphabet they are doing so for completely different sounds. If I were to translate this into Hindi (Sanskrit as the basis) using the Devanagari script (and uncannily enough the script provides for the different sounds attributing it to different letters), I would write French and English using completely different letters, to the extent that it would appear to be two completely different translations. For example the letter “D” is used in English as “ड” whereas the same letter “D” is used in French as “द”. Now if I were to translate the sound for David in English I would use the “ड” whereas if I were to transcribe it in French I would use  “द”. Similarly for the letter “T”, in French it would be “त” whereas in English the same letter would most accurately be written as “ट”. So Tara would be written using completely different letters representing the distinctly different sounds of the same word in English and French. What is ironic is that if you run this by a bi-lingual English-French person, whether they have an English or French basis, they do not see the distinction as they recognize their universe to be the true one! My proposal (as usual the most radical of all options) is to use the Devanagari script to write both English and French, fun no???

Talking about adventures, journeys through language and terrain, I have much to fill you in with about My trip to the United Nations, which stands majestically in the heart of Geneva.

Amin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Draped by flags and adorned by fountains (, seemed like a beast just for a moment to be asleep flaring open its nostrils momentarily as i slipped into its being, past the guards and the scanners, right into its inner opening. There I waited endlessly for a friend who would ferry me down the esophagus to the belly of the beast. I was getting anxious as time flew by and I was in danger of being unmasked. Finally, an officer walked upto me, and after looking me up and down asked what I was waiting for. So, in my sweetest sing song voice (lifted from my French teacher), I said I was waiting for a friend who had the entry pass. The officer then promptly marched upto the computer system to investigate this “friend” whom he did not find in their employee list. He marched back to me, looking me up and down, lifted his Walkie Talkie,(as I held my breath) and seemed to churn out instructions to another in…German (yes, I remember Achtung! Achtung! from the commando war comics of my youth). He then looked at me with piercing eyes as his clothes transformed into a dull grey, and he said “run, run”, but I responded how could I run and go past the UN barriers as I still did not have my pass or ID. He then almost physically seemed to push me through the gate prompting me to run as he trained his gun down my back. Thank god for Hollywood, I recognized the scene from The Inglorious Basterds and I recognized the baddies (check it out below), and realized his game plan… entrapment! He would first ask me to run, and then when I was halfway over the fields he would summon the soldiers to shoot me down…boom, bang, uugghh.

Inglorious Basterds:

Fortunately, my (mis) adventure with the Germans ended peacefully as my friend arrived just in time for the rescue and I sailed all the way down to the belly. Here I encountered characters from across the galaxy, yes, a scene from Star Wars (The Bar Scene), where every life form draped in all their glorious finery was present and parading up and down the halls exhibiting their wares, artifacts, foods, clothes culture to share with the other life forms. I looked around in wonder and amazement at the exotic dishes, fabulous feasts spread out in front of me. I sampled as many as I could recognize as being from my planet the others I passed silently but with a smile as they encouraged me to take a bite of what looked like fish with gigantic eyeballs winking at every passerby. I was keen to see the people and their foods, the sights and smells, the colors and flavors, some welcoming some huddled like the penguins(Russians) from Madagascar the movie around their food stalls. I struggled to peek at their secret table and their mysterious spread, but they seemed to form a barricade all the while whispering at each other (the script in the bubble over their heads was completely indecipherable but did take me back to my favorite comic book Tintin, (bbbbaadddiiiees again!) as their eyes darted all across the room. I guess the table had some interesting foodstuffs or perhaps it was laden with covert designs accessible only to select eyes. As i passed the spicy Thai counter and tried to slip in through the penguin barricade, I thought I saw a bazooka, so i decided to drop that adventure and silently left the room. As I walked around the hall, I noticed that I was being followed, who could this be…I guess where there are Russians, there are the Americans! Why do all the baddies dress alike, the same overcoat/raincoat as though it were a prescribed baddie uniform. He trailed my every move, every pause and even peered into my booklet at I wrote down some numbers… an American for sure! Do you not think they would have had enough chasing me (Captain Jack Sparrow in the Black Pearl/Jeep Grand Cherokee) up and down California on highway 280 for 8 long years, now they were here shadowing me in the bowls of the beast!! See below Penguins of Madagascar in their secret hideout:

Unable to shake the Yankee off my trail, I quickly made my way to the ground floor where I encountered the Italians. Unmistakable, distinct, smooth, quiet, covert as they whispered into their cell phones which they slipped out of their slickly tailored suits. Each one a wanna-be Travolta, the unmistakable swagger, the smile, the eyes that check out the “good stuff”, I was immediately transported back to Place Du Molard, my favorite square in Geneva, bordered by Italian restaurants/cafes. Where the waiters with their slender waists seem to dance around the tiled floor of Place du Mollard transforming the slate and illuminated glass tiles into a snazzy discotheque. Yes, Place du Mollard becomes Travolta’s dance floor every night, complete with the disco ball, as the waiters twirl and assassinate you with their deadly moves and flying trays, and the waitresses pierce you with their weapons carefully concealed in their padding…oops, bump, ooouch (return of the pink panther). Do check out the irresistible Italians below in John Travolta’s Stayin Alive:

Saturday Night Fever- Travolta

Place du Mollard Geneva Switzerland – At night the tiles turn into a disco dance floor fit for Travolta:

Having covered the globe I’m left with the French, and what more can I say about the French! The froggies are everywhere, no I’m not paranoid…they are everywhere. I wish I could tell you our favorite family story (one we make up) where there was a world race to reach Mars, and the various nations try to outwit each other to do so. Upon finally making their way to Mars and encountering a Martian, they discover that he has a French accent (of course he also has a curly mustache). Yes, the French got there first! So, since we have to live with a cocky bunch of amphibians in our midst, I have taken it upon myself to make froggie hop, and its a spectacular sight…keep watching. Of course, as we know, they have a mug shot of me pasted at every signpost across Froggie-land which says “Wanted”. Yes, it is for that one Euro(darn that toll booth machine), that I will forever be on their most wanted list. Unfortunately, one can’t even call them baddies, they might feel flattered!

The final encounter was with the Chinese as I tried to make my way out of the building I was reminded of the mini-train that tours Geneva choo-chooing all over old town as its many tourists peer out of the cubicles viewing Geneva’s magical sights. However, my encounter with the Mini-train was not all that cosy. I found as I made my way up through Veille Ville up Rue du Perron towards the famous hotel Les Armures which has been frequented by Carter, Clinton, Kasparov and Cloony towards home, I invariable encountered this mini-train with its cabin full of Chinese tourists distinctive with their hat and cameras clicking away as though they had spotted an Amish (You do know the story of the Amish, who live till this day in Pennsylvania their 17th century world without electricity and technology traveling by horse drawn wagons and wearing their dark clothes and bonnets), I sympathized as I felt that while they were carrying on with their daily lives, they too were being “spotted”, chased, clicked! I feel with each click the assassins bullet and did my best to dodge them, get out of the way but often to no avail. However,  I successfully dodged the bullets, the assassins, the secret agents, and left the UN building unscathed in a gust of odious wind. 

See below The Little Train, Geneva Switzerland:

Hope you enjoyed the adventure, I really hope to catch up next week. lots of love to all!


Dear Purnima,

Merci bien de ton petit Happy Thanksgiving !  C’était bien gentil !

Thanksgiving for vegetarians isn’t such a very special day.  I think we had

quiche instead.

We made a quick trip to Basel over the weekend.  I had only been there twice

before but  always just for a change of trains or to catch a plane from the

airport.  I had never really explored the city, but was delightfully charmed

by the downtown area with it’s pedestrian streets and quaint shops, and I

thought the system of trams and buses was really superb !  It reminded me a

lot of Copenhagen before they made the horrendous and rather stupid decision

to take all the trams out and replace them with diesel buses.  Why is it

that some city fathers seem far more enlightened than others ?

We ate in a wonderful Thai restaurant Friday night.

We went to the Tingley Museum for a special exhibit entitled “Under

Destruction” that focused on the negative elements of our mass-production,

consumer society.  It was interesting, but not very aesthetically pleasing.

It featured such items as a machine to crush empty beer bottles and two

large American cars in a time-lapse, extremely slow head-on collision.  The

two cars were slowly being forced into each other by huge hydraulic presses

that pushed them against each other at something like a millimetre a week.

Not quite as visually pleasing as a La Joconde, or a Modigliani, or a Monet

(By the way, you never told me if you made it to the Monet exhibit at the

Grand Palais on your last trip to Paris ???)

It started to snow quite hard just as we were leaving the museum, so we had

snowy roads and poor visibility all the way home (I had a hunch Friday

morning that we should have taken the train instead of driving), but my

trusty snow tires on the Toyota got us home in fine shape, just slightly

frazzled from the five hours on snowy roads.

And there is more snow predicted for tonight and all day tomorrow ! ! !

Hope you are doing ok.  Getting ready for the ski vacation to Zermatt ?  I’m

extremely jealous.  We are just going to L’Alpe d’Huez, but we’ve rented a

charming little chalet for the five of us, and with the new snow, it should

be a great ski vacation.

Hope to see you soon,

Hugs and bisous,


Dear Roger,

When I began my mail to you Thanksgiving morning I did not realize what the day lay in store for me… My grandmother, the one who invariably comes up in every conversation and the one for whom I charge back home (a reason why I call home home), one who has  played such a pivotal role in my life, raising me and moulding me, passed away on Thanksgiving. I must remember her and celebrate her life and so I did amidst my many tears streaming with the memories of a wonderful childhood and carefree youth with her as a pillar to learn from and lean on. So the mail to you that I left at greetings, I sent it along that evening from the Lutheran Church (doubling as our favorite little library) were I celebrated Thanksgiving with my children. 

Now that I am home, sad and very alone i find myself drawn back to my one constant, the keyboard, are you ready for a deluge of salty unforgivable mails, for all that the ocean throws up?


Dear Purnima,

I was so sorry to read about your beloved grandmother passing away.  From our conversations about her, I have somewhat of an idea of how much she meant to you and what a strong influence she was in your life.  I appreciate all the more your Thanksgiving greeting knowing that it was sent during your celebration of her life, but I’m curious as to why you chose to do so at the Lutheran Church ???

It must also be comforting for you that she really had her final wishes come true: to remain lucid almost up to the very end and to pass away peacefully in her sleep without suffering.  

And, it is always at times like these that those deeply-submerged memories come floating back to the surface, some bringing on a faint smile and others provoking tears.

I’m just wrapping up John Irvine’s latest novel, Last Night at Twisted River .  Did you read, or see the movie of, Cider House Rules or The World according to Garp?  Twisted River is very much about loss and coming to terms with loosing loved ones, but it’s also a long narrative with a cast of rather quirky and marginal characters as they move through life in Twentieth Century America, peppered with all the important events that have shaped American history over the years.  He manages to weave a rather zany scene of scattering the ashes of the father of the main character into a depiction of the reaction of mountain dwelling former loggers in New England to the events of 9/11.  But the book is largely about the effects of loosing someone and learning how to cope with it, if at all possible, and revisiting the many, many memories that other encounters in life inevitably stir up.

You know you don’t need to ask if I am ready for a deluge of emails from you.

Thinking of you,


Dear Roger,

It’s wonderful to get your mail at a time when I am especially down and feeling very lonely. Memories of my grandmother keep flooding back. It’s incredible how the most obscure thought trigger memories, which when unleashed flood the senses transporting one through time with all the sounds smell and touch as though it were occurring right here and now. I wish to remember and savor every moment of the time spent with someone as incredible, one who not only lived and contributed to the story of the sub continent over the last 100 years but in her and through her unravels the story of the world, of the Raj, of England and France, the World Wars, the struggle for independence, partition, the formation of the Republic (India). I hope to retain within me her words, her message (the one she carried in her heart) of humanity, for she guided me by example, showing me what it is to be human, to treasure and safeguard the qualities of love, liberty, balance, empathy and art (creative expression and appreciation). I hope to carry this message to the new world when our ship touches ground again… its already been a long journey but something tells me many adventures lie ahead, Sirens perhaps!

See below my very elegant and gentle grandmother Kowshiki Viswanathan now one with the spray from the waves of her beloved Pondicherry – An integral part of The Ballad of The South :

My Grandmother Kowshiki Viswanathan-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

In response to your question about “Why the Lutheran Church”, well that’s is an interesting story… Apart from the fact that they were hosting a special Thanksgiving dinner and the Church had a wonderful warm and joyful atmosphere (we were taken by a friend who arrived at my place to discover that I was in pieces and no dinner had been prepared), the perfect place to meditate on my grandmothers memories. However, there was another purpose, somewhere in my heart I sensed I might meet “The Librarian” as the lutheran Church also doubles as our favorite English language library, and the Librarian in our story holds a mysterious place… silently moulding our minds and charting our journey with her/his recommendations. The library is a place I have taken the children from the time they were ready to crawl, a dear place, another home one with a thousand doors leading us to our many adventures, through books, films and dvds. One of our favorite adventures being an internet game (Bookworm adventures) through which I taught my children English (spelling and vocabulary) as we journeyed down the “stages” exploring Greek Roman and Egyptian mythology. Yes, the final stage culminated with the fateful meeting with the Librarian and I will leave it to you to discover the rest. You see, I am on a lifelong quest in search of the librarian!

Hope to see you next week.


Dear Purnima

Merci mille fois de tes deux emails.

I agree that Modigliani’s females are more tantalizing models of feminine beauty and sensuousness ( I distinctly prefer the nude with loose hair on the same site  you linked to.  That direct and penetrating look from those magnificent eyes and the suggestive pose of her hand make her a much more seductive and intriguing femme.  The seeds of never-ending fantasies !)

I’ve got more to say about your descent into the depths of the UN and your encounter with the guards there, but not tonight.

I finished the John Irvine book I mentioned, and thoroughly loved it, especially the way he ended it.  Just when things seemed bleak and forlorn for the writer/main character (loosing your mother to a tragic accident, your father to a deranged cuckolded husband, your very best friend to an act of self-inflicted hirsute penitence and your beloved only son to a driverless blue Mustang on a snowy Colorado mountain pass, not to mention a wife — she saved him from going to Vietnam by having his baby and, thereby, providing him with a deferment from the military draft –, and a much loved fiancée doesn’t really leave one much room for hope and happiness) an angel of sorts drops out of the sky — Sky Lady — , for the second time, to succor and comfort him on his isolated island in the upper midwest.

Hope you had a good weekend.  Really looking forward to seeing you again,

Hugs and love from everyone here,



Great, see u tomorrow!

Btw, did u know that Assange of Wikileaks had registered Geneva as his place of residence. . To imagine that he lives here in Geneva, prowls these streets, tastes its chocolates (i think he should stay away from the sweet stuff for a while though) are these exciting historic times for the city or not?!? And to add Snowden (or “Snowed-In” as I like to call him) also overlaps with me 2008-2009 in Geneva! Whew Pirates chiefs of the galaxy call this home! I can’t imagine being in any other place right now as I see skull and crossbones stretched over the horizon. 

And Roger, did you ever notice that little zip that seems to hang from my neck, well go ahead if you dare you never know what you might discover… Assange in Wonderland?!?

The Story of Snowden the NSA contractor, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy…takes me to the fabulous and abs must visit SPY Museum in Washington DC (see pics pasted below) which has an entire exhibit devoted to him:

There is just not enough that can be said about Snowden his guts and his person drive, he saw something that he knew was patently wrong mass data gathering and surveillance of US citizens and residents and exposed it to the public at great personal risk. See below a clip about PRISM from the Snowden movie- the state authorized mass surveillance and accumulation of data.

The Verge – PRISM

What Snowden did was close to insanity resulting in a global manhunt as brilliantly portrayed in the Snowden movie but there are people so driven by their internal moral compass that they do not readily accept relinquishing things they treasure like this assault on personal liberties and violation of privacy. I would like to believe Assange (however cryptic he may appear) with his leaks to be on the same boat. It is only after Snowden and Assange that the world sat up and recognized how exposed and vulnerable we all are in this data driven, webbed, interconnected global universe bringing issues relating to privacy and security to the forefront. See below Snowden and The Spy Museum, Washington DC:

SPY Museum Washington DC -Photos by Purnima Viswanathan

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow, M gets back from India in time for dinner. 




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 #30*

Art, Sexxx, CensorshipL’Origine Du Monde


Dear Roger,

Really looking forward to the much anticipated sushi meal and can’t wait to check out your kitchen, a true labor of love! I also wish to show off my current avatar, David Coverdale, I now have the hair, the swagger the attitude (all minus the voice).

 The story of Grislidis Real was getting much too stale, but boy was it hot while it lasted! Roger, it was uncanny how the world morphed around me as i embraced the persona of Grislidis Real and strutted around Geneva, it was as though the universe was reading my thoughts and seeing the images I had painted even though it was all in my mind. 

However, this adventure has truly illuminated my mind and I have come away with a fascinating life lesson on the way men perceive women. In the hearts of men I find there is a deep dark fascination, awe, envy and even hatred for one professing more knowledge (carnal knowledge). I have discovered the arena of sexuality and the tools, the tricks, and prowess are expected to lie out of the realm of woman, at least a respectable woman, and this thunder is expected to be wielded only by men, men who send women into orgiastic ecstasy by the flexing of this special muscle. Of course, the moment you share this fire you are on a level playing field, you share the same arena, until you are called a “ho”!  Of course, I am very familiar to that form of warfare having seen this unfolded out in its vivid hues in the corporate arena (where the highest offices are understood to be reserved for the men and women are indulged with the occasional concessions). 

See Christina Aguilera echoing my thoughts with Can’t Hold Us Down Below:

So, as the Grislidis veneer washed away exposing a girl in a ponytail, gone were the looks of awe, fascination, regard for the “higher” knowledge (and of course coupled with a deep seeded jealousy), and instead replaced by a patronizing stare (its incredible how the look completely changes) at one whose mask had slipped. So, now it’s back to the music of my youth with my bro at the drums, Coverdale with “Slide it in… right to the top baby”! See below Whitesnake – Slide it In:

Still on the subject of women and prowess, I spent most of last night reading a fascinating book by Robert Winston, a British professor, doctor, scientist with many capital letters following his name (including one that spelled something like frog… now you know what’s really on my mind!) called Bad Ideas about the history of man from the perspective of compelling ideas which resulted in technological development and the world we find ourselves in today, it’s good, bad and ugly. Fascinating narrative, I was competing with the author throughout the book saying “I knew that, I know more, I could write your book… you pretending to be a FROG, you stole my idea, this should be MY book!”. The book was written in a male voice highlighting the narrators own culture and experiences which were a fascinating read (British politics is completely out of my realm). This got my brain cells twitching, i felt once again that the world so desperately needs a history of the world written in a female voice from the perspective of another world/universe, Asia, The Indus Valley, China, Japan and all the fascinating developments in technology across south east Asia today! For I saw, as I had mentioned to my kids just a couple of days back, instinctively the viewer, reader inadvertently sympathizes with the idols and accomplishments of the narrator and its about time history be read from an alternate perspective, don’t you agree? But you must, for the US is honestly neither the East nor the West! 

However, I must admit I enjoyed the book, the subject and the way it was written, truly a modern approach to writing (could do more though) scattered with references to artworks and the like, just as I would have done, have done in hyperlink. One of the references was a painting by Charles William Mitchell on the brilliant and fascinating 4th century female philosopher and Mathematician, Hypatia. Do check out this erotic and romanticized version of Hypatia :

Charles William Mitchell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Charles William Mitchell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There is much to share with you about this book, but since i’m still burning on the topic of women and Hypatia, the famous female fourth century philosopher mathematician of Alexandria. Renowned for her high intellect and cultivated mind, she appeared in front of the magistrates and assembly of men often openly expressing her views and opinions on public matters. This daughter of the philosopher Theon, who trained her is known to have far surpassed her teacher assisting him on many mathematical and philosophical works. Apparently (Hypatia was the head of the Platonist school in Alexandria) when in 391 AD Theophilus ordered the destruction of the Roman temples, the Musaeum and the sister library to the Great Library with an aim to erase all of Rome’s pagan past. Hypatia with her forthright manner, independence, prowess and rebellious streak (apparently she dissuaded a suitor by publicly holding out a cloth stained with menstrual blood in order to demonstrate the banality of the obsession with the body) this prowess openly exhibited by a woman infuriated the conservative establishment and she was violently and mercilessly executed. All this was captured beautifully in the movie Agora based on the story of Hypatia, which I also saw very recently, do check it out on Youtube below:

In the movie they show Hypatia, desperately trying to save the papyrus scrolls that were ordered to be destroyed, capturing in this a moment of the story of the great library of Alexandria and the waves of fires, arson which ultimately led to the destruction of one of mankind’s greatest jewels, a repository of all human knowledge of the ancient world funded by the Ptolemaic government. Robert Winston touches on this as well stating in his book “One of the greatest and most irreplaceable losses of literature were the successive burning of books in Alexandria” and goes on to say that the Great library was a depository of ancient writing with a complex of buildings, gardens lecture halls , effectively a university campus. Since the library was situated in a major port, it had access to ideas, thoughts and writing from around the known world both East and West. Apparently, books were collected though all means both fair and foul and often most persons who visited this city (many intellectuals and philosophers) were compelled to relinquish their books to the government to be copied and often the perfect copy was returned to them. Thus was built this great library which kept the ancient world alight for many generations. this of course brings me to the library i have listed to visit, yes, I’m in a city which is a nodal point In the world of today. Many ideas flow to these shores and many learned men and women pass through these gates, What If… a depository of knowledge, a data bank of information, a collection of all the novel ideas, could be kept in a neutral space untainted by war or politics, with no speech and thought restrictions, kind of like a bank deposit of a group that wishes to preserve their idea for posterity relinquishing the key to the city that can offer the securest coffers. All this of course would be connected by a wormhole all the way to California where the current (replacing future from the earlier draft) online speech based restrictions would not make any such structure feasible on its sunny shores.

What…California…you’ve gotta be kidding right? NOT! See below an image corresponding to the position of women attempting to express themselves freely and fully in the online world…you got it, it’s the image of a book in a cage. It’s a beautiful book, a multifaceted book, it’s a book in many languages, but it must be kept in a cage. What then will happen to the grand libraries of Alexandria when half the population of this nation has their online speech restricted and are compelled to interact with the online world through those bars because if any one dares raise their head a little high, comment, critique, and dare to dive into male dominated bastions, they could potentially be hammered, beaten and bulldozed online and driven back into their box.

See below Book in a Cage from The National Museum for Women in The Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC. See pics of the wonderful building where the NMWA is housed below:

The National Museum for Women in The Arts, Washington DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan
The National Museum for Women in The Arts, Washington DC – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See below an inspiring artwork from the NMWA. This is a brilliant metaphor for restraint on speech as this French-Italian dictionary looks very intriguing behind it’s bars yet nobody can read it:

I then get bulldozed by people shaking their fists and saying that these Godzillas of the online world, the mega corps that are universes unto themselves are merely hosting content, they do not moderate content like publishers like the New York Times and The Washington Post who could be held accountable for the content posted on their platforms. While these hosts may not outrightly curate content or select the party’s activities but can they really be absolved of all responsibility as they stand with their hands tied behind their backs while mayhem reigns in their yard, while the guests are being shot, maimed and dismembered with their entrails hanging out, perhaps they go with a broom and sweep the entrails under the sofa or defuse the occasional rocket that risks blowing down the neighborhood. The debate as far as I see it has got trapped in the Cat or Dog categorization ie Platform or Publisher, the reality of this new realm is that we need a new category altogether to define the beasts that rule the seas. I propose Cat-Dog, or a hybrid with elements of both Platform-Publisher but neither, from the series that played endlessly in my home on Cartoon Network. See Cat-Dog below:

Or then just throw your hands up and categorize them as the Fat Cat that nobody can dare bell!

(yes, i’ve had Orwell by my bedside for what seems a decade!).

Good night and sweet dreams. See you tomorrow!

Dear Purnima,

I see you have been indulging in your early-hours-of-the-morning passion for producing exquisite prose.  I always love these treatises that are the products of the silence of the night and your wonderfully creative mind.  I agree with you when you say that you could have written Robert Winston’s book, and producing a tome of history of the world from a female perspective sounds like a fitting project for you.  Barbara Tuchman’s works are certainly respected and admirable, not to mention thorough, views on recent history.  Her Guns of August about WW I is still considered THE definitive treatment, but I haven’t read it with a feminist point of view and don’t know how feminist literary criticism would “deconstruct” her writings.

And we could both write tomes and tomes about that age-old conundrum of how men perceive women.  Freud spent his life dealing with the issue, and I’m not at all convinced that he came up with all the answers.  You are definitely right about the deep, dark fascination and awe, and you evoke that dichotomy of the impossible role that society places on women: mother (angel) vs whore (tool of the devil).  How can you possibly play both roles, but yet that is what most men want in the perfect woman.  And, the terrible part of it all is that when she plays the whore role too convincingly, she is unconsciously (or even consciously) condemned.  It’s a no-win situation.

But that fascination for all things female has always been with us, and modern art is certainly replete with examples of that mysterious attraction.  The Goyas, Modiglianis, Picassos (There was a wonderful exhibit in Paris several years ago of the erotic art that Picasso produced.  It was really interesting to see people from all walks of life, even little old bourgeois ladies, pausing and reflecting quite unabashedly in front of his paintings and sketches) have revealed their own penchant for the female body.  And ever since Courbet’s “scandalous” L’Origine du monde reminded every viewer of the unfathomable secrets hidden just beyond that dark, foreboding, ambrosial and luscious tuft.  But society has evolved, and the painting, as shocking as it was in the late nineteenth century (it and several other Courbet works were banned from public display), it is now on permanent display in the Orsay museum.

I’m in the process of occasionally watching the American series Mad Men about Madison Avenue advertising agencies in the 1960’s.  It is really fascinating to see the relics from my own past and to relive the political events that shaped the country during those times, but it is terribly discouraging to see the image of women during those Neanderthal days.  They are nothing more than objects, and more than once it is made perfectly clear that a girl who sleeps around will never be a fitting or respectable wife.  While it’s quite ok for the males of the time to chase after any and all forms of carnal knowledge, the females have a very strict set of rules to play by.  We could undoubtedly spend hours, if not days, discussing this whole issue of male fascination with women.

See you tonight,  Love the look of your new avatar !


See trailer of Mad Men below:

Dear Roger,

It’s such a treat to get your mail, I find myself searching anxiously for a response after my long night at the keyboard and now feel fully rewarded! Your introduction to Courbets “scandalous” art ( has had my head spinning and heart pumping… this erotica has connected with something deep within, both the art and the idea of challenging the moral norms of this schizophrenic society…I find myself “turned on”…hmmm!!! 

Art Censorship: See below a video of the takedown of the post on FB of l’Origine du Monde and the cultural issues surrounding Art censorship by FB’s takedown of the same:

From the above article:

The latest work deemed “pornographic” is the 30,000 year-old nude statue famously known as the Venus of Willendorf, part of the Naturhistorisches Museum (NHM) collection in Vienna. An image of the work posted on Facebook by Laura Ghianda, a self-described “artivist”, was removed as inappropriate content despite four attempts to appeal the decision.: here.

It’s time we take a deep look into whether we can really permit corporations (regardless of their global imprint or despite it) to dictate our cultural expression which is in the essence an expression of a people to mould debate and express. In the above instance the FB post removal of a 30,000 year old world heritage icon/statute impacts not just the culture of a particular nation but the story of man for this is the first sculptural example of the female form corresponding with the birth of human creative expression. For the stone age man the representation of the female body standing tall, proud and strong in all her curves and surpluses was obviously an expression to be admired and represented in a fixed form. Are we today going to second guess the aesthetics of human story to extent of erasing it from our popular online platforms and thus from our collective memories?

By acquiescing to the removal of this image from our visual and aesthetic platforms we are permitting the erasure of the story of humanity for in the Venus of Willendorf is engraved the story of mankind. The question we have to ask ourselves is “What next?”, in whose hands do we agree to submit human design and experiences as these platforms become our new reality. Where and at what point do we draw the line against the corporate censorial marker that is driven by money and majority consensus? Are the sounds and images of animals and birds engaging in foreplay to be overridden by a moderating algos, perhaps the sound of the crow is unappealing, as possibly are the customs and rituals of tribals groups scattered across the globe. Is this processed world of homogenous appeal representative of human civilization?

See below The Venus of Willendorf, a 30,000 year old sculpture and a part of human history:

The Venus of Villendorf – User:MatthiasKabel, CC BY-SA 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Or can we permit some space for Durian?

The Durian is Singapore’s fav fruit and the bane of the rest of humanity with it’s smell associated with the walking dead, rotting flesh and putrefaction. Neighborhoods have been shut down, bomb squads have been called by it’s notorious aroma with the consequence that once this unassuming cousin of the Jackfruit opens it’s mouth to reveal it’s innards mayhem occurs and it gets banned from all public spaces. See links to the Durian below and an image of its cousin the Jackfruit:

Jackfruit – Bombay India – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See below what some may deem at the fringe of unacceptable, but no human was harmed during this performance and the majority applauded:

In my opinion this was an artist posing in front of the painting l’Origine du monde and by such a performance extending the art and creating a theatrical art installation:

See you this evening.


Dear Roger,

I have read and reread your email, thrilled that you believe that i could have written Robert Winston’s book and with a sexy twist, yes throwing all that mysterious, erotic female energy in the mix. But, don’t you think I would have written it also from another world perspective, one that is often not evoked as passionately in the English language, encompassing a universe that seems to be fleetingly touched, almost bypassed  by this treatise on technology (Winston’s book, Bad Ideas), technological development across the story of man. Yes, an Asian perspective, the idea, the story and the potential. In this book tracking the history of man vis a vis technology, while mentioning tools, copper and bronze, where are the references to the place that predates its usage in the western world by millennia, the Indus valley civilization(India/Pakistan). A place where in 2500BC copper tools and weapons use was widespread , city planning found at such an efficient scale not found in the same place today, beads fired at high temperatures in sophisticated kilns, then of course when discussing technology how can you overlook ancient China and its technological sophistication found in pottery baked not only at very high temperatures but the ability to control the heat and consistency of such kilns. It would be interesting to have these and the many other remarkable technological developments across the ancient world and the excitement of the tech potential that seems to bubble from that region today in a book written by a girl in a ponytail that takes the journey back to the Bay Area, California. A place you could get both the flavors of Singapore (Banana leaf), Indonesia and south India(sambar/idlis)…I’m still waiting for “idlis in Geneva!

 But Roger, I wish I could incorporate some French in my book… I am still languishing in English after having spend over two years in Geneva, finding myself primarily writing reading and expressing myself in English,(having completely abandoned French) to the extent that I might even be found guilty of being a British agent silently and scandalously spreading the English language and of course along with it the culture worldwide. I find even though my book may be trapped in this tongue, my “Ideas” are not, so i promise you another perspective.

Back to the book (which I will visit again) and Hypatia, I found upon surfing the internet numerous references Hypatia and many written from a very sympathetic perspective, that in order to further bolster this brilliant woman, the authors had chosen to proclaim (as always there are never any claims to veracity other than one that is “most accepted” which translates into accepted by most) her virginity, that she was a virgin when she was brutally murdered. Now tell me Roger, what does virginity have to do with any of the great scientific and mathematical breakthroughs made by this remarkable woman? So what if she was a virgin, does that make her crime of questioning the establishment any better, does that make her violators more violent, does that remove her from the realm of base humanity to an ethereal plane where the woman has risen above her supposed “fickle” (Remember the Lombrosian ficklemindedness imputed to some women) self to a higher plane? Of course she was 60 when she was murdered, a 60 year old virgin, is everyone on acid!

Well, the fun does not end here, as I read through Winston’s book, I met Charles Davenport an American biologist that was promoting Eugenics at the turn of the century 19th), proposing the screening of traits (imbecility, alcoholic, sexually immoral which he believed were genetically determined) of potential immigrants to the US. Winston goes on to highlight how Davenport believed that postitutes were motivated not by economic necessity but an innate eroticism (which your mind must immediately say bad bad bad), …and more fun still, these women he termed as “wayward girls”! Wayward again, first Dalrymple then Davenport!! Gosh, when will you guys ever give up on that word when referring to women you can’t get your arms around in more than one way. What would we girls do without men like you!!!

Love to the family, see you soon!



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 #29*

Tech Troubles, Vagabond(er), Marche des Huguenots, Centennial of the 19th amendment- Women’s Right To Vote


Dear Roger,

It was wonderful as usual to see you last week, and as usual I was thrilled you enjoyed my cooking. Unfortunately, the rest of the day didn’t quite unfold as I had planned, we didn’t tour the old town. The weather was awful, and Leo wouldn’t give us a moment to pause, my apologies for that. The streets of vieille ville are littered with fascinating nooks old homes, streets with exciting names that are oh-so-familiar, placards decorating old buildings and gnomes sculpted in various nooks and crannies… so much to discover, would have loved to do so with you! 

See snapshots of my family visiting Old Town Geneva below:

Though the week started dull gray and very slow, it certainly has gained momentum, I have much to share! The excitement started with unravelling French vocabulary with my new french teacher, a student at the University of Geneva.  The lessons were progressing brilliantly (even though she primarily speaks and explains everything in French) and for the first time, I felt I was actually getting a grasp of the grammar asking completely irrelevant questions and deviating off the prescribed schedule just to connect and exercise the few remaining brain cells for the first time without any embarrassment. As I sat sipping hot coffee on a foggy cold day, I attempted to describe my day (and myself) in French to jumpstart our French lessons. As I progressed through the motions of my day I attempted to romanticize my existence by describing myself as a “wanderer”, an ethereal being, a cloud (lonely, wandering) floating above the grinding core mechanisms of this earth, but unable to find the French word for wanderer, I looked at her for assistance. She returned the look with the same smile that always adorns her face (sweet and gentle) and responded “vagabond(er)”. I felt I had been slapped, I crashed back onto earth from my ethereal plane, and eyeballed her to catch a smirk or smugness in her smile was she using language as a camouflage to describe what she really though of me?!? She had just called me a vagabond, the English language equivalent of a low life, good for nothing, dubious and  deviant element of society who aimlessly moves from place to place! Of course, I asked for the dictionary, and then my iphone dictionary and then pleadingly at every passerby that this could not be so… but there it was wanderer was defined as vagabond(er). Roger, you know my favorite painting by Friedrich Caspar, the one I have described endlessly, the one I have dragged you to see at the museum bookshop … it was really me, yes,I was The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, see link below: By Caspar David Fredrick

By Caspar David Friedrich – The photographic reproduction was done by Cybershot800i. (Diff), Public Domain,

And now I am reduced to a vagabond c’est impossible!

All this of course brings us back to our favorite subject of language and how much can be misinterpreted, lost in translation.

And talking about being lost in translation, i’m afraid there appear to be some people who are in danger of being lost in prehistory unaware of the challenges posed by the new universe, the cyber/virtual world, the Net. The realms, the boundaries, the jurisdictions have all changed, expanded and many people out there seem oblivious or in denial… all this was gleaned from a very interesting conference I attended last week on E-Bay and the legal challenges faced in Europe. We all know it as a company that can help us purchase products (and for me its games, game consuls that cost the earth and are discarded by the kids without a blink) at substantially reduced prices. However, I learned that when it comes to luxury goods manufacturers, the story was not quite so rosy as they wish to have control over the distribution channels and their goods till the end and that is impossible with E-Bay and its likes around, i believe it’s impossible in the new tech world. So there have been cases and penalties and litigation to control and restrict the flow of these very special high end luxury goods from permeating this marketplace at the first instance or percolating through the grey market on resale. Upon quizzing the speaker who just happened to be seated next to me through the duration of her meal, I realized that the cases being decided in favor of by the luxury goods manufacturers and the resulting restrictions imposed only harmed their own citizens. I just could not understand it, as it effectively prevented the average French person (in this instance) from being able to access the sites where these goods were being sold at a great deal! Essentially, if I were a French woman (and the litigation continued to be decided in this vein), I would be blacked out from the new world of cyberspace “goodies going, going, gone…”!  Yes, I know I’m sounding very much like Funky Fred in his article in the Herald tribune this morning (It’s morning in India) on the appalling state of affairs in France due to the strikes, where he recommends the youth look over to India (which has tipped in the other direction, not good in my opinion) and get their act together and up to speed to face the world of tomorrow/their retirement. 

On the subject of India, Roger, as you know, I have spent my life waiting in lines, queues at various embassies and airports to get visas to the places I’ve charted to visit, often a frustrating and humiliating experience as the rest of the world seems to just breeze by for no other reason but that their governments have the power or savvy to ensure that the maximum gates remain open and welcoming to their citizens. Well… that certainly got me thinking about the persons across the globe with governments who are just not able or capable of comprehending the new realms, new jurisdictions, the new gates of the cyberworld and do not have the legal and political savvy to get their citizens the best deal possible. These are the boundaries, netizens of tomorrow, the passports will have to cleverly negotiated, relationships fostered so that the citizens of your nation can travel as freely and trade as openly without restriction as they take for granted in the real world. I’m afraid, not everyone seems to be up to speed, by denying the existence of the Death Star, The Net as I have called it ( depends on your control, it alternates between that and Paradise, and control is not denial), it will just not go away! What do think Roger, do you not agree with me that the legislators and the judiciary should not be wearing the blindfold, leave it to the one holding the scales.

And more action…

Once upon a time a sweet little froggie whispered in my ears about the journey of his people, the Huguenots to New York and their impact and influence in shaping my favorite city. Well, i got an opportunity to join my friends who were organizing Marche des Huguenots, a walk following the migration of the Huguenots, the French protestants who fled from France in all directions after the Edict of Nantes (which was created for their protection a hundred years earlier) was revoked. One of the first waves went through Switzerland (I learned that Geneva became the bastion of the Huguenots as they followed Calvin), all the way through to Germany and from there onto the United States. There was another connection as I had visited Pennsylvania and the Aamish country (the Swiss German branch that migrated to the US) and was fascinated at how they managed to maintain their rural ways (just like they were when they arrived in the mid 1700’s, no electricity, no computers, no cars) without the impact of technology or influences from the world to this day. The Huguenots migrated to Holland and England but most interestingly, they migrated apparently aboard the ships from the Dutch East India Company on their way to India via the Cape of Good Hope to South Africa and developed a wonderful vibrant settlement there sparkling the environs with wine and French culture. Our hike started in the charming Swiss village of Cartigny across picturesque Swiss landscape to the other charming village of Bernex. I reminded the kids that this hike was not only to explore Swiss countryside and learn some history but also because it was a part of the American story as we are; a migration of a people, as we emigrated(from India); in pursuit of a dream, so Dhruvum, Tara, Leonardo and I walked in the footsteps of the Huguenots on the path of liberty and tolerance. Do check out the photos:

Dear Roger,

Upon re-reading my mail to you this morning, I chocked when I reached the last line… did I say “tolerance”? Tolerance sounds like some one holding their nose till the stink passes or  one proclaiming that he/she is can take eggs in the pastry crust without developing hives! Persons elevating themselves to a position where they are able to bear, “tolerate” the presence of an essentially repugnant sight, smell or thought ! Oh gosh, we are desperately in need of a word… harmonious co-existence… but then we would need to teleport ourselves to the hippy happy sixties, no?

Dear Purnima,

With Obama visiting India and other points east this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about you and your Indian/American roots.  Is it the new hi-tech era and all of its power of bringing cyber-tekkies together that will seal a long-lasting bond between our two cultures ?  Are we not all becoming cyber vagabonds (chasers of comet tails) ?  It is also interesting that almost all the countries Obama will visit during this foray are, at least partially, Anglophone.

And talking about Obama’s trip, have you followed all of the outrageous clap trap from the ultra-conservative right and the tea party about the costs of Obama’s trip ?  It seems that nothing the man does meets with their approval, and they find the most spurious arguments to put him down.  As one commentator I read said,  “If Obama does it, it is wrong, because Obama is wrong”.  I personally think that America took a giant step forward in electing an Afro-American as president, but, unfortunately, they simply aren’t ready to let him be president.  On the other hand, he has sorely disappointed the progressive left in the US for his lack of determined leadership and unwillingness to take bold steps to bring about the change he promised.  Even Michael Moore, a fervent supporter during the election campaign, has attacked him for his lack of courageous leadership.  But then, one has to remember that he owes his election victory in large part to Wall Street and the financial interests that made his campaign successful.  Rather than bold change, he is marching to his taskmasters’ orders.

Are you off to the gym today ?  Have a good time ogling the cute instructors!




Dear Roger

Having experienced complete disorientation, lost all sense of time and space and most of my human sensations since my free fall down the rabbit hole and especially during the last two years over this protracted visit to wonderland, I find myself slowly petrifying, turning to stone, and fear that I am being returned to grace that distant corner of my living room with the other Gandharas…However, i know there is one who can break the spell and breathe life back to the Gandhara, and he is to be found at the high temple of the white devil, I’m on my way…  I’m actually on my way to Paris!

Dear Roger

There is a price to pay for a beating heart, I feel everything, pain sorrow exhilaration with Whitesnake playing my favorite tune in the back ground, “slow and easy“. Do you know it… “take me down slow and easy, make love to me slow and easy, I know that hard luck and troubles are coming my way so rock me till I’m down on the floor, rock me till I’m down on the floor”. That’s all I can hear over and over again, how I love whitesnake so much a part of my youth (as a rockers sister)! Do chk it out on YouTube:

I’m off for my French lessons the chief inquisitor awaits( did I tell you that my French teacher was Spanish).

The Grand Inquisitor continues with her sessions, who would have believed a reincarnation in this form so petite sweet with a decidedly sing song tone. We are visiting the cavernous halls of the torture chamber next, I will need to spit out legal terminology in French and English! Yes, it’s the library next. 

See you next week and think of me whenever u hear Whitesnake!


Chère Purnima,

Nous aussi.  Je te souhaite bonne route.  Je garderai avec moi mon téléphone portable au cas où tu as besoin de me téléphoner.  Je peux toujours venir te “guider” depuis la sortie de l’autoroute.  Si tu as le moindre problème, n’hésite pas à me téléphoner.

A demain,


October 19, 2020

Dear Roger,

As I sit down to finally gather all the pieces of our correspondence which contain in it snippets of my life and my memories, the journeys taken together linked by our letters of many wonderful adventures as we went traipsing in opposite directions across the globe. I find I must fill in the missing spaces of the conversations we would have had if we had a chance to spend time together over the last couple of years where I was pirouetting alone in the dark in search of your reassuring arm.

I am writing to you a decade after our initial correspondence from San Francisco, California following the theme set out by the Marche des Huguenots, the journey in the pursuit of freedom and liberty. October 2020 is a special time for women in America for we are celebrating one such journey embarked upon by American women in the mid 1800, the centennial celebrations of the passing of the 19th amendment to the US constitution granting women the right to vote. We have to remind ourselves and our daughters that this was a hard fought right and a long and tortuous journey where many brave, determined, and wise women paved the path for the freedoms we women take for granted not just in the US but all over the world today. The US has been a beacon of female emancipation holding the the light for us women who were still in distant shores with dreams confined by the footprints of their homes and dreaming of the stars. I now recognize that however glamorous the of the lives of the women of my home may have appeared to others they were inherently squelched under the yoke of male patriarchy and accordingly tempered their aspirations.

See below a pic from the National Museum of American History in DC of Mary Wollstonecraft famous book The Vindication of The Rights of Women, the British feminist author who championed for female education and ability to earn an independent living was the mother of Mary Shelly who authored the book Frankenstein an idea which arose during a game of stories prompted by Lord Byron during a dark and stormy night in a villa in Geneva, Switzerland. Yes, all roads lead to Geneve!

The National Museum of American History-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan


On this 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote, let’s remember the 1848 Seneca Falls First Women’s Rights Convention and the suffragists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who drafted the Declaration of Sentiments “We hold these truths to be self evident, that men and women are created equal…” with the backing of steadfast supporters like Fredrick Douglas. We should remember Susan B. Anthony the icon of the suffragist movement who traversed the country giving speeches, rallying support, picketing, organizing women. After many upheavals the two factions that had split over the 15th amendment enfranchising black men before women, joined together to form (NAWSA) National American Woman Suffragist Association in 1890. Suffragists like Alice Paul and Lucy Burns following their English counterparts took a more radical stance by picketing the white house, organizing hunger strikes and other forms of extreme civil disobedience. This let to notorious Night of Terror in 1917 when 33 suffragists were imprisoned, beaten and tortured:

The National Museum of American History-Video by Purnima Viswanathan

On 1916 Carrie Chapman Catt takes the lead leading the suffragists as the NAWSA president with a winning strategy and on May 21, 1919, U.S. Representative James R. Mann proposed House resolution for Womens Right to Vote passes 304 to 89 and the Senate passes the 19th amendment by two votes over the required 2/3rd majority. The 19th amendment was then ratified by 35 states, with the final decisive vote in Tennessee hands which was tied 48-48. This was no meagre theatre for the 23 year young representative Harry T. Burns found the fate of 15 million American women in his hands, and he did just as his mama asked him. In the letter he carried with him in his shirt pocket Mrs Burns reportedly wrote “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs Catt put the “rat” in ratification“. With Burns vote the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote was fully ratified, and reads: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

1920: On November 2 of that same year, more than 8 million women across the U.S. voted in elections for the first time.

Purrrrr…Once again the Ms Cat wins the Day 😉!

Much blood, sweat and tears were spent by many that came before us over these hard fought rights and on this Centennial year it is time we recognize and remember the ones that paved the path to our freedom, a freedom that shone across the seas and one we now take for granted.

The National Museum of American History-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See below The Story of The Women Who Started The Fire:

Women’s Right To Vote

The Role of Black Suffragists: Pushed out of the national suffrage organizations, Black suffragist like Ida b. Wells and Mary Church Terrell founded their own groups like NACWC and fought hard for the women’s right to vote recognizing that this was the path to freedom from racial prejudice.

See below images of Black suffragists like Ida b. Wells from The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC:

Moving forward a century from 1920 when women were struggling to determine their own destinies, to have an unrestrained, unrestricted free voice in matters of national and personal relevance, to reclaim their dignity and self worth as individuals by full participation in the political process, here in 2020 once again we find ourselves uncannily faced with the same demons. The world has progressed at warp speed with social and technological developments that leaves everyone gasping in their attempts to keep society and the law in sync with tech. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable group once again in the new cyber-age despite the hard wrestled rights a century ago, are women! And unfortunately, across the globe the pivotal missing piece are the Stantons, Anthony’s and Catts, the need for the hour is pathbreaking women leaders cognizant of the glaring realities of the new age and undeterred by expectations of abiding by the “rulebook”. Leaders who are able the highlight the tar pits of the tech dependent existence, fight for women’s right to freely express themselves without being badgered and beaten down for their opinion, to help them fend off cyber bullies and cyberstalkers, reclaim their dignity and self worth so that they may be free to express and reassert themselves in the cyber world like they would do in the real world. #RightsForWomenInTheCyberWorld #CyberRightsFor Women

#CyberRightsFor Women-#DigitalRightsForWomen-photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Amnesty reveals alarming impact of online abuse against women

Cybercrimes, specifically gender based crimes directed at women are on the rise. Deepfakes, extortion, cyber bullying, cyber harassment, cyber stalking, identity theft, tech assisted cyber assault and image based abuse resulting in physical, emotional and psychological harm.

“Social media companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. They need to ensure that women using their platforms are able to do so freely and without fear,”

See below the paper highlighting the deplorable state of online violence and abuse suffered by an alarming number of women resulting from “progress” in technology by OAS- Organization of American States:

From links referenced in the above paper See below Ashley Judd’s TED Talk on Online Misogyny:

Ashley Judd-Online Misogyny-TED

Anita Sarkeesian’s Ted talk about the representation of women in gaming and the onslaught of online hate that her post evoked. She emphasized that we have slipped into accepting as normal a culture of sexism, abuse, hate and misogyny every time a woman dares to express herself freely in the bastion of the male dominated online realm ie gaming. This of course takes us right back a century to where we celebrated our freedom to express and participate freely in all platforms. Today, as Anita and Ashley along with a thousand others are crying aloud women across the spectrum and globally are being silenced and marginalized and denied free expression and full participation in the new cyber realm. Moreover, there is absolutely no viable mechanism for accountability. See Anita’s TED Talk below:

I return to art to express my deepest feelings and find beauty and strength which I would like to bestow to all my daughters in Damien Hirst’s sculpture Verity which stands tall in the harbor of Ilfracombe in Devon, England.

See below Damien Hirst’s Verity:

This modern allegory of Truth and Justice, showcases Verity or the truth by presenting a sculpture of a  pregnant woman standing tall and strong holding aloft a sword to the sky with one hand and scales with the other behind her back standing. She is standing astride books of law representing truth and justice. Here the female figure is literally stripped bare off her skin representing verity or the truth of the woman her strengths and vulnerabilities the female form behind the masks hoisted upon women by society, culture and norms, with one half exposing her muscles, bones, internal organ, the uterus and the baby. Behind the facades Hirst showcases women as human, mortal, made of flesh and bone with the ability of bearing life and wielding the sword a synonym for her strength and power despite her vulnerability, standing atop of law books and holding sales symbolizing her demand for justice, to be treated at par with her male counterpart and for the world to view her behind the facades hoisted upon her and see the truth in her strength that equals and balances the male counterpart.

The stance of the sculpture Verity is compared to Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture of The Dancing Girl Aged Fourteen. Well guess what, protesters and opponents to Damien Hirst’s sculpture, your darling dancer aged 14 grows up, becomes a woman and has babies and if she is very lucky she gets to stand tall and proud overlooking the harbor in Devon, this time not fashionably disrobed for the male gaze but stripped of her skin (making the worms squirm) to show her truth or Verity. See below Edgar Degas’s Dancer aged 14 at the Tate in London:

I absolutely love this sculpture!  I have walked down innumerable boulevards with sculptures of Men Of War, glorifying war, aggression, bloodshed and propagating the military Industrial complex, it’s time we have sculptures of women lining our boulevards showcasing the female struggle and in the face of grave odds the fight to uphold truth and justice. There are wars we women fight on daily basis, the fight to retain ourselves and our identity, the fight to proudly uphold our physical attributes regardless of the desire of the masculine eye, the fight to procreate and yet hold on to our lives careers and wage expectations, the fight to stand tall and proud irrespective of the cow dung thrown at us when we stand to challenge men on their platform (and social media takes this to new lows hitting women where it hurts the most – our dignity and self respect), and the strength and ability to hold and raise the immortal sword skywards and aspire for the highest offices. Love the sculpture, GoDamien!

Je voter que cette sculpture est installée en Californie❤️

In response to what it is that I want, I have to return to ZAZ, I want…Je Veux…

Je Veux translated lyrics:

I want love, joy, good spiritIt’s not your money that will make me happy. I want to die with a hand on my heart. Let’s go together, let’s discover my freedom,

Je Veux:

I end this saga with my proposal for #Rights-for-Women-in-The-Digital-World

San Francisco- Let The Games Begin! – Video by Purnima Viswanathan

Ready, Take Aim and Shoot!!! I know you can do it CAT, see Hunger Games 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 #28*

Delhi Commonwealth Games, The Punjabis, Dalrymple, Unani, India and The Search for Spirituality and Composite Culture


Today, on August 15th, India’s Independence Day, I wish to share this snipped from my diary-letters to Roger showcasing the fabulous composite culture of India reflecting the Idea of India.


Dear Roger,

Thinking of you on this special day, a day, a year older, and unsure of where the hours disappeared. It’s also a special day for Delhi, manicured, bedecked, a bride glistening in green in preparation for the the Commonwealth games 2010 which open today.

Roger, I wish i could share with you in depth my love for this city, my home, a place which seems to exist eternally, continuously changing and yet unchanged, embracing all flavors and fragrances within its fold to add to the allure that had excited many minds and launched many voyages over millennia. A city of Djinns and snake charmers (and boy did the snake charmers come in handy last week when the Commonwealth games delegates found the king cobra coiled up cosily under their bedcovers…yyyes Believe it or Not…indulging every stereotypical notion of this land of mystery in full international view…Lights, Camera, Action!!!). 

The King Cobra – Conservation Status Vulnerable: These highly venomous snakes indigenous to India and south east Asia wrapped in myth, mystique and mythology of the region are invoked with fear and awe as they are known to bring an elephant down with one bite are now on the vulnerable list.

King Cobra

The photo pasted below is the Python Molurus indigenous to India and one I encountered in Goa during my evening after dinner stroll and I was certainly glad to see is belly full.

The Python I stumbled Across in Goa-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

A city about which much has been written but i find so much left unsaid as it accelerates past those words to evolve and reinvent itself. My two decades away seem like eternities and i an antediluvian relic. I attempt to find myself in this maze, to reconnect to the khadi days of university, the socialist snobbery of the elite, and find myself all alone, so very alone… the universe has speed past, my friends have reinvented themselves, even the most radical ones have embraced this euphoria that is India. Everyone appears on a high, with their minds channelled to tap into the progress prosperity and growth found all around. The youth seem many light years away from our university bound khadi days, earning and relishing their luxury. The old ambassador car, symbolic of the old India appears almost completely replaced by “foreign” wheels. Familiar eyes seem to stare at me in bewilderment as I trudge through town dripping with sweat in an auto…their eyes reach out and tell me to “give it up” and sync in with the reality and euphoria of today. So the last living socialist quietly discards her khadi and joins the crowds revealing the Armani within, after all this is home is it not !?! 

Many adventures to share, but the Djinns of Delhi will have to wait!

I return to Geneva This Wednesday, hope to see you.

Hugs from India.


See below a photo of the quintessential Indian car that afforded space and comfort and safety (the competition was the bullock cart) of course built to be driven by a chauffeur – The Ambassador Car

The Ambassador Car-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Pasted below is one even older model that gained name, fame and infamy in certain respected circles- The Junko. This 1934 Chevrolet was the darling of The Doon School and was built and pulled apart by the boys of The Doon School as many times as the years it wore on its lapel. It was often pulled out of the garage to take dignitaries for a tour of the school. See my brother Arvind Viswanathan below taking my two friends, Rupali Bannerji and Rachna Sharma for a tour of The Doon School in The Junko:

The Junko with Arvind Viswanathan at The Wheel- The Doon School -Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Junko serviced by Arvind Viswanathan and friends – The Doon School, Dehradun, India- Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Dear Purnima,

How delightful to get two emails from you, even if the second one was a duplicate of the first.  I was beginning to wonder if you hadn’t been abducted by a dark and enchanting stranger or else swallowed up by the maelstrom of the Delhi underworld.

I’ve been thinking about you all day and hoping that you were having a wonderful BD.  Wish I could have joined in the celebration and at least drunk a champagne toast with you.

We are in Paris for the week and having a delightful time. We are staying in a really cosy apartment right in the heart of St. Germain des pres that belongs to one of the Japanese students.  We just returned from seeing a great play and have two more to see before we leave on Saturday, plus a Monet exhibit, and a number of films – you must go see Poetry !  It’s really marvelous,

I’ve read a lot about the Commonwealth games and the many problems the organizers have had, including the tale of the cobra.

Much more when I get home again. It’s a bit of a chore to type on this little travel computer we brought with, but I’ve got lots to share and am so looking forward to hearing all your tales.

A huge BD hug et à bientôt,



Dear Roger,

Thinking about you on this special day, I knew you were special when you told me that you were born on the 7th of October, you share it with a very special person, my aunt (who is beaming in the photos below). Hope you had a wonderful birthday and wish you all best that life has to offer: love, laughter and friends!

I also just celebrated my birthday, October 3rd, at home in Delhi, after 18 years, a cosy affair with close friends and family( would love to share the memories see me with my brother in pic pasted below).

October 3rd: Purnima and Arvind

Purnima and Arvind Viswanathan-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

At my birthday bash, in order to add some theatrics to the cake cutting ceremony, I requested my brother (the eternal DJ) to play “Singh is Kiing” with Snoop Dogg, (a superhit Indian soundtrack from an Indian movie of the same name – do check it out on youtube). 

Singh is Kiing with Snoop Doggy Dog:

More Punjabis – Singh is Kiing!

Viva Le Punjabi – My Mom and Aunts in New Delhi, India – Singh is King!

The Birds of The North-Viva Le Punjabi-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

In keeping with the birthday mood, I have also pasted a relevant clip from the movie Singh is Kiing. The movie opens dramatically with an Indian gangster based in the US whose birthday is being lavishly celebrated with a gargantuan three tier cake. Of course, the cake explodes and out burst the assassins(my Tale of course). The hero/villain finds himself being chased by cops and goons of 25 countries from around the world (does this sound familiar, Clouseau and another buddy perhaps), of course as always he makes a dramatic escape as we blow out our candles!!!   (check it out on youtube pasted below)

Happy Birthday to us: (25 देशों के 25 पुलिस उसके पीछे) Chased by 25 Persons from 25Nations – Singh is Kiing!

Once again, wishing you a wonderful day and many many adventures (hopefully with me in tow)!

Hugs and love,


Dear Purnima,

It was delightful to have coffee with you Weds.  You looked absolutely stunning, and more relaxed and vibrant than I can remember.  Either it was the afterglow of your trip to India or else the fact that you and hubby have finally come to an agreement to put an end to your mutual “no exit” (Have you seen Sartre’s play of the same name ?), or maybe it’s all those cute instructors at the gym ?  It was also one of the best chats we’ve ever had.

I watched the tv literary discussion Thursday with Tom Robbins, but it was disappointingly short and his remarks were ruined by the voice-over translations.  But the moderator of the program, whom I really like, repeatedly called him “the most dangerous writer alive”  And his novel that was recently translated into French, a near-impossible task, (first published in 1971 and was on the bed stand of Elvis when he died and reportedly the favorite novel of the Hell’s Angels), “Another Roadside Attraction” is truly marvelous, and it levels a daring blow at organized religion and its myths and the complicity of governmental agencies in trying to preserve said myths.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend,



Dear Roger,

It was absolutely fabulous to see you, you looked great! Unfortunately, I was just not equipped for the cold and I apologize that we had to sit in the midst of the din of that restaurant, will plan better next time. What are your plans for next week, the kids are on break and their father is taking them to Italy (23-28), would love to catch up. Does lunch work for you any day next week, would like to try out some new recipes And I might have a mystery guest whom i can’t wait to introduce to you!

I googled this much mentioned author Tom Robbins, but did not really find him. However, the fact that he is an admirer of Osho, certainly put him on my to read list. I enjoy reading western authors who have travelled to our end of the universe physically or spiritually and seeing the world from their lens. I just read Dalrymple’s Nine Lives, an author whom I have followed and enjoy thoroughly. It’s fabulous to see him almost merge into the Central/South Asian culture that he writes so eloquently about (I found even his photograph reflected that, easily passing off for an Indian). However, upon reading him closely, I find he slips, over and over again. I see the shadow behind the pen of a “westerner” raised in another universe trying to understand, interpret and embrace this one. I found that just when I was getting very cosy with him under my covers (Nine Lives), he  described “Kali“, the fierce form of the female form/deity, as being “wild and wayward”! I can understand the wild description, but under no circumstances could you interpret Kali as wayward. She is adorned with a garland of skulls, dark as night, dancing upon the corpses of the slain souls, but she is the ultimate personification of female power and energy which is harnessed in this fierce and fearful form. Her acts of terror and intimidation, with blood and brains and skulls scattered in the frame are purposeful and the manifestation of one who cleanses the earth of its demons absolutely(I have a few goblins to clear myself). Now, the fact that this female form is presented dancing the dance of death, with a formidable visage and a long blood tainted tongue essentially naked or wrapped sparsely in animal hide copulating and grinding the earthly beings below her Does Not Make Her Wayward! Yes, of course, any female painted in this form from a westerners perceptive, her acts and actions would be construed as “wayward”, but how can the deity Kali or her Buddhist equivalent the Blue Tara be described as wayward(and I look up to her hanging on my dining room wall and bow as I write this piece).  Of course, Dalrymple, goes onto describe and praise her attributes and I appreciate all he writes, his deep study, his research and his passion but realize that as I swoon into his arms, behind the facade, he is essentially a “westerner”.

Dalrymple’s Nine Lives:

See below a magnificent artwork from the early Bengal School showcased at the Delhi Art Fair by The Delhi Art Gallery, see below: Kali astride Shiva

However, Dalrymple is a westerner who fires my imagination and brings to the fore the deeply embedded memories of my youth, my home, my (maternal) grandmother who so absolutely embodied the culture of the North (India). In his book the City of Djinns, he mentions Unani medicine, which he states originated in Greece, (Unani being derived from Ionian) journeyed through Central Asia to India, is forgotten in the place of its origin but is widely practiced in India as a credible alternate medical form.

This involves the “Hakim“, doctor, taking your pulse and diagnosing everything from arthritis to a cold. My maternal grandmother, a relatively educated woman of her time, would rush to the Hakim to have her “Nabaz” or pulse read at the drop of a hat. She would then follow tedious recipes and diets for her arthritis, and if by any chance were we to scoff at her and her “pudiyas” sachets of dubious powder, she would defend the system like it was her religion. I now realize that it was close to her religion, it was a part of her culture, a people of the Punjab (northern lands). As I journeyed back into my very pragmatic grandmothers arms who had a very difficult life having fled from their ancestral lands in Lahore (now Pakistan) and arrived in Delhi with what they could carry. She primarily spoke Punjabi (the local dialect of the Punjab) and Hindustani, and now when I reflect back, I realize that the references to god (and she was a very pious Hindu/brahmin) were often “Rab de liye”, or “Rab de vaste” (for god’s sake), were drawn from her culture and here the word “Rab” for god would be a word used by a cross section of religions from the North. So, even though the religions might be at logger heads with each other, I realized language unites them above all, for they all call god by the same name! This is very similar to us using “for Christs sake” or “for gods sake” whether we are Hindu, Christian or Muslim, (or like me a wanna-be atheist for I grew up in a time where the educated elite turned their noses up at any overt exhibition of ritual or religion as a space reserved for the “hoi-polloi”) as the cultural references are so entwined with language. So if you do get a chance do read Nine Lives, I highly recommend it. Through this, he has journeyed into the core and I would love to chat with you about it.

See below a wise elder, my grandmother Bimla Shourie, one who had traversed many lives and had volumes to share, seen both the high towers and the raging fires of partition, lost all and built back her life stitch by stitch:

Bimla Shourie-My Grandmother Who Had Traversed Many Lives-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

William Dalrymple – Nine Lives – In Search of the Sacred in Modern India

Back to Tom Robbins, this whole concept of organized religion really blows me as it then moves from an individuals journey into this soul/spirituality to mass mind control. Even though I might say i’m a wanna-be atheist, I find that the rational mind (upon which I depend much too much) necessitates the existence of a cause, a reason, a design, a program, otherwise our daily motions our pain, sorrow, ecstasy (not had much of that lately), our consumption, excretion, our evolution, movement would all be for nothing-ness(and for most of my life i believed in nothingness). I suspect it’s my 96 year old paternal grandmother’s doing, she has clearly moulded me like no one else could have, and nudged me in the this direction of spirituality, this intense personal journey of attempting to realize the map, the design, the Ultimate Reality as she calls it (all without hemp) and this I suspect needs to be experienced from another faculty which the rational mind may not be aware of or have access to (oh i soo need those mushrooms). So, just like the Bauls (Nine Lives), I might also just take off one day to explore the secrets of the chakras (I have 10 years of inactivity to catch up upon!).

Hope to see you very soon and still waiting for the sushi.



PS: Continuing on the subject of India, Punjab and spirituality, I cannot end this note without mentioning Kabir the much beloved poet/philosopher and saint who lived in North India in the 15th century. Kabir was a part of the Bhakti or reform movement in India and embraced the essence of all the faiths yet cautioned against orthodoxy and blind faith highlighting their flaws in his dohas. His couplets or dohas with their innate wisdom are a part of the Indian ethos and treasured by all. My favorite doha is the following:

Guru Govind Dono Khade, Kake Laagu Paaye, Balihari Guru Aapno, Govind Diyo Bataye.

Translated: A disciple confronted with both his guru/teacher and god questions as to whom he should bow to first, Kabir response is that he should bow to his guru first for it is his guru/teacher who will guide him and show him the path to god.

Kabir’s Famous Couplets:

A philosophy of the Guru who is your teacher and guide is integral to the Sikh faith which has Kabir’s dohas in it’s scripture The Guru Granth Sahib.


Kabir is much beloved and often evoked in the music and hymns sung by the Hindu’s, Sikhs, Muslims and Sufis. Despite his couplets highlighting the flaws in the blind beliefs of the popular faiths of the subcontinent he is heralded as a saint as his words to this day strike a cord with the average man who respects their innate wisdom. This universal appeal of Kabir is reflective of the composite culture of the Indian subcontinent, a culture that evolved from millennia of mixture of people and ideas that journeyed to these shores. Kabir wrote and spoke in the vernacular, threading together an underlying corpus of ideas and philosophy of the multiple faiths, beliefs, idols and ideas of the subcontinent.

This composite culture is best reflected below by the coinage of the Sikh Kingdoms, a faith which also arose as a part of the reform or Bhakti movement. Here the coinage appears very secular as it reflects an amalgam of faiths and ideas. See below the coins of the Sikh Kingdoms with the name of Ram written in Gurmukhi (Punjabi script), Devanagai (Sanskrit script), and Persian. Yes, Ram (the major Hindu deity symbolic of virtue from the Ramayana and embraced by the Sikhs), was struck in a coin by the Sikh Kingdoms in Persian script! See below the coinage from the Sikh Kingdoms reflecting the beauty of the Composite culture of India:

Live History India -Revisiting Sikh History Tales from the Mints:

See below Abida Parveen, a Sufi singer from Pakistan singing the same Kabir’s dohas or couplets:


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