Geneva Diaries #13

Goa and the Rickshaw driver, Madhubala in Manhattan, The Crane and The Magical Lake


Dear Roger,

Greetings from Glorious Goa! Sun, sand, surf and gooood smoke, a constant 30 degrees…it could not get better!

I absolutely have to bring u to my universe, this little Indo-Portugese haven on the west coast of India, even if it is for a brief visit.The food fresh out of the ocean, is spicy and just divine.The Goa prawn curry has your name written all over it! I find myself surrounded by palm trees swaying in the breeze, chilled out folks (many remnants of the hippy happy 60ties and 70ties),  a landscape dotted with charming old whitewashed Indo-Portugese homes, quaint churches with their distinctive Indo-Portugese art and architecture beaming me back in a flash to a corner of my living room in Geneva, a part of us, a part of India, with our own sculpture of St. Francis from these very shores that adores and adorns our home. Roger, you would just fall in love…the language, the food, the architecture, coloring every niche of these surroundings with the imprint of Vasco Da Gama’s famous adventure in search of India (while our buddy Columbus decided to take the “other” route, his famous shortcut to the Beach)…and a vivid reminder of not just having Arrived but so intrinsically having contributed to the Story of India…a saga that continues!

Vasco Da Gama’s Adventure in Search of India:

See pics of Goa pasted below:

I was thrilled to read that you enjoyed following my trail as I journeyed back to old Indian cinema and my reference to the Indian movie Mughal-e-Azam. I was even more excited to find that you loved Madhubala, and the youtube clip of the song Jab Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya. If you permit me, I would love to continue on this journey with you and perhaps through this introduce myself to your universe, a universe that just does not “Understand us” (Oh, how I love Jay-Z…he too speaks for me!).

If you remember, I shared a special moment, a glimpse of the all elusive “romance high” during my last trip to Manhattan. It was a stormy night, I was caught in a downpour clutching onto my precious Armani purchases on 5th avenue, when I saw a charming smile, a welcoming face that invited me to jump into the rickshaw with him. Yes, it was a rickshaw, and i was being driven down 5th avenue during a rainy stormy night by the most charming college student with twinkling bright blue eyes, a sexy foreign accent and a charming smile! I am not quite sure what it was that made me jump into that flimsy rickshaw and allow him to cycle me through maddening traffic down mid manhattan, but that is what we are all searching for isn’t it…that something special that cannot be explained? It was confirmed at every red light when he turned back to peer at me through the plastic sheet that separated us and continue telling me about himself and his life in manhattan. The smile the twinkle were irresistible! Fourteen blocks  later, he deposited me outside my apartment, held out a large warm generous hand and helped me out of the rickshaw. I did not want to let go, and neither did he…but life is poignant and ironic and we said goodbye. He turned around as I did to look at me for the one last time, thinking of what it could have been…

You have to see me as Madhubala in Barsaat Ki Raat(the stormy/rainy night)! do check the youtube clip:  Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat ek Anjan Hasina se Mulakat ki raat (I will never forget that one stormy night, meeting a charming stranger on that rainy stormy night – Barsaat ki Raat). 

A classic from Indian Cinema – Barsaat ki Raat:

Of course, me being me, I could very easily have played the male poet part in the same movie!

will mail soon!



PS: Check out this lovely little video clip on Goa below


Dear Purnima,

What a delight to awake to such a tantalizing evocation of a tropical paradise complements of Vasco Da Gamma.  Those visions of palm trees swaying in a tropical breeze and quaint houses and churches sound like pure and unadulterated escapism for those of us who are surrounded by snow covered peaks, stormy, windy, sub-zero weather with the threat of snow on every weather forecast and tales of avalanche tragedies flooding the airwaves.  I will dream all day long of the possibility of a flying carpet that could whisk me to the other side of the  planet to partake of that enticing Goa prawn curry dish.

I just realized the danger of painting a too negative portrait of the climatic conditions in Geneva: you may not ever want to return !

I’ll definitely check out the other youtube clip.

You did write earlier about your rickshaw adventure through the streets of Manhattan, but not in quite such vivid detail.  Do you understand fully  the allure of your exotic beauty, of those deep and bewitching brown eyes, of the intelligence and wit that excite and attract rather than repel.  It is no wonder that young rickshaw drivers and tapas masters fall under your spell.

I’m reading Murakami’s “South of the Border, West of the Sun” right now.  It is a delightful and evocative first-person narrative of a young man who meets up again with his childhood friend and soul-mate after many years of flailing away in Japanese society looking for something that will bring him true happiness.  It’s a more straight-forward narrative and far different from “Hard-Boiled Wonderland …”  At one point in his life he is dating a young woman for whom he has a certain degree of affection, but not that something special, that je ne sais quoi that jumps out and grabs you when you least expect it (he likens it to listening to jazz.  You go to clubs and listen to all kinds of music, some of which is rather mundane and unexciting, but you keep going back and spending countless hours listening because there is always the chance that you will be fortunate enough to enjoy one of those very special moments that sweep you of your feet – like a Keith Jarrett solo concert in Brussels).  At one point in his relationship with the young woman – they haven’t even slept together – he meets her cousin.  She is not a raving beauty, but she has that certain something about her that makes him aware that he just has to sleep with her, and he senses that the attraction is mutual.  They soon embark on a purely sexual relationship of mad, passionate love-making.  They scarcely exchange two words, but as soon as they meet on each of their assignations, they immediately tear each others clothes off and fall to the bed where they spend hours on end in fulfilling each others pent-up desires.  They don’t love each other, but they have this overwhelming physical, almost mystical, attraction to each other.  It reminded me of a delicious film I saw several years ago (I’ve forgotten the title), but it was about a man and a woman who met each Weds. afternoon in a London suburb where they made love.  They knew absolutely nothing about each other and spoke very little, and the male character’s world is turned upside down when she fails to show up one Weds. afternoon.

Enjoy the beach and the warm, sunny weather.  I’m terribly envious !

Tender hugs,



Dear Roger,

I never did manage to read Kafka on the Shore; there were far too many distractions on the Beach. Apart from the sun, sand and sea and Goan curry, there was the incredible Sunburn Festival, an annual three day music festival (a Rave on the beach) where we danced for hours non stop sandwiched by the “raving” crowds; a beautiful eternally flowing bar that spilled onto the beach right into our glasses; many, many indulgent massages with a view of the blue and an ideal idyllic New Years eve on the edge of the shore, with friends from what feels like a life in the past, around a little light, with music, a guitar and champagne. Excuses, excuses, excuses, I know But what wonderful excuses, just a book of my own!

Back to your story of Wednesdays and meeting a friend and soulmate, do I notice a hint of nostalgia, a connection from the past, a story of your own? I would love to get a first person account of that. I suspect there are many many books lurking, waiting to be discovered.

I am glad you enjoyed Madhubala in Manhattan. What other place in the world would you get the misty monsoons of Pondicherry mixing so beautifully with the Blues of the Urals… adding to the magic of 5th avenue. As we spoke, and he shared his story of a journey from a little village in the Urals to mad Manhattan (in that very foreign, very seductive accent), I felt that the little rickshaw had grown wings and flown high up into the sky somehow transporting me to a place in the Urals where he belonged. We seemed to have laughed, joked and toured the world returning 20 blocks downtown back in Manhattan. What a fabulous adventure, a story I will not forget. See below an artwork that captures the moment- Over the Town (Vitebsk) by Marc Chagall:

But, talking about books, I have as always, picked up a bunch of books for the kids on Indian mythology, history, and ghost stories (to be read on a snowy night around the fireplace in Geneva) told by by Ruskin Bond an English author of British descent, born and raised in India, who best connects the pieces of my India, my past, the familiar names, the familiar places (Mussoorie, Simla and the hills), of chikoo (an incredible Indian fruit) orchards and Indian experiences, ironically, through whom I hope to introduce and connect these places and experiences to my children. In the midst of all this, I found lying in a stack the much searched for, Tintin in the Congo…a story begging to be told!

Ruskin Bond:

Two more days and I will finally be packing and on my way back, but I have the incredible pilgrimage to share with you before then.

Will email soon.

Warm regards,


Hi Roger,

Did you ever watch Avatar, the new age love story? I went with a bunch of friends but they just did not seem to connect. It looks like my generation or perhaps my group of friends, in their 30ties and 40ties have missed the boat!

 I went to see the movie with absolutely no clue of what I was about to encounter, and even after seeing the movie it took me a day or two to fully assimilate it. It started as what seemed a hotch-potch of Jurassic park adventure and Sci-fi with the usual alien looking being suspended in amniotic fluid… I jumped to the usual conclusions and just switched off. It was somewhere midway through the film that I realized that we were witnessing a revolution in cinema, not just with the fantastic effects and technology but a storyline betting on a complete change in perception of the cinema viewer, or another type of cinema goer. This was not a sci-fi film, and certainly no jurassic park, but a warm touching love story. A much desired and much repeated theme in a new context. Here the hurdle between the lovers was not one of race, ethnicity or even species, but as I saw it, it was the unique and topical conflict of today, a conflict of realms and realities. The two existed in different realities, and in order for their love to be realized one had to give up his reality, this world and merge completely into hers. How often is this issue faced by the generation of today who spend so much of their time in the virtual world, who essentially are abandoning life in the world that you and I know to merge and live in another. What would be their dream but to design a perfect world, a perfect life and a perfect partner and subsist there for a while, for now or perhaps find a corridor as the hero did and subsist there for ever.

Do watch.

Hope to see you soon!


Dear Purnima,

Sorry, I should have gotten back to you over the weekend, but we spent all day Sunday brainstorming about Japan (We’re going back again this spring for a month).

I haven’t seen Avatar yet.  I did see the previews when we went to see Michael Moore’s latest film on Capitalism, and I must say that I wasn’t too impressed by the previews.  I tend to avoid the big blockbuster films, especially those by James Cameron.  It took me several years before I went to see Titanic, and I’ve always been fascinated by that story.  I remember so clearly how moved I was when I saw the original black and white film about the sinking of the Titanic.  I had dreams all that night about drowning.  And I actually didn’t have any intention of going to see Avatar.  However, when I read your analysis of the love thread in the plot and how it was necessary for the lovers to cross over into another realm, as opposed to simply another culture or ethnicity, to achieve total fulfillment in their love, I understood immediately why the film had so impressed you.  It really does jive with our earlier conversations about moving back and forth between reality and a virtual world.  OK, I’ll let you know when I’ve seen it and what my impressions are.

I may be coming to Geneva on Friday afternoon and would have time for coffee around 4:30.  Is that too late for you ?  I don’t know what time the kids get back from school.  I’m dying to hear all your latest stories and adventures.  If that works for you, where shall we meet ?  I really like the café downstairs in the museum where we’ve gone before.

See you then, I hope,


Roger Stevenson

Michael Moore: Capitalism

Dear Purnima,

When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by a series of novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan.  He wrote several books that dealt with a secret and hidden world in the interior of the earth.  If I remember correctly, they were called Tarzan in Pellucidar  and Return to Pelucidar.  I was really intrigued by the idea of a new and different realm that existed within the confines of the globe.  He also did a whole series about space travel – John Carter on Mars – where the protagonist was able to transport himself to the planet Mars by the power of his thoughts and will.  It was a fascinating series.  I wonder if Avatar wasn’t a little bit inspired by the Pellucidar series ?

Dear Roger,

It was also my parents 44th anniversary today and I unknowingly spent the day going through old photos especially those of their wedding. They were a beautiful couple, I can’t imagine what my mother has had to go through all these years without him around. He died at 48.

The photos also reminded me of him and his passion for birds and bird calls which I was forced to memorize and repeat(part of his general love for nature), and in particular his fascination with the Siberian Crane that used to visit India, and a sanctuary (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and Sultanpur) near home every winter. There was always the anxious anticipation, the scanning of news reports on the migration of the crane and the flurry of excitement when the first crane after its unbelievable long migratory flight from the icy tracks of Siberia came to winter in lush green India and touched down on Indian soil. I always compared this to the love my father had for my mother whom he jokingly called a Siberian,( and I continue to do so as you will realize when you experience a winter in her subzero bedroom). The black and white photos of my mother at the time of her marriage and especially one poised near the lake would lead anyone to believe that my fathers dream and desire took human form and came to live among us, had babies and now is slowly dying.

The Siberian Crane’s Journey to India:

I really do wish to share these memories and have attached a photo of the crane. Do you recognize her?

The Siberian Crane (mom looking v elegant in her saree) gazes longingly at The Magical Lake (Dal Lake Kashmir)

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.

Purnima Viswanathan 

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