Geneva Diaries #15

 Hafiz and Rosnard et 69 Année érotique


Dear Purnima,

Just when all but the highest piles of snow on either side of our driveway had melted, everything is white again this morning.  I must admit that it is incredibly beautiful, but it always makes driving interesting.

Saw a wonderful film on Serge Gainsbourg last weekend, Serge Gainsbourg: une vie héroique.  Although I’m not much into pop music, I do remember very well several of his big hits, and seeing the film + a great documentary on TV (France 3), Serge Gainsbourg et les femmes, I have a much more profound respect for his artistic sense and his enormous talent.  There were, of course, numerous contradictions in his life, but he had a real knack for writing just the right song for the right up-and-coming starlet at the right time.  One of the things I have always appreciated about him was his sense of provocation and daring, often very subtly, to poke fun at the social norms of his time.  His great hit, and the one that really made him very rich, was a song he wrote and recorded (twice) in the late 1960’s – once with Brigitte Bardot (she made him promise not to release it) and then shortly after with his new girlfriend Jane Birkin (which was released).  Je t’aime, moi non plus was, without being crass, extremely suggestive, and it was promptly banned in many countries and put on the Vatican’s index.  Every time I hear it I get quite nostalgic in thinking back to my very first torrid love affair with an English woman who loved the song.

Serge Gainsbourg-Je t’aime, moi non plus:

 Another of his really risqué songs was one he wrote for a young singer who was totally innocent and overly-protected by a dotting father/manager.  It was called La Sucette (Lollipop)  She was so naive that she didn’t realize that the song was really a thinly veiled reference to oral sex.  The eventual realization on her part really threw her for a loop.  And I remember how much I loved his reggae version of La Marseillaise, a song that enraged the conservative right in France.

Reggae version of La Marseillaise:

Stay warm.  Hugs on this cold, wintry day,


On Jan 22, 2010, “Roger Stevenson” wrote:

Dear Purnima,

It was delightful to see you again on Tuesday.  It had been far toooooooo long !  You were as radiantly beautiful as ever, and seemed really upbeat.  All those massages and chants on the beaches of Goa were definitely good for you.

I’m a bit puzzled trying to interpret the two lines of Hafez you sent.

Another attempt at getting unlost in translation:

“That beautiful Shirazi Turk, took control and my heart stole,

I’ll give Samarkand & Bukhara, for her Hindu beauty mole.

O wine-bearer bring me wine, such wine not found in Heavens

By running brooks,  in flowery fields, spend your days and stroll.

Alas, these sweet gypsy clowns, these agitators of our town

Took the patience of my heart, like looting Turks take their toll.

Such unfinished love as ours, the Beloved has no need,

For the Perfect Beauty, frills and adornments play no role…”

Interesting that in the version you sent it was “his” dark mole, and in the version above it is “her” beauty mole.

Connaist-tu la poésie de Ronsard ?


Dear Roger

The translators (often persons from your universe) superimpose their world upon ours and so you and I read the translations posted, the photos published and words printed! I have often wondered why photos of men from my universe appear with a particularly startled expression with curly black hair protruding from every orifice ( i later realized Its an art form to set off a fire cracker before the photographer says  “Say Cheeze”).

All The Birds of Asia

Perhaps I should share with you a photo of my maternal grandfather with his distinctive dark mole, a dignified image of a man from the Punjab (from the shadows of the Himalayan Weisshorn), for you to contrast with the faces projected by western media.

See pasted below All The Faces of of The Birds of Asia – Jai Dev Shourie:

As I understand it, the verse goes:

If only my beloved would take my heart in hand; 

For that beautiful one with the dark mole,

 I would relinquish the wealth of Samarkand and Bukhara in whole!

Here Hinduyash does not mean the Hindu spot but represents the dark beauty spot on the face of the youth (Hindu represents the people of Hindustan with their darker skin). And of course, it the Shirzai Turk was a “him” and not “her” as the “angrez” translated. My translation of the verse fits me, and my story perfectly!

Will tell u one day…  



Dear Roger,

I loved both the youtube clips and especially his reggae version of La Marseillaise. Very cool, very sexy. Its amazing to see how he managed to challenge norms, provoke, and poke fun as you said and do it in such a sexy sophisticated manner. I can see absolutely nothing crass or vulgar that can be attributed to either one of the clips, unfortunately unlike many of our modern day rappers (whom I have bouncing on my iphone) who often cross that line!

I have a clip to share as well, a dream from my youth, where my beloved is so smitten that he is questioning whether I am the full moon or the brilliance of the sun… whatever I am, I am beyond compare. Such is the love  i was seeking and I find myself in Shrek II painted in the unmistakable color :GREEEEEEEEEN. Alien Green!!

Do see  youtube Mohammad Rafi : Chaudvin ka chand

Pls help me to find the one who fits into that achkan (coat).

See you soon!



PS: I have to add this song of Serge Gainsbourg which just flashed on my screen and which reminds me of you Roger, as this embodies your time, and your music which drew us to your shores. See below Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin “69 année érotique” or 1969 The erotic year: :

Dear Roger,

I have been feeling the same way, anxious about not ever hearing from you or speaking to you again! In fact, I took the hallucination to another level, and thought that What If…you were just a figment of my imagination, something I conjured up, a best friend with whom I can chat, be clever, be foolish and drink a lot of coffee. And, then i received your last email, and heaved a sigh of relief…you see I’ve grown accustomed to your face, accustomed to your smile, accustomed to your ways…in this very short while.

Yes, things have been busy and I have kept myself twirling from the time I returned from India. You would be pleased to know that I did rejoin ecole migros and have started my French classes; fortunately, I have now jumped in at a level I can comprehend. I have also joined a gym close by to battle these cold grey winter days…And then of course there is “the lovely bird with azure wings, and song that said a thousand things, and seemed to say them all for me”: A Love Story.

I am off to Paris on the 9th for two days, veryyyyy excited about it. I am so looking forward to meeting my frog prince (I wish you could join us, even u will not be able to resist his charms, just as long as u beware of his kisses…its an immediate transformation into “frogginess”). I also hope to practice some French, and finally but most crucially hope to find the markers for “The Holy Grail”!

You do know that I have been on a lifelong pursuit of understanding the idea, exploring the concept of privacy, which, as we have discussed in the past,  is getting more alarmingly relevant in this technologically accelerated universe of ours. And, in my opinion, should form the core, the fulcrum, the basis upon which any legal system that is to be relevant in this world is to be built. The French, somehow so intrinsically live, breathe, and represent this idea that it appears to be enmeshed in them and their culture. Which makes my journey to their heart soooo attractive. I am convinced somewhere within its alleyways lies the Holy Grail!

Hope to see you very soon in your charming ponytail and desigual coat. Give my love to Barcelona!



Dear Purnima,

What a terrible hallucination.  Reduced to a figment of your imagination !  And how could you ever think that I would never write or see you again ?, and a nice allusion to George Bernard Shaw and Lerner and Loewe !  Not bad.  I, too, was relieved.

It’s lovely to wake up each morning to a clear, blue sky and temperatures that are somewhat clement.  I checked the weather in Geneva last night, and it still looks pretty cold and wintry.  At least you have filled your life with both some old and new activities.  Glad the level at Migros is more to your liking, and I’m envious about your upcoming Paris adventure, holy grail and all.  It’s really a magical and fairytale-like city for lovers.  But as far as our discussions of privacy in our technologically driven society, I’m not so sure that you will find your long-sought-after Holy Grail in Paris.  Unfortunately, I think France is fast becoming a security conscious, fear ridden place where CCTV cameras are sprouting like mushrooms in the urban decor, and where the possibility of eavesdropping in on our phone, email and even personal conversations is increasingly likely.  One of the truly intriguing aspects of the Lisbeth Salander character in Millennium is her ability as a computer hacker to intrude into information systems and manipulate them.  The is also a citizen of “The Hackers Republic”.  She and her fellow hackers can crack nearly any computer system they want (at least in this fictional world).  It’s a fascinating and yet murky world, but I can’t help but wonder how much of this fantasizing isn’t really very close to the reality where Big Brother will be able to pry into the private lives of anyone, at any time.

Off the the central Mercado for some fresh fruit and vegetables and great cheeses, followed by a tapas of two for lunch.  Wish you could join us.


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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