Geneva Diaries #20

The Potato Eaters


Dear Purnima,

We returned to our comfy apartment in Tokyo tonight after a really great train adventure around Japan.  It’s great to be back in Tokyo.  It’s a city with such energy and excitement, and we’re also a bit tired of living out of a suitcase for two weeks.

We were in Nagoya the past couple of days and had originally planned on taking the bullet train back to Tokyo late this afternoon, but then we thought it would be wonderful to see a bit more of Japan, so we took a train this morning to Nagano in the Japanese alps and spent a few hours there visiting a wonderful shrine – the first place a statue of Buddha was erected in Japan.  There were snow covered peaks in the distance and the scenery along river valleys getting there was really spectacular.  The cherry blossoms were in full bloom.  They must bloom later than in Tokyo because of the difference in altitude.  It was raining this morning when we left Nagoya, but as the day went on, the weather became increasingly bright and sunny.  By the time we got back to Tokyo it felt very much like summer.

Tomorrow we are going on a walking tour of jazz bars and cafés in the Shinjuko section of the city with an American who has lived here for the past ten years.  He has a great jazz blog and organized the Tokyo Jazz Society.  There are some amazingly talented musiciens here, many of whom are women, who are next to unknown in the rest of the world.  I spent an hour or so the other day listening to some new releases at a record shop in Nagoya.

Did you know that the Toyota automobile manufacturer really started as a textile business?  The founder, a certain S. Toyoda, made several important inventions to the functions of looms that revolutionized the industry.  With the advent of the automobile, he advised his son to concentrate on that rather than on looms and spinning machines.  The headquarters of Toyota are in Nagoya, and it is very much a company town (city).

Hope all is well and the weather is still nice and warm in Geneva,




Dear Roger,

It’s wonderful to hear from you and get an update on your adventures across Japan. However, I would have enjoyed some scoop though, like the geisha who paused and smiled as she scurried passed the tall blue eyed American stranger…

Talking about adventures, it looks like I am finally off to one of my own, this time hopefully a REAL life one! Yes, I am finally off to Paris to continue an incredible Indo-American/ French-Moroccan story. A story I can’t wait to share. It all started in a marble palace suspended in the middle of another magical lake in a mystical land far far away.

See below Marble Palace in the middle of a lake- Udaipur Lake Palace Hotel:

If there is a definition on earth for paradise, it is here. Of course, little did I know that froggie would lure me with a ball of cheese, bedecked in all my jeweled finery, pull me down to the depths of the lake through the center of the earth  and lock me up in a tower on another magical lake, Lake Geneva, one closer to (his) home.  Looking for the meaning of Paradise across languages and cultures familiar to me, I found it to refer to a beautiful almost heavenly place, (Judea-Christian) the Garden of Eden;  a garden, a palace with fountains, the definition finds a parallel closer to home, in Persian paradise is also defined as a beautiful magical place, a garden, similarly in Urdu (jannat), but when I look at Sanskrit, I find a distinction, here paradise is no longer a physical place/space but keeping the essence of that idea, a place of beauty and liberation, a spiritual space, a place within. You have to take your beloved there one day, and perhaps I could show u one way, right through the center of lake Geneva.

The weather here has been absolutely glorious with endless sunshine and temperatures hovering in the mid seventies, this has been a long winter in Geneva! Just two weeks ago I was unsure if I should pack away the winter coats, it was cold, and over cast and I felt completely sapped of spirit and energy. That was when you were getting all my mail complaining endlessly about my dead-end existence. However, in the throes of gloom, Geneva  presented its lighter side which had me in splits and made my day: I was driving on a routine trip to take the kids for tennis when  the radio blared in French that the listeners should wait through the commercials for the much anticipated upcoming song, “Gae-O”, this was repeated again with much passion, “Gae-O”, and I though to myself what could that possibly be, perhaps a popular French number. Then the music filled the car and I realized it was actually the hit song from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, “Jai-Ho”! The sky brightened and the clouds vanished as I almost laughed myself off the highway as I realized that in French the “J” is pronounced as a “G” and vice versa, “A” is  “AA” the Hindi “ A (आ)” and “I” is pronounced as “E” (इ) and then to make things really complicated, the “H” is completely dropped! So, Jai-Ho is pronounced as “Gae-O”. How I possibly remain depressed in this French speaking part of Switzerland! How I LOVE this language, it turns me right round and upside down!! 

Here is a blast from the past – The music of the 80’s that still echoes off those Swiss slopes to this very day: Dead Or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)

Well, for some additional news from my end, Mirko just mentioned casually over dinner to some friends that he was asked to move to Boise, Idaho. I almost chocked on my potatoes (the plural always perplexes me after the lessons from your illustrious leader), this is the way I get my news! I immediately surfed Boise, “where in heavens was that”. Contrary to what I thought, a potato farming midwestern state, I discovered it was located in the North Western US  and Boise River Valley (Bonneville Point) is located on the Oregon Trail (which I chant in my sleep as I have been pestered for years by my son to buy this “awesome” DvD: The Oregon Trail). Apparently getting its name from a French  guide who upon reaching the lush river valley shouted “les bois, les bois” and it’s the world (US is the world is it not?) capital of french fries

Well, my head started spinning as I ignored the Forbes report of Boise being ranked as one of the best places for business and career, and it spun and spun right to the the place where I spent my 24 hours in Amsterdam, the Van Gogh museum, to the core of “The Potato Eaters”. This dramatic work, one of the first masterpieces of Van Gogh, which has always tugged at something deep within, was finally in sight. I was being propelled into its frame, as I found myself seated in this dark room with the characters portrayed in this incredible work of art which reflected the potato farmers seated for dinner in a dimly lit room, with their coarse features, and soiled clothes and hands reflecting a sincerity, labor and an honest  toil. However, I found myself a bit misplaced and squeaked when one of them touched my hand and offered me a potato. My brain of course was shouting…”did you wash that in pinky (potassium permanganate) first”?

So, I spend the first of May in Paris.

Hope to hear from you very soon.





The story would be incomplete and

I could not leave without telling you that I heard the radio broadcast of my favorite song (Jai-Ho) “Gae-O” on the popular radio channel NRJ or rather N+rrchoo (sneeze)+Gii !

Funny, not funny???

If u spent as much time raising an American Pre-teenager, in a French speaking environment you might be more sympathetic to my newly acquired sense of humor.

Hope to see u soon.



Dear Purnima,

I’m so glad for you that you had such a delightful 24 hours in Paris.  I was waiting until your return to write back, since I didn’t know exactly how long you were going to stay.  24 hours sounds just a bit too short, but I’m sure it was long enough to give you that beaming smile and probably lots of lingering tingles all over.  When is your next trip back?

Don’t really have any geisha tales to spin, but we have seen a few of them, mainly in Kyoto, and we did stop and take a picture of one in Matsuyama last week.  I’ll try and send it to you.  I must say, however, that I am not totally taken by the geisha, and with all that make up and formal kimono dress, which are, of course, part and parcel of the entire geisha tradition.  But there are so many absolutely stunning modern Japanese women, especially in the Ginza area of Tokyo that . . .

We spent a wonderful day yesterday at the music festival called La Folle Journée au Japon, which is the brain child of the festival of the same title in Nantes, France.  It is a three day festival with dozens of concerts each day by some marvelous, world-class performers.  A friend of ours is the press attaché for the festival, and she gave us press badges for the entire festival.  We saw three exceptional concerts yesterday and are going back again this afternoon and evening for more.  This year’s festival is devoted to Chopin and all of his works are being performed.  It is a festival designed to encourage appreciation of classical music by people from all walks of life, and it is far from the stuffy ambiance that one usually finds at a classical music concert in France.  They even allow children as young as 3 into a good number of the concerts.

More about Boise later.  Not so sure you would find the transition from Geneva to southern Idaho (Mormon country) to your liking, and the demons might be just as active there, if not more so than they are in Geneva.

Off to an art museum.



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 

%d bloggers like this: