Geneva Diaries #33

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


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.



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.

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 !



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 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, 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!

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 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). 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):

Mere mehboob mujhe teri mehboob ki kasam – Mhd Rafi ( My mother always said I looked like the actress Sadhana – see me 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 portrait (characteristics)? 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, 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 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? 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, devalued by your blob of a husband 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.  An elderly, retired High School teacher from northern California had settled in Ashland and he 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 I found out later that he was a sort of sexual predator and that he had propositioned several young male students that he was privately tutoring.  

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.

Purnima Viswanathan 

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