Geneva Diaries #42

Schaffhausen, Zurich, Sky Lab, Law of the Sky and the Blood, DNA Claim, Japan, Schonberger, Delete


Dear Purnima,

It was really wonderful seeing you today.  You looked, as always, beautiful and full of wit and intelligence, and it was such a treat to sit outside and enjoy a coffee along with great conversation.

The book fair at Palexpo was really very good.  Not quite as jazzy as the car show, and there are no stunningly beautiful women standing next to the book stalls to explain them to an eager, drooling and mostly male public, but I really like browsing through the various stands and wishing that i had much more time to read..  We try and go every year, but I am always amazed at the enormous number of books that are published each year.  A has a new novel that will be coming out in August, and her editor was there, so they got a chance to do a lot of chatting.

Here’s the link for the article on Japanese nuclear plants written by a Japanese anti-nuclear activist.

More in a few days from the land of the rising sun.




Dear Roger,

It was fabulous to see you as usual but I felt somehow that this meeting was very brief as there was so much to exchange so much left unsaid, all in all, I just did not get enough “Roger time” so you have to promise me an endless afternoon the next time we meet with no schedules, no appointments tearing you away. I can’t wait to cook for you, so many recipes, much bubbling in the cauldron!

Thank you for the article, I have been reading endlessly about Japan, the Tsunami and the ensuing catastrophe especially the soul shaking nuclear one. I think this has dramatically changed  most peoples mental maps and the infrastructure we take for granted (or has it not?). I would love to get news from the ground, can’t wait to see what you bring back from Japan (However, I would go easy on the greens, there’s the vacation glow and there is the irradiation glow).

So, you’ve caught your Ace… congratulations! Roger, being the eternal conspiracy theorist, I would have somehow been more at ease if we actually saw him, had him given his fair trial and then done the dunking. This night raid, shootout and vanished into the waves act just does not flow down my esophagus(he may have just moved residence from the suburbs of Lahore to the suburbs of Washington closer to his namesake… just joking), what about you?

Well, guess what, once the Americans got Osama, guess who else they had listed as #2 on their most wanted… yup, I was chased by a US missile which came to a grinding halt millimeters from my toes finally pinning me into a storefront on Rive, right here in downtown Geneva. Do check out the images of the US missile on Rive, The ultimate US WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction) lol to which I finally succumbed in the photos below. Also pasted is my favorite snap of “Swiss Humour”, do check out … is it a babe, is it a cow…Oh No… it’s a SPEED CAMERA!!! 

See pics of Geneva Speed Camera Camouflaged as a Swiss Cow:

US Missile on Rive, Geneva:

Talking about demons from the sea and demons from the air, do you remember the Skylab? The Skylab was the first US space station which could not be refurbished and sustained in space and disintegrated, breaking up into pieces as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. These pieces were scattered in space and found their way landing over the Indian Ocean and parts of Australia in the summer of 1979. The Skylab incident gravely impacted my grandfather who was furious that the skies were being littered by debris that might hurl downwards at him disturbing his peace as he went for his routine evening walk (Yes, there are people who have concerns about the sky falling on their heads in “real life” outside the Asterix comic books). He used to return every evening declaring that he was un-hit and this continued for a long time… till the point where I felt that he was almost disappointed that the Skylab did not fall on his head, he would have enjoyed that fiery end to a passionately lived brilliant life. 

But Roger, coming back to the issues that plague our world, I just read Helen Caldicott article in the IHT, “Unsafe at Any Dose”, and after reading her in on the same issue of the impact of radiation from the nuclear fall outs on the human body which impacts not just our physical bodies, but our core, our DNA, and that it impacts not just this time frame, us and our families but that of our progeny stretched out through time infinitely. She outlines in both these articles, that the impact is not merely immediate perceivable and addressable but can alter our DNA, be carried in a recessive gene (hidden gene) which will only rear its head when coupled with another recessive gene (from your partner) many generations into the future. 

So, we are looking at contamination, pollution that is not just constrained in the here and now but is stretched through time (as in the case of radiation leaks) and space as in the case of Skylab debris. We are no longer just looking at air, water, soil contamination but contamination of spaces beyond our reach and beyond our control: The contamination of outer space and the contamination of inner space (our DNA). 

The cardinal question of course is, who will take responsibility, and how do we assign responsibility for a time and space so far out into the future? Do we divvi up the skies/space like we have done the seas.. A Law of the Skies? Do we assign gene pools/ DNA’s to certain groups and leave it to them to monitor and control? How do we assign that, would it be assigned to the group most impacted by the number of persons or the percentage of persons? Or else would it be assigned to a group that is distinctive not merely by the number or percentage impacted but by it’s own unique culture and language (a distinctive genetic-cultural unit) eventually giving them the final say over a particular decision, drug, weapons impact?

 OK, let’s be real, would we ever really let Tuvalu (the one made famous by .tv as it’s domain name) have the final say if a certain virus was to be introduced into the human body which would replicate and within a short time frame cover the globe give the first world majority immunity to a deadly disease(AIDS/Heart disease/ Malaria for example) in Tuvalu and there is no research on how the introduction of this virus would negatively impact them… would we let them have their say? Who is it that makes these decisions for all, and why should those that incur the danger of possible extermination (even if they are a handful and their chief industry is guano- bird poop) accept it? How would they reject it? Now what if the issue was not a virus but a group’s concerns about radiation impacting their gene pool (or climate change submerging their isle) which was not dispersed /differentiated enough for them to survive till the next generation? To resist would they need to resort to muscle power? To weapons? To the very same weapons that they were fighting against to secure their will? Stalemate again or Act of God??

Wish you all the very best on your travels to Japan, I am probably off to London for a week but back before you return end May and perhaps a short trip to see The Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfalls in Schaffhausen. I guessed Schaffhausen should be the safest place around for #2, as the Americans could not possibly go “oops I did it again”! Or could they?

Lots of love and hope to see you back very soon!



Dear Purnima,

I was really tickled to get your email before we leave, and I agree that our brief interlude over coffee on Saturday was all too short.  I promise a complete and leisurely afternoon when we return from Japan.  We still have to have a glass of champagne to celebrate your liberation.

That’s indeed a terrifying WMD !  One should really stay as far away from that one as possible.  It might even be worse than the armor piercing missiles with depleted uranium that the US and NATO have fired all over the Middle East and elsewhere, and I drive past the cow-radar quite often and always get a kick out of it, but I was flashed by an undisguised and lurking variety driving back from Yvoire the other night.  At least you might be able to see one disguised as a cow at night, but a naked speed camera is another story.

I don’t quite know what to think about the O & O circus.  The Obama crowd is certainly milking it for all they can, and it will undoubtedly give an enormous boost to Obama’s re-election hopes, but I’m disgusted by the stupidly naive exulting in the streets by all those super-patriotic Americans who are so happy about the event, that they can’t even stop to realize that the US has adopted a vigilante posture and that it’s quite all right to rub someone out with a middle-of-the-night raid.  What ever happened to due process ?  And I’m not sure that the American public hears much about the many doubts that folks in Europe are expressing about the event.  I must say that I was really surprised to hear that they had dumped his body in the ocean so quickly.  I can understand them not wanted to open any windows to martyrdom by burying his body in a grave that would then become a pilgrimage site, but there must have been something else that could have been done

I loved your analogy of the contamination within and in outer space.  Fabulous !   It will be interesting to talk to some of our Japanese friends about Fukushima and nuclear power.  By the way, did you hear that Sharkozy in a speech yesterday to the workers in one of France’s nuclear reactors denounced the “irrational and medieval fear” of those who contest the safety of nuclear power plants.  There is no question of France giving up the advantage it holds in clean, safe ? ? ? power generation, our chief cheerleader for AREVA/EDF continues to stress.  One would think he had just gotten off the phone with George Monbiot.

Got to run and finish packing.  More from the land of the rising sun….

Love and hugs,


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.

A 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,



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  where Osama was found and finished(Lahore), Yes, I speak in strange tongues and certainly can understand and communicate with most of the chappies(can’t call them all 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 (which you bomb) 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 it’s 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.

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?

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 below. 


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. As we wandered up and down the cobbled streets searing for this giant clock which was visible from every point in the city looming large except when you were very close to it. So, we spent half a day playing Peep-a-Boo with the clock face till we finally caught him (Do check out the photos below)!


We then 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:

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

Then, i 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, that I was faced with the route (Gasse) that leads to Fahrt!

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:

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 – my father’s tale). 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 were 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.

Good night!



Dear Purnima,

It was wonderful to get your  email, and I did  indeed begin to wonder about your prolonged silence.  I thought maybe you had fallen into a rabbit’s hole and been kidnapped by the Mad Hatter and secreted off to his warren.

I can  really understand your feelings about having to deal with everything and be out of the apartment be the end of June. Major moves and divorces are  proven sources of stress.  Some diversion on  the banks of the  Thames should really do the trick.

We are leaving this morning for Kyoto after two days in Hiroshima.  We found a really  cool  bar last night run by a guy from Nepal, and then we had Okonomi Yaki in this little hole in the wall restaurant that was  really funky.  Hiroshima doesn’t seem to have been effected very much by the earthquake and  its aftermath.  Life seems very much what it was last time we  were here.  We also spent yesterday on the island of Miyajima, which is a sacred Shinto island with a large shrine and a Tori gate, red in color, that was built in the harbor just in front of the shrine.  It was a bit  touristy, but quite beautiful.

More from Kyoto, where we have rented a house with WiFi.  I have an  absolutely delicious definition of what  wine is all about to send to you.

Enjoy your trip to London.  We must get together soon after you return.

Love and 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.

Purnima Viswanathan 

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