Geneva Diaries #47

I Express Therefore I Am – Cave Art – Universal Human Rights

Cave Art – Art makes Man 


Dear Roger,

Thanks to you my mind is being stormed by the idea of what exactly it is that makes us human.  Is this immortal quest through time a need to identify and express the self? Are we as mankind really saying “I create therefore I exist”? Thereby with each expression etching ourselves into the fabric of reality?

Thus wouldn’t  Art, as the embodiment of human expression along with the quest for the Self not form the core, the basis of what we consider human, humanity? And should not these form the basis of Universal Human Rights?

The hauntingly vivid images of spray painted hand impressions from Neolithic (cave) art  found across the world flash across my mind. Images of spray painted hands from Australian aborigines, to images on rocks sprayed in Africa and the Americas seem to connote something…a message, a signature, perhaps an affirmation. An affirmation of an individual and his/ her existence on this earth and in that time. An affirmation of reality, of existence, of being, of oneself. Perhaps of The Self. Could this be a part of the eternal journey/ search an expression, extension of mans spiritual quest to identify the Self?

I Express Therefore I Am

And isn’t it this that makes us human?

Is it not this “idea”, this burst of creativity/spontaneous creation which emanates from nowhere.

Isn’t it this very aspect that distinguishes us from the rest of nature, which makes each one of us distinct, an individual, human?

Isn’t it this idea, this extension of humanity that constitutes art

Isn’t it this spontaneous expression, this apparently autonomous self generating aspect of humanity expressed in it’s varied forms one that structures, builds and populates the universe?

Isn’t it the art that makes the man?

Now Roger, as you and I lay down the foundation stone for Universal Human Rights, should we not break it down to its bare bones and identify what it is that we call human, what makes us man?



See below the first human examples of self expression-Cave Art

Some examples from My Story- see below my Ice Age Preteen in Chamonix, discovering, exploring and creating Art (handprints in Ice):

A Long time ago, in a life before she was an American Preteen, Tara was a chamois scampering around Chamonix. She returns to leave her mark in snow.


Hands Cave- Cave Art in Patagonia Argentina

Cave art France/Spain- the first steps of our awakening

Madhya Pradesh, India- Bhimbetka Caves:

Kakadu aboriginal Rock Art Australia:

Borneo cave art- hand images:

New Mexico, USA ( petroglyphs by the Peublo Indians)

Handprints- prehistoric European cave artists were women


Dear Roger,

I would like to take you on a short journey to explore a topic we had once discussed on “nations” and “nationalities” and their relevance in the cyber-techno world of tomorrow.

Imagine we are transported into the animated world of the movie Wall-e of our previous email,


And, Wall-e the adorable clean up robot stumbles across a diary, a journal written by a girl(in a pony tail), 700 hundred years ago, as he cleans up the debris which had chocked all life forms and making the earth uninhabitable. And, in this diary he finds a mention of people and worlds, lives and nations and their journey through time and history. He reads about England and France, about Germany and Japan and of course about India. He is immediately alerted, all sensors highlight “India”. Wow, he thinks, thats the word, the name, the destination that the galactic ship The Enterprise consisting of a now invertebrate frappe burping gelatinous crew with a central CPU for a brain which were once humans, is destined for. Those are the co-ordinates, that is the word, the place, the space which nobody understands where The Enterprise is supposed to land, India/the new world. And ironically, nothing else of the Colossus, the empires and nations of the “ancient world” of the preceding millennia are remembered either, all we have of England, France, Germany and Japan are references in the diary of a girl with a ponytail. 

The ideas of nations, nationalities, allegiances, territories, were notions long gone as the world morphed, melded and extended into the cyber realm. There were no longer battles over territorial boundaries, and certainly not physical battles, but battles over ideas and ideologies which carved the space and concentrated the groups with each concentration overlapping another. 

But man being man, battled for the supremacy of his ideas and ideologies in this cyber realm and (as Wall-e has shown us) slipped further into the cyber realm as man neglected and destroyed the physical realm finding that he could recreate blue skies and green fields and the entire biosphere.

Roger, unfortunately this story has no happy ending whether we look at it in the real or the cyber realm, perhaps it is reflective of the nature of man or is it my current state of mind, which is it? Do we have any escape from ourselves?

How do we will ourselves to save the earth even as we aspire escape from it to recreate a “perfect copy”in the cyberworld?



Subject: 11/11/11- Family Portraits
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2011 01:02:41 +0530

See full story- The Ballad of The South in link below:

Dear Roger,

It’s always wonderful to hear from you even when the voice is coming faintly through a distant tunnel somewhere from another galaxy. That is how i’m  currently feeling so distant and removed from my world and past life in Geneva. However, this voice is a reassuring reminder of continuity and god only knows how much I need that at this stage of life. Thank you!
Today is a magical combination of numbers 11-11-11 and I have a colorful tale to tell…
On a dark stormy night, on the 22nd of September 1914, a pirate ship slunk into Madras harbor, this famous port city in the south of India which was under British colonial rule, and unleashed a fury that sent tremors across the globe and remains to this day a date time and event etched into the minds and memories of a people and culture. This sprightly German light cruiser, the SMS Emden, of the Imperial German Navy during the First World War, captained by Karl v on Muller, embarked upon a fantastic voyage across Asia from the German colony in China, Tsingtao (which only reminds me of barrels of beer)   slipped through innumerable enemy hands, morphed its mast/facade to journey undetected, taken numerous ships captive and despite being chased across the high seas by the British, French, Russians and the Japanese fleet arrived at the Madras port under the cover of darkness on its South Asian journey and since Britan had declared war on Germany, bombarded the barrels of fuel of the British petroleum company that lined the Madras harbor.Do check out The SMS Emden (SMS is the German equivalent of HMS) Do check out the cruise of the Emden below:The cruise of the Emden
The reason I call this ship the SMS Emden a pirate ship is because of the tactics deployed, its morphing into an allied ship and raising the flag (skull and cross bones) when the enemy drew closer (I see a scene from Asterix), and immediately capturing the ship. It was in this way it managed to capture 30 allied merchant and warships (all the time maintaining gentlemanly conduct towards its crew and transporting them to safety), thus fullfiling it’s mission of disrupting the commerce lines of the allied powers in the Indian Ocean to the extent that all commerce was halted with devastating effect for the British colonists who held sway over the Indian ocean. Pasted below is an excerpt I have taken from Wikipedia that shows the SMS Emden in her true colors complete with skull and crossbones:“Several warships from the British Australian and Far East squadrons, as well as a few French, Japanese and Russian cruisers, were dispatched to hunt down the Emden, but von Müller eluded them all. Some captains of British merchant ships, seeing the Emden approach, would salute her, mistaking her for the Yarmouth. Instead, the Emden would fire a shot over the bow, hoist the German naval ensign, and signal “stop at once – do not wireless.”

India was at that point under British coonial rule and there were a group of Indian nationalists who had spent their lifetimes resisting the colonists who must have cheered from the sidelines as symbols of the imperial power blew up in smoke and shook the foundation of  the British colonial power base in the south of india. Thus the impact of the Emden by this stealthy subversive night time bombardment was so great that the word “emden”  found itself incorporated into the Tamil language as the clever/ wily one and into Malayalam as the strong and powerful one.  

It was on this fateful night in Madras at the home of a fervent nationalist(The Palm Grove), attorney, a recognized patron of the arts, Subramanian Doraiswamy Iyer, that a baby was born. As the wails of this first born girl rang through the air it mingled with the booming sounds emanating from the Emden that was in the throes of it’s bombardment. This girl child was thus named Kowshiki “Emden”, and so an epic was born. My grandmother Kowshiki was one of their five children but the only one to live her long and full life leaving behind many stories to tell. Do view this incredible sketch of my grandmother, The Swan of the East, stylized as though this elegant Tamil lady emerged from Paris:

Tara, my chamois, and Kowshiki’s Great-granddaughter in the photos above, a copy of her image lives on the New World.

I could write volumes about my grandmother who in my eyes was the perfect woman in every sense, gentle, kind, caring, just, empathetic, highly intelligent, exceptinally cultured and exquisitely beautiful ( do see the attached sketch of hers done in Paris). She was truly the Swan of the East (a caption attributed  to the Emden) and lived a magnificent life having lived to the ripe old age of 96 years breathed her last a year ago on Thanksgiving day. 

I remember her today, on 11/11/11, the day her darling baby, her youngest child, my father would have been 75 years old. She had three children, the first born was “bal gopal” or baby Krishna a part of the Hindu pantheon, one known for his love of milk, curd, butter, his mischievous nature and endearing personality that no (gopi) milkmaid could resist. The second child was her dream, a baby girl,  a story, a poem: Kadambari, one who has lived the modern day epic by the same name written not only in Sanskrit but in English and French.

I can’t but remember my father every moment of this day, born on November 11 th, Rememberance Day, Armistice Day, Veterans Day (US) or VJ day, the 11th day of the 11th month that the armistice ending the first world war was signed and thus this baby boy was named Vijay, Sanskrit for victory. As I remember my father, my grandmother used to remember her dear baby boy and her brother who lies under a wreath of poppies buried in that field of France, An RAF pilot shot over Normandy on the day of the liberation of Paris and thus a piece of my grandmothers heart always lay in France (The soldier of my previous mail).The fascinating aspect of my family, where one side fought for freedom from colonial rule (my great grand father) and devoted his life and breath to the struggle and the other side of the same family (my grandfather his son-in-law) sailed across the seven seas to study at Oxford, joined the Indian Civil Service, and became an integral part of the Raj, both passionate men of high ideals and upholders of justice on the opposite sides of the spectrum with my grandmother in between. 

I remember my father on the other hand, as being very gentle, sophisticated, primarily involved in his intellectual pursuits. In his youth he was a child of the Raj, and lived the life of a prince with his passion for sports,Himalayan adventures with his buddies, hunting, fishing and books. Later, even though he had little money as the corporate (boxwalla)job that had constricted around his neck like a noose draining my parents of every comfort during the socialist seventies reducing us to bare necessities,the people all around him still treated him like a prince, an India that I have seen, one which no longer exists. I always sensed he belonged to another era, another time/space, and was here living this life just to be with us.

It is this journey through realities, time and space in pursuit of my father which has made me soar, to explore the realm beyond which I wish to share with you.



Purnima Viswanathan

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