Geneva Diaries #49

Family Portraits Viswanathan, Mysore Mahishasura, The Federalist Papers, Amish, Blockchain


Dear Roger,

I have attached yet another one of my family photos, and since you are asking for the smoking hot ones, here it is pasted below! Yes, this one is of my grandfather V.Viswanathan with his hunting buddies 1940’s-1950’s(from a time where big game hunting was a part of life in India). I bet you can guess my relative…yes, as you probably guessed my grandfather is the man in the foreground with the Bavarian hat and the gun. But this story is first going to take us to sunny California, Stanford, a gathering of people from Kerala, my grandfathers state before we fly across the globe to Mysore State ( now Karnataka with Bangalore as its major city) which is probably the setting of this photo.

Yes, it was in California where I heard my grandfather name so fondly remembered by a group of people who had left their palm fringed paradise, Kerala, many decades ago to journey to California and were now collected here at the footsteps of Stanford. Hearing this name from their past, Viswanathan, one entwined with their memories of a time and place left behind, which they held so dear to themselves, eyes brimming with many stories to share, stories of having conversations, of being inspired by a boy from their village who like the diminutive Vamana of mythological fame journeyed to the North and challenged the kings and the gods and stood proud and unwavering in his ideals and values. Stories of having received awards for science and technology by my grandfather on that palm fringed paradise. These were stories from their youth still vibrant in their memories of four decades past. While they reminisced, they glanced at me curiously wondering what flavors this young coconut had brought to these shores.

A Hunting Trip from The Time of The Raj: 

The Gaur, Viswanathan, The Maharaja of Mysore:

The Fearsome Gaur:

Conservation Status – Red List: Vulnerable

Now Roger, I shall take your hand and fly all the way across to Mysore, Karnataka,  the setting of the above photo and the home state of my grandfathers hunting buddy (the Maharaja Mysore). In the photograph, the three men are standing around their prize a giant Buffalo, a Gaur. The slaying of this beast is no ordinary feat, it has its own cultural and mythological dimensions. The festival Dussehra which is celebrated all over India centers around the slaying of the ten headed demon Ravana. However, in Mysore, Dussehra which is their grandest festival, is celebrated with much pomp and show celebrates the victory of the Goddess Chamundeshwari slaying the Buffalo headed demon Mahishasura. the classic victory of good over evil, thus the significant of the above attached photo.

Mahishasura was the demon son of the union between the King of the demons and a princess cursed to be buffalo, thus Mahishasura was able to switch between human and demonic forms and used all his powers to intimidate the gods and drive them out of heaven. Since Mahishasura was invincible to man, so the gods created a beautiful female form with all the powers of the gods, Durga, who destroyed the demon army and slew Mahishasura, a story which form the core of Hindu mythology and is melodiously evoked in song and dance (see below).


Pasted below is a statue of the buffalo demon Mahishasura whose story is a part of the State of Mysore, now the town of Mysore. Mysore in Kannada (the local language) means the place where the buffalo demon Mahishasura comes from. The statue is located in Chamundi Hills, it is here that Durga or Chamundeshwari is said to have slayed the demon and remained. There is beautiful 1000 year old temple dedicated to the goddess who is passionately worshipped. In fact, the grandest festival of Mysore is the ten day Dussehra which celebrates the victory of good over evil, the slaying of Mahishasura by Durga/ Chamundeshwari. 

See below my pics of Mahishasura and the temple:

Purnima Visits The Game Room – Mysore Palace:

Purnima in The Mysore Palace Game Room:

Roger, I also have a bunch of photos to share of Mysore, the palatial palace ,the elephant gate, the statue of Mahishasura and me. Do check out the photos below:

My photo set Mysore- Palace in Wonderland

The Mysore Palace:

Roger, pasted below is the melodious shloka  about Durga/Chamundeshwari/ AigiriNandini, all different names for the same goddess who slayed the demon Mahishasura.

Aigiri Nandini – Song In praise of the goddess that slays Mahishasura (Rock version): 

Aigiri Nandini: It so beautifully hails the goddess…Be victorious, be victorious, oh destroyer of demon Mahishasura. The one with beautiful braids, daughter of the mountain Himalaya.

And finally a rendition in dance:

A magnificent rendition of the Aigiri Nandini in the traditional southern dance form Bharatanatyam. The dancer fully embodies the poise, power and persona of Goddess Durga or Chamundeshwari, the fierce manifestation of the female form in the Hindu pantheon, known as the slayer of the buffalo headed demon Mahishasura. In this performance, the dancer skillfully moulds her expression from the fierce slayer of the demon, to the beautiful woman with lovely braids, to the proud daughter of the mountain Himalaya and then to the feminine and appealing consort of lord Shiva, thereby embodying all the features of womanhood in one dance: the The proud, the fierce, the beautiful and the feminine, seamlessly without an inherent conflict. Thus representing the female energy and female force in all its hues. In this shloka or verse, sung in praise of Goddess Durga, in the last couplet she is hailed in all her forms and cheered on in her eternal dance of victory over the demon Mahishasura: “Be victorious, be victorious, oh destroyer of demon Mahishasura. The one with beautiful braids, daughter of the mountain Himalaya”.

Aigiri Nandini Dance below:

Do you see me here as the dancer with the kohl rimmed eyes?

The Union of India- A Slice of History:

After meeting with people from that other time, I decided to explore a bit more about my grandfather, who as I had mentioned earlier was such an integral part of the Indian administrative machinery, an ICS officer and a part of the Raj. I discovered that he was Nehru’s blue eyed boy, and he was part of the core team under Sardar Patel and Menon to incorporate the Princely States into the Union of India after Independence from the British Raj. While surfing I found him referenced in the book After Nehru Who, by Welles Hangen (1963) as the right hand man to Lal Bahadur Shastri who became the second Prime Minister of India. 

Where Welles Hangen writing about India in those tumultuous times states “I shall never forget the elation I felt when i was ushered into Viswanathan’s office, in one corner of the enormous south block office building in New Delhi. There is nothing unusual about the room itself. In fact it is smaller than what an official of comparable rank would occupy in other ministries. But in Viswanathan’s office I had the feeling that I was at the nerve center of the Indian state”. I sensed somehow that room was in reality my grandfather who was not of imposing height, perhaps a little shorter than average but the pulsating nerve center of every society.

Incorporation into the Union through negotiations with the princely states, ratification of the constitution, was a giant public relations and strong arm tactic played out in India where my grandfather Viswanathan played a pivotal role through his personal relationships and the respect he commanded among the various maharajas and princely states of India. This memory brought me all the way through space and time to the United State of America, The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison!

 The American StoryThe Federalist Papers

Somehow stumbling through time, I came upon Alexander Hamilton and then The Federalist papers.I discovered that The Federalist papers were a series of articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay to help explain the core tenets of the proposed constitution to ensure its ratification especially in New York. These series of articles came to be known as the Federalist are probably the greatest public relations campaign of all time.  I must admit, the mental process, the debates, the analysis, the concern for fairness above all, that went behind the formulation and ratification of the US constitution fascinates me till this day as these issues are as real and valid for us at the other end of the globe today. I say this as I skim the very surface as I have much to explore. However, I couldn’t resist sharing a few pieces that jumped at me from The Federalist papers, wish I could discuss them at length with you (And sections most pertinent to India Today):

In Federalist No. 1, Hamilton listed six topics to be covered in the subsequent articles:

I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars: — 

“The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity” 

“The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union”

“The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to the attainment of this object”

“The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government”

“Its analogy to your own state constitution”

“The additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to prosperity”

In Federalist No. 39, Madison helps define the true nature of “Federalism” as applied to the US constitution

The proposed Constitution, therefore, is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.

In Federalist No. 51, Madison distills arguments for checks and balances

First. In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.

Second. It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority — that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable.

(All very fascinating till I came upon John Jay’s Federalist 3 would love to know what you think looking at it from the universe of today:

The number of wars which have happened or will happen in the world will always be found to be in proportion to the number and weight of the causes, whether REAL or PRETENDED, which PROVOKE or INVITE them. If this remark be just, it becomes useful to inquire whether so many JUST causes of war are likely to be given by UNITED AMERICA as by DISUNITED America; for if it should turn out that United America will probably give the fewest, then it will follow that in this respect the Union tends most to preserve the people in a state of peace with other nations.)

The Federal Structure – Minority Communities

Dear Roger,  I am now going to end this saga with my take on Federalism and invite you to another journey into my surrealistic universe, do I still have your eyeballs? your mind? I need you now with me a hundred percent. Well here it continues:

The existence of distinct communities  within the US ( eg. Mormons, Amish) permitted to exist as islands within the mainland with their own distinct personal laws, system of education, choice of infrastructure, which would have ordinarily been under the purview of the Centre highlights a very interesting aspect of the US federal system: recognition of distinct cultural units that are assimilated into the whole, participate as an integral part of the whole/nation while being permitted to retaining their cultural distinctiveness even if it means permitting them their own personal laws and infrastructure.This reflects the broadest and most liberal interpretation of a federal democratic system where there is integration of these distinct communities within the federal structure while at the same time permitting them the freedom to retain that aspect which makes them distinctive and without which they would no longer remain a distinct cultural unit. Thus permitting the presence of nuggets within “the melting pot” thereby further enhancing its flavor. 

Even if this were to be viewed in evolutionary terms, we have seen vestiges of our evolutionary past that lie appendages to our bodies and other aberrations that only exist to serve their own purpose or none at all for this time and space. However, the body understanding that it is in a particular phase of an evolutionary process, incorporates and permits these aberrations as a part of the whole for there may be a time when the body is so afflicted with disease that the presence of such an aberration/vestige which it has carried in it’s knapsack for millennia might be the clue, the key the tonic that ensures it’s survival (perhaps its not junk (dna) after all).

It was eighteen years ago while on a canoeing trip down the Delaware, touring the lush green Pennsylvania countryside that we spotted some curiously dressed folks in period costumes with bonnets and black cloaks traveling in horse drawn carriages. Yes, we had stumbled upon the Amish. This unique sect that had broken away from their Swiss Alsatian roots and settled in Pennsylvania maintained a lifestyle and the culture of the place and time they left behind 300 years ago. The piece that intrigued and amused me the most was their aversion to any form of technology. They would not even use electricity or mechanized equipment in the early 1990’s in America, that blew me away! This was a time of great excitement as far as computers and technology was concerned and I could not rationalize this rigid code imposed by the Amish community on it’s members and comprehend how it would benefits it’s group or the larger state of which they were an integral piece. However, almost two decades have passed since that journey and as we have crossed the crest of this computer and technological development fervor charging in it’s direction blindly and with breakneck acceleration, the alarming implications of the same are being periodically flagged in my brain. 

Cyberlaws – The “Immaculate” Blockchain

Yes, today in the year 2012, we are almost all virtually connected, soon even the remotest localities will have computer access. Our lives are becoming less physical and more virtual as we are spending more waking hours on a computer phone immersed in tools of technology. Yes, all this has been connected via electricity, cable, wifi and more so in the imminent future even extending to the remotest realms. How assuming we soon are so enmeshed with this technology, a reality today foreseen by most pundits,  then how fire walled, safeguarded, protected are we from an online/ virtual virulent onslaught?  Would this craze to connect make us oblivious to the hazards we as humanity have opened ourselves to? Could a single program sent through the airwaves contaminate us and our children for eternity? Could we be land locking ourselves with no escape, no way of affirming the virtual from the real when all our books have been scanned and all our ideas have been stored and all our history has been archived giving the key to modify to the virtual pundits(All Hail the immaculate, immutable, eternal Blockchain!). 

(Added 2020) See below the “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” article – Collusion by Blockchain by Thibault Schrepel:

 Would our fall back, our verification process and all our laws of Evidence be similarly susceptible to the virus with the key? When all traditional knowledge all paper trails all physical evidence has been eliminated ( as is happening here and now) and our reliance is ever increasingly retrieval from some data storage, could not our past and therefore our future be tweaked. Who would remember  what is being regurgitated and who would challenge the “stored word” which would acquire the same status as the written word of our times? I being the first victim, as I have almost completely relinquished paper and can no longer rationalize storing anything physically when the online/virtual storage and retrieval options are exponentially superior.

What then happens to this world, to our world of today? Yes, viewed in the prism of eighteen years ago this was sci-fi, but here we are and this is our reality. Suddenly that journey to Amish country starts making sense, suddenly the ideas of the framers of the constitution and its unique federal structure starts making sense. Also the persons who subsequently supported and upheld these ideas as  a gem to be preserved has started making sense. For within these ideas lies escape routes for humanity who might in their passion and fervor following their rational brains compromise the whole. So when all our lives, histories and online docs referred to for evidence are contaminated, perhaps there might exist within this gargantuan beast, islands that remain free from the bondages of technology, free from contamination, an untouched pristine world from where we may be able to retrieve records of what it is to be human.

I leave you with a lot to mull over. Hope to hear back soon.

lots of love,


The Amish:


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