Geneva Diaries #50

Conception of The Buddha, Allegiance, Identity, Evangeline in Real and Cyberworld

On Sat, May 12, 2012 , 

Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

How are you ?  Any silver linings peeking over the horizon ?  I’ve been trying to find a time when we could chat via Skype, but it’s hard to arrange to be alone at home for very long.  I’ll keep working on it.

I assume you followed the French elections.  Sarkozy, to my great pleasure, has been ejected in what turned out to be a much closer elections than the polls had predicted.  I like Hollande as a person and because he is very down-to-earth and projects a air of humble confidence in himself and in his political ideals.  He certainly faces a tough challenge in trying to deal with the crisis in the Euro zone.  It will be interesting how he and Merkel get along.  It should be far different from the Merkozy clique that made most of the important decisions in Europe during the past five years.   I must say, however, and to his credit, that Sarkozy has been quite dignified in defeat, but then he has, of course, his post-presidential image to embellish as much as possible.  Tuesday is the day selected for the transfer of power and the announcement of Hollande’s choice for prime minister.

Some ugly news out of India and the role the Times of India played in falsely given a positive spin to the woes of cotton farmers who had chosen to plant Monsanto GM cotton.

 I think Monsanto and the other GM seed producers will prove to be the scourge of the planet.  As one poster puts it, “If the world doesn’t destroy Monsanto, Monsanto will destroy the world !”

Bay area here I come.  I’m going to make a quick trip to the States in two weeks to see my two sons.  The youngest, the one who is the Navy pilot, is now stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, so a quick flight from Frankfort to Boston, then Boston to San Francisco to see son number 1 for three days and then SFO to Frankfort and home again.  It’s a very quick trip, but I couldn’t justify spending any more time than that away, since we have so much to do to spruce up the house so it will sell, pack and get ready for what we hope is a mid to end summer move to Chiang Mai.  You MUST come and see us !

 Anything new on the judicial front ?   Are your children still in school in Bangalore 

Lots of love,


Dear Roger,

Getting mail from you has to be the highlight of my week, thank you! Well, let me first alert you to a calamitous situation, I have just discovered that my hotmail account has been compromised and an entire folder titled where I had stored all our correspondence, has vanished along with god knows what else. The saving grace of course is that you have a copy of all our communication which I may request of you at a later date, just for me to keep a catalogue of my travels to browse through and remember our journey when all my hair turns grey.

So you are off to San Francisco in two weeks to meet the boys, how fabulous! Somehow, it fills my heart and I get a sense of vicarious pleasure knowing that you will be back home to hug and spend some time with your sons. I was just in Bangalore over this last weekend to spend Mothers Day with D. It has been a long and difficult ride for me to be separated from my children over this last year, and I have grabbed every opportunity to fly across India, from Delhi to Bangalore to see my son, just so that he knows that I’m around and regardless of the hand dealt by fate, I care very deeply. It has been nothing short of a nightmare dealing with the various ailments that have afflicted the children from extreme ear infections, to multiple bouts of diarrhea, food poisoning and bronchitis. I think with the close of a year in India, these Swiss raised Californians have adjusted to the India microorganisms (fingers and toes crossed) and are finally settling in to their new environs. However, from a moms perspective, my heart convulses when I see my son reduced to skin and bones and charred in the scorching southern sun. But D being a chip off the old block, finds humor in every situation and has written a song to the tune of “Mamma Mia” titled “Diarrhea”, which he has sang aloud into my iphone early last year before  his complete reduction to skin and bones (pic omitted) and as a proud mamma, I have pasted Dhruvum’s baby pics below and the awesome Diarrhea Song:

The Diarrhea Song – by my son D

Roger, as you can see from the images pasted below of D first as a baby, Baby Buddha dressed in white, then as young prince Siddhartha in his “achkan” or Indian coat all dressed up for Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. The next image is of golden D in California playing all the sports under the California sunshine: soccer, baseball, tennis and of ski. Then is the slightly naughty video clip of D singing his Diarrhea song above and another small clip of me introducing D’s creative talent. Finally, and the most heart wrenching is a photo of Dhruvum in India of a couple of weeks ago, reduced to bones (replaced with the Gandhara fasting Buddha head). The most recent update however is that he seems on the road to recovery having battled and compromised with the Indian flora and fauna (bugs).

D pics – Baby Buddha-the White Elephant, Prince Siddhartha in his achkan (traditional Indian coat):

See below Gandhara Fasting Buddha head from The Asian Art Museum San Francisco:

There is a long tale which I wish to share attached to the above photo of “little Buddha”. It all started as a dream…the Dream of Queen Maya which is beautifully captured in the below pasted frieze at my favorite museum, the Metropolitan Museum of At in New York. Here Queen Maya is depicted lying down surrounded by her ladies in waiting, as lord Buddha in the form of a white elephant appears in her dream and enters her womb from the side. She then gives birth to Siddhartha who later becomes lord Buddha. D was born in Singapore, and as i proudly carried this cubby kid around town (how we Asians love our chubby kids!), the Singaporeans used to stop and admire him, often asking if his father was Northern Chinese as a number of the Northern Chinese have settled in Singapore. I used to laugh as the vision of his big burly (hairy) dad came into view, this being (modified from beast) was from nowhere near China but it brought to light the vivid intermingling of races of Central Asia that have left their lingering trace on our gene pool. These lands have been crisscrossed by the hooves of both Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan and there is no way of escaping the Mongol/ Hun heritage of our ancestors.Where do these borders lie, how do you demarcate the Mongol from the Hun in each of us? And even if you do so for this time, how does this apply for ever after, the imprint of our gene pool? Which of course brings us back to our original quest of identity and allegiance which follows.  

For me the journey was similar, D was conceived in a dream (mine was a Japanese dream as I was dreaming of the sizzling hot about to be Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi), D was raised as a prince, and now like that haunting buddha image …reduced to bones in India- Diarrhea! Do see the Metropolitan Museum Gandhara Frieze below:

Gandhara frieze: conceptualization of queen Maya

Roger, before I embark upon the unending tale of Identity and Allegiance, a space where I am struggling in the dark and need a lot of help, let’s chat about some fun stuff. So tell me what are your plans in San Francisco, where are you going to eat, what are you going to visit, what exhibitions are on? I had heard that the Maharaja Exhibit at The Asian Art museum was brilliant, not sure if its still on. And do tell me in detail about your trip to Newport, i would love to see lots and lots of photographs of you and your son (are his eyes as blue?) in that picturesque place. We visited Newport a number of times from New York and even had family wedding there where I have photos/memories of being draped in a glittering pink chiffon saree blending into the Newport sunset. 

And talking about the US Navy, you mentioned  your son has joined them in Newport, I have just the gift for them but first they have to promise to rescue their shipwrecked children off the southern coast of India from D-I-A-R-R-H-E-A. 

Roger, before Evangeline (Me in this version) left her home in Northern California and set off for the high seas with her household gods, there was much that had to be left behind for which she has to return.

Do see Longfellow’s poem Evangeline where she leaves with a ship laden with her household gods(I do keep returning to this theme, I’m not sure why…)

 In MY version of Evangeline, One thing was certain, though she left on a ship laden with her household gods, she left behind much- a part of her culture, her soul, her matrix, in the form of a Gandhara, an Indo- Greek sculpture from Central Asia which blends the attributes of both the Western and Asian civilizations to produce this magnificent form of art. This sculpture, this bust, is the head of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea, with his intense expression, powerful face and tightly knotted curls framing his head who stared at us from his resting place in our dining room window. This 2,000 year old sculpture left behind by us on California soil would in my opinion be the most apt symbol for the US Navy as it expands and embraces within its fold the cultures of the East and the West.

Allegiance and Identity

Back to the Allegiance and Identity, and to the above discussion of drawing borders and boundaries. This we know as far as defining races, is close to an impossibility. However, as we seen people have come together inspired by an idea, and a shared set of values based on which they have decided to pitch their tents and cohabit. Now, in this technological world, where there is no physical need for people to relocate, pitch their tents alongside one with whom they share their core ideas and values, how would allegiance and identity be defined in this space? How would an amorphous group of persons connected virtually decide to form a credible nation? What virtual and physical/real laws would they submit themselves to and how would they agree to be governed. Finally, how would they reconcile this online allegiance and identity with the real one. Would the online passports and cash be interchangeable between realms: the real and the virtual. Roger, i know this might at this point appear to be sci-fi but believe it or not this is closer to our immediate future than anything the political pundits are discussing. Are we synced? 

As for my tale of woe, I have found myself awake after three long years of this bitter separation/divorce only to realize that everything in my life is a mess. My home in California appears to be badly neglected and needs urgent attention, my finances are non existent, and most importantly, my status a permanent resident of the US is ambiguous. Apparently I have to return to the US every year to retain this residence, and I seem to have been in a deep snooze. Ironically, I have to make my way to the US embassy tomorrow and persuade the staff hat I have not abandoned my intent to return, retain my PR status. I have been told it might be very difficult and not be accepted but this is where my mind gets baffled…how is it possible for someone who has spent the last 19 years , most of her adult life in the US or associated with the US as a US expatriate, has filed joint taxes continuous over this term, has her primary and only residence in California, has children who are US citizens but most of all has spent the last 13 years educating her children about the idea that inspired her to make the journey, the Idea of America/India. Somewhere along the line, things did change for me as well. I may not have willfully embraced a piece of paper, but Roger, don’t you think that subliminally somewhere along the line I merged into it and cannot be cleaved from it. Does allegiance and identity rest merely on filing the right forms, or passing a nationality test, what happens to floating souls who are constantly questioning (I suspect we are soulmates here) but preserve the idea more fiercely than most in the core of their souls? 

I will now face a nameless faceless being across a glass panel tomorrow at the US embassy who will assess the documents or the lack thereof and make the judgement as to whether I belong or not based on a piece of paper.

Can’t wait to visit you in Chaing Mai, lots of love to all!




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