Geneva Diaries #64

Kadambari, Kashmir, Hamlet, Haider, A TidBit Of Value, Room 101

On Sat, Jan 31, 2015, Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

That’s great that you are going to do another trip to California via Geneva,

but your choice of dates is terrible as far as getting together in the Bay

Area. We are going to Paris in March and will be there during those dates.

We leave here the 12th and return on the 27th via Iceland. You aren’t going

to change planes or have a brief layover in Paris on your way to California

are you? It would be fun to reconnect there if that is possible.

We are going over to hit the annual Paris Book Fair, and A has an

appointment with the publisher that published her book about the

mistress/muse of Jean Giono. She’s hoping that they will do a new issue with

new information that has now been made public about her influence on the

writer. She also has another book project in the works that she wants to

discuss with them. It will also be fun to catch up on a bit of French

culture while we are there, not to mention the great baguettes and

croissants that are somewhat hard to find in California. I’m looking forward

to the trip. We are coming back on Icelandair and are doing a two-day

layover in Reykjavik, which should be fun. I’ve always wanted to visit that

icy, barren island. I just hope it isn’t too terribly cold there at the end

of March.

What is your itinerary after the 26th? Any other times or places where we

could meet?

Are you going to return to Chamonix and get some skiing in while you are in

Geneva? They just got a ton of new snow in the French Alps. I did hear,

however, that the Russians have pretty much stopped coming to France to ski

this winter because of the fall of the value of the Ruble and the terrible

economic situation in Russia. It has had some terrible consequences for the

skiing industry in France, especially in places like Megève and Courchevel.

Did you see Obama while he was in India? Too bad he had to cut his Indian

visit short to attend the funeral for King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.

Love and hugs,


Roger Stevenson

Dear Roger,

It’s great to get all your news, and your trip back to Paris sounds wonderful. I would love to meet you and A, is it possible for you to swing by The Bay Area/SF on March 27/28 before heading back to Southern California as my plans have been shifted out by a couple of days?

Unlike you Roger, i have been pretty much based here in Delhi since my return from Goa early January, but I have had some interesting guests to keep me company, artists, bankers and lawyers from across the globe Singapore/UK/East Africa, Calcutta (yes that is somewhere between here and the moon), an American in Delhi and even even a close college buddy from Hong kong and thus many hours of stimulating dinnertime conversation which inevitably veered back to the Alps.

I have also spent this very quiet introspective time catching up on movies and books. The One Who Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest left me awake all night with its eery connect, how the fiery independent Jack Nicholson battles the system to retain his self expression and is finally lobotomized as the system which can’t handle him, extinguishes that “self” which he strives to retain. 

See trailer:

I then watched a brilliant Indian Movie called Haider, an Indian adaptation of Hamlet set in Kashmir bringing alive the picturesque landscape, the local Kashmiri dress, culture customs, homes, buildings. But most of all providing an insight into the tragedy that faces its people being torn apart by two dominant states, India and Pakistan. The Indian army presence, the presence of the Pakistani trained and sympathetic terrorist organizations, the oppressive restrictions upon its people by the special orders act of the indian government are all brought out in this very realistic family drama of a woman who marries her husbands brother within a few weeks of his disappearance, the obsessive love of the mother for the son, and of the son for the mother who cannot accept this union with his uncle, and feigns madness in order to exact revenge. This Indian version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Kashmir and the Martand Sun Temple as it’s backdrop, where Haider (Hamlet) enacts out the details of his fathers murder showcases traditional Kashmiri culture in song, dance, dress and setting is beautifully performed see link below: 

See below a clip from the film Haider : Bismil(scene of the enactment of the play)

See Hamlet – The Play within The play:

I revisit my fav theme – The Temples of The Sun. See below the setting for Bismil: The Martand Sun Temple – Kashmir

And the Huff Post article on the sad state of neglect of this Kashmiri heritage site:

Haider, or the Indian Hamlet is essentially the material of a social commentary, a documentary, on the plight of the Kashmiris, woven into mainstream cinema and has received rave reviews and many rewards. It made me proud of the fact that such freedom of expression still exists India, that such a sensitive subject could be retold in such a massive public forum, commercial cinema. I give it a two thumbs up for weaving together so many facets, primarily taking on the highly contentious and sensitive issue of Kashmir, and i give the Indian censor board two thumbs up for passing the film with minimal damage. However, I must admit, even though this film has covered the tragedy of Kashmir, it has left out one of its most tragic and poignant victims, the Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindus from Kashmir who called that piece of heaven their home and are intrinsically a part of that picture but had to flee and live as refugees in hovels, temporary tenements in crowded, polluted and aggressive Delhi. These people still lie languishing, being refugees in their own country, and no one seems to remember their voice.

Whenever I think of Kashmir, I think of my father. He spent his youth traversing the Himalayas, for sport, for game. He knew Kashmiri culture intimately, and would often discuss its distinctiveness. The Kashmiri pandits loved him, and right out of university, they gave him his first job. When we travelled to Kashmir with him as children, before the tragedy and turmoil, we were escorted around Kashmir by a Kashmiri army captain, a muslim, who seemed to admire my father as much as the pundits did. He listened in rapt attention as my father discussed the history of the State, its topography, wild life and its customs almost hushing us kids up so we would not disturb my fathers dialogue. He then invited us to his home and my father read the perso-arabic script at the top of his doorway, and I think he clapped with joy, a couplet from the Koran. My father’s Urdu was impeccable, can’t say the same about his Tamil, I then realized the Kashmiris whether they be Hindu or Muslim share an aesthetic sensibility, they like things of beauty. In the above clip, for the first time in a Hindi movie, I could actually see my father in the role of the performer. He was always accused by my mother of being an “Angrez”, a foreigner, westerner, Englishman, her common refrain was that the English left, but they left you behind. But in my eyes I saw that he embraced the Kashmiri culture so much, that I could see him dressed up like Shahid Kapoor  in the above song Bismil from Haider and dance those very masculine steps. 

See below a photo of my father Vijay Viswanathan in Kashmir (there is just no way of editing out the cigarette as it so belongs to that time):

Vijay Kumar Viswanathan in Kashmir

But the main reason this movie brings me back to my father, is Hamlet. The last words out of my fathers mouth after the doctors had butchered him, cutting away his body parts, as the cancer spread across his frame, and subjecting him to radiation and chemotherapy in its most rudimentary and barbaric form leaving his skin charred and body reduced to bones. My father all of 48 years, looking at his dependent wife and young children struggled between life and succumbing to death. A death he yearned for, to release him and a life he could not let go. He quoted Hamlet:

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

A snapshot from his time – Olivier’s Hamlet film (1948): To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy:

And sleep he did. But in a remote corner of The English Garden there blossoms a Kashmiri rose, a Kashmiri rose colored with his blood. This leads me to the story of Kadambari, (in our version) an Indo-French English story. A Sanskrit classic, a magnificent novel, a story that must be told. But for that you will have to promise me a thousand and one nights for when one reads Kadambari even food is forgotten (Kadambari Rasajnaanaam aahaaropi rochate)!

Kadambari, apart from being my aunts name (father’s sister), is a love story by Banabhatta, who was a great poet and 7th century Sanskrit scholar. Banabhatta weaves an incredible tapestry of tales of men, birds and beasts, demi gods and sages, in a multi-dimensional ever morphing time perspective that will take your breath away and make modern Anime appear mundane. Ironically this supposed world’s first novel and phenomenal work was no where to be seen at the Bodmer Foundation, this library/museum of antique books and manuscripts in Geneva (as mentioned earlier) where merely a panel was devoted to Persian literature and a dark nook for all of Indian/ Sanskrit literature. This glaring inadequacy has to be addressed Roger, and I know you are the one to do it. If I were to introduce myself as a Vedic Aryan to a European, i assure you it would draw a blank. In fact, It might invoke some convoluted images in their minds based on their historical baggage but it will not get them closer to me or Kadambari, and I do think that would be a pity, don’t you? Do you not think these museums that hold themselves out as repositories of world culture and antiquity, and devote nothing to Sanskrit and Persian literature are doing their youth, their people a grave wrong? Do they not wield a responsibility to educate their youth about the globe beyond their European borders? Do see if you can get your hands on Banabhatta’s Kadambari, while I weave out my version. 


Check out The Foundation Bodmer:

A part of my family storywhen Kanya Kumari marries Kashmir. See below a pic of my aunt Kadambari in an Indian saree – an image worth ten thousand words:


A young Kadambari with Thatcher (an image from her husband M.K.Rasgotra’s book – A Life in Diplomacy. A part of our family story of when Kanya Kumari marries Kashmir):

Kadambari with Thatcher – An Epic Tale of Two Nations

Images of Kashmir – see attached image of an American Girl Doll (yes let’s expand the narrative) my daughter in traditional Kashmiri dress below:

Moving away from Kashmir’s Kadambari, and Kadambari’s Kashmir, and closer to the New World, and the books on my bedside table. My son as a part of his school syllabus has to read The Brave New World, and so he persuaded me to do the same (as I had fragments from an old memory) for us to review it together. OMG, and I must say that again! Aldous Huxley and subsequently Orson Welles 1984, has transformed me…you will not see the Purnima you knew, you will see a “Being”, a “Beast”. There books should never have come within my shadow, it can only spell destruction, annihilation for the kind of fiercely independent persona I have. I am sorry Roger, there are just not enough punctuation marks for me to express myself!! I have transmorphed from posing as a left leaning socialist during my university days (my Cambridge mission college almost made that inevitable), to a radical RIGHT WING zealot! Right wing only in the sense of abhorring Big Government, and wanting them to get the hell out of my face, my life, my mind! I don’t want government, I don’t care for nations or the nation state. The only purpose I see in their existence is in further aggrandizing power and attempting to diminish all the other organs set up to contain this monster. A self propelled Hydra that swallows the Supreme court, diminishes the legislature and enslaves the President! The citizens are monitored, contained, reviewed, rewarded or punished all in the name of EFFICIENCY! How I hate efficiency, how i know that is my Achilles heel and I will submit all, my home, my personal space perhaps even my mind for greater efficiency. And it is this lure of efficiency under which we organize ourselves, submit ourselves and permit the State its excesses. Roger, please help me to close these books, how will i survive outside the State? The one thing I do know is that the internet is extending the conventional territorial space into another realm and man is regrouping himself in this realm. Perhaps in this realm we will be more free and not succumb to our vulnerabilities of “efficiency”. What do you foresee, do you see me? I somehow sense you have already traversed my road traveled my journey and found your answers. You always seem in a sense of bliss. You have that smile as you hear me rambling along, it could be all that French wine and cheese or something else…

Well, to top off all my bedside reading, I had visits from artist friends as I had mentioned earlier, all very anti establishment, searching for answers and traveling the world. We discussed the financial systems and how we are enslaved to it, and then we discussed alternate financial systems like  Bitcoin, the decentralized online virtual currency.

Unfortunately, despite its incredible success, the governments impose strict restrictions and there are numerous governmental clampdowns. Here the value is “mined”, or generated by solving a mathematical calculation which changes as technology improves (so the ten minutes to mine still remains ten minutes despite the progress of technology). It was here I had a bit of a brainwave which I discussed with my finance guru buddy from Hong Kong (I suspect he thinks I’ve actually flown over the nest) but never lets up, and I would love to share the same with you.

Do see below an interesting quote that I lifted off Wikipedia by Melanie Fein, (Shadow Banking Charade) about Bitcoin:

Bitcoin appeals to tech-savvy libertarians, because it so far exists outside the institutional banking system and the control of governments.[217] Its appeal reaches from left wing critics, “who perceive the state and banking sector as representing the same elite interests, […] recognizing in it the potential for collective direct democratic governance of currency”[218] and socialists proposing their “own states, complete with currencies”,[219] to right wing critics suspicious of big government, at a time when activities within the regulated banking system were responsible for the severity of the financial crisis of 2007–08,

So Roger, in the world of today, with the acceleration in technology upping our ability to strive further and firing our passion, we as humanity have undertaken incredible humanity defining projects inconceivable a decade or two earlier, like The Human Genome Project which mapped the entire human genome, our essence, our DNA, our blueprint, all the 3 billion base pairs. This gargantuan project, projected to take ten years, undertaken by The National Institute of Health and overtaken by the shotgun methods of Craig Venture. Of course this data was released in the public domain though many had private interests from which they benefited. 

Check out the Human Genome Project info

Now moving on to another gargantuan project The Human Brain Project which is being undertaken by the EU, and involves mapping the 63 billion neural networks and trillions of connections. This incredible human infrastructural project almost inconceivable in its size and complexity is currently being undertaken by man. Even though there have recently been issues with the multi billion funding required, the disgruntled scientists who claim that this neurological project is being turned into an IT project siphoning off the funding for pure brain research. Despite these issues the reality is that projects of this size requires immense manpower and billions of dollars both of which are not easily accessible unless a tangible commercial purpose is outlined and often that tangible commercial purpose which is in the minds of some of the parties pushing for these projects would not pass the muster of human ethics. The patenting of genes, so called synthetic cells, chromosomes, creating novel organisms, hybrids, mapping the brain so it can be simulated. And the commercial purpose may take us back to The Brave New World or 1984, and though crime. 

Check out The Human Brain Project Info

Then there is the the Near Earth Object (NEO) scanning facilities, and the US with its super powerful telescopes and satellites track these objects around the solar system. However, the complexity of this task is so great that we probably currently track only 1 percent of all the NEO in the solar system. The second issue is that there is a moratorium about disclosure, and the excuse is that it might contravene the nuclear pact, ie, it may be a nuclear missile testing and not a NEO. So we have Cherablinsk, the thunderous 2013 near earth asteroid impact that nobody was warned about, and nobody knew.

Check out the images of a looming NEO that alarmed a little girls eyes (oui moi) as she turned the pages of Tintin and The Shooting Star below:

My question is when it is an issue of the preservation of humanity, should we be really leaving ourselves at the mercy of nations. Don’t all these nations have their own axes to grind? What if an asteroid breaks up and a fraction hits an insignificant part of the globe from the western perspective, will the alarms really go off in time for the few indigenous people to take cover, or will the excuse be that we were unsure if we were contravening a nuclear pact? Should the EU really have the power to one day simulate the brain and perhaps control humanity (even though we know they project themselves as goody goodies, can they be trusted), do the nations not have their personal interest and retention of their power and influence in mind? Now Roger, imagine the French having the power to control the brains of the Americans and turn them into little robots at will…now there is at least one froggie that would have a smile on its face do you not agree?

My thought was that we use a version of this very virtual online currency, Bitcoin is already a victim, but generate another, that is created for the interest of humanity and not to further the interest of any one nation, especially when it concerns humanity defining infrastructural projects that equally concern the tribe in Borneo who may have no voice on the international stage and the fat banker in Zurich (Ooh I better be good to the Swiss if I want to continue visiting their glorious mountains). This virtual currency would not be defined by a nation, state, ideology, but would be for all of humanity. The most interesting part is the generation of the value of this virtual currency, would be generated by the virtual public that scans the skies for NEO, which they may do voluntarily now, but under this plan their work scanning the skies, generating formulas unraveling the trajectory of these objects would be a Tid-Bit of Value, and so they would be engaged and rewarded, all online, all virtually. In the case of the human brain project, we need not just billions but manpower. We need those millions of teenage gamers who are spending their valuable time gaming online for nothing, we would tap this “gaming power or energy” and direct it towards scanning the skies or unraveling the connections between the neurons in the brain with each connection translating into an encryption further translating into value. In fact I would volunteer to create a game for the same which would be released for free online to tap the gamers who after every level, are rewarded tangibly by the creation of a virtual coin, or shall we say Tid-Bit Coin.

So Roger, what do you think of my plan for Our Brave New World, out of the clutches of The Nation State?


Since we had started with Hamlet, I would like to end with the Hindi movie Haider which I repeat is a brilliantly staged interpretation of Hamlet showcasing the politics of Kashmir and share some Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu) words as French seems to have completely evaporated from my memory.

I would like to share my favorite dialogue from the movie:

Intiqam Se Sirf Intiqam Paida Hota Hai.

Jab Tak Ham Apne Intiqam Se Azad Nahi Ho Jaty, Tab Tak Koi Aazadi Hamein Azad Nahi Kar Sakti.

Which translates as: Revenge only breeds revenge. Till you are not free from your vengeance, no freedom can free you.

Intiqam is the main theme of the play/movie.

The first word is Intiqam or revenge taken from UChicago South Asian Digital Dictionary:

تقام intiḳām

A (inf. viii. of نقم Heb. He took revenge) s. m. Revenge, retaliation. انتقام لینا intiḳām lenā, To take revenge, to revenge.

(Roger, is Intiqam also a Hebrew word?)

The second word is Shahid, or martyr. 

Most online dictionaries define this as a muslim martyr, and often have many negative connotations attributed. This shocks me as in Hindustani Shahid is a honorific, and both Hindus, Sikhs and muslims use the word to connote someone who has sacrificed himself or herself for a humane and noble cause. For me Shahid will always be associated with the brave and noble Indian revolutionary Shahid Bhagat Singh, a punjabi Sikh, who fought for Indian independence against The British Raj and sacrificed his life for the same. 

The story of Shahid Bhagat Singh has a special resonance as my great grandfather S.Doraiswami Iyer, a prominent Madras lawyer, a part of Sri Aurobindo core circle in Pondicherry, supported the revolutionary cause from the South(Indian independence from British colonial rule) with mind, body and spirit, funds to the revolutionaries.

See below a clip from a Hindi movie portraying the hanging of Shahid Bhagat Singh whose last words were “long live the revolution”:

Interestingly enough the main character in the movie Haider born of a Hindu Punjabi father is named Shahid Kapur, and like Hamlet who sacrifices himself for a noble cause (avenging the death of his father) is aptly named.

See below definition of Shahid from The Digital South Asian Dictionary:

شہيد shahīd

A (from شہد) s. A witness; a mar- tyr (any Mohammedan killed in battle is so called). adj. Killed. شہيدهونا shahīd honā, 1. To be killed. 2. To fall in love. (Pers. plur. شہيدان).

PSS: (Let’s see if you can hold your breath through this regurgitation 😂 )

Room 101 (Continued)- The Tidbit Coin

As we are all aware, the Internet is silently expanding and enveloping us at a phenomenal rate. It has encroached into our every sphere and leaving barely a nook untouched. However, it still is at its nascent stage, it has far far to go. The creation and expansion of this infant universe is being undertaken by us, yes you and me as we pound away on our computers, cell phones, and digital gadgets texting, surfing, emailing, commenting and uploading all kinds of data. Slowly converting our efforts in human time into efforts in digital time/ virtual time and creating, expanding and generating intentionally or otherwise in this virtual space. 

Now, I’m not immediately going to go into the complex discussion of the exact translation of human time into virtual time and whether the clocks correspond, if could or should they, but I would like to explore the value of this tidbit of human endeavor in virtual space. As we go about purposefully amending wiki, or responding to yahoo answers or enter and comment or give advice in any forum, we may be aware of voluntarily or intentionally imparting value to the forum. However, even in this simplistic scenario the value would be both the information imparted, the particular expertise and the participation in further expanding the network, the virtual universe. Often, the human time is volunteered, the time and space by which the universe has correspondingly expanded is conjectured. Similarly, for every tweet, quip, bleep, this virtual space is expanding but the complex interconnectivities of this virtual space, and it’s “weightage” or “values” would make defining the human value of this expansion very difficult to determine in my conception. But, let try (with) a “Tidbit”. Let’s aim to define the Tidbit along the lines of the currently popular Bitcoin. However, unlike the mining of the Bitcoin via resolving random complex mathematical equations, let’s conceive of a value for merely surfing the Internet, tweeting, emailing, posting, commenting and uploading data. The value of the Tidbit earned in the virtual world would have nothing to do with value in the human world whether it be in expertise, time, complexity of the value/data imparted, but would have its own equation based on how much it influences and expands this virtual world, the time space concepts being completely alien to those found in the human realm. We would have to figure out this formula but with a completely different mindset, or head screwed on where the values of the human world do not directly translate, and accordingly have to be weighed within its own context. We may have to set down some core ground rules or values by which this space is defined, and eventually the core laws of the mechanics of this space. Im not sure if anything at all has been done to date on the above as far as I’m aware.

As we identify the core values of this space, and set down its base governing laws, we can move on to the next phase of defining this virtual online currency, just for fun let’s call it a “tidbit” of value. The minute it’s defined, we can start churning it out. Every individual on the Net will accrue it at various rates, and we can easily develop an economy online for the utilization of the same. The primary movers possibly our initial underwriters if we wish, might be the hardware/software companies in whose interest the further expansion of the net, the addition of information and multiple users, using it for multiple purposes. Now the We the Netizens will have to figure if we want the big fish, or how much we want the big fish involved. We don’t want nations replaced by gigantic corporations then we are back in the same stew… Fish head curry! And we must not forget what we initially set out to do, to create a valuable alternate decentralized virtual currency which will stand in for all the mega billions spent by governments on large infrastructure projects that impact humanity, our human germ line, our humanness and our physical existence on this planet. Yes, the mega billions required for projects like the Human Genome project, where the data should not be privy to any nation corporation or group, the likes of the Human brain project, where the data generated/accumulated (which is what it’s appears to be downgraded to), is not in the hands of a few interested parties whether they be in the facades of nations, unions or Corporations. I cannot imagine wisdom to prevail when the fire of the gods lie only in the hands of one group. Of course the inevitable race will be for all groups to acquire the same unless the first group turn all the rest off to rest, and dons the hat of Big Brother, the Guardian of the Globe. Power corrupts absolutely, why give it yet another opportunity! Finally, onto our asteroid hunter project, or the NEO project by NASA and JPL. The gargantuan dimensions of this project has been discussed above, and the need for manpower and funding is urgently required to map as many of the NEO s that pose a threat as possible. However, as discussed above, we don’t want a nation organization or group to be the primary forces behind this for as discussed above, in the instance of smaller bodies, like Cherablinsk  not the civilization ending ones, but the ones that could wipe out Manhattan, Shanghai or even the 15 million people in Delhi, India. For these size bodies neither do we have the current means to monitor nor the blanket freedom given to the scientists to disclose data. The world is shrouded in numerous agreements between nations to with hold information that could point to weapons testing or nuclear explosions, and since these asteroids tend to explode in the atmosphere despite having the data, the scientists hands may be tied till the NEO instead of exploding above the Indian Ocean explodes over New Delhi, by which time it would be much too late. 

In my opinion, no one nation should be privy to this information, we should have satellites and monitoring stations that don’t act for nations and their buddies, but which act in the interest of humanity and disclose data as soon as it is accessible blasts, bombs, asteroids, comets and all. For this the agency/ organization monitoring would have to be independent of nations, and work to serve humanity for humanity’s sake And Pleeeeaaasse don’t start getting misty eyed and veering towards the UN thinking that somehow that is going to step in as the savior of humanity. Please understand the UN is severely conflicted, there is no option but to be biased based on its structure and formation. It serves a purpose, and like the other nations of the globe must be treated as one agglomerated nation with certain groups glomming more (“glom”how I love that word)and others being left in the periphery, and so similarly weighted. 

Back to the independent organization required for monitoring NEO and alerting the citizens of the globe of impeding disasters, this organization of course would be funded and supported by the human virtual community both by their currency the Tidbit and the labor of the volunteers who will scan the skies, monitor and chart the trajectories either based on data shared or games designed for the purpose. These volunteers by their very reason of being online will earn a tidbit, Roger can you imagine the immense power that can be harnessed if we can tap even a fraction of all the people surfing the Net. Imagine being compensated just for going online! However, even if we only focus on gamers we have all the man hours we need for all our human infrastructure projects(those that impact human survival), the gamers may earn more based on the complexity of the task and the level of the game they are able to reach, thus uncovering more of the skies, being compensated and making the world a safer place for each and every one of us who is vested in this Human Story.

Love and hugs to you and the whole family. 




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