Afghanistan [en]

Like I had, you have probably heard of the sad plight of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban fundamentalist gouvernment. They are not allowed to study or work. They are not allowed outside unaccompanied. They are deprived many rights we take for granted, even in the poorest countries.

Their fate is probably an abstract problem for you, a sad situation over which you have no hold, somewhere in a distant part of the world. At least, that’s how I saw it before I read an article in Marie Claire: Women Risking Their Lives for Education. I had received the email petition and dismissed it, as one should do with email petitions, but I just hadn’t realized how serious the situation was. And most of all, I hadn’t realized there was anything one could do about it.

RAWA is an underground organisation of Afghan women who fight for human rights and social justice in Afghanistan, amongst other things by providing education to girls. Their website provides information about RAWA’s social activities as well as an overview of the situation of Afghan women. You can also see some of the restrictions they suffer, as well as a frighteningly long list of links to individual stories. Of course, there is a photo gallery, but I haven’t had the courage to explore it.

Last but not least, they provide a very detailed page about how we can help them. They have published a booklet which one can sell or distribute, and are presently trying to re-open a hospital in neighbouring Pakistan. It is possible to specify for which purpose a donation is being made (web-based payment possible via PayPal).

Life [en]

In Switzerland, I would go simply everywhere with Cali. In rare cases, she would wait for me in the car, or tied up in front of the library. I took her in restaurants, went shopping for clothes with her, and she was even accepted in two of my university classes.

In England, you aren’t expected to go into town with your dog. The only ones around are those which inevitably accompany marginal people. I understood this yesterday when we went out for a walk/shop/coffee in Birmingham New Street.

We were asked to take her out of the coffee shop we had sat in, after our drinks had arrived. We were asked to take her out of the shopping mall, after we had been in there for an hour. No where did I see a sign forbidding dogs – I really had to look for it. Dogs aren’t allowed loose in the park. They aren’t really supposed to be on the university grounds, either.

Switzerland must be dog-owner’s paradise.

India [en]

One of the things I missed the most when I arrived in India was the long evenings. Today, at something past 10 pm, the sky has only just become black.

The first day I arrived in Pune, we went out to eat around 7 pm. My plane had landed at 5 o’clock, I had had time to dump my stuff in my room, have a bath, and get changed. We stepped outside and it was pitch black. All of a sudden,
it felt as though my internal clock had broken down: it couldn’t be dark already!

I learnt to live with it. Being closer to the equator, India sees less difference in night length throughout the year than a country like Switzerland. It’s logical, it makes perfect sense, but I never would have thought about it. Not before it hit me straight in the eyes. I guess
Switzerland sounds to Indians like Scandinavia sounds to us.

One thing Indians tend to find really weird is the fact that we don’t have a rainy season. “You mean it rains all year long?” Well, of course it doesn’t rain every single day here. But it can rain at any given date. Simply enough, the idea of living in a place where there is no monsoon must sound quite incredible to the indian mind – just as we have trouble
imagining what the monsoon can be like before we have lived (swam) through it.

Today was the last lesson of my class on “Visual Hinduism”. We explored architecture, iconography, miniatures, but also rituals (hence my presentation on indian weddings) and finally even cinema. The teacher, who was doing this kind of “visual” class for the first time, was curious about our feedback.

Actually, I thought it was a great idea. Academic teaching often neglects the realm of the eye – unless you are studying history of art. And the visual world is very important for grasping indian culture.

I remember the first time I saw real pictures of India. My interest for India came late, as I was studying, so I had never spent much time looking at books, documentaries or other hippy friends’ photographs. All I had seen were photographs by Benoît Lange (or similar artists), which are
beautiful pictures but hardly prepare you for what you are actually going to see in indian streets.

So the first “real” indian photographs I saw were pictures of a pilgrimage that my teacher was giving a conference about. I had already started planning my trip to India, although it was still a long way off, and I can remember the surprise of seeing the stretch of brown earth, the
rickety stalls next to the road, and people scattered everywhere. “Gosh, it looks like that over there!?”

During my first days in India, my most intense culture shock was visual. I wasn’t prepared for it at all – I couldn’t have prepared myself, had I even wanted to. Everything I laid my eyes on was new and
unknown. Nothing made sense. All I could see was a mass of colours and shacks and rubbish and puddles and dogs and people. I just stayed there for hours on end, stunned, perched on my small terrasse above the street, looking at the strange world outside and trying to get over the

Birmingham franco [en]

Une petite note à  l’intention des francophones égarés à  Birmingham, qui regrettent la piètre qualité de la cuisine anglaise (capable de produire des abérrations telles que “baguette fourrée de poulet baignant dans lait de coco à  l’aneth”) et dont le palais aimerait retrouver quelques saveurs plus familières.

Chez Jules (off New Street) vous propose un assortiment de bons petits plats tout à  fait français. Et même très bons. Et même pas chers.

En prime, vous avez droit au serveur qui parle anglais avec un tel accent que l’on passe très vite à  la langue de Molière… ; )

England [en]

<holiday class="at_last" target="england">
I’m taking off tomorrow morning. Don’t be surprised if this place isn’t updated as often as usual during the coming week – but then, who knows?

Grandma and Bagha [en]

Each time I sit down to write one of these Life entries, I think of my Grandma. She lives in England – not that far off but still quite far.
My Grandma is over 70 now, and she logs onto the Internet regularly to visit my website. I know that what she looks for are these little (rare) Life entries.

So today I had two rather long phone calls with England. One with my Grandma – who will hopefully soon be fit to fly over and meet my animals – and one with Somak.

Speaking of animals, Somak told me he received an email from IUCAA with a rather intriguing signature:

When you find life is coming down on you, think of Bagha.

Well, Bagha was quite well known in IUCAA – particularly for breaking into people’s fridges and hanging around the canteen. And obviously, the word has spread that he emigrated from India and is now a lucky Swiss citizen. I’m sure he’ll be glad to learn that his fate helps members of the IUCAA staff lift their spirits during the hard times.

I should be going back to India beginning of August. I’m actually starting to miss India. I have cravings for dreadfully hot Marathi food (the kind of stuff I found simply dreadful when I first tasted it).
I will have a Hindi course in Rishikesh again, and I hope to be able to spend a couple of weeks in Pune before that. That means I’m going to have to work hard to get my October exams ready before I leave ; )

Hired [en]

Orange has just hired me to convert their training manuals to HTML (from Powerpoint).
: )
No further comment needed, I suppose!

Apart from that, I have just come back from a week-end in Birmingham with Somak, Aleika, and Akirno. It was really nice to see them again.
Winter is here, and with it, my exams are approaching fast. That means that I will be spending less hours fiddling with my site and writing sometimes meaningless blog entries, and more time in my books. In some way, I’m looking forward to it.

Childhood Memories [en]

I flew to England on Thursday, and went to see the house I spent the first two years of my life in.
I could remember the street from my last visit, when I was eight, but not a single thing apart from that.
The neighbours were still the same, and remembered my family. A very sweet old lady had bought the house when my parents moved out, and she was still living there. She invited us in, served us tea and cake.

I couldn`t help but compare myself to Akirno. He is now the age I was when I moved to Switzerland. Will he retain no memories at all of his life in India, and of the eight months I spent living in his family?