I have turned off my hearing aids. The sounds from the busy street outside Villa Ndio have softened, but so have the sound of the chorus from Windsor Castle being televised by CNN, BBC and other broadcast media. Throughout the day, I have been downloading the CNN broadcast as “background noise” on my computer. Although the ongoing colorful display and symbolic sounds of pomp and circumstance have appealed to me, it has gotten to be a bit of overload. And the flaws have become more evident. The Brits are, after all, rather fond of the jarring but dramatic sounds of bagpipes. And the glorious pomp and circumstance of precision marching of mostly male soldiers dressed in brilliant red regalia and stunningly tall bearskin hats has acquired an appearance of celebrating anachronism – especially as it contrasts with the somber black of the royal widows, princesses and other official grievers.
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, a lot has been written about the deteriorating state of Indian democracy as yet another example of how apparently well-entrenched democracies are threatened by anti-democratic political movements. I, too, have been concerned about the threat to democracy from populist-inspired nationalism and its variations in the US, France and India, three countries with which I have personal connections. I currently live in France, was born and lived in the States, but also lived for many of my formative years in India. Here I am inspired to share my reflections about my passion for India and how my impressions of this great country have evolved through the various occasions of my presence in that country. We all wring our hands in dismay over the sliding away from democratic values that we observe in India this days, but I do believe that we’ll get past this somehow. Continue reading “Vignettes of Indian-ness”
The COVID-19 Pandemic is still classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the organization to whom we defer for any global health pronouncements on what is a global pandemic. I continue to link my personal musings to the dramatically significant impact that this global phenomenon has had on my daily living, even as I have been inspired by the global responses to the pandemic to write in-depth commentaries on the prospects for global and multi-stakeholder collaboration, which, if truth be told, has been my lifelong “reason for being”. Ah well, this is yet another one of my run-on sentence that my editors would want me rewrite into short pithy sentences. But the point is that the personal and the professional visions are indeed like a run-on sentence – so intertwined have they been in my response to this pandemic. As I launch into this ninth chapter on my personal musings about the pandemic, I am also trying to update my in-depth commentary on the subject. Many months have passed since I did either one, and I am now discovering that it is time for me to move on. Neither my personal life nor my professional interests are as overwhelmingly defined by the pandemic today as they once were. –
My partner and spouse Ralph Doggett and I are living the idyllic life in Grasse, France, where we enjoy exploring the region for the cultural and photographic opportunities it brings us. These opportunities are often an unexpected combination of adventures. On one recent occasion, we accepted an invitation that surprised us in a variety of ways – starting rather unexpectedly with one of those hikes that the French call a “rando” along the “Plateau de Calern” near Grasse on an unusually hot day in June. Our hiking adventure, however, was only the beginning of several surprises – discovering a chapel inside a cave, for one, but most especially seeing for the first time a laser-driven telescope. This was, after all, an invitation to visit the famed Observatory of the Cote d’Azur (OCA) – an awesome learning experience for us in and of itself. But the visit proved to be a fabulous combination of unexpected adventures. Here is a brief commentary with a photo collection of the hike (“rando”) on the plateau, the cave and the observatory(plus a delightful dinner in the middle of it all). Continue reading “An Awesome Visit to the OCA Observatory on the Plateau de Calern”
How can the personal story keep changing? The tiresomeness of cyclical ups and downs with no apparent pattern to them is wearing thin on all of us. Here in France, the delta variant was driving what was described as the fifth wave in this November/December 2021 timeframe, while the US or even the UK were measuring it as a fourth wave. Our personal relationship to the pandemic, nonetheless, was settling down to a gradual phasing out of COVID-related restraints, especially when we both got our boosters for extra-certain protection. But then the omicron variant suddenly burst onto the global scene. And even more disrupting for us personally, our long-awaited visit from our son and his fiancée was turned upside down by his testing positive for COVID shortly after his arrival here – and the rest of us only days later! Instead of spending an early Christmas with them and sending them home to Richmond for the main event, we were all in mandatory isolation through the holiday right here at Villa Ndio. Continue reading “Pandemic Musings Chapter 8: OMICRON and Christmas Disruptions (updated 31 December 2021)”
In our holiday/new year’s letter from 2020, we reflected on the effects of the pandemic of COVID-19 on our lives – adjusting to the initial shock in March, adapting to a longer than expected lockdown, experiencing a cautious opening up in the summer before going through a second wave in late October, and closing the year with the good news of a Biden victory in the US. That was in 2020! At the close of our 2020 letter, we wrote: “We’re OK, after all. We expect that 2021 will be better for all of us – as long as we stay safe and healthy. So that is our wish to all for 2021 – safety and health!” And here we are with another holiday and end of year reflections! Before rattling on about this strange year of 2021, let us repeat that our wish to all for 2022 is the same as it was last year: We wish you “safety and health” – and hope, once again, that we will achieve a world in which there is “safety and health” for all! Continue reading “Holiday Greetings in December 2021, Wishing Safety and Health for All in 2022!”
Chapter 7 on Pandemic Living started with travel anxieties in anticipation of my first trans-Atlantic flight since the pandemic began. The draft was initially written on 30 and 31 July 2021. Progress reports on 10, 20 27 and 31 August have continued the saga with various mid-travel reflections, and a final piece dated 12 September incorporates my post-travel reflections. During this same period, the delta variant was rampant but quixotic in its own travels around the world. We are still living with bated breath even as we try to go about a return to “normal” living, but this chapter tracks the ups and downs of uncertainty as we try to understand and adjust to a pandemic that keeps changing.
As of today, 21 July 2021, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that we have entered the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in France. Less than two months ago we were eagerly phasing out of the lockdown measures of the third wave -ending the curfews, lifting the face mask requirements and mandatory forms and time limits for activities outside the home, gradually opening up the restaurants (outdoor dining only), fitness centers, museums, theaters, shopping centers and non-essential retail establishments. Although we are no longer being called upon to reinstate any of these lockdown measures (at least not yet), the Prime Minister has described this fourth wave as worse than any of the previous three waves, with a “faster and steeper slope” in the spread of the virus than any of the previous waves. Who expected this? How is it affecting us personally here at Villa Ndio? Continue reading “Pandemic Musings: 6. Entering (Early) the Fourth Wave in France (July 2021)”
So much has happened on the “living with a pandemic” front since I recorded the way of things back in October 2020. I’ve written other musings since then, of course, on November as the month of memorials or the traditional Christmas greetings in December, and even a thing or two about the gender perspective both locally and globally since then. But I realized the other day that we are gradually moving out of yet a third confinement and into the hopeful anticipation of a post-pandemic lifestyle, at least here in France, without my having written down the typical diary kind of record of “living with the pandemic” that I had originally envisioned doing. I was so struck by its transformative significance back there in the 2020 days of what I described then as the “new March madness”. And I know that much of it is very mundane, but still, I did intend to have a sort of personal record of what I consider to be pivotal moments for me and for my family in the evolution of this horrific pandemic. Let’s hope we don’t forget its significance. Continue reading “Pandemic Musings: 5. The Uncertainties of Lockdown Living: Musings at the End of the Third Wave (in France, 7 May 2021)”
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, unsurprisingly, is “Women Leading the Fight against COVID-19”. Well, it seems to have been a bit of a tradition to honor accomplished women on this day, and we can all agree that women are very much involved in leading the fight against COVID-19, right? So where are they? The accomplished women, that is. In the sciences? Physicians? Well, there is at least one we know about, Ôzlem Tûreci, co-founder of BioNTech, right? And in the political world? What ever happened to Deborah Birx? And yes, there was a flurry of publicity early on that countries with women as head of state or government were doing better than their male counterparts – Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand or Angela Merkel in Germany. But I would rather we had a focus this year on the women “happeners” in the fight against COVID-19, and I don’t mean something as “patronizing” as praising women in the traditional ways that emphasize their gentle and selfless nature or their beauty or their unquestioning endurance. Continue reading “IWD 2021: Happenings and Gender in the Pandemic”