G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Friday, July 03, 2015

The Satavahanas and Marilyn Monroe: The Body Is Meant To Be Seen


"...'A safflower!' they shouted,
Pointing to the nail-mark
On her breast, and laughed
When she tried to brush it." 145

('The Absent Traveller: Prakrit Love Poetry from the Gathasaptasati of Satavahana Hala' by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra)
 
"…स्तन हे मातृत्वाचे प्रतीक असल्यामुळे त्यांच्या विवस्त्र प्रदर्शनात शिष्टाचाराचा भंग होत नाही असा प्राचीन शिल्पकारांचा संकेत होता (Altekar: Dress and Ornaments of Hindu Women : Journal of the Benares Hindu University: Vol II: No 3: p 408)..."

('हाल सातवाहनाची  गाथा सप्तशती' संपादक: स आ जोगळेकर, 1956)

डॉ. मधुकर केशव ढवळीकर:
 "…उच्चकुलीन स्त्रिया बहुधा उत्तरीय वापरत, परंतु सर्वसाधारण स्त्रियांचा शरीराचा वरचा भाग अनावृत्त असे…"
(सातवाहनकालातील संपन्न गृहपती, 'महाराष्ट्राची कुळकथा', 2011)

दुर्गा  भागवत, 'वनकथा ', निसर्गोत्सव , 1996:
 "… मग  मी मुलांना  दिलेला  खाऊ  त्यांनी  खाल्ला . मग बायका जमा झाल्या . साऱ्यांची कमरेपोतरची  शरीरे अनावृत्त . पण ती अनावृत्त  स्तनमंडळे  खरेच फार सुरेख होती . लहानसर पण अतिशय बांधेसूद . एकीने मला विचारले, "तुम्ही चोळी कशाला घालता?" हा प्रश्नच अनपेक्षित होता . मी गोंधळले . मग त्या साऱ्या जणी हसल्या . त्यातील एक प्रौढा  माझ्या जवळ आली . निःसंकोच पणे  माझ्या छातीवरून हात फिरवीत ती म्हणाली, "पाहा, असं  होतं . आमची छाती कशी घट्ट आहे नि हिची  पाहा कशी कापसासारखी!" मग ती मला म्हणाली , "बघ बाई , तुमची सीता  पण वनात  आली. तिनं आमच्यासारखी  सुरेख 'दुध' (स्तन ) हवी होती ना? चोळी टाकली. तिची वक्षःस्थळं भरदार झाली. आवडली आमच्या रावणाला. पळवली तिला. मग दुसरी म्हणाली , "खरं च  की ते, चोळी घातली  की छाती खचते …"
  
For me year 2015 has been that of Gaha Sattasai- I am reading it for the first time in both Marathi and English- and hence of Satavahanas.


Fresco of woman with flower offerings, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, circa 5 CE

I saw the following image on Facebook in February 2015 and I felt how Ms. Monroe would have enjoyed her stay when the Satavahanas ruled.

Imagine her in the fresco above!



picture courtesy: FB page dedicated to Ms. Monroe

Monday, June 29, 2015

Poor Horse Didn't Cause Violence: Ashvamedha


I often read about horse of Ashvamedha in my childhood. My idea of it was close to the picture below. "The hose was then let loose and the army followed it."
But it was confusing...surely the empire building did not depend on the random horse movements.

Karen Armstrong in her latest book clarifies it:

"...A stabled horse will always make straight for home, however, so the army was in fact driving the horse into territory that the king was intent on conquering. Thus in India, as in any agrarian civilization, violence was woven into the texture of aristocratic life..."
('Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence', 2014)

So the poor horse was not really free to roam but was being driven  "into territory that the king was intent on conquering".

A load was lifted off my mind.

It's also important to add that sanitized versions of stories I read did not mention the horse slaughter ritual at the end.


courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha title 'The Sons of Rama'

Thursday, June 25, 2015

पिवळीच मी पाकोळी की....Blue Mormon Gets the Recognition


There is no butterfly in classical Indian literature, claims the late Durga Bhagwat ( दुर्गा भागवत) in her book 'Nisargotsav'  (“पिवळीच मी पाकोळी की”/ निसर्गोत्सव, 1996).


"...क्रौंचवध पाहून ज्याचा शोक श्लोकत्व पावला, त्या वाल्मिकीला फुलपाखरू दिसले नाही, मग इतरांना तरी कसे दिसावे?...आणि व्यासाचे उच्छिष्ट खाणारे आम्ही? व्यासाची प्रज्ञा तर घालवून बसलोच, पण आमची प्रतिभाही आटली… मानवी अंतरंग असो किंवा बाह्य सृष्टी असो, प्रकृतीचे आकलन, व तेही सूक्ष्म असल्याशिवाय,  कल्पना उंचावत नाहीत,  भावना संयत होत नाहीत. विभूषित होत नाहीत. आणि म्हणूनच फुलपाखरांचा अभाव हा भारतीय साहित्याच्या अनेक अभांवाचा प्रातिनिधिक अभाव आहे असे मला वाटते… "

She asks if some one like sage Valmiki, who was inspired to write the Ramayana as he watched the killing of a male krouncha bird out of a pair, never 'saw' a butterfly, how can others see it?

But luckily, the government of Maharashtra has seen one.

"...Maharashtra has become the first State in the country to have a ‘State butterfly.’ The BJP-led government has declared the Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor) as the State butterfly. The decision was taken at a meeting of the State Wildlife Board in Mumbai on Monday.

The Blue Mormon is a large, swallowtail butterfly found primarily in Sri Lanka and India, mainly restricted to the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, South India and coastal belts. It may occasionally be spotted in the Maharashtrian mainland between Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra..."

 (The Hindu, June 23 2015)


 Courtesy: The Hindu

p.s Durgabai finally found the butterfly in a folksong. This is how she describes her pleasure:


 courtesy: Dilip Prakashan (दिलीप प्रकाशन) and the current copyright holders of the late Durgabai's work

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

प्रिसन छगन?...Another Defence Mechanism for Mr. Bhujbal


लोकसत्ता, June 17 2015:

"'सदन'भुजबळ!: छापासत्रात डोळे दिपविणारी मालमत्ता समोर:
महात्मा फुले यांचे नाव घेत सामाजिक समतेचा लढा देणारे 'समाजसेवक', राष्ट्रवादी काँग्रेसचे बिनीचे नेते आणि राज्याचे माजी उपमुख्यमंत्री छगन भुजबळ यांच्याविरुद्धच्या चौकशीची चक्रे मंगळवारी अधिक वेगाने फिरू लागली. भुजबळ आणि कुटुंबियांच्या मुंबई, ठाणे, पुणे, नाशिक, लोणावळा येथील विविध मालमत्तांची लाचलुचपत प्रतिबंधक विभागाने झडती सुरू केली आणि एकेकाळी फूल बाजारात फुले विकणाऱ्या भुजबळ यांच्या कुटुंबाची राजकारणात शिरल्यानंतरची आश्चर्यचकित करणारी भरभराट महाराष्ट्रासमोर अधिकृतपणे उघड झाली. मंगळवारी दिवसभर चाललेल्या या छाप्यांनंतर भुजबळ यांच्या मालमत्तेचा तपशील लाचलुचपत प्रतिबंधक विभागानेच उघड केला. आलिशान महाल, बंगले, इमारती, सदनिका, विस्तीर्ण भूखंड, ऐतिहासिक मोलाच्या प्राचीन वस्तू असा डोळे दिपविणारा खजिना या तपासात उघड झाला..."

लोकसत्ता, June 18 2015:

"...तूर्त तात्पर्य हे की एका भुजबळांवर कारवाई झाली म्हणून इतके सारे बाहेर आले. पण म्हणून ते एकमेव असे आहेत वा होते असे नाही. त्यांच्यावर कारवाई करणे हे सर्वासाठीच सोयीचे असल्याने ती होत आहे. यावरून, आता अशी कारवाई सर्वावरच होईल इतका आशावाद बाळगणे भाबडेपणाचे ठरेल. तशी ती होणे गरजेचे आहे, हे मान्य. पण तसे होत नाही तोपर्यंत भुजबळांच्या जमीनजुमल्याकडे आणि संपत्तीकडे पाहात छगन सदन तेजोमय..असेच म्हणत बसावे लागेल."

लोकसत्ता, June 19 2015:

"...या सरकारकडून कधी जेलमध्ये टाकले जाते याची आम्हीही वाट पाहात आहोत, अशी संतप्त प्रतिक्रिया राष्ट्रवादी काँग्रेसचे अध्यक्ष शरद पवार यांनी गुरुवारी व्यक्त केली..."

Apart from a million other defense mechanisms available to some one like Mr. Bhujbal in India's democracy- 'heart attack' to 'he is not me' (तो मी नव्हेच)- here is one more:


Artist: Paul Noth, The New Yorker, June 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

If Indeed Napoleon Never Set a Foot in 'Waterloo'....

Today June 18 2015 is 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo.

Bernard Coppens, a Belgian historian and former Waterloo resident: 

"Napoleon never set a foot in Waterloo—it’s a fact.”

We are observing 100th anniversary of World War I (1914-1918) since last year and the most relevant word that comes to mind while doing so is slaughter.

200 years ago on that Sunday too thousands of men were slaughtered.  Lest we forget, thousands of horses too died.

Most of the Battle of Waterloo took place a few miles south of real Waterloo, in Braine-l’Alleud and Plancenoit. The battle got its name because the victor, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, penned his official report from his Waterloo headquarters.

I have also been curious about how and when the news of the battle reached shores of India.

How did, if at all, the Maratha's, themselves a dying (if not already dead) empire, learn about it? After all  Wellesley had earlier won a decisive victory over the Maratha Confederacy at the Battle of Assaye in 1803.

One of the most interesting commentary, I have read, on the battle has come from Andrew Roberts in '
Smithsonian Magazine':

"...If Napoleon had remained emperor of France for the six years remaining in his natural life, European civilization would have benefited inestimably. The reactionary Holy Alliance of Russia, Prussia and Austria would not have been able to crush liberal constitutionalist movements in Spain, Greece, Eastern Europe and elsewhere; pressure to join France in abolishing slavery in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean would have grown; the benefits of meritocracy over feudalism would have had time to become more widely appreciated; Jews would not have been forced back into their ghettos in the Papal States and made to wear the yellow star again; encouragement of the arts and sciences would have been better understood and copied; and the plans to rebuild Paris would have been implemented, making it the most gorgeous city in the world.


Napoleon deserved to lose Waterloo, and Wellington to win it, but the essential point in this bicentenary year is that the epic battle did not need to be fought—and the world would have been better off if it hadn’t been."



'The Field of Waterloo', 1818

Artist: Joseph Mallord William Turner 

courtesy: The New York Review of Books & Tate Britain

Jenny Uglow writes about it:

"But his great painting, The Field of Waterloo, of 1818, shows a scene of slaughter rather than triumph. Here the exuberance of all the satirical prints and dashing military watercolors is forgotten. Instead the opposing nations mingle and the divisions of rank vanish, as the women hunt by the light of a flaming torch, to find those they love among the tangled bodies."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

That Robin Out There

The Guardian reported on June 10 2015 that "Robin wins vote for UK's national bird".


Picture courtesy: Lisa Geoghegan/Alamy and The Guardian

"Despite being a seemingly friendly bird, the robin is hugely territorial and very defensive of its territory and I presume that reflects us as an island nation that we will stand our ground,,,The robin is known for being openly aggressive towards birds it competes with for territory and food, and can kill them on occasion..." (David Lindo)

No wonder the seemingly simple task in the picture below is not that easy. Notice the number of people engaged, four, in driving it away and two are rushing with a ladder!

Artist: Peter Arno, The New Yorker, 5 April 1930

(This is the second time the cartoon above appears on this blog. For its first usage, dated December 13 2006, read this.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Aesop's The Fox and The Lion: 21st Century Version

This is what Aesop wrote many centuries ago:

"A fox who had never seen a lion one day met one, and was so terrified at the sight of him that he was ready to die with fear. After a time he met him again, and was still rather frightened, but not nearly so much as he had been when he met him first. But when he saw him for the third time he was so far from being afraid that he went up to him and began to talk to him as if he had known him all his life."

 This classic story is accompanied by the following pictures in 'Aesop's Fables (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)', 2003:



Artist: Arthur Rachham

Now, see this picture from the story in Daily Mail dated May 17 2015:

 "Fantastic Mr Fox leaves pride of lions licking their wounds after game reserve battle - and even bites one lioness on the nose!"


Picture courtesy: Graham Dyer,  Barcroft Media,  Daily Mail

Fox can't stand in style,  like in the picture in the middle, because its spine and legs are injured by by a member of the pride. But it's standing its ground alright. 

Friday, June 05, 2015

स्वमग्न अग्रलेखाची लक्षणे ...Lead and Leader


(I have used Marathi word स्वमग्न to mean self-absorbed, and not its modern meaning autistic)

Business Line, July 6 2015:

"The United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore and Australia are a few of the foreign nations that have found Nestlé’s Maggi safe to eat after India held that its sundry varieties of instant noodles suffered from toxic contamination. So what should we make of this? It is tempting to argue we should go by our own tests, our own testing protocols, and our own interpretation of food safety norms, rather than be influenced by what other countries do or say. But this is a piece of hyper-nationalistic nonsense for more than one reason. To begin with, our food safety regulations are largely borrowed from the West. They are also extremely poorly enforced. Also in Maggi’s case, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), when testing for the contaminant lead, appears to have applied a norm that is totally at variance with international practice. The FSSAI’s ban on the product took place under the glare of a largely hostile media, an atmosphere in which TRPs trumped reason, self-righteous anger prevailed over sober analyses, and ideology replaced science..."
 
I buy Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) only for one reason:  their consistent, principled stand against fascist forces in Maharashtra (महाराष्ट्र), so rare among Marathi media. But most times, I don't read their  leaders.

The paper surely has a few interesting articles, on the editorial pages and else where, especially readers' letters, from time to time. Occasionally, even a leader, especially the one that takes apart fascist or corrupt forces,  is good but it's not their forte, indeed their Achilles heel.

Many of them are rudderless, clumsily written, socialist rant. The latest example of that is their leader on the subject of Maggi.

Let us start with the title: 'मॅगी'मग्न समाजाची लक्षणे...it means nothing other than the pun on words 'मॅगी' and मग्न....

"नवमध्यमवर्गीय घराघरांतील कुलदीपक आणि दीपिकांच्या आनंदाचे आणि त्यांच्या मातोश्रींच्या पाककलानिपुणतेचे निधान असलेल्या मॅगीनामक खाद्यपदार्थावर बंदीचे फतवे निघू लागल्याने आधीच मंदीने ग्रासलेल्या या वर्गाचे जगणे हराम झाले आहे."

What world the editors live in?....so many bachelors and low income people have survived on Maggi....I know it personally....Maggi is one of the most cost effective food in this country today....and until recently safer than any street food of similar price points.....

"आपल्या पोराबाळांना इंग्रजी माध्यमांच्या शाळांत घालणारे आणि मॅगी देण्यात आपल्या पालकत्वाची कृतकृत्यता शोधणारे हे दोन्ही एकाच लायकीचे."

What nonsense they peddle? What have English medium schools to do with Maggi eating? I went to Marathi medium school and I have eaten Maggi, since 1983, as a bachelor and, even when my wife is an excellent cook and we almost never eat out.

My son went to an English medium school, does not much eat Maggi and, if it were up to me, as and when his daughter arrives, she too will go to an English medium school even if meanwhile Maggi becomes extinct....

The rest of the leader is full of sweeping generalizations and left-leaning claptrap....

Such newspaper editorials are more dangerous for the body than an occasional pack of Maggi, even if it is laced with lead!
 Artist: Perry Barlow (1892-1977), The New Yorker, January 12 1957

Monday, June 01, 2015

...She Had the Radio On...and She Will Never Die

Today June 1 2015 is 89th Birth Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe

Cecil Beaton on Marilyn Monroe:


"She had rocketed from obscurity to become our post-war sex symbol, the pin-up girl of an age. And whatever press agentry or manufactured illusion may have lit the fuse, it is her own weird genius that has sustained her flight. Transfigured by the garish marvel of Technicolor cinemascope, she walks like an undulating basilisk, scorching everything in her path…. Perhaps she was born just the post-war day we had need of her. Certainly she had no knowledge of the past. Like Giraudoux’s Ondine, she is only fifteen years old, and she will never die."



"It’s not true that I had nothing on, I had the radio on."