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, May 22, 2015

Women of Algiers and Women of India by Ghulam Ali Khan

As is well known Pablo Picasso's 'Women of Algiers' has become the most expensive painting to sell at auction.


Wikipedia informs: "Les Femmes d'Alger (Women of Algiers) is a series of 15 paintings and numerous drawings by the Spanish cubist artist Pablo Picasso. The series was inspired by Eugène Delacroix's 1834 painting Women of Algiers in their Apartment (French: Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement)..."

Here is  Delacroix's 1834 painting:

current location: Louvre, Paris

courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

As soon as I saw both the paintings mentioned above, I was reminded of this Indian painting:


Artist: Ghulam Ali Khan, 1st quarter of 19th century

Current Location: The San Diego Museum of Art 

I also saw this picture in  B. N Goswamy's 'The Spirit of Indian Painting: Close Encounters with 101 Great Works 1100-1900'  and the lady, fourth from the left, produced below, is simply bewitching. 

No one  from the current crop of leading ladies of Hindi cinema comes close to her in poise and style.

 courtesy: B. N. Goswamy

 On the whole, I like Mr. Khan's painting more than the most expensive painting to sell at auction.
'

Monday, May 18, 2015

Not Thinking in Pictures The Role of Logic in Human Affairs: Bertrand Russell

Today May 18 2015 is Bertrand Russell's 143rd Birth Anniversary.



John Gray:


 “In his letter commenting on Russell’s book on China, Conrad wrote: ‘I have never been able to find in any man’s book or any man’s talk anything convincing enough to stand up for a moment against my deep-seated sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world.’ Russell’s passionate admiration for Conrad may have had a number of sources. One of them was surely his suspicion that Conrad’s sceptical fatalism was a truer account of human life than his own troubled belief in reason and science. As reformer, he believed reason could save the world. As a skeptical follower of Hume he knew reason could never be more than the slave of the passions. Sceptical Essays was written as a defence of rational doubt. Today we can read it as a confession of faith, the testament of a crusading rationalist who doubted the power of reason.”

 Ray Monk writes:

"...“Thinking in pictures,” Sigmund Freud once wrote, “stands nearer to unconscious processes than does thinking in words, and is unquestionably older than the latter both ontogenetically and phylogenetically.” There is, in other words, something primordial, something foundational, about thinking visually.


Such a view is anathema to many philosophers, a good many of whom believe that all thought is propositional, that to think is to use words. For some of the most distinguished philosophers in history, thinking and verbalising were practically the same thing. Bertrand Russell sometimes to his great frustration, was hopeless at visualising and was more or less indifferent to the visual arts. His mental life seemed almost entirely made up of words rather than images. When his friend Rupert Crawshay-Williams once gave him an intelligence test that involved matching increasingly complicated geometrical shapes, Russell did extremely well up to a certain point and then exceptionally badly after that. “What happened?” Crawshay-Williams asked. “I hadn’t got any names for the shapes,” Russell replied...."

It's ironic that a well-received, best-selling comic novel has been produced on such a man!




 


courtesy: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, 2009


Authors: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou

Art: Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna
 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

वीट येणे म्हणजे काय?...Hearing All About Bathroom Renovation at Dinner Table

A lot of people insist on you 'seeing' their house when you visit them.

I wonder if it is a kind of courtesy extended to the first time visitor or one of the most pompous acts you suffer so as not to offend the host.

In earlier times, middle-class people made you 'see' their under-construction house. I guess, like me, Pu La Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे) did not enjoy the activity.

Once Pu La was taken to see such a construction and at some point was given two bricks to hold on to. He ended up carrying them for next two hours! 

Brick in Marathi is called 'veet' (वीट).

Pu La says at that point he realized from where the expression 'veet yene' (वीट येणे), meaning getting fed up, entered Marathi lexicon: "मी पुढले दोन तास उजव्या हातात घरची आणि डाव्या हातात बाजारची वीट घेऊन त्याचे घर पाहत हिंडत होतो. एखाद्या गोष्टीचा कंटाळा येण्याला वीट येणे का म्हणतात ते त्या दिवशी कळले"


Artist: Amy Hwang, The New Yorker, November 2014

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chewing Up The Worm With a Story to Go Along: Mother's Day

Today May 10 2015 is Mother's Day...Remembering Aai (आई) who not only chewed it up but even told a story to go along....


Artist: Trevor Spaulding, The New Yorker, March 2015

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Does NH-4 Have That Milestone: Your Lost Childhood?

I have not been to Miraj (मिरज)- where I spent first 21 years of life- for almost thirty years now.

I don't regret it as she continues to live in me as she was and I am satisfied with that.

Not all days were perhaps were as colorful as the girl in the picture below remembers. But we had our celebrations under the trees of tamarind, banyan, Spanish cherry (बकुळ), syzygium cumini (जांभुळ), Indian fig tree (उंबर)....

  
A young girl remembers the celebration beneath blossoming cherry trees

Artist: Unknown to me

courtesy: Library of Congress and The Atlantic
I sort of miss Miraj but I derive consolation from a part of B S Mardhekar's (बा सी मर्ढेकर) poem 'किती तरी दिवसांत' :

"... बरा म्हणून हा इथें
दिवा पारवा पार्‍याचा;
बरी तोतर्‍या नळाची
शिरीं धार, मुखी ऋचा"



Artist: Harry Bliss

Sunday, May 03, 2015

आम्ही नेटकेची ना लिहू...There Is No Such Thing as ‘Proper Marathi’

विलास सारंग: "… मराठी साहित्यात समुद्राच वास्तव किती सातत्याने दुर्लक्षित केलं आहे, हे माझ्या विवेचनाच सार होतंआपण वास्तवाच्या -वाङमयीन सामग्रीच्या- केवढ्या मोठ्या भांडाराला मुकतो आहोत, हे माझ्या लेखात निर्देशित केलं आहे...मराठी वाङमयातील समुद्राची अनुपस्थिती मराठी समाजाच्या संरचनेशी कशी निगडीत आहे, हे माझ्या लेखात स्पष्ट केलेलं आहे."
 ("वाङमयीन संस्कृती व सामाजिक वास्तव", 2011, पृष्ठ 66-67)

विलास सारंग: "… एक आश्चर्याची गोष्ट म्हणजे 'महाभारता'वर आधारलेली सोफिस्टिकेटेड सांस्कृतिक मूल्यावर उभी राहिलेली एकही प्रभावी नाट्यकृती (इतक्या शतकांत) निर्माण झाली नाही, जिने जनमानसावर सर्वकष मोहिनी टाकली आहे. इ. स. 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."
('वाङ्‌मयीन संस्कृती व सामाजिक वास्तव', 2011)

विलास सारंग: "…मला कधी वाटतं, १८९० साली हरिभाऊनी जरा विचार केला असता: 'आपण कशाला ब्रिटीश वाङमयाचं शेपूट पकडून राहायचं?' आपलं कथाकथन विकसित करायचं. एवढं काही कठीण नाही. काफ्काच्या 'मॅटॅमॉर्फसिसचं पहिल वाक्य घ्या. 'पंचतंत्रातल्या एखाद्या गोष्टीत ते फिट बसलं असतं. एवढी फँट्सी झाली. उरलेल्या कथेत वास्तववाद आहेच…इ. स. १९०० पासून आजवर पाश्च्यात्यांनी  आपल्या  वाङमयाकडे ढुंकून  बघितलेलं  आहे का? त्यांना आपल्या कथासाहित्यात  वेगळ, नवीन काही आढळल  नाही … " 
  ('लिहित्या लेखकाचं वाचन', 2011)

विलास सारंग, सदानंद रेग्यांच्या मृत्यू नंतरचा लेख, 1982: "...मराठी कवितेच्या कोंदट, कोत्या, ‘इनब्रीडिंग’ने कोळपलेल्या वातावरणात सदानंद रेग्यांची कविता हा एक मोकळा वारा होता. हा वारा आता वाहायचा थांबला आहे."




"...And so now every night, the last thing we do, me from my bedroom and Luke from his, is to send each other an instant message, and we always end it “LOL.”

“LOL, Dad!”

“LOL, Luke!”

And it doesn’t matter what it means. It means laughter or love, or whatever it might mean at that moment to us."




 “Essay-level writing as a basic skill is no longer the norm. Speaking is, however, and that style has influenced our writing. Get over it, grammarians...”


George Orwell wrote a famous essay 'Politics and the English Language' in April 1946. It's probably one of the most quoted document on the subject of language.

Will Self says about it:

"...Orwell's essay, Politics and the English Language, is frequently cited as a manifesto of plainspoken common sense - a principled assault upon all the jargon, obfuscation, and pretentiously Frenchified folderol that deforms our noble tongue. Orwell - it's said by these disciples - established once and for all in this essay that anything worth saying in English can be set down with perfect clarity such that it's comprehensible to all averagely intelligent English readers.The only problem with this is that it's not true - and furthermore, Orwell was plain wrong...

As for most people who bother with the matter admitting that English is in a bad way - hardly. Since 1946, when Orwell's essay was published, English has continued to grow and mutate, a great voracious beast of a tongue, snaffling up vocabulary, locutions and syntactical forms from the other languages it feeds on. There are more ways of saying more things in English than ever, and it follows perfectly logically that more people are shaping this versatile instrument for their purposes.

The trouble for the George Orwells of this world is that they don't like the ways in which our tongue is being shaped. In this respect they're indeed small "c" conservatives, who would rather peer at meaning by the guttering candlelight of a Standard English frozen in time, than have it brightly illumined by the high-wattage of the living, changing language.

Orwell and his supporters may say they're objecting to jargon and pretension, but underlying this are good old-fashioned prejudices against difference itself. Only homogenous groups of people all speak and write identically. People from different heritages, ethnicities, classes and regions speak the same language differently, duh!..."
 

Ms. Madhuri Purandare (माधुरी पुरंदरे)'s set of two books 'Lihave Netake' (लिहावे नेटके )  was published in c 2010. 

(according to  J.T. Molesworth's dictionary: नेटके= Neat, handsome and according to Google Translate it means compact.)

Bookganga.com says: "नेटके लिहिणे, नेमके बोलणे ही भाषेची मूलभूत कौशल्ये आहेत. अनेकदा तीच दुर्लक्षित राहतात आणि मग भाषा फार सैलपणे वापरली जाते. शालेय मुलांना लहानपणीच मराठी भाषेची लज्जत चाखत ती अचूकपणे आत्मसात करता यावी, या उद्देशाने माधुरी पुरंदरे यांनी ‘लिहावे नेटके’ हा पुस्तकसंच विकसित केला आहे."

( Compact/ neat/ handsome/precise writing and speaking are the fundamental skills of a language. Often they are ignored and the language gets used loosely. To facilitate school going kids to appreciate and accurately  learn Marathi, Madhuri Purandare has developed the 'Lihave Netake' book-set.)

 Ms. Purandare elaborates her experience of  how a class of school teachers studied these books here

"...आता शिक्षिकांचा आत्मविश्‍वास वाढताना स्पष्ट दिसू लागला होता...त्यांचे साप्ताहिक अभ्यासवर्ग नेमाने आणि उत्साहाने सुरू होते. पुस्तकांच्या आकाराचे दडपण आता उरले नव्हते. ‘अभ्यास करताना थांबूच नये, पुढे पुढे जात राहावं असं वाटतं’; ‘दुकानांच्या अशुद्ध पाट्या, वर्तमानपत्रांमधला चुकीचा मजकूर, टीव्हीच्या बातम्यांमधल्या चुका पूर्वी दिसायच्या नाहीत. आता सारख्याच दिसतात आणि त्रास होतो,’ अशा प्रतिक्रिया यायला लागल्या होत्या..."

The key sentence there is what teachers felt as they studied the books :

"...दुकानांच्या अशुद्ध पाट्या, वर्तमानपत्रांमधला चुकीचा मजकूर, टीव्हीच्या बातम्यांमधल्या चुका पूर्वी दिसायच्या नाहीत. आता सारख्याच दिसतात आणि त्रास होतो..."
(...incorrect nameplates of shops, erroneous content in newspapers, errors in TV news were not noticed earlier. But now they were always noticed and were annoying...)

 How can nameplates of shops be incorrect? A shop keeper is running a business and as long as she is achieving her business goals, her nameplate is OK.

Personally I haven't seen a single incorrect nameplate on a shop in Maharashtra. However, occasionally, I have felt and experienced the arrogance, stupidity and the absence of mercantile mentality behind those nameplates.  

If TV news is 'erroneous', most likely it is MEANT to mislead or misinform or not give the complete picture. That is the problem of the medium and not the language. Most of the time Marathi TV news is 'bad' and not because of the language they use but because what they choose as news and the way they report it.

In short, Ms. Purandare's books sound like pedantry and Orwellian conservatism to me.

I wish to quote Oliver Kamm on the subject. 

"There Is No ‘Proper English’...Pedantry is poor manners, certainly, but also poor scholarship. If someone tells you that you “can’t” write something, ask them why not. Rarely will they have an answer that makes grammatical sense; it is probably just a superstition that they have carried around with them for years."

"Language sticklers typically depict themselves as defenders of tradition against the insidious forces of cultural relativism. This is nonsense. In fact, the pedantic urge is a modern invention of rather dubious lineage. Prescriptive style guides like Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” are the direct descendants of 18th-century grammarians who first defined what it was to speak “proper English.” In fact, these grammarians really just meant the dialect that grew up in and around London; their manuals were intended to teach propriety to an emerging merchant class."

I feel the most important issues facing Marathi are summed up in the quotes of the late Vilas Sarang at the top of this post and, maybe, just maybe, excessive pedantry among Marathi speaking people is partly responsible for them.



Emoji are the ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan. What if they start appearing in Marathi texts? Will they annoy students of Ms. Purandare's book?
 



Artist: Cameron Harvey, The New Yorker, April 2015

p.s.

After I published the post, I learned on May 5 2015 that "Microsoft plans to introduce a range of new emoji with Windows 10 including a controversial 'middle finger' hand sign.". 

I wonder where this will fit in 'neat Marathi'.

courtesy: Daily Mail